"Difficult Child"

by Dar

Have any of you SPD parents out there heard of the concept of a "difficult child"? That is what my husband and I have "diagnosed" our 3-year old daughter as, and with these children there is almost always a sensory component, but now I'm starting to wonder if she is just plain of the variety with SPD.

Have any of you started out under the "difficult child" concept, only to learn (professionally or otherwise) that your child actually has a SPD? Is there any such thing as a "difficult child" or are they all SPD children? To those of you who have already been down this path, would you share what you know and save us some time and heartache if possible? I promise to pay it forward whenever possible. Thank you!!!

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Dec 28, 2008
Thank you for all the responses to "Difficult Child"
by: DAR

I am belated getting back to this and reading all the responses, then writing my thank you, for several reasons. We went through an extra difficult time with our daughter, then reprieve, then difficult again, THEN started the assessment process; also along the way had some extended family illness/drama, then the holidays, etc., so anyway . . .

Thank you to all of you for your responses! I found them helpful, reassuring, comforting, and affirming. I definitely was referring to (and should have mentioned in my original post) the book, "The Difficult Child" by Stanley Turecki when I posed the question; he writes about the concept of some kids just being born with a difficult temperament. We were going on that assumption after reading the book (fit our daughter to a "t", too, as someone else said) and were starting to implement some of the program when we came across more and more info on SPD. In the interim, we have become convinced that there is at least overlap between "difficult children" and SPD, but we really believe that they are one in the same. There is likely no such thing as an inherent "difficult child" temperament, at least not to the extent that we all know, and without outside spoiling or psychological trauma; we are really just seeing SPD/SI. I do still think there are some valuable tools to be used from Turecki's book, as one person mentioned, but we now know much more is needed, specifically OT and other tools to address SPD.

We have begun the process with the school district that will hopefully lead to a full OT assessment. We are waiting to hear the results and recommendations immediately after the holidays. We expect and will push for an OT assessment and treatment; in addition, we anticipate she will be recommended for the special ed preschool program. We will also know to hang in there for the long haul awaiting results/improvement, rather than expecting instant change, thanks to one person's message. We know from a recent, brief, and inexplicable reprieve in about 90% of our daughter's behavior that if things can be alleviated any amount at all, we will be able to manage and cope much better longterm. Guess it's all perspective :)

Again, thank you all for the messages confirming we are on the right track and that there is hope for improvement. I only wish we had seen the light and gotten started sooner. I know one person mentioned her son did not start having his SPD addressed until age 4 and that he was able to become more manageable/functional by age 5 already so that is great!

A very Happy New Year to you all, and wishing you much strength, patience, and as much peace in your homes and families as possible in 2009. We will be striving for the same.

Dar in Alaska

Dec 11, 2008
difficult child
by: Amanda

Hi. I definitely went down this same path with my son. When he was 3 he had so many behavior problems that were confusing to me. I read the difficult child book and it seemed to fit him exactly.

However at 4 he was diagnosed with SPD. Now at 5 we have periods of time where he is cooperative, easy going, happy, and responds to discipline. So hang in there. If your daughter has not seen an OT that would be a good idea.

With my son we did not see results from OT and the sensory diet (he was so resistant to everything in the beginning) for awhile and then one day he was just a different child.

He still has some difficult days but we just increase his sensory diet and he improves. So just know that hope is out there but results don't always come right away.

It also helps to know your child isn't being difficult on purpose, they just cannot help it. When a child has SPD and they are not getting the sensory input they need they cannot respond to discipline, it just doesn't work. Good luck.

Nov 13, 2008
The Difficult Road
by: Erin R

Hi Dar,
Just wanted to tell you been down that road. My son Henry, who is now 6yrs, was diagnosed as SPD when he was 3. I found myself before that always thinking now I know there is nothing physically wrong with you and I know you are a very smart boy-so why can't you do....(fill in the blank) It is hard to understand their lives and their feelings. I still sometimes think JUST BRUSH YOUR TEETH!

It is a journey and a lot of patience is needed, but I really don't believe in a difficult child. Something is bothering them and making them feel unhappy and out of control. Keep up your spirits and keep searching for answers!


Nov 06, 2008
SPD and the world
by: Whitney

It is so comforting to read these other blogs and hear other family's stories. Not that you would wish SPD on anyone. It has been such an uphill journey with trying to figure out the puzzle when there is not picture to go by. Even with the checklist sometimes it is hard to predict under or over stimulus. Everyone's story is similar but yet unique to their own sensory components. What bothers one child might not bother another.

I find it difficult to describe my daughters struggle with other people with out it sounding like an excuse for her hyper activeness, clothes and appearance, or her impulsiveness. I am just curious how you all might explain this to family, friends or other people that you might come into brief contact with.


Nov 06, 2008
My daughter's Difficult-ness was ALL SPD
by: Anonymous

Your post intrigues me, since I had personally labeled my daughter "difficult" long before I ever heard of SPD. Of course, I never called her difficult in front of her, or even out loud to most people. I said she was challenging, or "going through a rough patch", or she was "reserved" (when she refused to play with other kids or say hi to them). I don't know if you've read Stanley Turecki's book "The Difficult Child", but it helped me tremendously when my daughter was 3. It helped me see her behavior as a reaction to stimuli that she couldn't control and often didn't understand. Tbe book also gave me some good tips to talk to my daughter so she would understand that I really was trying to help.

Unfortunately, that book is also quite old, and I think it could definitely add a chapter or more on SPD. Once I learned what SPD was, and went through a checklist, I had an "aha!" moment. Incidentally, the checklist on this website is long, but very thorough. I can now look back at my daughter's infancy and pinpoint all the markers for SPD that her doctor missed (probably because she didn't KNOW about SPD!). A couple examples:

Among other things, my daughter is hyper-sensitive for vision. She cannot track moving objects and she gets really overwhelmed when a lot of colorful objects are moving quickly all around her. As a baby, my face made her cry. Seriously. I couldn't look into her eyes until she was about 2 weeks old, or she would start crying. At 4 months old, she showed signs of separation anxiety (2 months early) - if anyone other than my husband or me held her, she would instantly start crying. But if she were turned around to FACE me, she might stop. As a toddler, she refused to play peekaboo or ball games of any kind (I understand now that she just couldn't track the ball). As a preschooler (she is now 4), she still cannot catch a ball, even one that a 2YO could catch. And she is very sensitive to visually chaotic environments - like every classroom I've ever seen!

So, for me, SPD fully explains why my daughter's behavior was so difficult. It also gives me lots of tools to make our lives more pleasant (that is, less difficult). My daughter is much more suggestible, follows directions better, misbehaves almost never, and is generally so much more pleasant to live with, now that we have her on a sensory diet. I've also learned to stop demanding things that are truly impossible for her (like going down a slide).

I wish you luck, and I hope you find the tools that will help you and your daughter reconnect.


Nov 06, 2008
I hope this helps
by: Melissa from Boston


What I would suggest is reading the symptoms of SPD... and comparing if your child has any of these signs... it is so hard to diagnose this... my daughters doctor whom we love... had never heard of SPD until now.... because it was always passed off as just a difficult child... but it got to the point where we couldn't even go anywhere without an "issue" with clothing... she doesn't have all the symptoms of SPD, only a certain few... if you find your child has 4 or more of the signs... then I would suggest talking to her doctor about SPD... and see what he/she suggest.

I have been where you are & know exactly what you are going through... its really hard to decide what it is... I always thought she was being very difficult or a spoiled brat... but after I found this site... and read some of the signs of spd... I knew wow ... I wasn't alone. You are making all the right steps... trust me...

I wish you & your family the best of luck
I hope this helps...


Melissa from Boston

Nov 06, 2008
Maggie was my spunky child!!
by: Whitney

I was worried about always calling Maggie difficult, but she was more high strung than my other three children. She is the one that always talking back, hyper, thrill seeker and the biggest problem was finding clothes that she could wear and riding in a booster seat with seat belt touching her. This went on and on and I would tell people that she was my spunky child that always seemed nicer than difficult especially when she was around. I myself was the difficult child and never felt good about myself.

I am certainly not trying to sound like I didn't think she was difficult or that I didn't say it but I just tried to find something different that did not sound as negative.

Since starting OT and gymnastics things have improved greatly. She is still spunky but more contained. I often wonder if some of it is that we understand better. We also go to a psychologist because we did not want to make excuses for poor behavior but learn how to understand and cope with her issues. I think there can be fine line between a label and an excuse for poor behavior.

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