Middle School Age And Still Bumping And Crashing Into People

From Lee in Indiana

My son Andy is 12. He is extremely bright, creative, and has a wonderful sense of humor. He does very, very well academically in school. However, he has failed to learn some of the social skills that would allow him to successfully interact with other children and make real friends.

As a toddler, he was diagnosed with "texture disorder" because of his inability to progress from stage 2 baby food to foods with more texture. He was prescribed and received a few months of OT for this, which ceased once he reached a certain level of progress and began to be able to eat something other than baby food and mashed potatoes. His lack of physical coordination, his difficulty with climbing, and his distaste for getting things like Play-Doh and wet sand on his hands were all noted by the OT and identified as part of this disorder.

As Andy got older, he did not get better coordinated. He continued to have balance and spatial orientation issues. He would frequently bump into other children, trip on things, and fall out of chairs. Certain sounds drove him up the wall, and some noises that others can ignore made it hard for him to concentrate. He was easily frustrated. His handwriting was horrible and looked like that of a much younger child.

All his elementary school teachers accused him of lacking self-discipline and of deliberately acting clumsy to get attention. A trip to a neurologist yielded nothing that could explain his difficulties. I have worked hard with him on self-control and regulating his emotional responses, and he's made great progress there.

But now, in middle school, things are different. Nearly every day he comes home with a story of being berated or physically assaulted by other children. The root cause seems to be what they perceive as him physically attacking them and failing to respect their personal space by frequently bumping into other students or their possessions.

Having done a bit of research into SPD, I have come to believe that this is his problem. I'm just not sure how to go about getting him assessed. Quite honestly, I have extremely limited means and cannot pay for expensive testing and OT. Yet I need to be able to prove to his teachers and administrators that he has a legitimate medical problem and isn't just "seeking attention" or deliberately needling his peers.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

The best course of action for Andy is to treat the vestibular, proprioceptive and visual spatial deficits that are causing his imbalance, motor planning and coordination issues through programs commonly offered through SPD trained OT's. There are programs available that would help him tremendously:

  • SOUNDSORY - Music and Movement Program for Brain and Body - Improves Motor and Cognitive abilities - Designed for Motor delay, Balance, Coordination, Autism Spectrum and Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Astronaut Training: A Sound Activated Vestibular-Visual Protocol: For Moving Looking & Listening
  • Interactive Metronome
  • Buzzing and/or Brushing Protocol through an OT
  • OT or PT for core muscle strength

  • But I do understand sometimes finances don't allow a family to utilize these programs. In this case, sometimes we can try to do the most we can at home and in school. For the school and immediate understanding of these behaviors as symptoms of an underlying neurological problem, you might want to buy, borrow or print out pages from reliable books on these topics. "The Mislabeled Child", for instance is written by two top Neurologists in our country and have extensive descriptions and strategies for all these issues. And "Sensational Kids" by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller has well written descriptions and recommendations for treatment in her book. Maybe you can print off information about these disorders from reputable web sites and have a meeting with school personnel about your son, and how severely he is being treated in school.

    My best advice is to create a folder of supportive printed materials and insist on a meeting, which may open their eyes and their hearts and hopefully want to help your son.

    You have every right to ask for both a Peer Mediation and Conflict Resolution meeting for the bullying your son is experiencing. And an evaluation by the school OT, or a private OT if the school does not have one, if you feel these issues are negatively impacting his ability to learn. Although I hear you, when you say he is doing so very well academically in school, and know this may not be easy for you to get services for him.

    At home? Positive support that this problem is not his fault, it is SPD and there are ways he can work on improving this for himself. He is seeking movements in his daily life that cause him to crash or bump into things or people, which is his body's way of stabilizing itself in space. Can you provide a mattress, trampoline or cushions he can crash into every day to help his body process this more efficiently? Take what he does, and provide similar input each day, that is safer and not intrusive on other people.

    To help at home with his sense of balance: Swinging, spinning, hanging (safely!) upside down and done as long as it is not too uncomfortable every day may help a lot with this issue. You'll want to see his head in all different angles to stimulate the vestibular system. Were you taught the Brushing Protocol? If so, now may be a good time to begin again. If not, adding extra sensory input while in the shower or tub every day with various textured scrubbies may also help his tactile sense and decrease his need possibly to control unwanted touching by others by touching first. A weighted lap pad or something similar in his lap while in school may help him feel more organized and grounded with less need to bump others.

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    Related Resources and Further Reading

    Proprioceptive Dysfunction - An in-depth article defining proprioceptive dysfunction; signs and symptoms to help you understand the REAL reason your child may not be able to learn new motor tasks or has a high energy level.

    Commonly Used Diagnostic Codes For SPD / SID Insurance Reimbursement

    Financial Help For Sensory Products & Therapy - Struggling to make ends meet AND get the sensory products or therapies your child needs? Here are some tips to assist you with finding financial help.

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