Can School Make SPD Worse For My Child?

Click here for original submission  before reading the answer.  The "history" will be important.

Sounds like things are pretty confusing, huh? Let's see what I can do to help.

First, PLEASE accept my deepest apologies at how long it took me to get this submission up. Somehow it got buried... I am so sorry!

OK, my first thought is that you may be onto something when you are questioning something may not feel right to her at school. SO many of our SPD kiddos have a hard time with the school environment. Oh, it it just so common, you have no idea! It is a tough sensory environment indeed!! The key, of course, will be to identify the triggers. Sounds like you are trying to do this... great! Before we talk about this, I want you to read a very relevant article my friend Michelle Morris wrote, that may help you understand this further. It is called, Holding It Together… Or Not? Home Vs. School Behavior Of Your SPD Child. This will help you understand why and what to do in a general way.

Now, specifically... you are going to want to take an inventory of the things that may be bothering her... remember ALL senses. Is it the lighting, the sounds, the smells, the sights, fear of tactile input from others, etc. I would go through the SPD Checklist, pick things that may be bothering her, sit down WITH her and have her help you fill it out. You may be surprised what she can identify as possible difficulties or triggers! That is a good place to start. My gut is telling me she is dealing with a good dose of sensory defensiveness?!

Once armed with this information, a good heart to heart with your daughter, take this to your OT! She should be able to help sort out some of the potential issues for her and possibly being willing to either do some observation herself (she should!) or, as you said, getting a behavior therapist to do some observation. However, I would REALLY encourage the OT's eyes, as she will see things through a SENSORY lens instead of purely behavior. The behavior is probably a RESULT of underlying sensory issues and the behaviorist might see it through a different lens.

Ummm... if your OT is not willing to do some observation within the school... I would seriously think about a different OT. The school environment is where her "occupational" performance and abilities are suffering and interfering with her daily life. This is the FOCUS of OT, really! I'm not sure what kind of OT set up you have now... private or school based, but I would consider both, or getting the current OT to at least go to the school a few times. Private or school based, they should be able to be in her classroom to sort some of this out! (It could be as simple as the fluorescent lights or certain smells, etc. bothering her.)

I agree the social aspect is a problem... it needs work. I would highly suggest, again, working with the OT to develop plans for your daughter socially. I would also encourage a private psychologist or even the school psychologist work with her... trust me... we have done BOTH. Your daughter sounds just like mine did and we couldn't have overcome much of this (and are STILL working on it through counseling) without professional help! The issues need to be identified and actively addressed. Counseling would really help. And specific, step by step goals! One thing at a time. But, I would also try to find a psychologist who understands SPD... not always easy, but it can be done.

I would additionally recommend you and your daughter read a very relevant book that could help! It is called The Goodenoughs Get in Sync: 5 Family Members Overcome their Special Sensory Issues. This book can help you and her identify some issues and help her understand and relate to what may be going on with her.

The best thing you can do at this point is work with the school special education team, counselors, and your OT. It needs to be a team effort and you need the professionals on your side. Fight for it!

I also highly recommend you join the online support group SID-DSI_AllAboutKids so you can talk to over 1200 other parents who have been right where you are today. I KNOW they can help you on a daily and ongoing, supportive basis! They are a wonderful bunch, ready to support you and give you the ideas and resources you may need from here.

Two other articles that may help are:

The SPD Q & A: New School, Moving And Transitions

Using SI Theory To Solve Problems At School

I just want you to trust your gut, know that I feel you are on the right track thinking there may be some school triggers, get those identified, work with the OT for sensory and social related issues, find support in other parents of SPD kids, and hopefully find a counselor that can help you guys through this. OT will be key, of course. She needs to be actively engaged in weekly OT, for sure!

I hope this helps some. Give us an update if you can, since it took me so unusually long to get this submission posted! Geesh, I am so sorry.

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Further Reading And Resources

Furniture for classrooms or in-home learning

Answers to Questions Teachers Ask about Sensory Integration: Forms, Checklists, and Practical Tools for Teachers and Parents

Teacher Resources - Great teacher resources for gaining insight into, and understanding the world of children with sensory processing disorders. What every teacher should know!

Problem Behavior In The Classroom - Is the problem behavior in the classroom related to sensory processing disorders? Tips for teachers on classroom accommodations.

School Services For SPD - Are you wondering what your rights are regarding school services for SPD? Confused why children aren't being evaluated and treated for SPD in school systems? Come explore your rights with us.

Pushing Occupational Therapy into the Classroom - What is Occupational Therapy & why is it useful in the school setting?

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