How To Explain SPD To Your Child: Different Parent Perspectives And Words Of Wisdom
My son Michael was four when he realized not everyone has SPD issues. He began to ask questions and I needed to give him answers.
I explained that we all know why people jog and exercise to strengthen their
muscles, and that some kids and grown ups need to also exercise their senses,
to make them stronger and work better. The medicine to make their senses work
better is a different kind of exercising. We spin, jump, swing, chew, play,
and listen to special CD's on headphones to exercise our senses, and it helps
the whole body and brain work ever so much better.
I also needed to explain to my son how his senses could work better than the
usual person's. With Michael it was several issues, including sight, which
was and still is amazing in it's clarity and ability to notice things no one
else ever sees.
His hearing was better than normal. As a result sound hurt him, so it wasn't
pleasant for him, to be able to hear so well. Although he can hear a bee hive
from quite a distance away. His sense of smell was acute. It's a good thing
to be able to smell when some food product is GOING to go bad soon, but has
not yet. He can smell animals in the forest, water nearby, all kinds of
And then again, that same wonderful sense of smell, made
him sick and nauseous around crowds, or in buildings that
have used certain cleaning products, perfume, shampoos, etc. These senses were
SO good they caused him grief.
The issues that were not pleasant caused him much distress, and couldn't be
explained so easily. When touch hurt him, and I said he feels touches more
than others might, he wanted it to go away. His balance, timing and
coordination was so off he couldn't possibly ride a bike no matter how hard he
tried. He was so upset by that.
In the beginning, he thought OT was a great fun place where he had his own
playmates who adored him totally. As time passed he realized that they worked
on issues ("Everybody's got issues, Mom," Michael says,) that were challenging
to him. He knew when he progressed in the Interactive Metronome program a few
months back, that his sequential timing was becoming absolutely amazing, and
reveled in it.
His OT friends were called therapists by other people, and he wanted to know why.
I think the most dramatic realization came for myson when he was five and
started Kindergarten. He knew by then, that many of these issues were much better. His hearing, sight, and smell was still extraordinarily good, but no longer caused him pain. He now could feel when he needed to urinate, and did not wet his pants.
He could finally ride a bike, scooter and rollerblade. He no longer got hurt running into walls. We could go on trips, eat out at restaurants, and go bowling. He knew touch did not bother him much at all anymore.
And then he saw kids who have had no therapy, and it hit him. He could pick out an SPD kid from a mile away, and he could see when a child was having trouble, and thought their parents should take them to the "Fun House" (OT)too.
He could remember how he once was, and didn't understand why other parents weren't running to OT. Kids were covering their ears and crying in the lunchroom. Kids who fidgeted and got in trouble all day long. Kids who just couldn't play on the playground, and would stand alone. In our case, he was too full of the question WHY, and how does this work, and what's happening with my body, for me to NOT give him more of an explanation, kid style, of the workings of the brain and central nervous system. He is two curriculum years ahead of his grade in Science, loves biology and anatomy, dissects everything he can (or I will let him) and takes apart any and all appliances that break down and I hand over to him, minus the electric cords.
He wanted, eventually, the real scientific explanation of "what was going on,really"? He knows now, that senses can work so good, too good, and cause problems. Or not work good enough, and cause problems. He understands what brushing does to his central nervous system, and why we do it.
We celebrate his gifts and are happy he no longer has the down side of it. Not
often, anyway. But still, the focus is on abilities, never disabilities.
You know, I listen in on some Gifted children groups, and I see a lot of talk
about why many parents think these over/under sensitivities should not be
subjected to therapy. The overwhelming reason the parents state, is that they
believe it is precisely the over
sensitivities that enable giftedness. I agree, and disagree.
Yes, there seems to be a link between these children and giftedness.
But, when we can help these children "reign in" the extreme side of it, to the
point of leading happy, healthy, well adjusted lives, they still retain their
special ness, and their gifts. The gifts don't disappear, only the painful
parts of it.
A child who cannot bear to be touched? Who matures to an adult that cannot
bear to be touched? How can that person ever be loved, or give love, if they
involuntarily jerk away, and hate that they can't help but jerk away from
their own children or spouses?
How can a child ever appreciate all that life offers, if they can't stand
lights, sounds, motion? I think we do children a disservice by refusing
therapy based on the fear that their special gifts will somehow be reduced.
What good are special gifts if their lives are condemned to fear, pain, and
distress every single day?
Living this, watching my own and so many other people's children go through
this process of SPD OT therapy has convinced me that we have not lost
anything, but rather opened the doors of possibilities for these children,
that would have remained steadfastly locked forever without therapy. Their
lives are enhanced, and set free to be anything they want to be.
So, in a different way, I hope my son understands that, where there was once
disabilities, there is now only hope, potential, excitement, and
possibilities. Yesterday he wanted to become a scientist, and work for Dr.
Lucy. Today, he says he wants to be President and bring back the trains. Last
week he wanted to be a pediatrician. Last month he wanted to become a sea
shell collector. *grin* I tell him, he can be anything he wants to be, but
please choose something he loves.
Sensory Integrative Occupational Therapy brought us possibilities, choices and
hope for the future. A future that is now as wide as it is bright.
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