When My Sensory Education Began

Do you remember that day you first heard those words... Sensory Integration Dysfunction or Sensory Processing Disorder? For most of us we remember it like it was yesterday, like it was a significant life event.

Whether we are professionals who interact with children, caretakers of your family or neighbor's children, or are the parent of a child with SPD, that One Moment, that ONE DAY when we heard this diagnosis first explained, is a day most of us have permanently etched in our mind.

My First Experience

I remember the actual day I first heard those words...this "thing" they called Sensory Integration Dysfunction. I honestly remember it like it was yesterday.

I was sitting in my Child Development class as a sophomore in college pursuing my degree in Occupational Therapy. I was also a "new" mom. My daughter was two at the time and the only child I had (or ever would have).

My professor, an incredibly knowledgeable and inspiring woman, spent the hour or two of class talking about this "thing" called Sensory Integration Dysfunction (now called Sensory Processing Disorder).

Oh, I was so tired that day. The night before, my daughter took her usual 1-2 hours to fall asleep while I sat in her room rubbing her back. And I, almost "resentfully", sat there in "disgust" wishing I could escape so I could go get my homework done! (Just to be clear, I KNOW I should have, I KNOW I made "mistakes" like that as a parent, but after trying EVERYTHING to get her to go to sleep over the months and years, this was the ONLY thing that worked, eventually *sigh*.)

Needless to say, it was 11 PM before I even attempted to try to do some schoolwork... yawning the whole time. A typical night, really...to bed by midnight or so...up at 5 or 6, going, going, going.

Anyway, my professor starts talking about "Sensory Integration" and how it is not effectively developed in some "chickadees" (as she liked to refer to kids). She explained the "symptoms", briefly explained what goes "wrong", and what we, as Occupational Therapists, can do to "treat it".

The End

The end?? No, it can't be the end!!You just described my daughter in a nutshell!

You just described EVERYTHING that I have been going through with her! The distress she exhibits with sounds, touch and movement, the inability to soothe herself, the picky eating, the apprehension on the playground, the distress she shows with being tipped upside down, brushing her teeth, wearing certain clothes, never sleeping as an infant without listening to an ocean wave tape ALL night long, the "colic", the...

What is this thing you speak of?? You mean there is a NAME for it?? It's not my fault?? Other kids have these issues too? There is something we can do the HELP her?? To help ME?

From here, I just couldn't get enough. I desperately sought out and took in every single piece of information I could about this "disorder". I would not be satisfied until I soaked it ALL in like a sponge; like a dehydrated lonely woman in a desert searching for just one little drink to keep me going. I couldn't get enough... give me more... help me help my daughter!

So It All Started To Make Sense

It is not unusual for us as parents, family, caregivers, or professionals to remember that moment we first heard of SPD because it was THE moment that we FINALLY started to understand.

We finally began to peel off the layers of guilt that were piling on top of us.

It was THE moment when everything started to make sense.

THE moment when we saw hope for the first time, in who even knows HOW LONG!

We were validated. We were not "crazy". We were not at fault. We were just a parent (professional, caretaker, etc.) of a child who needed some help... a parent of a child with special needs.

We were poised and ready. We needed information. And we started to actually find it!

NOW, we finally KNEW, in our hearts, we were going in the right direction! We could actually find the support and education we needed, because we had a "name", a "real" diagnosis!

(*big deep breath*)... FINALLY!!

And so our journeys began.

In my small American town, just five years ago, when someone mentioned Sensory Processing Disorder, no one here knew what it was. I know this, because I was that someone who asked my friends and neighbors. My family, pediatricians, and staff at our Health Department. I asked everyone I knew and many people I didn’t know. Nope, not a clue.

But I had to find someone, anyone who knew about SPD, because I needed to know. My son had just been diagnosed, and I didn’t understand at all. I had a mountain of questions and no answers.

I knew I would have to find answers to help my child, and so I began. Searching for books on the subject I found Carol Kranowitz’s “The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder”. I looked for research about SPD and found Dr. Lucy Miller, author of the book "Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)" the leading researcher in the world devoted full time to studying SPD. I learned as much as I could, and wanted to know more.

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Further Reading and Resources

Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist - comprehensive SPD Checklist; signs and symptoms of tactile, auditory, olfactory and oral defensiveness, as well as proprioceptive and vestibular dysfunction.

Step By Step Guide For SPD Parents - So you just found out your child may have SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder). Where do you begin? Right here with the Step-By-Step Guide For SPD Parents!

Sensory Resources - Sensory resources for further exploration and enlightenment about SPD

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