He started talking at six months.
He loved to watch Wheel Of Fortune on TV. This show taught him to clap his hands at 6 months.
He was always extremely healthy.
His favorite toys were books. I read to him throughout the day, at naptime and bedtime.
At 17 months he knew the alphabet, he could sing the song and recognize individual letters on signs, people's sweatshirts, in magazines. He could also count to twenty.
He knew approximately 300 words, maybe more at 18 months. His first 8-word sentence came at 17 months.
Remembering all of these things and writing them down makes me feel good. I was so proud of him. But unfortunately, this is only part of the story of Alex. The other part goes like this.
He had to be walked to sleep for the first eight months. He had to be totally asleep before we put him in his crib.
He napped for only 30 minutes, twice a day.
The smallest sound would awaken him, a toilet flushing (we stopped flushing), a ringing phone, a sneeze.
He couldn't tolerate baths, so he only got one to two a week.
He would cry and become unreasonable from the moment we entered a restaurant.
He would scream hysterically when kids his age approached him.
He couldn't tolerate swings, he'd get hysterical.
By the age of two, if someone handed him something, i.e., a toy, he would get angry and throw it.
He had to constantly be attached to my body, being held, touching me.
He also had my husband and I “doing all of his playing for him”. He would sit next to us and tell us how to play with his toys like he was our teacher or boss.
When we brought him to carnivals he would complain constantly, everything was “not fine”, or “I don't want it”.
He only had one or two physical tantrums, but he did a lot of screaming (his pediatrician said he was having verbal tantrums).
Needless to say, the days and nights were very trying. I looked frantically through the child development books to figure out what was going on with him and what I could do about it. Usually, I didn't read about the specific behaviors he was exhibiting. Nothing I tried was working.
My husband and I told ourselves, maybe he's this way because he's so smart, maybe even gifted. Maybe other children his age aren't up to his intellectual level. I remember taking him to his pediatrician one day and saying I was concerned. What will he be like at preschool, he won't play at playgrounds, he won't play with kids. He said not to worry, he was probably just a “nerd” like Bill Gates!
Other people we knew said that I should force him to be around other children. They suggested I enroll him in daycare a couple of days. But none of these solutions seemed appropriate. There was something not quite right.
The turning point came when he was 38 months old. All of a sudden he started saying, “I'm the saddest boy in the world”.
He also started two other behaviors that concerned me. The first was that he would jump up in the air and land on his knees. It looked strange to me. It seemed that he couldn't help it. I was concerned because he landed with such force I thought he might hurt himself. The other behavior was the straw that broke the camel's back. From a standing position he would fall forward to the ground without using his arms to break his fall. He would land on his face. Sometimes he would bruise his nose, his forehead, or bump his mouth, which would result in him biting his lip and blood everywhere.
The overwhelming thought in my mind was that maybe he was suffering from a mental illness. So I set up an appointment with a child psychologist. At the first appointment she and i met alone. At the second appointment, she met with my husband and I, then Alex alone and then with my husband and I again. She didn't notice any overt mental illness, but she did mention perhaps he has mild autism, mild schizophrenia. She also mentioned repeatedly that she thought he was “very sensitive”. She said she wanted to see him a few more times and that we should use more discipline, because she thought that perhaps he was running our household. If more discipline didn't work, there were some medications we could consider giving him.
I went home feeling discouraged. We felt that we used appropriate discipline and we were disinclined to give him medication. I started moping around the house and the word “sensitive” kept cropping up in my mind. Alex was very sensitive, but why? I remembered seeing a small pamphlet about something called Sensory Integration Dysfunction. My husband picked it up at a school for gifted children that he was checking into for Alex. I searched frantically for it and I was finally able to locate it. It really didn't tell me much at all, but something told me to look into it. I had my husband look up some information on the internet. The description of this condition sounded a bit like Alex. He didn't have all of the behaviors they listed, but he had about 75% of them. I mentioned it to my younger son's vision teacher. She was vaguely familiar with this condition and gave me several names of places where I could have him evaluated. During an intake interview over the phone with one of these clinics, the director gave the names of a few books on the subject. After reading only five pages of the first book, I was 90% sure that this was what Alex had. By the end of the book, I knew it.
Last August, Alex had his sensory integration evaluation and sure enough, they felt that he had many aspects of this condition. The area in which he is most sensitive is auditory. He also has slightly low muscle tone and his gross and fine motor skills are slightly delayed. He started therapy once per week last August. We call it going to “Strong Alex Class”. He loves it. Within a matter of weeks we saw improvement. He is attending preschool and his teachers say he is very well adjusted. When there is an activity that is too much for him to handle, or the singing at circle time is too loud, he removes himself from the situation and plays quietly elsewhere in the classroom. At home we make sure we don't have too many noisy things going on at once. I usually do the laundry or run the dishwasher when he is napping or at preschool since “background noises” are particularly upsetting to him. We do a lot of deep hugging, stroke his back in a downward motion and sit him on a therapy ball to watch TV. We started brushing therapy but he's not ready to tolerate it yet. All in all, we are a much happier family and he is much easier to understand. He stopped saying he is the saddest boy in the world. The future looks promising.
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