Yesterday, I was introduced to Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Sensory Processing Disorder (formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses.
A friend of ours, who is an occupational therapist, commented that perhaps my 5-yr old JM has SPD. Naturally, I refused to believe the same. People here in North America tend to overreact to kids who are hyperactive, and quickly misdiagnose super hyper kids with ADD, ADHD, ABCD, or what-have-yous.
Anyways, I just know that my JM is hyper coz she’s the only girl among her brood. With 3 boys to play with at all times, she’s obviously gonna be rough and hyper as her brothers when she plays. It's just normal for her to act that way. Heck, I was the same growing up! (up till now … lol… maybe I have the disorder, too! .. haha)
Well, my occupational therapist friend showed me.
We were making Banana bread and muffins yesterday and her kids and my JM were to mix the ingredients. She noticed that JM didn’t want her hands dirty. Whenever some mixture got to her hands, she would immediately wipe it off on her shirt or go to the sink and wash. My friend told me it is one of the signs of kids having SPD.
She experimented on JM that day, giving her activities where she made use of her hands and feet, to see how JM would react. First, she asked JM (and her kids) to play with flour, and true enough, JM would always wipe off her hands after some time.
Next, she asked all the kids to go outside and walk on the grass barefooted, which JM did hesitantly, but seemed to enjoy the activity after some time. My friend told me it must be just the hands where JM is overly-sensitive. So, she asked the kids to touch the grass with their palms and do the crab walk. Again, JM’s reaction was to wipe off each time.
Then, we went back to the kitchen table and my friend gave the kids whipped cream and maple syrup to play with. It didn’t even last 5 minutes before she got up and went to the washroom to wash her hands.
My friend told me that kids with SPD usually act aggressively or throw a tantrum after doing activities that trigger their sensory stimuli so I had to watch JM’s behaviour afterwards. JM seemed to be her normal self (you know, running around the house, jumping up and down the couch, crashing herself to furniture, being hyper and all that).
Later that night, I asked JM if she liked the activities coz it looked like she did, and she said she hated them and would not want to do them again.
I never thought that she may have any disorder, but as my friend explained to me, all those were signs that I had to be aware of to help JM (and my other kids) in their growing up years.
Ok. So, that was last night. Fortunately, no tantrums whatsoever.
This morning, I witnessed the after-effect.
JM had a big … no, I mean, huge … meltdown! She “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” and just all of a sudden, cried, like there was no tomorrow. I could tolerate crying if something caused it. But for no apparent reason (other than me asking her if she wanted to eat breakfast already and distracted her watching Dora), she just wailed on top of her lungs. Now that I was aware of her “disorder”, I tried comforting her, putting my arms around her and hugging her tight, which just made the wailing worst. I asked her to stop but she said she couldn’t. I don’t know if I should laugh or be mad by that reply, but I just let her be. She cried for a good half an hour (or more, I don’t really remember).
And then, she was fine. Like nothing happened. She was her old self again playing bubbles outside.
Perhaps, she really has this thing called SPD. Or perhaps not. Perhaps, she’s just being a kid ... a normal kid who is hyper, happy, sensitive, rough… (Heck, all my kids act the same, so now I have to deal with four of them having this disorder … I don’t know how to take it … lol)
But now that I am aware of SPD, I can make use of this knowledge to react in a more compassionate way towards my kids from now on. This can be good.