I have known my daughter was different since she was around 18 months old. Before she was two, she knew her way around town. When we would drive by Home Depot she would ask to go to “the paint store.” When I passed my best friend’s neighborhood she would ask to stop by her house. When I go to large play dates she wanders off by herself instead of playing with the other children her age. She gets overwhelmed at the playdate and has a meltdown.
This has led me to have very few close friends. While the other children would play and socialize with each other, and their mothers were able to carry on adult conversations, I was chasing around my daughter who was doing her own thing. She will also sometimes have a meltdown when there are a lot of people over at our house or if someone comes over.
These behaviors led me to seek out an answer. My daughter was recently diagnosed with possible Sensory Processing Disorder and High Functioning Autism.
What Does This Mean for My Child?
My daughter doesn’t sense danger like most people. At a swimming pool, she has jumped in without a life jacket and she has tried to run from me in parking lots. This is not typical behavior for a 4-year-old. At swimming lessons, she is the leader of the pack and was the first kid to jump off of the high dive without a flotation device.
My daughter is a sensory seeker. She loves to touch things and she likes to be touched. She loves spicy and sour food. And she likes crunchy foods, and yes I let her eat chips for breakfast sometimes. But I also feed her celery.
She has meltdowns. The difference between a meltdown and a tantrum is that a meltdown doesn’t have a purpose or an end goal. Meltdowns are out of a child’s control and are usually a reaction to something.
There are good and bad things about SPD. I love that my daughter is nice and can talk to anyone, but if she has a meltdown sometimes she bites. She likes to yell and cuddle. She is my wild child and I love every bit of her.
Sometimes I wish I could see the world through her eyes.
What Does it Mean for Me?
What I hate most about my daughter’s diagnosis is what other people say. Most of the time it comes from well-meaning family members. Here are some of the non-solicited words I and other parents hear from well-meaning family and friends:
She is just spoiled!
They need their butt spanked!
They are being bad.
Why do you allow them to act like that?
They don’t look like they have autism.
But she is so smart.
You (the parent) aren’t strict enough.
I have heard ALL of these in the past year. And let me tell you that a child with Sensory Processing Disorder is BORN that way. Their brains look and work differently than typical people. SPD has to do with how their nervous system receives messages from their senses. Their meltdowns have NOTHING to do with how strict a parent is. Some children with SPD actually LIKE getting spanked because they are sensory seekers.
Where to Find Help
Early diagnosis is very important when it comes to Sensory Processing Disorder. The earlier your child starts occupational therapy or you start implementing a sensory diet at home, the more your child will improve.
If you suspect that your child might have Sensory Processing Disorder, the first step is to talk to their pediatrician. Then either you or the pediatrician can seek out an occupational therapist. Locally, we used services from Columbia Speaks and have been very happy. The therapist did an assessment on the first visit to determine if my daughter qualified for services, and she is now seen weekly. Additional occupational therapy services are provided by Therapy360, The Therapy Place, Midlands Therapy Services, Team Therapy SC, Sprout Pediatrics, and Key Changes Music Therapy.