This is a guest post from Putting Socks on Chickens, a blog about sensory processing issues.
At 18 months of age, my son starting showing signs of “odd” behavior and aggression. I heard from others “the terrible twos actually start at about 18 months.” So I thought…ok, other parents go through this too! The twos came. Then we heard…”you think the twos are bad, wait till he turns three.” Then, I’m thinking to myself, “oh boy…it’s going to get worse.” The threes came and this time others said “wait till he starts school, it’ll get better then.” Finally, the day for him to start school had arrived. Guess what, it didn’t get better.
It all started with my son biting his hand. He was a pacifier baby and still had the pacifier at the time this started, so I wondered what it was about. At first, I paid little attention to it, but then he started biting his hand all the time and so hard that his hand was callused. Concerned, I asked his pediatrician and she reassured me to not worry about it. As time went on, we tried various tactics to help him break this habit. We started with ignoring it, then bringing it to his attention. We also tried wrapping it, putting a yucky tasting rub on it, and basically anything else that we could think of. To this day, my son still bites his hand.
He also became extremely aggressive around 18 months of age. I can remember him pulling my hair with such force that I actually had to have medication because of an infected hair follicle. When he’d pull my hair, it would take both my husband and myself to get my hair out of his tiny little grasp. We would tell him no, slap his hand, time-out, all of the “parenting” recommendations. Whatever we did, he just seemed to smile, laugh and pull harder. Hair pulling soon turned to hitting and throwing things.
As he got older and the violent outbursts continued, it prompted me and my husband to seek outside help. Starting with his pediatrician, she recommended that we see a child psychologist. After only a couple sessions with a psychologist, he suggested we have him evaluated for Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). I looked it up after his recommendation and was in shock. This was my son. We went on to have him evaluated to find that he does in fact have SPD. While we are still learning about his condition, I most definitely am not an expert. I cannot tell you all the facts about SPD, but I can tell you what it means to me.
SPD is never having a full nights sleep because your kid wakes up all the time. I finally gave up and let him sleep in my bed because honestly, I am too tired to get up with him every 30 minutes and put him back to sleep.
It’s not knowing what set your kid off, but being so distraught that you can’t do anything because he is jumping, screaming, biting and having a meltdown. It’s constantly telling him “No, don’t do that. Get off of your sister!” It’s a constant battle until he has overcome his “fit.”
It is having everyone tell you how wonderful your child is and how he is the best-behaved kid in class while you look at them in disbelief. And then for them to look at you in disbelief when you tell them about problems at home. It is the constant assurance from others that just don’t get it, that you just need to reinforce your parenting skills. “Give him a swat on the butt. You should try watching Super Nanny. Read this parenting book. Have you tried this?”
SPD is watching your child jump up and down and bite his hand in frustration because that wall hit him. It is not getting him to understand that objects don’t hit people, that we run into them. And hitting the wall because it “hit” you is not going to make anything better.
SPD is smelling everything. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s in the same room as him, he wants to smell it. It’s dealing with those burnt chins because his need to smell the cookies fresh out of the oven is so intense. It’s getting those looks from people, as if though they are saying with their eyes “what is this weird thing that your child is doing?”
It is knowing that as soon as he is home and in his comfort zone, those underwear are coming off and making sure to ask if he has underwear on when you leave the house. It is constantly having to “fix” his glasses because they aren’t fitting right and then having his 3rd pair for the year break again because he is putting them on with such force so that they will feel right. It’s asking people to not buy your son clothes because he probably won’t wear them.
SPD is the constant worry that I won’t be able to teach my child how to control himself and his fits will start happening in school and he will then be considered a “problem” child. SPD is the constant worry that at some point kids will start to bully him. SPD is the constant worry that I am not a good parent. It is the love of my child and his quirks. It is the joy of a great day when he can express what is bothering him with words rather than actions. SPD is a constant learning game and me taking on the role of an OT. But above all else, SPD is unconditional love and making sure my son knows that I love him NO MATTER WHAT.
Erin is a mother of two children and part-time fundraiser for a nonprofit. Erin blogs about having a child with sensory processing issues at Putting Socks on Chickens. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.