Recently, I was sitting at my desk working when my phone rang. It was my kid’s school.
There apparently was an incident over some paper shredding with my special-needs kindergartner.
Not even an hour later, a second call. This time I was told he was suspended for the following day. Out of school.
I had to go to a meeting over the second incident. It included a behavioral health specialist.
Initially, I was livid that my child received an out of school suspension. But as the week progressed, my perspective changed.
By the end of the week, I ended up buying him a fidget spinner.
I have no regrets.
Tsunami-sized emotions in sensory kids
Zechariah has sensory processing disorder. It’s on the autism spectrum.
He is sensory seeking and sensory avoiding. Sometimes he has tsunami-sized emotions, which he cannot control.
Sensory kids’ emotions get triggered unexpectedly and without explanation. They can be managed through sensory tools and a “sensory diet.”
A sensory diet includes having him jump on a trampoline or use weights in easy exercises before we head to school or church.
What is sensory processing disorder?
With SPD, there is a disconnect in the way the nervous system sends, receives and processes messages. Milestone check-ups catch these early.
Have you ever noticed how babies put almost everything in their mouths? That’s a child’s body working out the kinks in his sensory system. It’s normal.
What’s not normal, is when they overdo it or underdo it. That alerts doctors of a possible issue.
What does sensory processing disorder affect?
I didn’t know what sensory processing disorder was until Zechy was diagnosed by his developmental pediatrician.
There are seven main types of SPD in children:
- Visual: affects sight, Zechy prefers dim-light environments
- Olfactory: affects smell
- Gustatory: affects taste
- Vestibular: affects balance, Zechy is somewhat “clumsy”
- Auditory: affects hearing, Zechy cannot be around loud, startling noises for long periods of time.
- Tactile: affects touch, Zechy does not like to be touched, and sometimes he is over touchy (seeking, avoiding).
- Proprioception: affects body awareness, Zechy does not know his own strength compared to peers, he needs physical stimulation.
Zechy is a multisensory SPD child. He tries to understand these things himself, but he’s not always able to self-correct.
It can’t ever be fixed, but it can be managed
Sensory processing disorder can never be fixed. There is no medical procedure or medication specifically for SPD.
Some doctors use variations of ADHD medications to treat co-existing conditions, such as attention-deficit difficulty.
In extreme cases, they will use medications prescribed to persons with depression or bipolar disorder.
Zechy is non-medicated. His specialists recommended sensory tools to help.
What are some tools that can help?
Ultimately, at least with Zechy, bear hug pressure therapy helps.
You simply have the child cross their arms in front of their chest. Firmly hold their elbows with your arms crossed from behind them and gently squeeze.
Other sensory tools that can help according to his behavioral health specialists:
- Wearable pressure therapy vests and compression clothing.
- Rocking chairs at his school desk
- Fidget spinners
- Stress balls
- Kinetic Sand
- Chewy charms
- Velcro under a desk
- Noise canceling headphones
Those are just some of the new tools we were introduced to this week by his behavioral health case manager. We tried them all. They work.
Especially, the fidget spinner, which my husband and I initially were skeptical about. But this out of school suspension forced us to recognize that he needed some additional tools to manage his behaviors.