Like most kids with special needs, Ryan struggles with sensory overload. She has never actually been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, but we don’t need another doctor to tell us what we already know. It’s something we have been working on her entire life and will continue to as her needs change.
Ryan’s biggest triggers are anything being done to her hands and feet, and anything related to her head. For us, this means that any type of self-care can lead to complete meltdowns. Brushing teeth, combing hair, and trimming fingernails and toenails, are just some examples of what can set her off daily. Needless to say getting blood pressure and ears checked at the doctor, haircuts, and trying on shoes at a store are another story… a horror story. And I’m not even going to get into the IV for her infusions.
As a baby, Ryan hated getting her hands wet in the tub and she would gag frequently. We slowly started giving her input by placing different textured things in her hands (she would sit there and groan as if in pain) and let her chew on various tubes and spoons to desensitize her mouth. We even used vibrating animals called “Vibe Critters” for this purpose. You can imagine the jokes in our house!
As time goes on, even though her ability to cope gets better, her list of inputs she can’t handle becomes worse. Although she doesn’t vomit during meltdowns, loud noises and crowded places get to her when they didn’t before. And just recently she has started to spin a lot and swing really high on the play-set. She is seeking more of the input she likes and acting out more at the input she can’t handle. We have to trim fingernails and toenails when she sleeps and some days she goes without getting her teeth brushed. Haircuts are scheduled at times when no other clients will be in the salon because I don’t want them to have to endure Ryan’s crying.
As a part of her OT therapy, Ryan has started a new “Sensory Diet”.
Sensory components are:
- Deep touch “tactile”
- Heavy work “proprioception”
- Movement “vestibular”
Since Ryan seeks movement, we provide her with deep touch and heavy work. For deep touch we give her hand hugs all over her body, squeeze her head, and smoosh her with a bean bag/yoga ball. She loves this! For heavy work, we try to have her push on the wall or floor or push a ball or other heavy object. She doesn’t love this. We haven’t seen much improvement yet, but we were told that it takes some time. It also takes consistency and to be honest, we don’t do it as much as we should… which is every 2 hours!
On the plus side… in seeking input that she likes, Ryan give the most amazing bear hugs you could ever want. But if you’re lucky enough to get one just be careful! She doesn’t know her own strength and might choke you and then you’ll be the one to gag!