Thursday, January 10, 2008
Sensory Integration, revisited
Atticus has Sensory Integration Dysfunction. This is not earth-shattering new news to us; he was first diagnosed at age 3, when it became painfully apparent that many of the little tics and quirks that we associated with his personality were quickly spiraling into the category of crippling behaviors. Already somewhat familiar with what I was seeing in my lovely little boy thanks to a relative whose son struggled with the same issues, I was quick to find help. A full battery of tests performed by a handful of doctors and therapists revealed what we had begun to suspect: SID.
I can't tell you how grateful I am that this diagnosis was made so young, and was so thoroughly treated. For two solid years, Atticus met with his Occupational Therapist on a weekly basis. Together, the three of us slurped through straws, gliding on massive swings, rolled in shaving cream. Oh, and we brushed. We brushed, we brushed and we brushed. I am fairly certain that he has the best OT in the entire western hemisphere. This lovely young lady came to my son's first soccer games. She gave him cards to celebrate milestones. She cried with me in the harder moments, and rejoiced with us in brighter times. At the end of two years, she discharged him and promised to be an ongoing resource no matter where we found ourselves down the road.
Most people who meet Atticus now have no idea that when he was four, he would not play in a kiddie pool in the summer months because he hated splashing water. They might raise their eyebrows at his tightly-cinched belt and marvel at his ability to tolerate very low temperatures without a coat, but they'd never guess how walking barefoot on a carpet used to send him into meltdown mode. I credit his OT, our family's aggressive approach to treatment and lots of consistency with creating the adaptive skills that Atticus uses today to get by.
SI is an ongoing, management-type disorder. It is never truly "healed" or "outgrown" or "gone." We have known this, and yet are always amazed when we start to see relapses in Atticus' behavior.
Like right now.
I realized on Monday that I have been saying, "Son, get off the floor," far too often to my boy. For some reason, this didn't raise any red flags in my mind--you know, it never does. I guess I am so used to cruising through our days that I miss the subtle hints of trouble ahead until I smash into the roadblocks and have to stop and take stock of the whole mess. Thankfully, there was no catastrophic crash this time. It was just the budding of a mild annoyance that I was dangerously close to venting on a kid who kept purposely banging his shoulders on door frames every time he walked into a room. Warning sign, anyone? :-)
We started back on an aggressive sensory diet on Monday, and are seeing the results. This is a time consuming endeavor: once every two hours, I have to work in a twenty-minute brushing, jumping, crashing, lifting, splashing, rubbing session. The up-side is that Mr. Wiggles hasn't fallen out of a chair in three days and has finally stopped rolling on the floor every time he feels he needs a little neurological stimulation.
Usually, these retraining periods--which are literally like tune-ups for Atticus' neurological system--only last a few weeks. At the end of that time, I'll realize that he is becoming more irritated by the brushing, or doesn't quite throw himself into the crashing sensations with as much vigor as he had originally. That's when I know that he can resume life with his own toolbox of coping skills, sans my tweaking here and there.
I admit that I wonder from time to time at what point those coping skills will begin to outpace my intervention; when will he learn to see his own "flare-up" coming and head it off? Fifteen? Twenty? I really don't know.
Until then, SID is a part of life here. Jumping jacks and all.