Lost Signals

Pet Peeves. I have so many. Drives who don’t use their blinkers. Drivers who veer into my lane for no reason other than they’re too busy yapping or texting on their cell phones. People who use the word “retarded” in their everyday conversations. People who are two-faced.

My newest pet peeve reared its head about a year ago.We decided to get B evaluated by an Occupational therapist and a Speech and Language Pathologist for her eating issues. Let me just say that after the evaluation I finally realized why my daughter acted/reacted the ways she did. She had sensory issues. Sensory challenges that contributed to her eating difficulties. Behaviors that all of a sudden made sense based on this newly discovered diagnosis.

Back to my #1 pet peeve of  the moment. People who feel we have nothing better to do than to make up B’s sensory issues/diagnosis. That’s right! We’ve been told everything from, “I think you’re reading too much into this,” to “Everyone has sensory issues,” and the, “I think you’re blowing this whole thing out of proportion” comment. Then there’s the people who just walk away when I start talking about her therapy or sensory challenges. Makes me want to scream at them and say, “Then it’s a good thing God made US her parents!” Instead, I’m going to educate. The purpose of tonight’s blog post.

I guess I can’t blame them. When you don’t know anyone who has Sensory Processing Disorder or haven’t lived with it day in and day out, it’s hard to look at or even talk to someone like B and think she has trouble processing the things her body does.

I have to take a moment to thank my new-found friend and OT, Angie Voss, for her amazing book “Understanding your Child’s Sensory Signals.” Without the information in this book, I would still refer to B’s sensory “signals” aka sensory “differences” as behaviors. I would also still wonder why she does half of the things she does. This book has saved my sanity and helped my husband and I look through B’s world with our sensory goggles 🙂

Here’s just a small list of some of B’s sensory differences: gags with textured foods, picky eater, extreme food preferences, nail trimming distress, animal fear, very difficult to calm, dislikes certain clothing, lines up objects/toys, spins indefinitely and does not get dizzy, never just walks..always hopping, skipping, or stomping, bugs cause fear, asks others to stop talking or laughing. Please remember these are just SOME of the sensory signals B exhibits. I can’t focus on all of these signals without putting everyone to sleep, but I do want to focus on a few. I want to take a minute to explain why she does certain things and give ideas to help her during certain circumstances.

Sensory Signal #1-Lines Up Objects/Toys:

B’s done this since she was a little toddler. She’s always had a strong desire to line up her toys. This is a daily habit for B. Some days she does it a little more often and other days a little less. According to Angie Voss, lining up toys is organizing or calming to a child with sensory processing difficulties. We live in a very disorganized world, and B’s sensory system doesn’t always like that. Lining up her toys gives her a sense of control and order. Still don’t believe me? Sometimes photos speak better than I ever could:

Sensory Signal #2-Never Walks…Always Hoping, Skipping, Stomping

B’s done this for a while now. She skips on her way into school. She skips when we’re walking in the mall, and she’ll even jump in between her skips. It seriously drove me batty! I’d get so annoyed with her and tell her, “Can you please just walk?” Actually, her sensory system is telling her she needs more input or better regulation and what better way to get it than through a good dose of proprioception/vestibular input. I’ve finally realize that she needs this, and I let her have her dose of skipping and jumping. Who knows; it might help her focus better too and who am I to argue with that!

Sensory Signal #3-Spins Indefinitely and Does Not Get Dizzy

B has always loved spinning at top speed. We have plenty of videos of her at the age of 2 and 3 spinning in the jumperoo swing as fast as her legs could carry her. I’d post a video, but I do want to protect her privacy. Even when she goes to OT, she’ll jump in one of the therapy swings and try to spin herself into oblivion. I’ve come to find out she loves spinning because her brain is not getting enough vestibular input (aka movement). The brain needs a certain amount of vestibular input to function on a daily basis. Her brain most likely has an under-responsive post-rotary nystagmus (PRN); therefore, the brain doesn’t recognize the rotary input and she doesn’t get dizzy. I also learned through Angie’s book that intense, long amounts of spinning should be discouraged. It’s very disorganizing for the brain. Instead we provide her with different swinging activities, allow her to hang upside down, and encourage her to jump on the trampoline or her hoppity hop ball.

So you see, B’s signals are often distressed and need some reorganization or tools to help her feel more in control. We couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried. I’d love for my daughter to simply be a picky eater like her little sister. I’d love for her to understand that bugs are smaller than her and they are more afraid of her than she is of them. Instead, I’ve accepted she has sensory differences. I pull out my trusty sensory bible and arm others with a little education and hopefully a lot more compassion and understanding.


About Jessica

I am currently a stay at home mom to my two beautiful girls. B is 7, thoughtful, and has sensory challenges. C is 5, spirited, and keeps me on my toes. Before B, I was a special education teacher. She's taught me more in her 7 years than I learned in my 5.5 years in college and my seven years teaching combined :)
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