I’ve always known that my daughter was “the way she was”. I mean always. Since birth. No one would believe me that my three month old had anxiety and needed to be shown the source of a loud noise before she could calm down. No one believed me that there just wasn’t any way to make my nine month old wear socks or mittens, no matter what the weather was like. When she was one year old, I listed her favourite activities as lifting heavy things and rearranging the furniture. That’s just the way she was.
After both an at-home daycare and a private school kindergarten didn’t seem to be “the right fit” for my daughter, it was suggested that we have her diagnosed. This was a suggestion that I did not take well to. As I saw it, there wasn’t anything wrong with her – this was just the way she was. When her pediatrician agreed that she needed testing, I admit that I cried all the way back to work. I didn’t want there to be something wrong with her. I wanted what all parents want – a happy, healthy child.
The truth of the matter was my child was not happy. She struggled at both school and at daycare and had difficulties getting along with her classmates who were confused by and sometimes even scared of her atypical behaviour. After getting the diagnosis of SPD and borderline PDD-NOS we were referred to an Occupational Therapist who was able to suggest exercises to help my daughter with her sensory issues, and even better, explain why she behaved the way she does.
At first I balked at the diagnosis, going as far as saying that it was a new-age hippie disorder to explain bad behaviour. And then I saw that sitting on a balance cushion allowed my daughter to sit through a whole meal. That being brushed before bedtime allowed my daughter to calm down enough to fall asleep. That giving her joint compressions had the effect of a tranquilizer dart when teetering on the edge of a meltdown in the grocery store checkout line. I started to believe in SPD.
After being so scared and reluctant to put a label on my daughter, knowing what it is has been tremendously helpful. By understanding the disorder, we are able to strategize and make common areas of frustration easier for her and for those around her. She now goes to a public school that is accommodating to her needs and is willing to work with us to come up with strategies for success in the classroom. Since reading books like “This is Gabriel Making Sense of School” and “Ellie Bean the Drama Queen”, my daughter can now see that she isn’t bad, but has something called Sensory Processing Disorder, and that she needs to learn how to self-regulate in a world full of sensory triggers. As a family, we have all learned to embrace the diagnosis in order to have the happy, healthy child that every parent wants.