We stood in the store together, with crocodile tears running down her cheeks. “But I don’t know which one is right!” she sobbed. The reason for the meltdown? She was unable to select the “right” color for the tri-fold poster board for a school presentation. It was imperative that she get the absolute most perfect color, and she couldn’t choose between RED or ORANGE. At first I consoled her, assuring her that her decision would be the right one, but eventually I lost it and snapped at her. For Pete’s sake, how can a color decision bring someone to a complete stop?
Peep was diagnosed with SPD nearly two years ago, after an awful year in first grade. She was constantly in trouble, frequently angry, and I was constantly frustrated. The teacher saw only her behavior, not the struggling child and it was heartbreaking to see her want to please but be unable to do so. It was a source of friction at home as well, as my husband insisted she was fine but I wasn’t so sure. The only thing I could think of was ADHD, but he was adamant that drugs were not the way to go. I removed food dyes from her diet, and that did wonders for reducing her mood swings, but I knew in my gut there was something else. Finally, a teacher friend mentioned SPD in talking about one of her students, and when I googled it, everything seemed to make sense. After an evaluation by an OT where SPD was confirmed, we jumped into the world of therapy and sensory diets.
Two years later, her world is a different place. She gets two sensory breaks each day at school as well as weekly private therapy. Her teachers see HER, not her behavior. But now, as she wraps up her third grade year, the academic expectations are increasing, and that is causing rapidly spiraling levels of anxiety. It’s not that she can’t do the work, she is quite bright and in the gifted program, but she is quickly overwhelmed by multiple deadlines and the feeling that she won’t get it all done or it won’t be “just right.” Part of it is her perfectionism (the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree on that one), but when she lives in a world that is already often uncomfortable for her, adding more stress is just, well, stressing her out. Her OT confirmed that SPD and anxiety often go hand in hand. Whee!
So, now what? Her OT suggested that the next step may be to see a child psychologist to try to help her deal with the anxiety, which is something I had already thought about. But honestly, I am ready for a break from the world of weekly therapy and don’t really want to add that time or expense. I’ll do it if she really needs it, but I want to find alternatives if I can.
So here I am, reaching out to this little world of SPD experts for ideas on reducing anxiety in 9 year olds. It breaks my heart to see her normally bubbly self transformed into this sobbing child. I worry about how she will handle middle school and beyond if the demands of third grade are bringing her to her knees. What have you tried that worked? I’m open to any ideas – traditional or otherwise.