We have not told Zak (10) that we believe he has Sensory Processing Disorder.
I thought it would be difficult not to tell him when we started introducing things like a weighted blanket. But it’s actually not been difficult at all. Most things, like the spinner and exercise ball he just thinks are awesome toys, which they are. And when we talked to him about a blanket that might help him fall asleep better he was all for it. He didn’t care that much about how it works, he was just excited to have something that might help.
Same thing when we addressed his chewing issues. He had been asking for a “chew toy” for a while anyway.
So we haven’t really had to tell him yet.
We do plan to tell him though. We are waiting, however, hoping that we might get an actual diagnosis first. Realizing, though, that that could be a long way off, if ever, we have felt it important to help him have a better understanding of his own behaviors and challenges.
We take things as they come most of the time. For example, drawing attention to how good it feels when he swings or spins, and encouraging him to do it at certain times when he is having trouble concentrating or making excessive noise.
Other times, we initiate a conversation with him. Like when we were at dinner once and we talked about senses. He loves cool factoids (like father, like son), so he enjoyed learning about the two lesser known senses. He also insisted that really there must be eight, otherwise they wouldn’t call it our “sense of humor!” Pretty convincing argument, really.
Our big conversation happened though one day when I was working on my blog. He knows I have it and that I write about him and his sisters, though he hasn’t expressed much interest in reading most of my entries. He saw the title, and reading it out loud, said, “I don’t get it. It’s not funny.”
“It’s not supposed to be funny.”
“I still don’t get it. What does sensory mean?”
“It means information through your senses, like sight and touch.”
“Oh. That’s a weird name for your blog. Why did you call it that?”
“Well, because everyone understands the information they get from their senses a little differently…”
In continuing to explain to him the different difficulties that some people have with the way their brains process information I used the illustration of engines. A brilliant occupational therapist came up with this simple way to help kids understand better what’s going on with their brains and bodies.
I explained to him that some people are over-sensitive. Their engine is running too fast! They are always feeling scared or tense because they have trouble getting their engine to slow down.
Others have an engine that’s too slow. They may not be able to play easily, might have trouble with school, or may not be able to respond to real dangers because they are under-sensitive.
Then I said that there are some who’s engines just never seem to be able to go into idle. That while it may not always be racing, it still never wants to pull into Park and just run quietly, steadily, but that it always wants to be in Drive!
“Just like me!” he sat up really excited!
“Yep. Exactly like you. Even when you’re really tired, you still have trouble getting your engine into Park, huh?”
“Can you think of anybody else around here that has an engine like that?”
“Kit does! She never likes to slow down either!”
“You are so right! When you have an engine like that it’s called ‘seeking’. Your brain and body are always looking for ways to get more information from your senses. Do you like things that move fast?”
“How about having the volume up loud, and things that make a lot of noise?”
“Yeah, even though it drives you NUTS!”
“Mmm-hmmm! And wrestling? And chewing on stuff?”
“I can’t help it!”
“I know. That’s why I started looking up more information about it, and why we got things for you to chew on, and why we tell you to go outside and do the monkey bars a certain number of times, and to swing.”
Then I showed him the video that I included in my first Wordy Wednesday post. Periodically, throughout the video he would laugh and say “that’s what I do!”.
“Cool,” he said after the video, “so that’s why you named it that?”
“Yeah, but it’s about a lot of other things too.”
“That’s cool…Hey, where’s Daddy? I wanna wrestle. Heh heh heh…”
And so now he knows what he needs to know right now. I am definitely relieved, because I was really lost as to how to go about it. As usual though, Zak just kind of showed me what he needed, and I helped him get it.
Not as scary as I anticipated. Not scary at all in fact!
Honestly it was liberating! I can say I am truly satisfied, and I believe he is too. Especially now that all my little engines are tucked in (except Kit, don’t tuck Kit!) and sweetly dreaming as fast and as loud as they want.