Child Advocacy

In my last post, I mentioned that our son, Logan, is a sensory seeker. I always knew he was intense. Perceptive. Inquisitive. Energetic. Passionate. Spirited. These are terrific qualities to have.  I often imagine that he will be quite the man some day. But in those early years, we were always “on edge” and basically living with a human tornado.  Along the way, I added more tools to my toolbox, but nothing offered us any long term solutions.  Friends told me he was “just being a boy.” Our pediatrician said he would mature as a preschooler. Perhaps older generations would have said he needed more discipline. A homeopath told me he had gluten intolerance (still worth pursuing). One social worker told me to read a parenting book. Really? I had read several books. I had also been a public school teacher. I was praised as a new teacher for having great classroom management skills. I had “those boys” in my class. They could still focus with discipline. They could focus with redirection. My kid was different.

He was selected as a “peer model” for the local preschool, but instead of seeing the “big changes” we were expected to see, we saw the same behaviors.

He’s loud. He crashes the cars and knocks down towers. He’s not being safe. He can’t sit in circle time and is disruptive. He’s too silly. We’ve never seen a child like him. He doesn’t respond to our behavior plans.

I cried on the way home from school nearly every day. Yet, all of the kids liked him and he was perfectly happy. In his mind, his days at school were “good.”

Sadly, the school was of no help to me. Their behavior plans were flawed, but they wouldn’t have worked anyway because his issues were not behavioral. My cousin who is an occupational therapist (OT) recommended therapy, though at that time I didn’t really understand why. I brought it up with the teacher who just shrugged her shoulders. In the meantime, our then 4-year old son was being labeled as a “behavioral issue.” With one month of school left, I was told it was too late to implement a new plan, so they would start again next year. They had given up.  I took matters into my own hands. I put our son on a waiting list for the local Montessori school. I started researching his symptoms, which looked similar to those of ADHD.  Further research led me to SPD (a disorder I had never heard of).

Since moving to a new school, we have gained the support we needed. I’ve also met handfuls of children with SPD, right in our town. I wasn’t alone & there are other kids just like ours. Our son is surrounded by loving, caring teachers with no agenda other than to ensure that each child develops to his/her full capacity. Our son had an evaluation by an OT and now receives services once per week. The transformation has been tremendous.

What we didn’t realize last year was that it felt good to Logan’s body when he was poking, touching & crowding others – he couldn’t control it. We didn’t know that his chest strength was not as well developed for his age, so it was uncomfortable for him to sit. Because he seeks sensory input, he shouts. Though he is a naturally funny kid, being silly was a way of coping when asked to perform tasks that were physically difficult for him.

If you suspect your child has a SPD, my advice to you is this: Request an evaluation. Likely, the school will not suggest it, because then they have to pay for services. I trusted that they knew what was best for my child’s education. They were in the business of educating young people. But he suffered for a year, the teacher suffered for a year, and we as parents suffered for a year. Request an evaluation. Advocate for your kid because no one else will.

Having a sensational kid is exhausting, but my life has been enriched by him & through our experiences together. He doesn’t do so well at library story time, but he can bike for miles without fatigue. He may talk non-stop, but he sure is articulate and has a greater understanding of his world, more so than I did at his age. His passion for having his own way is balanced by the love I receive from him each and every day. I think his love for me is so real & so strong because he knows I get him. He will often tell me, “Mom, I will love you for infinity.” This is true…we’re in this together, forever. Advocate for your kid… because no one else will… and because he deserves it.