|I look at this picture now and think:
This is what she wanted to wear all the time
when she was 18 months old.
Yup... I'm pretty sure the sensory processing
issues were already in full swing...
The focus as the moment, as we knew it would be, is on Mae's sensory processing problems. As some of you may remember, when we first started this whole journey, before we had an autism diagnosis, I started reading about SPD (sensory processing disorder) and was stopped in my tracks. "This is Mae." I thought over and over again.
At the time I contacted the government website that I found while googling that is supposed to set up evaluations and was promised that I'd be contacted in two weeks for an evaluation, since she was still two at the time. Instead the weeks slipped by, she turned three and Early On turned her over to the local school district who said they would contact me the following school year (September 2013). I sometimes wonder if we'll ever hear from them, just out of curiosity not that we've found the resources on our own. It's been 11 months since I filled out that form and was told we'd hear from them in two weeks and so far... nothing. But I digress... Back to yesterday.
Mae is autistic, and like the majority of kids with autism (the number I've heard quoted is 3/4, although that's totally unverified... it's just what I've seen thrown around) she has SPD. Gina wrote a great post on SPD yesterday for anyone interested in learning more, that was timely since the subject has been on my mind as we've gone through Mae's OT evals.
Here's what I've learned about our girl, and sensory processing, in the past year.
|Your child might have sensory issues
if... they like to hang out in the heating vents
because they feel like hugs...
There are also kids like Mae. She's a sensory seeker. That means that her threshold for feeling things is much, much higher than the normal person and she needs to have those sensory needs met before her body can really begin to function in the way that she wants it to.
On some of the scales Mae tested as a normal kid. She has "normal" muscle tone and endurance (Okay, I could help but think "Normal? Really? Normal? By normal do you mean, super human?"). She scored in the normal range on emotional responses.
For many of the tests she tested as having a milder problems, like for things like visual processing, which for Mae includes liking low, dim lighting, but also liking to stare into scorching bright light sources.
Things get more dramatic when it comes to her vestibular dysfunction and especially proprioceptive dysfunction. Her vestibular dysfunction basically means that she has a hard time processing her bodies movements, equilibrium and position. Using my limited not-a-doctor understanding, I'll try my best to explain it as I understand it.
|I think sometimes
when I say that Mae has
super hero strength
So I show them
I imagine vestibular dysfunction is strongly related to all the things that break in this house (proprioceptive dysfunction, which I'll get to next, likely plays a huge role too!).
One of the highest scores for difficulties for our little bunny, came in the form of proprioceptive dysfunction. This also involves her brain's processing of her position in space, but it also includes how her body processes input from her muscles about weight, pressure, stretching and movement. Right now her body just doesn't process those things like everyone else's does.
Kids like Mae, with proprioceptive dysfunction, are often crashing into things. They often love to be tightly wrapped up (like Mae does in her weighted vest), or when she burrows into blankets, and usually love roughhousing and jumping off of things. Squeezing into the vent and trying to squish herself between the couch and the wall would also be part of her proprioceptive difficulties.
All of these actions are simply ways that her brain is trying to meet her bodies sensory needs, with an extremely high threshold.
Of course describing all the test results would take pages and pages and would range from what I've talked about here to loving things like spicy strong tasting foods and smells.
So what happens now? Now with all the information that the therapists have come up with they begin formulating a special "sensory diet" for her, so that we can help her meet her body's needs over the course of the day so that she can complete the other "ordinary" tasks that are expected of her without her body causing her to have problems that she has difficulty controlling. In other words, every couple hours I'll have activities that I need to be doing with her, to help her meet her sensory needs.
|If only we had a room with
a climbing wall...
One of our main challenges at the moment is finding equipment that Mae's exuberant play won't destroy. I explained how last year I used Mae's birthday money to set up her own little gym with special sensory equipment, with a indoor rice/bean sand box, an enclosed trampoline, and a sit and spin, and within months the screws had been ripped out of the sit and spin, the metal had come apart on the trampoline and the rice and bean box was making her sick since she wouldn't stop eating it (raw) and had to be moved outside. So there are challenges coming up with equipment that is exceptionally sturdy for our daring whirlwind.
And that is the latest Mae update.
I'm not sure I could have imagined last summer all that I would learn in this past year... As I write this I almost feel like special needs parents get hands on degrees in a variety of fields based on their kids needs. What a year it's been!