I didn't have many misconceptions about Sensory Processing Disorder because SPD isn't something you hear about all that often, that is at least until you have a child who has sensory issues and you begin to learn about SPD, and suddenly you see the acronym popping up here and there and everywhere. And maybe SPD was the easiest for me to wrap my head around because my entire life I've been "weird" about certain sounds and textures. The sound of certain fabrics still make me wince and having to move Paul's college hologram sports cups from the dish washer to the cupboard requires careful maneuvering to not touch the offensively horrible hologram-y texture on the sides... so while I don't exactly understand what my sensory seeking girl is going through with her need for movement and spinning and being upset down, I do at least have a tiny bit of personal insight into how things that the rest of the world doesn't think twice about, can drive a person up the wall.
And Autism? Well, I imagine I could fill an entire blog with the host of stereotypes and misinformation that's out there. The day the doctor told me she was certain that Mae was on the spectrum, I knew virtually nothing about ASD. I'd read articles that came up in my newsfeed, so I knew that there was a different "cause" being circulated every ten minutes or so, but other than that I knew next to nothing about what it meant to be on the spectrum.
If I really had to put down on paper the sum of what I knew about ADHD I would probably have said that the kids are wiggly and just need more time to run around and be kids.
This week an article became rather popular floating around Facebook. It talked about the slew of children diagnoses with ADD and ADHD and offered a reason for the large numbers. It basically said that the reason was because children need more time to be kids and run around, that they don't belong sitting in desks all day.
As you can imagine, I tend to agree that kids should be allowed lots of time to be kids. But I also found myself pausing because... well... Sadie doesn't sit in a desk all day. In fact, she doesn't sit in a desk at all. By lunch time she's finished all of her school work and is pretty much free to do whatever she wants for the rest of the day (at this moment she's totally engrossed in spelling while standing at the dining room table). We move from the dining room table to cuddling on the couch as we work through our schedule. She's not spending all day cooped up holding still in one spot.
In fact, our days tend to look like this:
And sometimes this:
So even before the packet from the neuro-guy arrived yesterday, I felt like there had to be more to it than just "kids sit in chairs all day and that's why they're being diagnosed with ADHD" which, while I can certainly see would be aggravating to the "problem" I can't see, at least in our case, it being the cause.
However I was surprised to see a few of the other results. On the "Sensory-Motor" index words like "1st percentile" came up along with problems with the "Visual-Spacial" index and "visuoconstruction." These indicate problems with "auditory and visual modalities" and fine motor coordination.
Basically these are apparently the glaringly obvious test results that point to ADHD. In her case, as it's shown in her results, it was less about being squirmy in her chair and more about being able to do math problems but having problems copying simple designs accurately and not having the best fine motor skills.
I'd actually noticed this early this week when we were doing a history project. After watching her identify Mesopotamia and Egypt, and trace the Nile and Tigris and Euphrates on a map and write Akkadian Empire in the appropriate place (while ranting about how angry the dictator she'd just learned about made her... because she took major offense to the story of Sargon convincing the army to overthrow the king after being raised in the palace and was even more furious that he became dictator...) she struggled to draw a "pyramid" next to the Nile as the instructions said. Making the points meet at the corners was obviously frustrating and difficult.
I do think that kids need time to be kids, to get out and play and have fun... but I also think the "ADHD is a result of being in a chair all day" may be simply a result of confusing correlation with causation. Certainly kids are wiggly, but at least from what I've seen personally, wiggliness is a symptom of something else that's happening, just as it often is with sensory seeking kids who are wiggly because something else is going on.
That's actually why SPD was my first thought when I took Sadie to the doctor. Those "auditory" and "visual" difficulties have a lot in common with SPD (actually I'd be surprised if she didn't test on a sensory test as having sensory difficulties). Sadie's doctor explained that it's a result of neurological immaturity there as a result of the ADHD.
These challenges, as with any challenge that life throws at us, often seem to do a great deal of good forming character. In the past months I'd already seen Sadie overcome her natural tendency to always be moving to buckle down and do her work well. Self control was already falling into place as she got older. Now, with this new knowledge, I can help her work on those other areas that are challenges and hopefully find an OT to help us work out a plan for those challenges that would use a little extra help. And on days when the wiggliness seems to be winning I can get out the exercise ball and let her bounce on it while she works.
Disclaimer: All of this is written from the point of view of a parent who doesn't have any formal medical training and who's just been going along through all of this learning all that I can!
Edited to Add: When I first wrote this I skipped who in our family has ADHD because he wasn't home to ask and I wasn't sure he'd want me to share... but since he read this he emailed me to give me the green light and... Sadie comes by her diagnosis honestly since her Dad has the same one! Which is one reason why I absolutely believe that success is very possible and why I know she'll have a good example of someone who's facing the same challenges and overcome them by working very, very diligently to succeed.