Have you ever been to the grocery store with a cart that just wouldn’t roll quite right? You know, that cart that pulls to the right and keeps running into the shelves? Or have you ever been riding a bike when the brakes stopped working? Have you pulled more tightly on the brakes only to feel yourself spinning out of control at the bottom of the hill? What if the car you were driving stopped working properly, and the windshield wipers came on every time you pushed the turn signal? Or maybe you’ve tripped at the top of the stairs and spent the whole way down trying to catch yourself? (<—- it’s possible this last one has happened to me once or twice or eight times.)
That feeling of spinning out of control is the normal state of being for Hudson. There’s really no such thing as a state of relaxation for him. Everything is spinning, and he’s constantly trying to catch up.
When we began to learn about sensory processing, we started taking in any information we could find. I read The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz. We searched for articles, called friends & began exploring what kinds of support we could find. We began with 2 referrals – one to an Occupational Therapist (OT) for a sensory evaluation and one a pediatric GI because of some stomach issues we couldn’t get under control.
The OT we saw gave us a 100 question survey to evaluate Hudson. As we debriefed the results, she began to point out some areas with room for growth. While we were talking about Hudson’s lack of visible reaction to pain, Hudson stood up under a counter, cracked his head loudly on it and exclaimed “I’m okay!” The OT smiled and talked to us about Hudson’s vestibular system and how he needed lots of opportunities for “heavy lifting” to meet his sensory input needs.
We began to understand that the amount of sensory input Hudson required was much greater than what he was getting. His constant need to jump, climb and move was not simply because he was “all boy.” We began building obstacle courses for him to crawl through, encouraging him to lift heavy objects and giving him lots of options to move. At the same time, we learned that our OT knew a lot about how to conduct a sensory evaluation, but she was not as well-versed in how to support those findings with appropriate sensory therapy. Feeling like OT wasn’t netting a lot of gain for Hudson, we didn’t push when he met his (largely non-sensory) list of OT goals and was dismissed.
Jerry and I continued to read and learn about sensory processing, but we didn’t pursue professional help for the next few year or so. Neither the OT nor the GI had led to many answers, so we decided to adopt a “wait & see” philosophy as he approached kindergarten. Hudson spent lots of time jumping on our trampoline and climbing the walls (literally). He has long-loved monkey bars, and we realized that hanging often helps him reset and calm down. In light of that, we invested in a Gorilla Gym that enables him to safely swing and climb on our doorframes. We talked to his teachers so they would know some of his background and sent him off to kindergarten, hoping they might be able to teach him to walk instead of bouncing down the hall.
We have been super-blessed with amazing kindergarten teachers who have nurtured, supported and redirected Hudson throughout this year. He is thriving in school and, for the most part, he has been able to hold things together while he’s there.
But after school is really hard. He is fragile and emotional, often melting down in the car with my mom on the way home from school. It’s amazing how hard kids work to keep it together in “public” and how fast and hard that pendulum swings in the safety of family. Finally, exhausted and frustrated, we headed back to the pediatrician for a new set of referrals.
Armed with a little more knowledge, we began to search for an OT with Sensory Integration Therapy training and a new GI who would help us piece together this puzzle. Therapist-friends helped us find the just-right place of Hudson. Two months later, we are seeing an amazing OT who has vast knowledge of sensory processing. (We knew we were in the right place when she didn’t rely on a survey from us to screen Hudson, but she was able to evaluate him by watching him.) We are learning exercises that require Hudson to use both sides of his brain (left hand/right foot and vice versa), something that is really hard for him. We’re also seeing a GI in Greenville who is helping us balance the sensory/GI issues.
It finally feels like we’re on the right path. We’re not there, but we’re moving forward. Just this week, we’ve been bounced around by several developmental pediatricians because of his age (apparently 5 is pretty old in the developmental peds world) and the fact that he is doing so well academically. We’ve still got a lot to learn, but there’s peace in that, too. God’s in the details, orchestrating the life of this awesome kiddo that we’re so blessed to call ours.
Hudson’s story isn’t over, and there’s much more to it than the world of sensory processing. I’ll keep updating his story here from time to time, in the hopes it might encourage many of you on your own parenting journeys.
In fact, next week I’m already planning to share a bit of our experience at Disney World.
We’re so thankful that God knew Hudson before he was ever born, and that His plans for Hudson’s life are more than we could ask or imagine.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”