Wednesday, March 31, 2010
No, he doesn't talk. My 16 month old doesn't talk. He says yeah, mama, and uh-oh but sometimes he uses those words as noises (especially uh-oh). I called a local pediatric therapy group (they do speech, physical, and occupational) and asked for an evaluation because I really felt that he should be at least starting to talk by now. The evaluation confirmed what I knew, he doesn't talk. He does communicate well (you know, without a doubt, what he likes and doesn't like) and can follow simple directions. After two 30-min speech therapy sessions, the therapist started asking me detailed questions about things he likes and doesn't like. It was very strange because she knew his actions better than most people who have known him his whole life.
It's a diagnosis! She discovered that my son is a sensory seeker. It is a sub-diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD.) Basically, that means he will seek out anything that involves his senses but freaks out if he is overly or unexpectedly stimulated. He does not cuddle, does not like to be touched softly, and does seemingly odd things to search for a certain feeling that he craves (bites, pats surfaces, carries things under his neck, hits his head, scratches himself.) He also seems to feel almost no pain. He climbs on furniture and throws himself on the ground.
It was one of those ah-ha moments because in the hospital, at hours old, he wiggled himself free of the swaddling blanket. The nurses yelled at me but I could not keep him swaddled. When we got home, I never swaddled him again because it was a waste of time. I also could not breastfeed him. He would arch his back and freak out every time I held him close. He held his own bottle at 3 months.
He will learn coping skills and become a productive member of society. While some parents may become angry, resentful, or sad when they learn their child has a disorder, I was actually excited. It has made our lives so much easier because it's fixable. He's not just a whiny child who likes to hurt himself and anyone who get too close. His brain actually processes things differently so we just need to learn to present life in way he can process. If he bites in the church nursery, we need to let him chew on something on the way to church, give him crunchy snacks while he is there, and move him to a class with older kids if there are too many people in his class. If all of his senses are on overload by noon, I need to make sure we are home for nap time everyday. If he throws food from his tray when he is done, we need to teach him the sign for all done and watch for him to tell us he is done. This is not a life sentence and he will be able to function day to day without many people even realizing he is different.
Is it genetic? It very possibly is in our family. As I was researching and talking to the speech therapist, we realized both of my boys have SPD, though it manifests in much different ways. The older one issues are vestibular which means he can swing and spin for hours without getting dizzy. He physically can't be still. Even when I tell him to sit or stand still, he wiggles, coughs, taps his toes, or shakes. He runs everywhere and if I tell him to walk, it looks painful. He has horrible pencil control and still scribbles like when he was first learning to color. He also has food issues that were really awful from age 2-3 but he taught himself coping skills and we avoid textures and temperatures that set him off (anything smooth, creamy, overly sweet, or hot.) He also eats incredibly slow because he takes really small bites. At 4 years old, he just looks like an overly hyper kid who doesn't have time to eat. When he is overstimulated (like in a chaotic or crowded room), he moves himself away to a corner or a chair and plays by himself. I say he "puts himself in time out" because if someone messes with him when he is trying to refocus, he will lash out by hitting, pushing, or yelling.
I have also learned that my cousin's daughter is almost identical to my younger son and my mom is positive my brother had (and may still have) a sensory disorder.
God chose us to parent these children. When I told people I was getting speech therapy for my 16 month old, I got many questions of why and assurances that he would be fine. I knew, however, that he wasn't just being lazy because he was the younger brother. The tantrums were a major issue for me. He can scream for an hour over something he wants and will throw himself head first onto the ground. I understand now why. I feel very blessed because God knew we could raise these boys into great men. He sees something in us that we never knew we had. I'm excited about being the best mom I can be!