A Special Need for a Special Boy

I wanted to share about something new going on in our world with Parker.  After all, this blog is meant to document our life and keep friends and family informed with what's going on with us. 

Forgive me if I ramble on or provide a little too much detail (I have a tendency to sometimes always do that).  Again, I want to have a little bit of a written record from this time in our life - this blog is a good place to do it.
Over the past few months or so, John and I have observed a few things about Parker that gave us a little bit of concern and made us somewhat curious as to why he might be doing or not doing certain things - or reacting certain ways.  We picked up on things or situations that he consistently had a problem with or was bothered by.  At first we chalked it up to reasons like "he's a boy", "he's just two/a toddler", "he's not around a lot of other people or kids", "he's an only child", "he's teething", "he has a hard time separating from us"... You get the idea.  

After awhile we thought it was best to visit with our pediatrician to make sure that our concerns weren't something more than all of the reasons we were using to justify or explain his behavior. 

After talking with his doctor, he suggested we have him evaluated by a therapist. His suspicion was that Parker might have sensory issues. 

Over the past two weeks, Parker has been evaluated and tested and John and I have provided a lot of information about Parker and answered many questions both verbally and on a lengthy, detailed questionnaire.

After the evaluation process was competed and all of the information was gathered, it was determined that Parker has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD for short). 

So...what is SPD and what does it mean for Parker and our family?

First of all, John and I were able to meet with the therapist to discuss all of his results.  She also had us watch a presentation (that lasted about an hour) on how the brain functions and what each part does and how it relates to SPD. It was very educational and helped us better understand everything and how it relates to Parker. 

Before I explain more about what this DOES mean, it's worth noting two things this DOES NOT mean...

1)  This does not mean Parker is physically unhealthy.  He's a very healthy boy!  He's never been to the doctor for anything other than his regular well visits.  He did have the skin under his tongue clipped, but other than that all he has endured is about 2-3 bad colds.   We are very, very blessed he's been so healthy in his almost 2 1/2 years of life.

2) This does not mean Parker is not smart.  In fact, quite the opposite is true - he's super smart.  I'm not just saying that as his biased Mommy, the therapist herself said he was "highly intelligent".  He amazes us each day with what he says and does and what he knows.  He knows far more than most two year olds and has quite a vocabulary and talks really well.  If you are around him long enough, it will be clear how smart he is. 

The interesting thing about this is, the part of the brain that "houses your intelligence" so to speak is a different part of the brain that does the processing - that's why Parker can be very smart, but have other issues - two different systems of the brain.  Amazing!    
So what is Sensory Processing Disorder?  As with all medical terms and conditions, it can get very confusing and overwhelming so I will try to spell it out in fairly simple terms as we are still learning about it ourselves.

SPD is a condition that exists when sensory signals do not get organized into appropriate responses. We've heard it referred to as a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly.

The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation website has this definition as if a child with SPD were describing it...
 "I have Sensory Processing Disorder - SPD for short.  That means my brain can't process sensations the way other kid's brains do.  When my brain gets information through any of my senses - sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch and movement - it doesn't always know what to do with the information so I can become disorganized and confused and overwhelmed!  Sometimes I overreact to all of this sensory input and sometimes I don't react enough depending on what senses are involved and what I struggle with the most.  I may have trouble with jobs that come naturally to other kids, even feeding myself or getting dressed.  This makes it hard to function at school, in public and even at home.  I may have a lot of tantrums or meltdowns and get frustrated easily - not because I'm bad or misbehaving, but because I don't know how to process all I am taking in through my senses.  I can be shy and withdrawn at times and afraid of activities most kids enjoy."
I could go into a great deal of detail of the "red flags" that we noticed with Parker or explain the six page evaluation report we received on Parker, but it's so much information.

But in short, what are some of his specific concerns? 

The areas (or senses) that Parker struggles with the most are his hearing, taste and touch - all for different reasons and with varying degrees.  Parker has super sensitive hearing and asks "What's that sound?" countless times a day.  He's also very bothered by certain loud noises (not all), noisy crowds and the sudden eruption of laughter, clapping, yelling, singing, etc.  He's struggled with eating for more than a year and still has sleeping issues from time to time.  He has an aversion to various textures both with eating and with touch - not keen on his hands being in messy things like cake or paint to name a few.  Again not all things like that bother him.

He also has some balance and coordination issues.  He has trouble with some simple things like walking backward, putting his hands on his hips and kicking, jumping off of things, throwing a ball, mimicking physcial demonstrations, etc.  He also has a tendency to run into things or walk over and on things and not notice they are there and be on the lookout for them. 

He just has multiple sensitivities and insecurities when it comes to all of his senses and how things are processed.  I understand that a lot of children have problems with all of these areas as well, but his issues are more severe and his reactions rather intense - and he doesn't forget anything.  He is very perceptive so if something bothered him once, he won't forget it and sometimes it gets worse.   

He DOES respond very well to his name, has great eye contact, has lots of emotion and energy, follows directions, can repeat what you tell him and knows things like the alphabet, numbers, opposites, shapes, colors, animals and their sounds, names of stores and buildings, sings songs - he's a smarty!

There is so much to share and examples and stories I could go into to help you better understand this, but there simply isn't time.

The important thing is now - what do we do about it?  Enter - Excel Pediatric Therapy.    
This was a place recommended by our pediatrician and is known for their expertise with SPD.  Thankfully, we were able to get a spot in their program and Parker will be going to therapy here twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday from 9:45-10:30).  He will be in the program for 6 months and then be re-evaluated.  If he's made a lot of progress and needs no more therapy, we are done.  Or we could go another six months if they feel he needs more care. 

The goal of this therapy is to improve the gross and fine motor skills that he's struggling with as well as address his sensory processing issues.  They have lots of activities and a therapy "gym" that will help the parts of the brain that process these things.  We will also be working with him at home with activities they give us. 

Our therapist is very optimistic that this will do wonders for Parker.  His prognosis for reaching their goals for him are good.  

While this is something we never dreamed we would be dealing with, it could be so much worse - there are so many suffering children in this world.  While this is a disorder, it's something that we really think we can do something about - especially as young as he is.

We are at peace just to know what Parker has after wondering and being curious these past few months.  We are also excited to have a plan of action and we know Parker is in the best place he could be in. 

Parker is so special!  With him struggling with these sensory issues, I say he's Sensational! He's happy, playful, fun, energetic, smart, joy-filled, easily entertained, sweet and so precious.

We are anxious to see what these next six months will hold for him and to see what results unfold before us.  We will keep you posted as we go along.

I took Parker's picture on our first day of therapy and will do the same on the last and document his progress in between the dates.

Cute, isn't he?!  

Each chapter of life sets you on a new journey - here we go on another one.  I think it's going to be a good one!

Thanks for letting me share about this special need for our special son! 

Until we meet again...
Parker's Mommy