Monday, November 18, 2013

Mama bear instincts

Camden has Sensory Processing Disorder. I don't think I have really discussed this here...I will say first, that Down syndrome, has nothing on SPD. Camden started showing signs of it after his first birthday...loud noises he could not identify caused melt downs, he was scared to death of the elevator for a solid year, his eating routines became progressively worse. It all seemed to peak between one and three...and then he grew out of some issues, and into got a little easier though...because he was learning to cope with some things, and we were learning how to manage his environment. 

So what is sensory processing disorder? 

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively. (

I know that sounds scary...and sometimes it is if I am being completely honest with myself. It is common for children with Down syndrome to have sensory issues, it is also seen in children with autism.  

What this means for Camden: the world is very difficult at times for Camden to understand. At baseball games he needs to be shown and explained why a loud voice is coming from no where (the announcer over the speakers). He can't handle it if there are too many noises bombarding him at once, especially if there is an echo (indoor sporting stadiums). He struggles with things touching the car windows, like the windshield wipers, loud raindrops, the car wash is pretty much a nightmare. Loud restaurants. Once he settles into a routine he does well, really well, but minor changes can make him nervous and he struggles to cope. 

This morning the bus driver came to pick him up, he LOVES the bus, it's probably his favorite part of the entire week. But the driver didn't have the car seats on the bus today...and Camden always sits in a car seat. He started to get anxious, he wouldn't cooperate for the driver, he wouldn't sit and started to lose it. The bus driver summoned me and let me know what was going on. 

My momma bear instincts kicked in and I wanted to let the driver have it. Have you ever dealt with special needs kids before!? You can't just change routines like this!! You can't do this! Now his entire day might be ruined...and who knows if he will recover!? Ugh. 

But I fought them...instead I climbed on the bus and took the time to explain what was happening to both the driver and to Camden. I showed him the other boys sitting on the seat, I sat on the seat with him, I buckled him in and told him it was his seat belt and would keep him safe just like the car seat did...I let him get out his anxiety and then told him he was still going to school and that everything would be just fine. He gave me a kiss good bye and went on his way.

This isn't always the case...but thankfully Camden is learning to reason and so melt downs can usually (but not always) be avoided. He needs help to understand changes in the world around him, because the world is big and scary for any child...but when the signals aren't working instinctually in your brain and you physically can not make sense of things...well then, things become really difficult. Melt downs can look to outsiders as tantrums...and they are in a way...but there is a deeper meaning behind Camden's behavior (always). 

Today I learned that I can't always step in and make life easy for him. I could have yelled at the driver, given up and taken him to school or let him have the day off...but, Camden needs to learn how to cope with his sensory processing issues, he needs to learn that he can have success even when things are different than his normal. Because that's how life is, people not close to Camden won't know his routines, they won't always understand his melt downs...and he needs to know that it's ok if you are scared or uncomfortable, that things can change and still be fun.

It won't always be as easy as it was today, and there is a fine line between traumatizing a child with SPD and teaching them to cope. But today I feel a little more confident in myself, and my child. Today he had success. 

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