I have known for a while that Finn was different than your average child, and I have discovered a lot of names to describe that difference: Highly Sensitive, Introverted, Orchid. Now there is another term to add to the collection: Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD.
There was a particularly bad week not too long ago. A virus had made the family tour affecting three of the four of us. I alone remained unscathed. After being housebound with a sick family for a week or two, I threw us back into society and schedule with a vengeance: Preschool! Library story time! Visiting teaching! All the activity and extra stimulation caused Finn to wig out. Everyday an outburst occurred. At preschool, there was an incident of an unbalanced washing machine that caused him to bolt for the door in absolute terror. The remaining hour and a half was spent in my lap insisting that we go home. The next day we went to story time at the Library. The librarians used a new sound system that operated via computer. They were still learning and in the process of setting things up, managed to start the projector screen descending from the ceiling. Cue instant freak out. My son bolted for the exit screaming and refused to stay and listen. The following day I visited a woman from church. He played well enough with the three other kids there, but at some point reached a state of sensory overload and demanded that we leave. And when I say demand, I mean that he did not stop insisting that we leave. There was no way to shut. him. up. What I heard was "Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama" and "I want to leave, I want to leave, I want to leave" on an endless loop. This was the week that I decided, "Yes, he is Highly Sensitive; yes, he is an Introvert, but there must be something else going on here."
Do you know what I really dislike? Non-specific "help" or "advice." Things like, "make sure that you have a support system" when you are in the throws of depression or "teach your child coping mechanisms" when your child has sensory processing issues. What are these coping mechanisms? What are the logistics for setting up a support system? What I need are concrete directions such as "call your pediatrician and have them refer you to an occupational therapist who will evaluate your child and develop a personalized treatment plan." See? That is helpful.
I had no idea where to get help for my child. I didn't even know what I the problem was exactly. Luckily, one friend mentioned that she saw an occupational therapist for her son's sensory issues regarding food. That sounded promising. But how does one find an occupational therapist dealing with children's' sensory issues? A quick internet search was not illuminating. On further questioning, my friend told me her pediatrician gave her a referral. I was on the phone to my pediatrician the very next day, and then scheduling an evaluation the day after that. The evaluation was......heartbreaking. Most days when we are at home, I think my child acts like a completely normal three year old. It is easy to convince myself that we don't need help. But at the evaluation......It was just so obvious that Finn had issues to resolve. He started out unsettled by the new environment, but then the OT added some soft classical background noise, and he went ballistic. Mr. F. had to stand in front of the door the rest of the appointment to keep Finn from bolting. Finn spent the next 40 minutes or so asking/crying to leave.
So, I have something else new to study and to process. There have been a lot of "aha!" moments. It explains why the playground has never been the easy solution. It explains why I have to repeat things 50 million times a day, day after day. Finn appears to be hypersensitive to sounds and struggles to process sounds. Along with that comes difficulty with his vestibular sense, or how the body handles movement like swinging, balancing, hesitation with climbing and descending, etc. The two, auditory and vestibular, are closely linked (think about vertigo.) Luckily, he doesn't display any learning disabilities or decreased fine motor or visual motor skills. He also doesn't appear to have any diagnosis that is often linked with SPD like Asperger's, Autism, ADHD, etc. I am so glad that we discovered this early and have started occupational therapy. Finn's second visit to OT was completely different. He had a great time and did not ask to leave at all. In fact, he could have stayed there for hours. I foresee him gaining a lot of confidence through the play that he does in therapy.
I understand it could be a lot, lot worse. But let me also say that it is hard. It is hard to see your child around other children his age and be different. I worry about how other children will perceive Finn's difference, and how they will behave towards him. I want him to have friends. I want him to be successful in school. Currently, I see that SPD could be a potential roadblock for both of those goals. I have so much to process with this new information--intellectually, emotionally. It will take a long time.