My son has a condition called Sensory Processing Disorder, formerly known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction.
I posted the above picture on my Facebook and Instagram pages yesterday and got quite a response. The caption was: “My son, staring down the cornbread at feeding therapy today. My poor boy can’t tolerate certain textures. Always been that way.” Through private messages and comments, I got a lot of feedback that made me realize I’m not the only one dealing with their child’s “sensory issues.” (Funny how much better we feel when we realize we’re not alone).
Quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences
I started reminiscing over the past 8 years of his life, about how sensitive he seemed to be since Day 1. I didn’t fully recognize what was going on until around age 3. At that time, looking back at what I thought were “quirks,” it became clear these behaviors stemmed from a problem with his nervous system. I took him to an occupational therapist who really helped me understand that we all perceive the world around us through our nervous system. Because of the way my son is “wired,” his nervous system overreacts to, or misinterprets, certain stimuli that most of us don’t even notice. Until that visit, I thought my son was autistic. Individuals on the autism spectrum have a much higher incidence of sensory processing disorder than the general population. She recommended the book The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz and it changed my life – this woman was describing my son. Below are specific examples of sensory problems he has had. However, everyone is truly an individual and one person’s nervous system can respond much differently to the same stimuli as another person. There is a wealth of information available on the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation’s website. His current therapist recommended a great book called Food Chaining which is a method of expanding a child’s food preferences by building off of foods they already like. Currently, my son is doing well in all aspects of his life and thriving academically – he was recently nominated to test for the Gifted and Talented enrichment program at school (there is some anecdotal evidence that gifted students have a higher prevalence of sensory problems). He is currently in feeding therapy once a week.
Details of his sensory issues from the start include the following:
- Age 0-7 days: Nurses said “His eyes are always wide open and he’s so alert!” He didn’t sleep longer than 45 minutes at a time. He always cried when he was placed in the crib.
- Age 1 wk: He was jaundiced and placed under UV lights, couldn’t be held during this time so he cried a lot. It broke my heart to not be able to comfort him and I feel this, along with his traumatic birth experience, contributed to his hyperactive nervous system.
- Age 6 months: Very fussy, especially around people and a lot of noise. He had night terrors where he would awaken within 1-2 hours of falling asleep, scream and look right through me, resisting me holding him.
- Age 1 year: Transitioning to table foods became a problem, especially with rice and pasta. He would gag and “whoop” when even one grain of rice was on his tongue. He was extremely sensitive to new foods – he would hold the food between his thumb and finger, far away from his mouth, stick his tongue out like he was tasting it “through the air”, then throw the food down.
- Age 12-15 months: Tactile senses – He was a walker by now, but did not like to walk on grass at first. One day at a department store entrance, he walked on the black carpet but when it changed to the white tile, he would not go any further. He stayed on the carpet while I tried to hold his hand to make him go, but his toes “hung at the edge” of the carpet. I had to pick him up. It was like that scene in Awakenings where the patient couldn’t continue walking on the floor because the pattern stopped.
- Age 2 years: He ate crunchy foods and fruit. No soup, no meats, no pasta, no rice, no beans, no casseroles or other “mixed” foods. He screamed throughout car washes. He threw up on a daycare worker who forced him to eat Beef Stroganoff – I was not happy with that daycare worker and was actually glad he threw up on her – shows you!). He screamed at a stone bird my aunt had on her windowsill (he threw it to the ground and it broke – he came to me trembling and crying).
- Age 3 years: Obsessed with trains but screamed when he rode on one at the zoo. Would not go into the fire truck when it visited his school because it was too loud. His daycare teacher (who was very “Type A”) complained that he was “fearful” and didn’t want to do certain tactile activities like painting with shaving cream. The teacher suggested we talk to the doctor because according to her, “Something’s there.”
- Age 4 years: Obsessed with cowboys and wore a cowboy hat every day. I tried to get him to eat a minuscule piece of macaroni and he rolled it around his mouth for a long time while his eyes watered.
- School Age through present: Can’t stand tags in his clothing, socks have to fit just right with no “bunching” of the seams. Still gags on rice, pasta, does not eat soup or casseroles of any kind. Other sensory issues are resolving.
I hope you find this information helpful and I would LOVE to hear your opinions and experiences!