Monthly Archives: November 2013

Sensitive

My son has a condition called Sensory Processing Disorder, formerly known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction.

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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).

Sensitive:

sen·si·tive
adjective

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!

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The Stomach Ache

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Image courtesy of arztsamui
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The vaguest symptom in the history of symptoms.  The classic.  The stomach ache.

Any day of the week, any month of the year, the most popular complaint that lands kids in the nurse’s office is the stomach ache.  This symptom can be caused by a vast assortment of reasons, and the school nurse has to gets to play detective to discover the cause of the tummy trouble on a case-by-case basis.  I’ve found that asking this one question can shed a lot of light on the subject:  “Why do you think your stomach hurts?”

  • “Because I didn’t eat breakfast.” (Break out the Saltines)
  • “Because I ate Taki’s for snack.”  (Heartburn City)
  • “Because I ate too much at lunch.” (Try to use the restroom, and that’s an order!)
  • “Because the soccer ball hit me in the stomach at recess.”  (Oh, ok then let’s see that stomach – injury assessment time)
  • “Because I’m nervous about my test.” (Give TLC – they just need a little “brain break”)
  • “Because I saw Johnny eating ketchup and oranges together at lunch.” (This kid is a “gagger” who is sensitive to unpleasant stimuli – I give him ice chips to crunch on and we talk about other things to distract him from the revolting sight they just witnessed)
  • “Because my sister coughed on me – she’s home sick today.” (Faker Alert! This kid thinks he’s going home to join the party.)
  • “Because…I…you know…I started…” (Allow me to show you my selection of feminine hygiene products – and let’s call mom – my students are elementary age so it’s a BIG deal to have these symptoms.  Moms usually want to hear about it.)
Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ohmega1982
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Equally as important as what my students say, is their body language.  Signs of a legitimate stomach ache include:

  • Holding belly
  • Walking hunched over
  • Pale/yellowish/greenish skin
  • Unbuttoning the pants (these students are usually bloated and genuinely uncomfortable)
  • Pain that is localized (lower right side could be appendix, etc) as opposed to generalized “my whole stomach hurts” type pain
  • Can’t get comfortable on the cot, restless (sometimes this means they’re about to throw up – trust me on this one)
  • Much quieter than usual, teacher says he’s “not himself today”
  • Grimacing with ACTUAL tears – and school nurses can spot the Oscar contenders from a mile away
Image courtesy of Ambro FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Signs of a fake stomach ache include:

  • Smiling
  • Chatting with other kids in the clinic (“OMG Joe what are you doing in here?!” giggle, giggle)
  • Student says “I threw up in the bathroom.” (If they threw up in front of a reliable witness – not their BFF – I’m more apt to believe them.  True vomiting is hard to control.  It doesn’t just happen conveniently in the bathroom – it’s difficult to contain.
  • A “frequent flyer” who doesn’t ask his teacher for permission to come, but waits until he is at lunch, PE, Art, etc to ask that unsuspecting teacher (who doesn’t know his habits as well as his homeroom teacher) to send him to the clinic.  We talk to these students about the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” phenomenon – “One day you’re really going to be sick and no one will believe you!”

It’s funny how kids think they’re the first ones in history to come up with their brilliant tactics.  So in the spirit of the hilarity of children and their bag of tricks, I’ll leave you with the this scene from the biggest faker of them all, Ferris Bueller.

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