My kid graduated last December from Occupational Therapy after a year and a half—from age 7 to (almost) age 9. It was a bittersweet and emotional ordeal. On one hand, it was delightful to achieve that final milestone after so many months of hard work, yet it was sad to say goodbye to our amazing therapist and the weekly routine that had become part of our lives. My son was bawling and I held back my tears.
Does It Mean He No Longer Has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?
That’s what I asked his therapist.
She explained that it takes about 15,000 repetitions to achieve visual-motor skills proficiency and he has gained enough experiences with his motor skills to be at his age level. Having said that, he’ll probably always gravitate toward certain sensory preferences (in his case, usually proprioceptive and vestibular input). Even for those of us without SPD, we still have sensory preferences and aversions but we find our own ways to cope with them. I personally have a low tolerance for auditory input (my mind constantly wanders during conversations), while some people are aversed to certain textures and all.
Faster Progress Than Expected
Last summer was hard, very hard. I signed my kid up for various YMCA summer camps and due to scheduling conflicts, he had less OT sessions. However, his therapist was very supportive and said that the activities he was signed up for were great for gross and fine motor skills, and visual perception: archery, hiking, climbing, fishing—all outdoor stuff. But as summer went on, everything fell apart (or so I thought): he struggled with the heat, social skills, overstimulation, and following directions. He got in trouble just about everyday. He was upset at pickup time everyday. There was the daily "talk about your son". I was feeling demoralized by the second month of summer, but I made a deal with him to go swimming at the end of the day for an hour. EVERYDAY. This not only helped him cool his head but it was also an excellent proprioceptive activity . As an added bonus, I had a good excuse to go swimming myself and exercise, which I don't do enough.
Little did I know that through the stress and tears of the summer, my instincts were right and the activities turned out to be super beneficial for him—so much so that he was discharged about six months earlier than expected. Both his therapist and I were pleasantly surprised. Moral of the story: the combination of occupational therapy and nature play was a winning strategy.
No Longer Hyperactive or Sensory Seeker
So, yes, the flip side is that my kid has become much less of a sensory seeker. He’s less inclined to constantly crash into things or seek balance and movement obsessively. I sometimes miss that when I see him sitting in front of the TV for longer than I remember him tolerating it without complaining that he wanted "to do something". He used to get cabin fever, but he no longer does. On the bright side, he's less likely to fight with his fingers to fasten a button at 7:30 AM...
Lessons Going Forward
Learning and managing Sensory Processing Disorder has taught me that emotional dysregulation is often linked to sensory needs BUT there's more to this equation. There's coaching and guidance once those sensory needs are met. While I've focused much of my parenting energy on SPD for the past couple of years, I took my foot off the gas in regards to ADHD. I don't want to manage my son's behaviors—I want to teach my son how to navigate his big emotions himself and how to develop problem solving skills rather than act impulsively. I'm finding that I need to focus on teaching him emotional intelligence because it's an important life skill. I think it's more important than good grades or knowing how to fold laundry because if you can't get along with your co-worker or with friends and relatives, life is so much harder for you as an adult. So TRAINING begins this year and I'll be writing about it in the following weeks and throughout the year. Stay tuned!
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I'm a single mom, graphic designer, crunchy mama, trekkie geek, life warrior. It's embarrassing how excited I get about food. I'm an expert in barefoot Lego fire walk.
Note: If you arrived here via a broken link, please note I had to rebuild this site due to my previous hosting company crashing. Not all blog posts were salvaged.