Monday, March 03, 2014

Sensory processing disorder -- and our "tiny changes"

 I have done some reading on sensory processing disorder (in the past 3 years) and before I start this blog I should point out that it can be over-diagnosed.  Little children wiggle and are clumsy and learn things at all different rates.  Their mood can swing from one extreme to the other just because they don't realize they are hungry or tired.  This is all normal! 

So, why am I talking about this?  Actually, it's because I realized that all those "quirky" things about my husband (he'll let me pick on him) finally seemed to "make sense" when I read about SPD.   Like, never wearing jeans or hating the feel of corduroy.  Saying angora was "too soft" and he couldn't stop feeling it on his fingers after he touched it.  Being bothered by the seam on his socks as an adult or needing a LOT more physical touch than the average person.  That is to say, he would love repetitive scratches or brushing movements to help him calm down because he would feel stressed out easily and that would sooth him.  He would be extremely effected by the moods of other people and seem to "soak up" whatever mood was around him as if he almost didn't have an autonomous feeling.  He can't easily notice the differences in spices and flavors, but can't tolerate over salted or condimented or spicy foods. 

He would comment about how much better he slept when it was a cold night and I'd put an extra blanket on the bed, but it wasn't because he was warmer.  He would always describe how he slept more deeply because of how the "weight" of the blanket felt on him.  One time he complained about how irritating a dripping faucet was, "can't you hear that?"  He asked.  I listened past the sound of the fan and three other "white" noises till finally I could barely hear the drip that came every 5 seconds or so.  Now granted, a faucet dripping IS annoying to everyone, but the point of that was noticing how he couldn't seem to ignore or "cover up" sounds.  He heard them ALL!  How overwhelming would that be?  He's also always loved the feel of things between his toes and the "five-finger" toe shoes that came out a few years ago were the only thing I heard about for a year at least. 

The noise of the children seemed to be overwhelming to him.  He could barely stand being with them for an hour before he was worn out.  We aren't talking crying noises either, just them laughing or playing was too much.  This was really hard for me because I felt like a single parent with how much I had to take on when he couldn't (or when he'd make my job harder by getting upset with them or just unable to enjoy them.)

I'm finally (finally) starting to feel more rested and added more vitamins and been figuring out how to take care of me so that I'm no longer as depressed--- which was partly do to home sickness and loneliness and a lot to do with not being able to recover sleep since our third was born.  I feel like I can get back to helping my husband again with learning how to regulate his sensory processes.

 Here's an exhaustive list of possible SPD symptoms if anyone is interested.  Note;  A lot of us might have exhibited some of these things in the list as a child, but it was just because we were children.  The world is new and our senses are heightened and alert.  I myself remember some of these things when I was a child as well, but I grew out of almost all of them.  I can see various symptoms in my children as well (quite different from each other), but my goal has always been to try to help everyone in the family get what they need.  I'm the peace maker -- being the "homemaker" is a big deal to me.  I want everyone to feel at home and feel comfortable and be the best version of themselves.  Whether my girls will have this in later life as much as my husband does or whether they will grow out of most of it like I did is beside the point.  I'm not going to NOT try and do things that will help everyone if I can. 

Over-scheduling our outings are a big deal.  Now, this could be an introverted/extroverted thing and just balancing what everyone in the family needs in this way so that no one is too overly stimulated and no one is too terribly under-stimulated.  Last year we were involved in a church that was demanding more from us than we were able to give - demonstrated by the evidence in everyone's moods after they were overly stimulated.  It was NOT pretty.  It was in fact miserable for at least a week.  The littlest one grew more shy (hard to believe that could be possible) and clingy (which was exhausting to me) and the oldest was acting depressed and withdrawn and the middle one had many more (loud) melt downs that of course didn't help my husband with the auditory issues.  It was really just not possible to live like that.

Any one of those things I listed about my husband could just be quirky and funny and endearing, but all together they started to create a picture.  I began to read about ways to help people with sensory processing disorder to help them calm down and to help ward off anxiety and so forth.  Check this out if you are interested in learning a few ways to help 

When I tried the "joint compression" on my oldest she said she really liked it and she began to calm down and rest as I did this to her.  My husband however was EXTREMELY impressed with this and said basically that it was better than toe shoes!  He couldn't seem to get enough of it and talked about how it made him feel "together" instead of "out there" so to speak (I'm condensing the conversation some.)  Buying the special brushes and using them on him were also a big hit!  When he was a child he would feel extremely anxious and scratch his legs till they bled (sometimes not noticing that he'd injured himself.)  Now, he didn't do that when we were married (though he'd discover injuries that he couldn't remember getting, like scrapes and cuts and so forth.) 

My husband however is quite successful and incredibly smart with a memory that baffles me sometimes.  He has a great job and doing what he loves to do (he's a writer) and is functioning in society really well, so why should I look for ways to "help"? 

While school systems seem to suggest that children should be checked out for this disorder because they won't sit in circle time (at 3 years old) or the child seems clumsy or doesn't want to touch another child or is too physical with another child or seems overwhelmed by too much noise from all the other children -- their goal is to get the children to all "fit in"... that is not my goal as a homeschooling Mom at all.

When I read to my girls or play a game with them they all take turns getting up and wiggling and wanting to play with silly putty while I read (from the almost 3 year old to the 8 year old) -- that's what kids do sometimes!  And that's totally fine.  What I wanted to help my family with though is those little changes that I could do to help them find rest.

The strong reaction my husband had to "heavy" things gave me the idea to make this weighted blanket.  It's a sheet folded in half with sewn "pouches" (just straight lines of sewing about 3 inches apart) and then on the open end I filled every other pouch half way with rice.  In the end I put 20lbs of rice in it!  I still need to make a slip cover for it, but my husband has been acting less stressed and worried and hasn't as easily overreacted to the children's noises.  He seems to finally be able to be home and enjoy the quiet when the girls are quiet instead of stirring up the level of stress in everyone.  He's also always commenting now on how well he's sleeping. 
 Besides the weighted blanket I've read some about Magnesium and how important this is for everyone and how it's even more important for people with autism spectrum type disorders.  I'm seeing tiny improvements by us taking magnesium now too!  It's really encouraging and our house is growing more peaceful all the time.
An afternoon moment showing off my new blanket that my husband tried to swipe for himself because it was so heavy.  (The oldest is doing math logic games on the computer and the two younger ones were watching "Wild Kratts" and told me later all about sharks.)  ;]

Bad smells bother me a lot more than they do my husband (he hardly seems to notice them it seems) and I read about aroma therapy essential oils and how lemon can help you feel "unstuck" and several other good things like how it's energizing or whatever.  I've had a thing for fresh lemonade for over a year now and perhaps understand why I've craved it so much!  Lemonade with stevia = good stuff and another example of a tiny helpful thing I've done.

Quite recently (now that I'm feeling more rested and able) I've started to clean off our dinning room table more often during the day and it really does help my mood.  It's frustrating to always have a messy table when you only have that one, so keeping up with the tidy table and sweeping under it has been a nice "tiny change" to work on.

The little one cracks me up.  She doesn't take naps these days and the older two like to play with just each other sometimes, so she's my little buddy.  I'm afraid I'm not very good at saying, "no" when she asks for the cookies we made the day before or for a little piece of chocolate.

I tend to turn that moment into an event for the two of us.  My little buddy and me, sharing some milk and cookies.

We ate the last two cookies!
So, this post is a little long (like usual I guess), but it's been a hard journey these past few years as we've had to work through these things on our own and especially for me as I didn't have help with the girls (so I could get a good nap in and some energy back.)  One good thing though about being so alone in this time and being forced to face these things is getting to a spot where I can help my family better.  I want my husband to be able to get the rest he needs so he can enjoy our girls especially.  Realizing some of these issues has helped me to be more understanding towards my husband and also my oldest in certain areas that I'd likely just feel impatient over. 

Maybe some of what I've observed and learned will help a person reading this too.

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