I’ve been wanting to link all my blog entries about Gabriel’s ordeal together, and I finally did so today – I created a category called “Gabriel’s Journey.”
If you’re just tuning in, Gabriel is my 4-year-old son (he was born 10/03) who has recently been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, also known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction. The diagnosis has been a long time coming, ever since I first noticed his speech delay as an toddler, and later, when he had a lot of quirks and aversions, as well as fine- and gross-motor-skill delays. (An aside: Gabriel has had a very large head from early infancy, and was diagnosed with benign external hydrocephaly, which could be a contributing factor to his SID, speech and motor delays.)
SPD/SID in a nutshell: your senses – taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing, balance – take in information, which in a normal person, is processed correctly by the brain, which triggers an appropriate response. With SPD/SID, the sensory messages get garbled, leading to confusion.
For example, if a person’s sense of balance isn’t correctly communicating with the brain, the person may be very clumsy, even to the point of falling off their chair when sitting.
If a person’s hearing isn’t correctly processing messages, they may have a very hard time interpreting and acting on verbal instructions.
If a person’s touch receptors aren’t communicating properly with the brain, the person may be extremely over- or under-sensitive to touch. An over-sensitive child may get severely agitated or upset when the wind blows his hair. An under-sensitive child may fall down and cut their leg badly, and not even seem to notice.
Here’s the thing about SID/SPD: there are so many combinations of sensory issues that each individual child may have, it seems like no two cases are exactly alike. A child with this affliction may have problems with just one sense, with several senses, or even all of them.
Further, the severity of the problems can vary widely. One child with mild SID/SPD issues may be able to get through life just fine, while a child with severe SID/SPD might not be able to get through any routine task without problems.
Gabriel’s condition has manifested itself in a variety of ways. He has a subtype of SID/SPD called dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is poor motor planning/lack of coordination. His brain can’t always make his muscles do what he wants them to do. The biggest problem with that for him has been the oral dyspraxia, which has led to a severe speech delay. Dyspraxia has also led to fine- and gross-motor-skill delays: he has very poor hand strength and can’t hold a crayon or pencil properly for long, he has overall poor muscle tone and tires out easily, etc.
He also has another subtype of SID/SPD called Tactile Defensiveness. TD is over-responsiveness to touch. For instance, he has food texture aversions, which often makes him gag. He gets upset when water is poured over his head. He hates touching anything icky, slimy, or messy. He has actually gotten a lot better in this area, but it’s still somewhat of a problem, especially the food aversions.
Anyway, Gabriel is currently in Occupational Therapy to strenghten his motor skills, and he’s about to re-start speech therapy, as well. (He’s been in and out of speech programs since he was 2.)
If you’re a parent in the same boat, there’s a lot of great resources out there, from books to support groups to Web sites. Good luck and keep checking back; I’ll keep posting.