Monday, November 2, 2015

Parenting is Hard: Sensory Needs


I feel like I've always been an "aware" parent. I am aware that my older boy LW is a climber. He's always been ahead of the curve in physical activity and motor skills.

From taking him to Kindermusik since he was 4 months old, my husband and I learned he's a very kinesthetic learner. We know he learns best when asked to complete a physical activity while listening. If no physical activity is given, he creates one by bouncing in our lap, running back and forth across the room or jumping like a frog.

Lately it's become very apparent in more areas than just Kindermusik class. He acts out physically at times we feel are inappropriate and it's been infuriating.

I found myself posting on moms groups and asking every mom I know "How can I help him?" or saying things like "What is wrong with my kid?" "Why does he do this when no other kids around are doing that?" and I think things like, "Do all kids do this? Or is it just mine...?" (which is a horrible, sinking feeling)

Let's rewind a bit further. When Mo was born, LW started stripping his clothes off as a regression, which we took then as a sign he was ready for potty training. He would spread and smear and "play" in his poop.

For as long as I can remember, I've needed to take LW for a car ride fo get him to take a good nap. When he was in a crib he could CIO for a while and go to sleep, but once he was in a bed he couldn't be contained and lulled to sleep. He had to be driven or strapped into the stroller.

When I brought these things up on Facebook begging for help, a few occupational therapist friends kept using this word "sensory". The first time it was brought up I heard it as a taboo word. "MY kid doesn't/couldn't/won't have sensory issues" I thought. "Sensory issues are for kids with....issues. LW doesn't have issues" And yet, I kept asking the same question to my closest mom friends, "What is wrong with my kid."

Well, it's taken two and a half years of parenting...but today I was served a big ass freaking dish of humble pie.

While we were at the zoo today, LW bolted. And he bolted again. And again. And by the end of the day I had lost track of how many times he'd done it. I got home, exhausted. I didn't know what to do and didn't understand WHAT WAS WRONG WITH MY KID. Punishments typically have no effect on him. It doesn't bother him to be told no, or time out, or ouch, or mommy is sad, etc.

While talking it out over and over and over with some of the same mom friends I had a realization that the common thread through all of his misbehavior was that he was craving something else. He doesn't have sensory issues he has sensory needs - and every child has sensory needs!

That's why he learns well when he's DOING. He listens best when he's given a TASK. He responds quickest when he is RE-DIRECTED. He challenges me most when I am NOT challenging HIM enough.

I started my research by googling and found this amazing series called Decoding Everyday Kid Behaviors by Lemon Lime Adventures. As I read through the list of different behaviors I could relate to one in this category, one in that one...and then when I got to "Movement" it was like every article was written for LW.

Can’t Hold Still for Lessons | Preschool Powol Packets
Climbs & Jumps on Things | Golden Reflections Blog
Clumsy | B-Inspired Mama
Hanging On Everything | Mama OT
Hyperactivity   | Wildflower Ramblings
Over-reacts to Everything | Kids Activities Blog
Won’t Sit Still When We Read a Story | Growing Book by Book

I poured through every article over the last two hours in between diaper changes and during nighttime nursing sessions because I am so blown away. I feel like a sponge. And finally I feel like someone "gets" LW. So many of the suggestions given in these articles are things I've been implementing over time with LW because it seemed like something he would enjoy or things that other moms suggested. Little did I realize that it was complete mommy intuition taking over. I knew he needed these things. I just didn't *know* I knew. You know? 

Hubs wanted me to make it clear when I wrote this post that LW doesn't "have anything wrong with him" and he didn't want me to "start diagnosing him with problems". Quite the opposite. Now I feel like I've finally found my parenting niche for toddlerhood. I feel like I've found my people. 

Now when he bolts instead of saying "STOP!" and "DON'T!" and "I SAID NO!" I know to redirect with "Hurry, hurry! Run to this slide!" or "Stop and jump like a frog!" or "Time to twirl". He bolts because his body NEEDS to move. He also NEEDS to learn to listen to direction and respect the space around him, but since I'm just learning how to help him, he is not the one at fault here entirely. 

I'm so excited. I can hardly stand it. Sensory play has been a passion of mine for a while because I love letting him experience new and interesting things but this research has unleashed a beast inside of me. 

I am so thrilled to have even more tools to help my child grow to be his best self. He doesn't have issues. He has needs. Now I know that. Now I can help him. Now we can learn together. 

There's nothing wrong with my kid. There are simply things I can help him with to grow and make him even better. 


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