Have you ever noticed any little ‘quirks’ in your child’s behaviour? Have you wondered why they do certain things? O has always had some challenging behaviours, I’ve often put it down to tiredness, having dairy (he’s intolerant) or changes to routine. However over the last few weeks or so he’s started to bite and chew things a LOT, getting quite over active (read as jumping around and over things, purposefully falling over and bumping into things/people) even when he’s had lots of sleep and getting extremely upset at the drop of the hat when something doesn’t go to plan. These aren’t new things, he’s always exhibited these behaviours to varying degrees, but in the last few weeks they’ve magnified.
I know we haven’t changed his diet, his little brother has been here for over a year now and he doesn’t seem to be acting the same as when he was born (a very difficult time for us, he was not good with that change at all!), so I’m now looking at sensory processing disorders to see if it has anything to do with that. I’ve been reading some posts by Lemon and Lime Adventures and I didn’t really appreciate the amount of human behaviours that are related to sensory processing. I always thought that people who had a sensory processing disorder were those who didn’t like messy hands, labels on clothes or rough seams.
I’ve now realised that a lot of MY ‘quirks’ probably have something to do with my own sensory processing issues. For example I HATE clutter (despite being a messy person!), when the house is a mess and things strewn everywhere (inevitable for a house with kids) I can get very upset, almost in tears sometimes because it’s all so overwhelming and too much for me to take. I have to calm myself, taking deep breathes and trying to think about something else while I begin tidying. If I think too much about it then I can get past the upset stage and into anger, where there is a good chance I’ll throw things back where they should be, rather than gently putting them away and kicking things out of my way when I get more and more frustrated (I do my best to hide this when the kids are around as I don’t want them picking up on my behaviour!). It might sound silly for an adult to act and feel like this, but it’s just something I’ve always dealt with and I have my own techniques to manage it. Unfortunately, children come with mess and unpredictability, so I find it a bit more difficult now.
I’m also a fidgeter, anyone who has taught me will probably have noticed that I need to doodle or draw or something similar while listening to them talk. I find it hard to just sit and listen, I can’t concentrate on what is being said unless I’m doing something. At school this would often be doodling. However, I recently went along to a Woodcraft Folk training day in a local wood. Several of us were sitting on logs whilst we were listening the instructor talk and adding our own input. I spent a good amount of this time finding different leaves and twigs on the forest floor and arranging them into ‘pictures’. This may have looked to some as if I wasn’t paying attention, but for me this helps me concentrate on what is being said, I could clearly hear what the group was talking about and contribute, rather than drifting off into a fuzzy land of my own thoughts if I were to sit doing nothing.
Anyways, back to O. He’s almost 3.5 years old and as I said before, none of his behaviours are new, but they are getting more extreme. I have always known he can get upset by very loud noises and simply hoovering or turning on the dryer can him a bit over active, jumping about all over the place and (almost literally) bouncing off the walls. I never really thought this could be a sensory processing issue until now, but as loud noises clearly upset him it could be a factor to consider.
He has really begun to bite down on things when he gets upset or frustrated, or sometimes as a distraction. He’s often chewing fingers or grinding teeth as well. I can’t think what has brought this on, but when I think back he’s never stopped testing things by putting them to his mouth, not always putting them in entirely, but it does seem to be an oral sensory need. Today I found my Gumigem necklace that he used to chew as a toddler when teething to see if that helped him, he seemed to be happy to have something to redirect his chewing. So I think I’ll continue to let him use that under supervision.
We can walk a good couple of miles a day and be on our feet for the majority of the rest of it and even though I’m ready to sit down for a rest O is racing around the house and jumping off of things. He seems to be so full of energy that no matter what we do it’s not enough to tire him out! He definitely needs a lot of stimulation through running around, crashing, jumping and bumping into things. I think I will have to make a giant beanbag for him to jump onto or get a small exercise ball for O to bounce on. It might stop him crashing into things around the house so much.
The meltdowns are something else, one moment everything is fine and the next he has collapsed in a crying/screaming heap on the floor. This can happen because his 1 year old brother has stopped playing the game they were playing, because his toys won’t do as he wants them to do (which may be something impossible) or because we need to get ready to go out. These all seem normal things for a pre-schooler to get upset about, but perhaps not to the degree that O currently does. The screaming and crying may sound like it’s the end of the world to an outside observer. But it’s what we face daily at the moment and I think we need to think of new methods to help O stay calm and also for us to stay calm and not shout at him, as he clearly can’t help this behaviour, things can just get too overwhelming and shouting certainly does not help the situation!
Have you had any experience with Sensory Processing?