November is a challenging month for our little family, full of medical appointments, behaviour management, therapy, and the big one, Dom’s autism assessment.
Last week we received Dom’s sensory profile report from his OT, which outlined that he has some sensory processing issues. The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation’s website says: “Sensory processing (sometimes called “sensory integration” or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioural responses.” – Taken from Hartley’s Life with 3 Boys, a must read for anyone wanting to learn more about sensory processing disorder.
Basically, it means Dom’s brain is wired a little differently. When he receives information from one of the seven senses (tactile, vestibular, proprioception, auditory, oral, olfactory and visual), he is unable to process it correctly. It gets misinterpreted and causes him to act or respond differently than we would expect him to.
A very good example of this is when he hurts himself. Just this week, I noticed Dom had some large blisters on his fingertips. He had obviously burnt himself on something but we had no idea what, or when. He had not been upset at any time. The blisters were big enough that you would expect it to have hurt, a lot. I only discovered them because I was taking photos of him stimming (self stimulatory behaviour).
It is quite common for those on the autism spectrum to have difficulty managing sensory input. Whether Dom is on the spectrum or not, we are still to find out. By learning more about sensory processing though, we have come to learn more about Dominic. His behaviour is another form of communication, so we have switched our focus from what he is doing, to what he’s trying to tell us. When seen from this new perspective, his behaviour is less confusing. Dom is actively seeking out sensory input, which is called sensory seeking. Because he has a high threshold for sensory input, he requires a lot more sensory stimulation for it to register. In a recent post, titled ‘making sense of it’, I outlined in detail a number of Dom’s sensory seeking behaviours. I even used the word ‘sense’ in the title, completely oblivious to how close to the mark I actually was. Instead of getting frustrated by Dom’s behaviour now, we are learning to become more creative in our efforts to address it. With the help of Dom’s occupational therapist, we are developing a sensory diet, to make sure his NEEDS are being met. First, we are focusing our attention on the dangerous behaviours, like standing in the middle of the dining table and spinning around in circles. After that, we will look at tackling some of the more socially inappropriate behaviours, like throwing food, spitting and all the other ones that make you seem like a bad parent when you’re in public. lol
One of Dominic’s favourite books is ‘Giraffes Can’t Dance’ by Giles Andreae. My favourite line from the book, which I have read so many times I can recite the entire story from memory, is: “sometimes when you’re different, you just need a different song.” I love that Dom is different. He’s unique and has never fit the mould, especially when it comes to his medical issues. This challenges people to look harder and think outside the box. He dances to a different song, and we’re discovering that it’s a complex symphony. A diagnosis (be it autism or other) would simply be the conductor, helping us to make sure we’re playing Dom’s song just right.
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