For a long time, we just thought that Pete was a difficult child. He would throw temper tantrums if he was interrupted doing what he wanted to do. He would run around, climbing on everything like a monkey. He laughed at inappropriate times. He was very picky about the foods he ate. He never wanted to get dressed, sometimes running outside in our apartment complex naked. He licked and bit a wide variety of things he shouldn't have. He still sucked his thumb.
Because of his behavior, he was told that he wouldn't be able to come back to the Parents' Day Out that he'd been going to after his fourth year. It just wasn't a good fit for him any more. I tried the Regional Intervention Program. It gave me plenty of tools for dealing with him when he was driving me nuts, but he was still throwing fits when we graduated. He'd done a little better at the new PDO he went to the year before kindergarten, but he still had times when he would act out, or get out of control. I wasn't sure where to go next, and the thought of him entering kindergarten scared me to death.
When we went for his 5 year Well Check Up, the doctor noticed that he was having some problems with his fine motor skills and suggested we have him evaluated in Pediatric Rehab. So appointments were made, then rescheduled. I took Pete in for an hour long evaluation. I mentioned, along with the fine motor skills, some of the other behaviors that concerned me - the dislike of wearing clothing, the way he would chew on things that weren't food, how he'd get out of control sometimes and it was hard to get him calmed down. After the evaluation was done, the therapist told me that, while she couldn't say for certain until all the scores were added up, she was pretty sure that Peter had Sensory Processing Disorder and they would most likely see him for therapy.
As we started therapy, I started to read up more on SPD. What did it mean? How did it effect Pete? Where did it come from? What I found out is that SPD is very controversial in the medical community. The APA doesn't want doctors using it as a diagnosis because there is still so much unknown about it, and the symptoms of SPD were most often found in children that had other issues as well, such as autism, aspergers or ADHD. But there were a lot of therapies and tools out there to help children, regardless of what the diagnosis ended up being, to get the sensory input they need.
Pete is a sensory seeker. (Though he doesn't fit all the items on that list, he does fit some of them.) He always wants to snuggle with me or his dad or his brother. He needs that closeness whenever he's doing something. He has the TV loud a lot of the time. He crashes into things because he says it "feels good". He has to have something in his mouth, especially when he's upset.
The problem, of course, is that SPD isn't an official diagnosis. So in trying to get help for him at school, we're trying to figure out how to make his case fit so he'll get the help he needs. I'm very lucky that his teacher is someone I know well and more than willing to work with me on things that will help him. I'm also meeting with the school to see what we can do to get an IEP or a 504 in the works for him. I'm very lucky that we are part of an excellent school with caring staff and teachers.
It amazes me, though, how much it's making me look at Peter differently. No. Not look at Pete differently, but at the way he sees the world. His teacher noticed that every time they are walking in the hall, he has to touch the wall. It's a byproduct of not having a good handle on the spatial world around him. Today, I realized that he has an aversion to heat. He needs bath or shower water several degrees cooler than any of the rest of my family. If I have to wash Plo, he wants to have him out of the dryer long enough to be "cool" before he'll take him (or he'll get upset with me because I dared make Plo warm). He lets his food cool almost completely before eating it. Ice cream and ice pops are favorites. Hot chocolate is not. I've noticed that when he and Teddy fight, it's most often because Pete is getting too close, not accepting Teddy's personal space. And that could be that desire for touch. (Or it could be that he's using his Little Brother powers to annoy the Big Brother.) He doesn't like socks with his shoes. Certain pieces of clothing that I think are comfortable are too scratchy. The world is a very different place for my youngest, and I'm just learning to see how different.
It's hard, sometimes, to change from getting frustrated because I think Pete's just being difficult to realizing that it could be part of his sensory issues. For so long, it was just Pete being Pete, always making things difficult. And sometimes, I suspect he still is. (Especially when he tries to tell me he doesn't know how to put on clothes and/or shoes I've seen him don 30 times before without any help.) But I'm trying to teach myself to stop and look at the world with Pete's senses first before overreacting. That maybe, just maybe, there's a pattern here and I can decode it to make life just a little easier for my sensitive boy.