This week we celebrated daddy’s birthday! Yay, bring on the cake! Like all birthdays in our family, we happily sang (some autistic kids don’t like the traditional birthday celebration singing) and when the time came YOU leaned forward and proceeded to steal some of daddy’s wishes by blowing out his candles! THIEF!!!
While obviously we don’t condone stealing, we were actually super proud!
Allow me to explain…
At 2 years old, after a referral from your pediatrician for severe speech delay, a detailed evaluation would quickly identify that this wasn’t just simply speech we were dealing with. It seemed to be that your sensory processing, in general, was struggling. You, my dear, have what's called a sensory processing disorder (SPD). This disorder can affect all your senses but for you, your auditory and oral sensory processing is what we find the most challenging. In fact, your oral processing on a scoring evaluation scored shockingly low compared to “normal” standards. Adding more fun to the mix, these areas we find challenging are affected very differently as well - your auditory is hypersensitive (super sensitive) while your oral is hyposensitive (sensory seeking). Now just about everyone has something within their sensory system that drives them a little crazy Addie, but for it to be a sensory processing disorder it must interfere with typical and necessary life functions. When part of your sensory system is demanding more attention than others, it can be hard to focus on anything else, therefore a good sensory diet is key to gaining positive progress within this disorder.
While time and headphones have helped with the auditory component, the oral processing can be a little harder to manage. You see Ad, the sensory system is very complex, and all children respond differently to therapy and treatments so there is no “cookie cutter” fix for better functioning through all this. There are suggestive guidelines from doctors and therapist, but at the end of the day it’s a whole lot of trial and error on our part.
Oral processing contributes to the way we use our mouths, control our saliva, and produce sounds for clear speech. The consistent need to chew, bite, and suck come from the proprioceptive input that we receive from the pressure in our jaws. This connection is key in helping our brains organize information, stay focused, and process the other information around us. We naturally feed our proprioceptive diet starting very young when we are babies with the calming breastfeeding, pacifiers or thumb sucking provides.
In addition to your initial lack of language, you also had excessive mouthing of non-food objects, licking of EVERYTHING, need to over pack food into your mouth like a squirrel, love of extreme cold, hot, spicy or crunchy foods, and inability to use a cup properly, suck through a straw or blow. We definitely had our work cut for us! All this is specific to a hyposensitive processing dysfunction – seeking more input.
While this can interfere with what is considered “normal” functioning in day to day life, in true Addie fashion you have figured out other ways to get your needs met.
For example, when drinking you don’t put your lips on the cup or Gatorade bottle. You are confused where to place your tongue. We lovingly describe your unique method as literally dumping the liquid in your mouth. Not tiny ladylike sips with your pinky up, but giant pours with equally large gulps – never spilling a drop! Very impressive!
You also learned early on that blowing out candles didn’t necessarily need to be done with your mouth. Your nose could also be an effective method. Snorting candles out one at a time. Leaving us all thinking that maybe we’re not so hungry after all.
Bubbles? They are super fun! Again, why use your mouth when you can shake a bubble wand fast and produce a decent amount of bubbles flying through the air.
While you’re the master at getting your needs met we still provide you with a decent sensory diet to help decrease the excessive focus on oral input.
Chewy tubes are super helpful! Yay, something safe to chew on! They can be made with different textures and are kind of like a safe teething toy for older kids. Some kids with hyposensitivity oral processing require constant use of these to focus on anything else.
Snacking on crunchy foods and chewy treats (your beloved pink squares) has also help alert your proprioceptive system, creating a sense of grounding and calm to your entire system.
So, Addie, with a good sensory diet, time, and a little redirection and practice, we can effectively manage your oral processing dysfunction. While we knew you were always good at stealing hearts, we were super proud of your progress this week even if it meant stealing some of daddy’s wishes.
Great job Ad!