Does anyone remember the 1980’s movie called Short Circuit? The main character was a robot named “Johnny 5” and he craved input. On some days, Grant is our Johnny 5. For the last year I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading and research on sensory integration issues. I’ve long wondered if Grant might be a bit of a “sensory kid” and, when it took us forever to potty train in part because he liked how “comfy” his diapers were, I became more convinced. Between his need to be swaddled until he was almost a year old, his army crawling, and need to touch everything, it is apparent that he craves a certain type of sensory input that includes deep pressure and some “rough and tumble” play. I discussed with our pediatrician and he agreed that Grant likely has some mild issues as it’s not uncommon for preemies, but he was reluctant to refer us for a formal assessment. He didn’t want to label Grant and, while I don’t disagree, I also want to be able to provide tools to help him be as successful as possible as we go to school in the fall.
With the help of one of my best friends who is an occupational therapist, we’re working on strategies to help his brain function best. When he’s having a “sensory day” he’s incredibly difficult. He’s moody, obstinate and a general pain in the butt. One strategy I implemented recently was building an obstacle course in the living room. This included jumping, tumbling, hand stands, crawling and even some weight lifting. After only a few minutes of play, Johnny 5 left and Grant returned. I now had a settled and more agreeable child.
His sensory needs definitely played a role in our school decision and how we structure our time. This benefits not only him, but Maria as well. Routine is important, as well as properly preparing for transitions. The timer is a great tool for us; I let them know they timer is set and, when the timer goes off, they generally are agreeable to switching gears. We also don’t overly schedule our days as that can be overwhelming and cause a sensory meltdown, which is not pretty. We had one in Costco recently and nothing causes a mom to sweat like hauling your screaming kid out over your shoulder.
Are we labeling Grant? I hope not. Everyone of us has different sensory needs….some are just more pronounced than others. I think it’s imperative for parents to research as much as possible and pursue all avenues to help our children be able to function at their best in this world. Sometimes it means quiet time in the rocking chair snuggling and sometimes it means flipping a kid upside down to get the neurons to reconnect. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last almost 5 years of parenting, it is that there is not a one-size fits all approach and we must do what works.