Friday, October 21, 2011

On Communication & the Parent Meeting

As I mentioned yesterday, we have started Occupational Therapy again! Today marks the end of our second week with Daniel back in OT. We opted to go for the (OT recommended) intensive program, which consists of four one-hour sessions per week for five weeks, then a two week break followed by ten more sessions. It is definitely intense. It's also a very welcome change to our (fairly isolating and unsocial) routine of staying home all day every day trying to keep Daniel fairly regulated.

Daniel took a little while to warm up to Lisa the OT, who is a very warm and caring (as well as being incredibly skilled and knowledgeable) addition to our days. However, after two weeks, he is now consistently displaying his sensory behaviors during therapy, and he's starting to show some changes at home. Not all of them are positive changes (like his new-found fear of descending from heights) but they nonetheless indicate movement (hopefully in a positive direction) so I'll take it.

Before we began this schedule, we took Daniel in for an evaluation and a week after that we had a parents only meeting with Lisa to discuss the results of the evaluation as well as his treatment plan. I was at Dionna's at the time, and Daniel wouldn't take a nap, so I was bouncing with him on my back in the Boba the whole time.

Despite the distraction on my end, it was a very helpful meeting. Admittedly, I was quite nervous going into this meeting, fearing that Lisa might (as a few other professionals have) blame us for what's going wrong with Daniel. (Maybe, in part, it was the ominous Parents Only Meeting title of our get together that had me subconsciously fearing a trip to the principal's office.) Turns out, my fears were unfounded and it ended up being a really encouraging meeting.

During our talk, Jaymz and I learned a lot from Lisa about SPD and how Daniel fits into that category of sensory issues. Among other things, I learned a lot more about how to name Daniel's particular difficulties and tendencies, which wasn't something we'd done with our first OT (perhaps because Daniel was so much younger and more difficult to categorize).

The things that were the most encouraging about our meeting, though, were all the things Lisa said about Daniel's strengths: His eye contact is excellent. His affect and facial expressions are appropriate. His communication skills are off the charts for his age. Basically, his social/emotional skills are incredible, which is something kids with sensory issues often struggle with because of the wiring issues in their brains. Lisa said that with a lot of kids, the beginning of OT is all about working on getting those things in place, but Daniel is starting out ahead of the game, with all those great skills on board already.

I don't know if I can even tell you what a huge relief it was to hear her say that something is going well!

In reflecting back on the meeting I keep thinking about the few communication skills in particular that Lisa pointed out and that Jaymz and I have found to be remarkable: When Daniel gets dysregulated we have been alternating between various techniques to help soothe him, including bouncing, patting, and squeezing. Daniel can now communicate to Jaymz or me which one he wants (by climbing up into my lap and bouncing his body up and down; by lifting up my hand and patting himself with it a few times until I catch on; by hugging me tightly or doing a sort of "hug sign" where he clenches his fists and makes this "Engh!" sound). These began in the past few months, and each time Daniel would find a new way to tell us what he wanted, Jaymz and I would be blown away.

Many times, I've had the experience of other parents of older children saying things to me like, "Just wait until he can talk back to you!" and I find myself wishing that they could understand: If he could just tell me what's wrong and what could help him feel better, our lives would be a whole lot easier. As his communication (both verbal and signing/pointing) skills develop, Daniel screams less. As he screams less, our days get easier to manage. There's nothing like communication!

Another communication skill that Jaymz and I have been talking and thinking about a lot lately is Daniel's awareness of (and signing about) his eliminations. He's extremely sensitive to the sensation of peeing in particular, which I've learned is quite the opposite from most kids with sensory issues (who might take longer to potty learn and/or wet the bed to an older age than other kids). Daniel is able to tell us, through signing, when he needs a new diaper. He also sometimes signs "diaper" before he goes, so we've been doing a lot of EC (including full time EC for the first time since we started) because he's so aware of his eliminations. In addition to his "diaper" sign (which he made up himself) he now signs "toilet" and he does his cue sound ("Tssss tssss") for pee, poop, and whenever anything potty-related is happening (including things like him passing gas or one of us using the toilet).

Overall, I left the meeting feeling both very proud of Daniel for learning so much so far despite his sensory difficulties, and also very hopeful about this next step in our journey. Two weeks in, and I'm still feeling that way. I guess there's progress being made!


  1. Daniel sounds quite precocious in some respects! I'm really impressed with his communication skills and his potty-learning!

    In my experience with my little boy's speech delay and possible sensory-seeking behaviors, it has made SUCH a difference to work with people who recognize Joe's skills and gifts, and make a point to discuss his aptitudes as well as the things he's delayed in (because otherwise, sometimes we forget to notice the things he's GOOD at, you know?). It's such a joy and a relief to work with people who see the whole child. After going through the assessment process, which was a bit painful and guilt/worry-inducing, we have found working with speech therapists to be really great. They're just positive, upbeat folks. We're WORKING on Joe's issues, not just talking about them ad nauseum. Whew! It's so much better!! Sure enough, I've felt a lot more positive and upbeat too.

  2. I bet the OT is either trained or is aware that it is best to start off with some positive notes. I think especially as parents facing problems like these, it is so important to know that some things are GOOD.

    I'm so glad it is going well, but I do believe I told you so. ;-) Do keep us posted on the progress, please!

  3. I'm so glad to hear that there is positive change happening and you're feeling a bit better about things. It really does sound like Daniel is doing wonderfully.

    I have to think that his successes are related to the way you have parented him. It seems very likely that your care in giving him the words and signs he needs, and in making the effort to help him stay in tune with his elimination needs from very early on, has been the key to avoiding some of the common challenges associated with SPD. You're an inspiration as a mama, and I'm glad you made it to Tuesday! :)

  4. I'm glad to hear about Daniel's OT being such a positive presence in your lives! What a relief, to have her on board. I've been thinking of you often since your Mondays post, and wishing you well. I would be willing to bet your attachment based parenting and all that peaceful reaping you have been doing, has a lot to do with how far ahead of the game Daniel is compared to other children with SPD. Marvellous props to you, for being so in tune with him, and responsive. Keep us posted! Know we are rooting for you!!! And for Daniel of course!!

  5. Thank you all so much for your comments!

    I do definitely believe that our parenting style has contributed to how well Daniel is doing with his social/emotional skills (though I know it's certainly not a cure-all). We've even had a couple of different professionals confirm that belief, which is very gratifying. I actually have a whole post in the works about SPD and attachment-focused parenting, so look for that soon!

  6. Glad to hear this word on Daniel, Amy!

  7. I'm so glad that went well! It was amazing to see Daniel signal exactly what he wanted from you in terms of sensory contact when you were visiting here. Even I could tell what he needed, and what a blessing that he knows he will get it from you when he asks! I can see how your responsive parenting is just what he needs to get through the challenges he has.

    Interesting about the pee thing — I keep asking Sam if maybe Mikko has sensory processing issues as well since he has some similar symptoms like that. (Not to Daniel's degree, naturally, just out of curiosity.)


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