Posts tagged ‘sensory integration deficit’

Jiggles, Coat Hoods and Personal Space

images-2 Raising a child with a sensory disorder, whether autism or not, is always a challenge. When younger, Steven was the type of kid who would have a huge meltdown if there were tags in his shirts or seams in his socks. Meeting new people was too overwhelming, and a change in his schedule would send him into a tizzy. Holidays were disasters and birthday parties…forget it!
Not used to going out to restaurants because of Steven’s behavior, we threw all caution to the wind and went out to a dinner buffet for my 35th birthday. We chose a very large booth waaaaaaayyyyyy in the back of the restaurant, away from the noise and the crowds. Six year old Steven, who was still on a liquid diet due to sensory issues, curled up in a ball in the corner of the booth. He pulled his hood up over his head to block out surrounding activities and had a jiggle toy in each hand which kept his fingers busy. Giving him a wide berth of personal space, I was pleased as he sipped on his can of Ensure and was part of my birthday dinner. We talked in a soft, low tone and Steven even participated in the conversation from time to time.
It was a delightful night out…until SOMEONE told the staff that it was my birthday. (I suspect is was my youngest son, Angel, who was always selfishly delighted when Steven acted up, thus in his mind reassuring his place as the “good son”.) The staff came over with a lit candle on a cupcake, and sang Happy Birthday in out of sync voices. Steven immediately jerked up from his position, covered his ears and started to screech. He threw himself on the floor under the table and started banging his head against the wall. The happy moment was gone. I imagined people were looking at us as though we were the worst parents in the world! For the first and only time in my life as a mom, I emotionally stomped out of the restaurant in tears, bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t even have a normal, birthday dinner without accusing eyes watching as my husband carried our screaming child out. I was sure they thought he was a spoiled brat who couldn’t behave. Little did anyone know that he had been born to a homeless, schizophrenic mom addicted to heroin and cocaine and that he was so emotionally fragile in those early years that we could rarely leave the house. Little did anyone know that our family had worked hard to help him develop to the best of his abilities, working on his sensory issues so that he could fully participate in our family life to the best of his abilities and that it was a huge accomplishment that we were able to go out to the restaurant in the first place.
Both Steven and I calmed down quickly in the car and life returned to normal. Little did anyone know how deep our love and acceptance was for this child and for all of the issues that came with him and for all of the issues which were to come.

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For more stories about Steven’s childhood, please, read my book. Here is a link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

The Baptism from HELL

I don’t mean to be blasphemes, but I am sure that all you parents out there with “difficult” children can understand what kind of hell we live with from time to time.  Most of the time raising children is heavenly, or at least like purgatory. However,sometimes there are those moments when it is just plain hell!

Our son, Steven, was adopted at the age of 3 after living with us since birth.  He was born addicted to heroin and cocaine, to a mom who was an alcoholic and, (GASP) cigarette smoker.  Although we loved his cute little face very much, the rest of him left much to be desired.  He was hypersensitive to sound, touch, smell, noise and any little thing that altered the peace in his little world.  Even as a 6 month old he would bang his head on the highchair if he was “stressed”.  He needed a strictly consistent schedule with no tags in his shirts and no loud noise from the tv.  We altered our life to fit his needs and things were fine, for the most part.

Then came his Baptism day.  First off, it was a change in his schedule, something his 3 year old body did NOT appreciate.  THEN, he had to get dressed up.  I remember thinking he’d never wear a suit and tie, or even a tie for that matter, so I managed to buy a nice pants/sweater outfit.  Unaccustomed to wearing sweaters, his body squirmed in this outfit.  Our church had arranged for a private ceremony, understanding Steven would not be able to be baptized during a regular church service.  We used the little chapel so as to cut down on the anxiety he would feel in the huge church.  His dad carried him to the altar with Steven’s head buried in his chest.  My husband, myself, our older son Francis and daughter Dinora stood by with Pastor Lorraine to begin the baptism.  Steven looked up and saw the baptismal water.  “OOOOOOOH NO!!!!!!”  he screeched.  “You’re not going to put that water on ME!!!!!!”  (He also had a fear of water I’d forgotten to mention…)  He jumped down from my husband’s arms, crawled on the ground, and crawled into the first dark, quiet place he could find…under Pastor Lorraine’s vestments!  There he was, under her vestments which were over her dress…I was MORTIFIED, (thus the “HELL” part!)  She, however, as the parent of three rambunctious kids, thought it was funny.  (God bless her!!)  She felt down for where his head was and she calmly proceeded with the baptism.  (Fortunately, you could see his head clearly outlined in her vestments.)  She did the whole ceremony with him completely covered.  I had a camera to document this momentous occasion, but was at loss of what to take a picture of!  When is it over, his dad gently dragged him out and home we went.  For any other child, a celebration would have been in order, but for Steven, it was home to his usual routine.  Same day as any other day.

PS.  I obviously didn’t learn from this experience as we attempted first communion for him.  At the age of 12, he met with our pastor for one-on-one communion classes as he was unable to participate in the standard classes.   He was then to join the other children on “First Communion Day”.  When the pastor called out his name, he promptly crawled underneath the pew, and curled into a tight little ball, where he stayed for the rest of the service…

Pain is in the Eye of the Beholder…Part 2

(I apologize in advance for this post not being in my usual upbeat prose, but the topic is a serious one.  Please feel free to click away…)

I mentioned in Part 1 that 2 of my sons have a high pain threshold, for two very different reasons.  Steven does not feel pain because his “electrical wiring” is messed up as he was born to an alcoholic birth mom who also used heroin and cocaine.  He has a severe sensory integration deficit where, basically, light touch hurts and pain doesn’t seem register in his brain.  It has made for an interesting childhood.

Steven has more stitches in him than Frankenstein, and we have been to our local emergency room so often that they have a cubicle reserved for us.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that the latter part of that statement is exaggerated!)  An active boy, he would often fall off of his bike and get right back on without any acknowledgement of an injury.  The only way I would know would be when he would come home at night and a portion of his clothes, a sleeve or a pants leg, would be covered in blood.  Upon inspection, I would find the culprit: a long gash requiring stitches. Due to the lateness of the hour, all of the walk-in clinics would be closed, so off we would go to the emergency room.  (His last gash was from under his knee down to his ankle.)  The ironic thing is, because of Steven’s sensory integration deficit whereby light touch hurts, he would scream in agonizing pain when they would put the Novocain needle in.  A few times they allowed him to choose to have the stitches done without Novocain. On occasion, they have had to sedate him in order to put the Novocain in.  Steven has also broken a bone in his foot and his hand, noticed only when he was walking or using his hand oddly. Through his school program, he has volunteered for several years at a reptile education center.  He has been bit several times by the snakes. but would keep on doing his job, wrapping his arm or hand in a towel so the blood wouldn’t get their tanks all dirty.  As a young adult, he has learned to manage this unique quality of his, and he has not been injured in well over a year.  (Knock on wood.)  Of course, he has also become much more sedate…preferring video games and tv over BMX bike jumps! His wild days of adventurous antics are diminishing, along with his injuries.

Angel, who is fifteen years old now, has a very different and complicated reason why he does not feel pain.  He was abused so badly as an infant and toddler that he developed Dissociative Identity Disorder.  When he was being abused, he would develop an alternate personality which would not feel the pain.  Even though he is safe from harm now, the abused personality continues to do his job and protect him from pain.  The best example of this is the fact that Angel has had persistent problems with ear infections, but they could only be diagnosed by a doctor because he would never acknowledge the pain so we didn’t know they were infected.  One morning when I went to wake him up, his pillow was covered with blood.  When he sat up, blood was dripping out of his ear.  I called the ear doctor who saw him immediately.  Although Angel was about ten when this happened, and he  jumped happily up into the exam chair like a toddler, swinging his legs back and forth while he sat.  “Hi, Doc!” he said excitedly.  “Can I play with your thingy there that listens to hearts?” he asked as he reached for the stethoscope.  The doctor explained he needed to use the device to look in his ear. “Cool” Angel said.  “If you look in there can you see all the way to the other side of my head?” he joked, while he giggled.  The doctor looked in his ear and pushed his stool back in amazement.  He informed me that Angel had a fractured ear drum from what looked to be an extremely bad ear infection.  The doctor looked at Angel and back at me.  He said it was unbelievable.  Not only is an ear infection painful, but an ear drum ruptured as much as his was would cause excruciating pain. He said he had grown men crying like babies when they came in with an injury like this. And there was Angel, grinning and swinging his legs back and forth in the examination chair, just like a happy toddler, (one of Angel’s personalities.)  On the way out of the office,  he even asked if he could get a sticker, and he chose the Sesame Street ones!  The doctor just shook his head in amazement!

The major downside to Angel’s situation, besides the obvious problem that it is difficult to determine if he is injured, is that a part of him DOES feel the pain. Because he does not acknowledge it generally, it goes untreated and the part that does feel the pain does so unnecessarily.  This may be very hard to understand, and possibly unbelievable, but the fact is, the part that feels the pain is very resentful that the “others” are safe and seem to lead a happy life.  After many years of counseling and better understanding his condition, Angel and I see the interactions between his “selves”.  The funny part is, his painful self will actually sabotage the other parts if they are doing something good or if they own something of value. Through counseling, he has been able to be very successful in school.  (His “smart parts” attend, and they would get a lot of attention for their good work.) As if jealous, several class projects were found broken in a heap on the floor the morning he was to have turned them in, and research papers would find themselves mysteriously erased from the computer.  Angel also had two laptop computers “stolen” in the middle of the  night from his bedroom. He wouldn’t tell me for a week or so, so I couldn’t search for them.  We could never figure out where they went!  He was sure someone was sneaking into his bedroom at night, but I suspected his part that had been abused was throwing them away.  We were never able to prove it because the garbage had days ago gone for its final journey to the dump.  I finally bought a lock and locked the laptop onto the desk.  A few days later, the laptop wasn’t stolen, but the keyboard was smashed to pieces!  Angel was also the proud owner of an IPhone that kept disappearing.  For days, even weeks, we couldn’t find it.  Then, it would pop up under the base of a living room lamp, in the bottom kitchen drawer under the towels, and once even IN a sock in the BOTTOM of the sock pile. Angel does not remember ever doing anything with his phone of this nature, but he does have a problem with memory lapses.  For a long time, even though he is fully aware that he has “parts”, he has denied the existence of this vengeful part because he could not imagine himself doing anything detrimental to his prized technology.  A few too many times of having his phone disappear, though, has convinced him that this part is lurking in the background…

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