It would make sense for me to say that the hardest part of having a child with Sensory Processing Disorder is the tantrums. Or, I should say, the extreme tantrums. I mean, they can happen at any time without warning, can last from 15 minutes to 2 hours (yes, the 2-hour tantrums have happened), and there is no consistent way to get him to calm down. Our poor neighbors.

It could also be the aversion to transitions. Any transition involves a major amount of drama. Putting clothes on? That means running around the house screaming “no.” Walking to the car? More no’s as well as an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out which toys must accompany him.

Both of those are hard. Exhausting sometimes. But, oddly enough they have taught us how to be more calm and patient with him. No, the hardest part of SPD for us are The Bouncies.

I’m pretty sure if you Google The Bouncies you are not going to come up with a definition as it is related to SPD. But, it’s an accurate description of what happens when he can’t regulate his nervous system. Technically, he is “seeking out excessive proprioceptive input.” As I (hopefully) understand it, it means his body is not accurately assessing the amount of input that is coming in, so everything he does he does harder, rougher, louder, etc in order to sense that input. He will literally bounce off the furniture. And on the furniture. And into walls. And crash into people, the dog, the floor, etc. With 5 people living in a small space, it’s hard when this happens. It happens a lot, by the way.

So, the trick we are finding out from his OT, is to regularly find ways to provide that input he is craving. It’s called “heavy work” and it’s amazing how well he responds to it. Pushing things, pulling things, finding safe places for him to jump, having him vacuum, using a weighted blanket, swinging, climbing and crawling over and around things, wrestling…the list goes on. We call it using his big muscles. He loves it and they are all great ways for him to organize his body. Since most of the things we do with him are normal kid activities, it sounds logical that he would be doing them anyway. But, he needs help in being able to do them in a structured way on a regular basis so The Bouncies don’t happen. When they do, we are starting to learn what he needs to calm himself. Doing some heavy work is good. So is yoga and deep breathing. He learned the turtle pose at OT last week and it’s extremely calming for him. He’s also responding well to sitting with his hands pushed together while doing circular breathing.

As hard as this has been for our whole family, I can honestly say that the blessings have outweighed the frustrations. Working with him in a deliberate manner has been a great way for us stop and enjoy playing with him. Let’s be honest: he’s the 3rd child and sometimes (OK. A lot of times) he’s left up to his own devices as we are trying to balance everyone and everything in our lives. But, he’s now getting a lot more focused attention from the whole family. How great is that? For all of us.

Baking bread. Using those big muscles to stir.