It's time for an update on these two kiddos of ours! As always, I shall start with our firstborn, sweet Jude the Dude.
A lot has happened over the last few months. I started not to say anything, then I wanted to say everything, and finally told myself to take a minute and reflect for a bit.
This story has a very happy ending, so don't fret, friends.
Ever since Jude was 18 months, I've known something was a little off. I could never put my finger on it and was told by so many I needed to stop comparing him to his sister, stop comparing him to his peers, and just let him be. At the same time, I've been told the mom instinct is a very powerful tool so I had conflicting feelings. The only thing you ever hear about little boys is autism. I've read about it and completed checklists - he never fit the mold. No one who knows him (especially doctors) thought he was autistic. Deep down, I knew he wasn't either.
After he didn't qualify for Early Childhood Intervention at 18 months, we had him tested again at 2.5 years and he qualified for speech. His therapist came to our home once a week and we saw some solid improvements with Jude. At that time she mentioned he had some sensory issues, which I'd never noticed before. Let me rephrase that, of course I noticed them but I always attributed them to him being all boy. He loves to touch everything, crawl in small spaces, stand on his head, and his energy is endless. She mentioned having an ECI occupational therapist evaluate him so I went along with it.
The therapist asked me a ton of questions and I didn't know the answers. She kept saying, "Does he like to jump or does he NEED to jump?" What? "He likes to jump."
He didn't qualify.
At their 3-year appointment, I'd had a rough few days of family illness and was having surgery the next morning so nerves were high. Jude was literally (and I mean literally) bouncing off the walls. And I lost it. Crying big, ugly tears for 1,001 reasons but at that moment I was looking at an out-of-control child who would not sit still. She reassured me he was all boy and life would get easier when he turned seven.
Last month, Jude was kissing me passionately (the only way to describe this boy's kisses) and then he pressed his forehead against mine with so much force it hurt. I pulled back to see him grinning at me as he immediately tried to do it again. It was a little odd and stuck with me. That night we put them to bed and I pulled out my computer. After I made sure Michael wasn't looking, I searched the forehead scenario and the first post was a mom talking about her autistic child. There it was again. I clicked on the link and she mentioned her son also had a completely different issue: Sensory Processing Disorder. The forehead example was what she specifically mentioned.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)? I'd never heard of it. I started a new search and came upon this website and, more specifically, this symptoms checklist. As I read the list, I teared up. I was reading about my sweet Jude. It was, on one hand, incredibly painful to realize he had this disorder. It was also incredibly liberating.
The next day I sent Michael the checklist and he was stunned as well. We ordered the book The Out-of-Sync Child and two days later it arrived. The second I started reading the book, everything fell into place. Jude is a sensory craver/seeker, which falls under the Sensory Modulation Disorder umbrella. Before I made any appointments with an occupational therapist, I wanted to learn as much as I could about SPD so I would know how to answer the questions this time. So I would fully understand (as best I could) what was going on in Jude's brain.
A week later, we had him evaluated by a speech therapist and an occupational therapist. He didn't qualify for speech, which surprised me. She told me he would qualify for occupational therapy and if for some reason he didn't, she would do everything she could to get him the help he needed because she didn't want him falling through the cracks. I don't hug strangers but it took everything in my power not to hug this woman. She mentioned he had so much going on inside his little head that speech was the last thing on his mind. With proper therapy, she felt he would flourish in so many different areas, speech included. Without therapy, he would continue down this path and become the "troublesome child" in school, all because no one knew any different.
At his occupational therapy evaluation it took the therapist exactly five minutes to let me know he qualified. She told me about a great book I should read called The Out-of-Sync Child and I pulled it out of my bag. She saw the ear markings and my scrawled writing all over the pages and smiled. She recommended therapy twice a week (30 minutes per session) and I skipped out of the room.
Jude has attended twice now and received excellent reports both times. We purchased a trampoline for our backyard and he jumps until his legs wear out. When he presses his forehead against mine, I press right back so he can feel the pressure. When he stands on his head, I ask him what I look like upside down instead of telling him to quit acting silly. When he's with a lot of kids and starts bouncing off the walls, I take his hand and we leave the room so he can walk around while he has time to reset.
I don't want to tell you too much about SPD because it's so new to me and I'm scared I will say something wrong, but the purpose of this post is to shed some light for others who may not be familiar with it. I so badly wish I'd known about it a year ago.
In less than a month, there has been a change in our house, especially in me. Now, when he does something goofy, my head doesn't immediately go to, "Why does he do this?" and instead it's simply, "How can I help him?" I'm slower to get frustrated and I know he senses that. Communication (on both sides) has drastically improved. It doesn't mean he's in charge - we still have rules and he finds himself in timeout regularly - but I now know his silly actions and antics aren't because he's trying to drive me crazy, it's because he NEEDS to get it out. For the first time in over a year, I feel like we have answers and are doing the absolute best for our son.
So we jump. And we dance. And we swing.
And we laugh. And we hug. And we play.
When I look at him, I no longer worry about him. I'm excited for him. And my tears, which come more often than ever, are full of joy.