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Living In A loud World: Our son and Sensory Processing Disorder.


It kind of all sounded like this in the beginning:

why doesn’t he smile yet?

why isn’t he laughing yet?

why isn’t he crawling like the rest his age?

why isn’t he walking yet?

Then as he got older is sounded like:

cash, don’t put that in your mouth!

cash, don’t run away from me when I’m calling you, it’s not safe!

cash, don’t touch strangers!

cash, don’t lick strangers!

sorry sir, my son did not mean to bury his head in your lap…

Cash came into this world with a vengeance. It was a tough labor, I was not medicated, had to be transferred to the emergency room where a doctor put a big ole’ suction cup on his head to pull him out (I would find out later that a stressful labor is one cause of SPD). He was a gorgeous, sweet, snuggly baby and I was head over heals in love with this little guy. He was our first so we never thought much of his lack of smiles and giggles, until I had him around other kids his age. Our Dr. was gracious and never dropped the “Autistic” card when my concerns arised as Cash was always on the cusp of the red flags for autism. It wasn’t until he was in a local mothers day out, that I was brought into the directors office and advised to get him some extra help. He just was not on parr with other kids his age and they were concerned. So, we started seeing specialists and got him into speech and occupational therapy. He started thriving and I started seeing how very little I knew about his world. It took months to get an appointment with a Neurologist, but when we did we finally got the diagnosis’ that were the missing pieces to our puzzle.


 Cash was diagnosed with:


–  Sensory Processing Disorder

–  Hypotonia

–  Speech Dysfunction

–  Possible Auditory Dysfunction

That all sounds like another language, but basically what it means is, that he is on the Autistic Spectrum, he has low muscle tone and tires easily, sometimes his brain would not tell his ears to listen, his speech was delayed, and his world was too loud and overwhelming.

That is what I really want to touch on: Sensory Processing Disorder and just how confusing and frustrating it can be for us as parents. And for our kids, how loud and overwhelming this world can be.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can be defined as a practical inability to use information received through the senses so as to function smoothly and normally in everyday life. SPD is not a single specific disorder but rather an umbrella term that covers a variety of neurological disabilities.

Some examples of what this might look like in our kids are:

Sensory Modulation Problems: The child reacts with fight or flight to unexpected touch, intense light, getting dirty, or certain textures of food or clothing (over-responsive); the child is unaware of messy face, hands, or clothes (under-responsive); the child wallows in mud or chews on inedible substances (sensory-seeking).

Sensory Discrimination Problems: The child cannot tell where on his body he has been touched; cannot feel himself falling, especially when his eyes are closed; appears clumsy and seems unable to gauge the appropriate amount of force needed to handle pencils or toys; cannot tell the difference between distinct smells such as lemons, vinegar, and soap.

Sensory-Based Motor Problems: The child is either tense or has “loose and floppy” muscle tone; loses balance easily or “trips on air;” has difficulty using both sides of the body when jumping, clapping, swinging, or pouring water into a cup; has difficulty with manual tasks such as drawing, writing, buttoning, doing jigsaw puzzles, or using eating utensils; shows signs of low self-esteem.

Cash struggled with most of these things on a daily basis. When not informed on his world, I would get easily frustrated and sometimes embarrassed by his actions. One day his therapist described his disorder as this: “Noelle, pay attention for a moment to all the sounds and movements happening in this room right now. You and I are able to tune them out and focus on this conversation we are having. Cash, is unable to do that. His little brain and body tunes into everything. Every foot step, every pen writing on paper, the wind blowing, the birds chirping, the child crying down the hallway”.  It was in that moment that I began to understand that his world was loud, even screaming at him sometimes.

But, with all this, we are blessed with an abundance of knowledge and information. There is a wonderful website, www.sinetwork.org,  that is dedicated to informing people about SPD. And as parents to adoptive kids, we have Karyn Purvis, who goes into great detail about SPD and kids from hard places. Her video series on it in amazing.

On my blog TO BRING THEM HOME I have a page where I list every resource, sensory toy and therapies we use in our life for Cash and why, including all the iPad apps we have and what they are good for as it relates to Special Needs.

Cash is doing amazing. He was diagnosed right before he turned three and shortly after he started therapy he spoke his first audible sentence! He is now 6 and in an amazing school for children with learning and speech delays. He is excelling, making friends, learning how to read, write and is in an environment where he is fully understood and loved.

We are our kids only advocates and I believe that God asks us to fight for them, break down barriers if we have to. He knitted them perfectly together in the womb. I know sometimes as parents it might be hard to see that, but His purpose for them is greater than we can ever imagine.

Noelle Otts lives in Austin Tx with her husband Brad and their 2 kids Cash (6) and Maddie-Rose (3).  They are currently in the process of bringing home their 7-year-old son from Ethiopia.  Noelle blogs about her life and their current adoption wait at her blog TO BRING THEM HOME.