SPD and VBS

The kids are going to vacation Bible school at a local church and it seems to be providing us with lots of opportunities to think about Sensory Processing Disorder.

The first day when I arrived to pick them up, the director took me aside to tell me that during the closing music Eby and a new friend had gotten a little rowdy and were jostling each other while doing the motions to songs.  Eventually Eby pushed the other boy who fell, hitting his head on the pew and getting a small cut.  I knew this was going to be a big deal for Eby to process and I wanted to get him home quickly.  She suggested that I might want to take Eby to see the boy before we left and tell him he was sorry, but I explained that it probably wouldn’t go well and I would talk with him at home.

As we left the church, he looked sullen and angry.  He refused to make eye contact and grumbled that he was  never going back.  Dimples jumped in and began yelling that Eby had pushed the boy.  I held my hand up to her (a visual cue) and said, “Stop!”  I told everyone that I would talk to Eby at home and that I didn’t need any information from them at the moment.

We arrived home and as the kids piled out, Eby ran around the car to my door and all of his anger melted into tears.  I gently touched under his chin to prompt eye contact (thank you, Karyn Purvis) and said, “I am listening to you.  Tell me what happened.”  He tearfully explained that he and the boy had been bumping into each other and playing when the boy grabbed his arm, “…And I got scared.”  For a child with sensory issues, physical contact can seem threatening, not playful.  Eby has a hard time interpreting what different kinds of touch mean, so having his arm grabbed put him over the edge and he “shoved the boy away.”

This made sense to me – I could see the scene unfolding in my mind.  I assured him that I understood that he had been frightened and didn’t mean to hurt the boy.  He cried on.  I told him we would find a way to “make it right” with the other child and Eby could tell him he was sorry that he caused him to be hurt.  He was still resistant, telling me he was never going back to VBS and I assured him that he could stay home if he preferred, but he needed to ride along in the morning and decide after he was there.

The next morning Eby chose a treat for his friend, a small bag of Cheetos, and attached a note that I wrote for him and he signed.  It said, “Dear T., I am sorry I shoved you.  I got scared when you grabbed my arm.  I hope we have fun today.  Eby”

Once we were at the church, Eby got caught up in the fun and decided to stay.  He was eager to give his friend the present and seemed content.  I talked to the director and told her a little bit about Eby’s sensory issues and that he has a hard time interpreting things.  I forgot to tell her something we had just learned at TBRI,

Children with sensory challenges should always be at the front or the back of the line where they are less likely to be jostled and pushed.  They may become aggressive or overreact when normal play and jostling occur — simply put, they just don’t interpret it well.

Yesterday I arrived to pick the kids up and again there had been a problem.  This time Eby and the same boy were getting a little rowdy during songs.  I asked if they had put a counselor between them and the director said they had.  It’s Wednesday morning now and Russ is picking the kids up today.  We’re hoping there will be nothing to report but if there is, we may have to think of some strategies to make this a better experience for Eby – and his friend.

Here’s the real point.  This is the first time Eby has been in an environment where I could see him being labeled as a “problem,” and it is hurting my heart.  He is a big boy and he is definitely rough and tumble, but not mean.  He is a sensory-seeker in many ways and likes to move his body.  He jumps on the trampoline, swings, rides his bike, rides the bouncy horse, chews bubble gum, sleeps with his weighted blanket, and generally needs a bit of help regulating.

I’m thankful that I am able to homeschool him and give him an environment where we can meet his sensory needs while not crushing his spirit.  I know the day is coming, and perhaps it already has, when we need to help him navigate being in a group of same-age peers, but for today, I am celebrating his uniqueness and looking at him with eyes of understanding.

I love that boy.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Katrina
    June 29, 2011

    Lisa, I think it's amazing that Eby was able to tell you that he got scared when the boy grabbed his arm! I think that's HUGE and says alot about the work you've been doing with him. Good job! And keep persevering 🙂

    Reply
  2. Julie
    June 29, 2011

    It's so hard when other people see your kid by their behavior and not their preciousness. This great big world is pretty tough to navigate when you misinterpret cues.

    Reply
  3. Giann
    June 29, 2011

    Praying alongside of you….. cute pictures by the way! 🙂

    Reply
  4. shannon2818
    June 29, 2011

    Such a cute photo. It sounds like you handled everything so well. I wish I could do the same. I usually assume the worst and don't give my kids a chance to have their say.

    Reply
  5. Donna
    June 29, 2011

    Invisible special needs are hard. Way to go Mom with your encouragement. And thanks for reminding us about being "there to hear our kids"!

    Reply
  6. Beth O.
    June 29, 2011

    Lisa, Thanks for sharing your story! You said a thank you to Karyn Purvis when you prompted eye contact with Eby. I am curious to know what this interaction may have looked like before Empowered to Connect and TBRI training. Are you willing to share that with readers?
    Thanks, Beth

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      June 29, 2011

      Beth, that is a great question. Much of what we learned about Sensory Processing Disorder came to us through our kids' therapist and later through an OT at Seattle Children's. Many of our tools have come through books – I should have included some links. BUT, the best gift we received was the ability to re-frame our understanding of Eby's behavior – what looked like attachment challenges or aggression was actually a response to sensory challenges. This helped me tremendously! Meeting his needs requires some creativity and thought, but it is actually fun because when it works, I get a big payoff.

      The "chin prompt" is a gift from Karyn Purvis. With my own children, I touch lightly under the chin, but if you don't know a child well or don't know how they'll respond, you can actually put your hand near the chin, but not actually touch the child. Just the proximity and suggestion of touch are also effective.

      Reply
  7. kristine
    June 29, 2011

    My son has similar issues and reactions. He is in public school and kindergarten was especially difficult as we were all beginning to learn about sensory issues. I shared everything we learned with his teacher and she was wonderful. In first grade he entered a combined First/ Second grade classed and that teacher too was extraordinary in helping us make school a good place for him. I'm writing this for those that may not have any choice but to send their children to public school and I think the key is to work closely with the teacher on a regular basis. Our son now likes going to school and has been very successful in making friends and completing his work. I don't think this would be the case if we just left him on his own to struggle through as best he could. He will be entering third grade this fall and again we will contact his new teacher within the first week and ask her to speak with his second grade teacher if she hasn't already. Thanks for this beautifully written post and for sharing how you handled a difficult situation.

    Reply
  8. laurajonesjournal
    June 29, 2011

    Yes! Good job mom. You are amazing and did great as His advocate, teacher, healing agent and mom. Keep up the good work. Press on! God has great plans to prosper this very special boy. Praying for him now as I sign off. God bless you, sister.
    Laura

    Reply
  9. Kathrin
    June 29, 2011

    I can see your love for him. How wonderful that he is understood by the people he needs most right now. Thinking about all of you.

    Reply
  10. Kirstine
    June 30, 2011

    I can totally relate to the hurt it makes when someone labels your child a "problem". Two weeks ago we got word that our sweet kid who's 1½ didn't function well in daycare with the other kids and we had to find somewhere else for him that would "suit his needs better." …. Let me just say the lionesse came up in me!!! He is the cutest, happiets kid. He just likes the taste of bare skin and is kinda scary to kids his own age…
    So on the one hand you have to face the issue – he needs help to learn not to bite. He does and we know. We have been working on it for months. On the other hand it just feels so unfair that such a lovely kid can't fit into the mold of regular daycare.
    So I have really had to find a way to "file" all this in my mind. That he just needs a little more help with this – he's not a "problem". That noone says he's less lovely (or I'm less of a good mother) because of this. That it will all work out. That we will figure this one out too.
    Anyway thanks for sharing. I'm sure (!) our boys will learn to function with their peers in time.

    Reply
  11. Michelle Q
    July 1, 2011

    I love your blog and gain much strength and knowledge from it! I've come home from three days away to see your posts on Eby. My son has PTSD and has most of the same symptoms as someone with SPD. It's so upsetting that people can see him as a problem. I hope VBS is going better for Eby! Thank you for posting all you are learning from Dr. Purvis. I will remember, "Tell me what you need" and the chin touch. Thanks so much! God bless, Michelle

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      July 1, 2011

      Michelle, you are very welcome. It seems that PTSD, Attachment challenges, and SPD often blend together in kids like ours.

      Reply
  12. Heidi
    July 12, 2011

    Michelle, I just found your blog through a CWA Ethiopia blog list – we are currently waiting to bring our daughter home from Ethiopia and I am so glad I came across your blog. I went straight for the "VBS" post because I am a children's pastor and each summer when VBS comes around, I pray that we are sensitive to the unseen needs of the children that enter through the doors – that they are welcomed, nurtured, listened to and protected. This post was extremely helpful for me – in my professional life as I look to include all of God's children in our teaching time each week and in my personal life, as we bring our daughter home in the next few months. I have read 2 books by Karen Purvis and am glad to see that her techniques and wisdom bring healing.

    Reply

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