Monday, December 31, 2012

Brains


Let's multi-task shall we?

You are doing it right now, as am I. As is my daughter. I am currently trying to keep my baby's flailing feet from hitting the keyboard while I try to type and she attempts to nurse. Her flying feet are a result of her trying to push her feet against my arm as she nurses. She loves pushing her feet against my arm, or the arm of the chair that we often nurse in.
Or against her Daddy's back when she nurses in bed.
Or against our hands as she sits in our laps, or against the footrest of her highchair.

Any opportunity where she can push with her feet, against anything, she pushes. She even pushes them against the mattress as she sleeps, which pushes her whole body higher and higher up the bed until BONK! She hits the headboard, wakes herself up and starts the whole process over again to fall back asleep. The headboard solution is relatively easy, we just wedge a pillow between the mattress and the headboard so when she propels into it, soft resistance is provided. No bonk, no wake up. But the constant pushing? That's a sign of something, a driving need that she can't seem to satisfy. The solution is proving somewhat elusive.

Our brains multitask all the time. The resistance my fingers receive as I type, the smoothness of the keys, the words I am reading on this screen, the brightness of the screen, the smell of dinner, the feel of the chill in the room, the sound of my family's conversation in the other room, the sounds of traffic, the occasional BOOM of a nearby firecracker, and so much more. My brain is taking it all in, instantaneously sorting, filing, processing, responding, and directing. At the same time it's focused. Sharply focused on the thoughts I wish to convey, how to spell convey, how this sentence fits into the greater work around it. Oh, and I have to use the bathroom. Okay that one can't wait, excuse me for just a moment.

Sorry. The point is most of us have a brain that performs these tasks nearly flawlessly, seamlessly deciphering intake and output without us ever realizing just how much our brain is truly doing. Our brain in an incredible, incomparable organ. To compare it to a super computer is like comparing removing a splinter to spinal surgery. Yeah. Our brains are alive! They need nourishment, they breathe, they can grow or even shrink. They are still a vast mystery, despite centuries of being dissected and studied and MRIs. Brains are amazing!!

Fortunately, not all brains are alike. Humans in general are not all that keen of the idea of being programmable pods. We appreciate individuality, etc. Unfortunately, not all brains are enough alike. See, as you read this you may have your screen at full brightness and it probably doesn't bother you. In order for me to spend longer than just a few minutes on my computer, I have to have the brightness set to below 50%. Same thing on my phone. Even then, too much time or to much noise around me while I work at those screens and I'm going to walk away with a pounding headache. Right now, my husband is in the other room showing the kids U-TUBE videos and the music is SO LOUD... to me. I feel the tension creeping up through my body. Thankfully, they just finished, I still will probably have to close my door to decompress, because now just the normal sounds of the kids getting ready for bed bother me.

My brain is over sensitive to light, movement that is perceived by my eyes, and sound, sometimes even touch and the way food feels in my mouth can make me really uncomfortable, irritable, nauseous. Sometimes I cry because my tension level gets so high. Or I loose my temper. I finally explode, release the pressure valve. I try to avoid this by going to take a long, hot shower in my bathroom with only the nightlight on and the door secured. The sound of the water helps drown out the sounds from the other side of the door. The nightlight or candle is a soothing light that doesn't overwhelm my eyes. And the hot water drumming on my back and neck just feels good. It allows me to start breathing deeply again, helps melt away the tension that is coiling in my neck and shoulders. It's like my reset button. Almost.

It's entirely possible that I have Sensory Processing Disorder, but if I do, it's very mild. To me my sensitivities are mostly just that, sensitivities. They don't cripple me, or create major disruptions in my life. I have learned to live with my "quirks" and lead a mostly comfortable, meaningful and enjoyable life. Imagine though the sensitivities I described multiplied by 100, or 1000! That is what some with severe SPD live with, and coping can be enormously challenging. Others are under sensitive, they may not feel pain when they get hurt, much less a gentle kiss. They may not register the sound of a fire alarm or wake up to one if they are sleeping! They may seem like they are in a fog, or in perpetual slow motion. Over sensitive or under, these individuals are struggling, and missing out. Life for them is not much fun.

Another form of SPD is manifested by those whose brains just never seem to get enough. Where a nice hug makes most of us feel good, they need a big, tight, bear hug. And then another. And another. And, sometimes, another! Then they need a LONG tickle fest/wrestling match/pillow fight. Then they need to ride their bike, really fast, around the block a few times while crunching on a pretzel stick, and blasting music through their ear buds. After body slamming the couch a few times they might finally feel "good". The same "good" we felt after our nice hug. This is called sensory seeking. Though not always quite as intense as this, this is the category in which my children exhibit the most characteristics of SPD.

From what I can discern from my research, my two do not exhibit these characteristics to the extreme, but rather they fall somewhere in the moderate range, perhaps even mild on some days. This is just what I can guess, obviously an Occupational Therapist could give a much more accurate synopsis and even clearly diagnose them. I genuinely hope that we have the opportunity to benefit from the expertise that an OT can offer, and put to work techniques that could make finding sensory balance much more attainable for our family.

In the meantime, we are trying different tools, toys, exercises and ideas to do what we can on our own. Several things we have tried have had AMAZING results. Some not so much. But we will keep pushing on. Literally. On everything.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Seeking...

INTUITION.

That is what most mothers have, but we often question it. Doubt it. Too often. The primary care providers for our children tend to question it too. No doubt, they have seen their plenty of fluff-for-brains parents, but that is far from the majority. For those of us who do trust our intuition, we are not often met with smiles and praise, but rather with eye rolls and smirks. Though ruffled, we press on searching for answers. That is what I'm looking for. Answers to my thousands of questions. Solutions. Strategies. And most important, support, for my family and others like us.

We have no official diagnosis, and we may never get one. But I firmly believe that two of my three children have Sensory Processing Disorder. This disorder was new to me, having never heard of it before. However the symptoms and challenges it presents to those affected by it have affected me and my family for years without us knowing that they were symptoms.

We are currently in mass research mode. I'm devouring all the information I can find. I'm reading info provided by professionals and parents alike. I have many more questions than I have answers right now. And I'm new to all of this, the world of SPD and the world of blogging.

This blog is about my family, my children, our life, and how we are affected by the challenges that come with SPD, specifically the sensory seeking aspects that seem to be the primary presentation in both of my kiddos with it. However, it's not specifically about Sensory Processing Disorder, though it is woven throughout our days and nights and years.

I will try to share our triumphs and trials, our highs and lows, but mostly I wish to relate. I want other families to know that to a lesser or greater extent we are here and struggling along down a similar road. I also wish to inform those who, like me had never heard of this. Maybe because of this medium another family some where might not have to wait ten years to find the simple tools and strategies that can make life a lot more manageable and FUN!

I look forward to sharing with you and hearing what you have to say and share as well. My name is Judy. My husband and I have been married 12 1/2 years. We have three awesome kids. A dog. And two parakeets. I will be using nicknames for the rest of my family and any pictures I post will not show their faces. But I do hope that you will get to know them and see how amazing, smart and beautiful they are.

You will get to meet us better in my next post, and seeing as it's now three am and dawn will come, like it or not, I must try to get the few precious hours of sleep I'm permitted by my sleeping beauty of a baby who just so happens to take up an adult size portion of our queen size bed that we can't seem to keep her out of (probably a future post all it's own)! :)

Optimistically,
Judy