As per my first blog post, your Team of Experts has diagnosed your child with SPD. After blog post two, his/her treatment plan is now in place. For the time being, you visit the occupational therapist (OT) once a week.
While you are relieved that you now know your child has SPD, he/she is just as difficult to manage as before the diagnosis. The meltdowns, the outbursts and the constant crying are unrelenting. You remain in a state of chronic fatigue, and spend every moment your precious sprout is sleeping, trawling the internet for advice and support.
The very last thing you want to consider, is leaving the confines of your home and go anywhere other than the OT’s rooms (and only because you know you absolutely have to).
I found myself in this exact state a little more than four years ago. I had two choices: (1) stay home, draw the curtains, and do whatsoever kept Hein-Chris calm and anxiety-free; or (2) force him out the front door - kicking and screaming - and spend as much time as possible doing normal, age-appropriate activities like other mommies were doing. I opted for the latter, as I somehow instinctively knew that keeping him safely ensconced in a darkened room might provide short-term relief, but that this, in the long-run, would be detrimental to his development.
Taking Hein-Chris out of the house was a huge production. I needed two fully packed bags of clothes and wet wipes. He would scream to the point that he’d vomit all over himself, multiple times, during every outing. However, I did not let this deter me from taking him to every mommy-and-baby class in town - kicking and screaming. We visited the mall, the park, any local restaurant that could stand us, the animal farm, and the beach - kicking and screaming (I don’t mention kiddies’ parties as you don’t want to get me started on those; they are not for the faint-hearted). At first, Hein-Chris screamed and cried and vomited all over the place until we would leave after five minutes. Then 10 minutes. Then 15 minutes. Later he’d scream and cry and vomit, and then settle - at long last - for five minutes of not screaming and crying and vomiting. He’d take in his surroundings and watch what others were doing. Tomorrow we’d do the same. And the next day. And the next. And the next. For years.
Five minutes turned to six, then seven, and later thirty minutes. Today I can take Hein-Chris almost anywhere of my choosing - mostly. However, we have to do these outings regularly. If we skip a single week without going somewhere other than school or home, Hein-Chris will get really anxious when next we try to go anywhere.
I truly believe that the infant/child with SPD needs to be exposed to the sights, sounds, smells, and uncertainties the world has to offer, from as early an age as possible. It is tough taking a two-year-old child with SPD to an unfamiliar place filled with harsh smells and loud noises. Now imagine trying this with a four-year-old child with SPD whose been sitting in a darkened room for the last two years. I shudder. Based on my own experience, the infant/child with SPD needs to start being desensitised to the world immediately in order to have a fighting chance of surviving it as an adult.
Today I am grateful I never waivered in exposing Hein-Chris to the outside world - despite his best efforts to make it almost impossible. He has slowly been getting used to the world since he’s been eight weeks old (before I knew he had SPD), and that has certainly given him a solid start to learning how to cope with SPD.
Hein-Chris has journeyed a world away from his infant self. He has worked very hard, every day, every week to be able to engage with a world that is filled with sight, sound, smell, touch, taste and movement. He is a warrior against SPD, and my role is to provide him with whatever reinforcement he needs, even if he resists at first - kicking and screaming.