Sunday, June 20, 2010

Unleashing "the beast"

I still remember sitting in absolute horror at some of our early occupational therapy appointments with my daughter.  She had been recently diagnosed with SPD, and we were in "sponge stage", where we were trying to learn as much as quickly as possible in order to help her.  (A totally normal and typical parental response to diagnosis.)

In any case, the absolute horror was generated from watching our therapist playing with her and having fun with her to an extreme that I had learned not to let her reach.  Let me explain......(and you SPD parents might relate).....Even though we hadn't had a specific diagnosis, we learned early in our daughter's life to keep things "toned down."  There were signs when she was getting too rambunctious and over-stimulated, and we learned to recognize (the incessant giggling out-of-control, the too-bright eyes, the high-pitched squeaky voice of excitement) signs that we would be paying the price for HOURS to come in trying to get her to settle back down.  So....we learned to not let her get that "high" in the first place. 

During occupational therapy, I sat on the sidelines watching my daughter on swings, or jumping on trampolines, or participating in other activities with an ear-to-ear grin and LAUGHING.   And while I wanted to enjoy the moment of watching my daughter enjoying life, I inwardly cringed knowing that I would likely have to pack her out of the session kicking and screaming, or that she would fight me with everything for most of the rest of the day. 

And this certainly happened.  A few times.  But for the most part, what I saw after therapy was an IMPROVEMENT in my daughter's behavior.  And I wanted to know WHY?  Why could this OT wind her up and bring her down?  I wanted this ability!!!  So I demanded, "Teach me how!!!"

What I learned shocked me at the time.  In an unintentional way, I had been contributing to my daughter's inability to calm herself.  By never allowing her to really get "wound up", I was keeping a tightly coiled spring....well.......coiled.  The OT was releasing the pressure with carefully-designed play routines, and then helping my daughter to regulate and bring herself back under control.  By repeating this over and over and over, my daughter was "boiling over" and then coming back to a "simmer".  And "boiling over" and coming back to a "simmer".  And she was learning to self-regulate in the process.

In most situations, Jennica now self-regulates very well!  I can let her run and yell and be rowdy without fear that she's going to be a raging lunatic for the rest of the day.  I know that when we leave the playground (with proper wind-down time), or whatever the setting may be, she's going to be able to adjust to heading to the grocery store, and that we're all going to be able enjoy the afternoon. 

For you parents out there that I know are still in the hardest part of your journey, find a great OT that can and will teach you how to relieve your child's inner pressure, and then regain control of their brains, bodies, and emotions!!!  You can do it!!!  You don't have to be the Mom (like I was) that watched with envy as other children left the playground, happily holding their parents' hand and willingly moving on to the rest of their day!  Life is waiting! 


Marcia said...

Wow! I am hoping our OT can teach me what yours did!


Beth Stevens said...


Hang in there! With the right therapy, your child CAN learn to self-regulate. Have faith! And let me know how it goes!! :)