Thursday, November 04, 2010

Evil Knievel

People don't tend to "get" my warnings about my daughter the first time.  Or the second time.  But if they spend enough time with her, they tend to eventually figure it out in a big way.  Jennica's specific type of SPD tends to center around "sensory-seeking."  This is crucial knowledge, and its absolutely imperative that everyone in her inner circle understand this.  To clarify further, her brain tends to under-react to sensory information.  When I first heard the word under-react used in this way, my mind said, so a child like that would be sluggish, right?  WRONG!  Its exactly the opposite.  A child that under-reacts to sensory information will seek MORE sensory input for the brain.  The end result.......a child that tends to seek higher, faster, farther, louder, etc. 

Jennica is the epitome of sensory-seeking.  As a toddler, she was a climber.  And a runner.  And a grabber of everything.  She wants the bath water warmer than it should be.  She wants to play in the rain with no coat on.  She wants to FEEL the world around her.  And for her to do that, she needs every way.

After the "high" of our Halloween successes last weekend, we crashed back to Earth this week.  I've noticed in the past that Jennica's level of sensory-seeking is somewhat driven by diet, and while her Halloween treats consisted of a lot of fruit chewies and the like, there is high-fructose corn syrup in those!  She is not technically allergic to it, so we have never eliminated it.  But we do try to limit it!  And now, I'm remembering why!

Monday was a monsoon.  She wanted to play on our covered front porch with the dog after school.  Fine.  But it wasn't long and I could hear the high-pitched squeals of out-of-bounds behavior outside.  She had slipped out into the yard and was busy belly-flopping in the rain in a 4-inch puddle in our yard.  A sane parent would have drug the child indoors, but my sanity left long ago. She wasn't in any danger, and I recognized sensory-seeking for what it was, and let her continue.  She finally came to the door, dripping wet, about 5 minutes later and was ready to get warm and dry.  We changed clothes, and headed for the barn.

At the stable, the sensory-seeking continued, but in that environment, its less fun and far more dangerous.  To keep it short and sweet, she hung from the hay loft by her fingernails (literally) and then slipped into the indoor arena with a loose horse.  Neither is acceptable, and we've had MANY conversations about the safety of these activities.  Or lack thereof.

So.....Tuesday after school, she got sent to Day Care on the school bus.  I need to be able to feed and care for horses without constantly worrying about her safety.  She also is very resistant towards the Day Care right now, and I made it clear that this was a direct result of her deliberate disobedience of long-standing areas that are off limits at the barn.  Period. 

On Wednesday, I was ready to try it again.  The weather was beautiful, and the girls were happily playing near the sawdust pile.  There were numerous other boarders around, and the attitude was friendly and happy as we all worked together to get the 15 horses fed and cared for.  And then suddenly Tiersten appeared in the barn with a panicked look on her face.  Something to do with Jennica and the creek and a log?  I told her to show me and I followed her quickly as she ran back outside.

Lo and behold, Jennica had left the main grounds at the barn and broken another cardinal rule:  Don't go to the creek!  She had shinnied down the bank (still slick from Monday's monsoon), crawled across a 30-foot span of fallen log, and was stuck on the other side of creek with no way to scale the slippery bank on the other side.  The log was too narrow for her to turn around on, and the water beneath her was rushing and at least four feet deep.  My heart immediately lodged in my throat.  To make matters even worse, Tacey, one of the 12-year-old girls at the barn was already barefoot and starting out across the log after her!  Now, not only has my child put herself in danger, but she's put someone else in danger, too!

Fortunately, Tacey was able to go across the log and get her and Jennica both back to safety.  I immediately locked Jennica in the car, who by this time is apologizing in tears--not out of fear, but because she knew she was in trouble.  I don't think fear ever entered her mind.  (Except maybe fear of her punishment.)  I quickly finished my chores and headed home. 

Today, she is back at the day care after school.  Until I figure out a way to keep her safe, she's going to have to go there for awhile.  I'm honestly frustrated.  What do you do with a child that has no real sense of fear?  She doesn't do things to be "naughty", and truly doesn't understand that she's putting herself at risk.  The height of logs across creeks and height of the hayloft bring a thrill to her that you and I might get from running across the playground.  Her brain needs so much MORE to register what comes naturally to the brain of a typical person.  But short of hanging a trapeze in a padded cell, I don't know how to find a SAFE way for her to get what she's seeking! 

In the meantime, my friends at the stable are taking me more seriously when I tell them to help me keep an eye on Jen and let me know if they see her doing ANYTHING unsafe.  My shoulders are still so tense today after the log/creek incident that I'm constantly pulling them out of my ears. 

Maybe I should look into downhill skiing for her?  Or motocross?  Or NASCAR?  With her nerves of steel, she might be very successful.  I wonder if there has ever been a study done on high-risk sports and the number of participants who show symptoms of SPD.  I bet there's a connection!  :)