Supporting My Child Through Sensory Processing Disorder and Anxiety
As a parent of a child with SPD and anxiety, I feel like the stars have somehow been out of alignment since that very first moment at the age of two, when I realized we had a serious issue on our hands. Do not get me wrong! I absolutely love my daughter and her way of judging the character of people she encounters in her life. The complex process of maneuvering evaluations is a topic for another day, not to mention the emotions that go along with that. Each year we attended IEP meetings, battle for services when required, and practiced strategies. We have felt like we took one step forward, and two steps back. At times, I’ve felt like we are walking a tight rope without a thick mat to catch our fall. We are fortunate that I am an educator, were able to maneuver the system with some ease and had some wonderful therapists along the way to give us advice. There were times I looked into the stars and wondered… Couldn’t we just have everything aligned? Instead of constantly fighting some obstacle, like noise in a gym, or a vaccination, or the fear of sticky bandages. As the years passed, she seemed to be coping and holding it together in school, but she was fighting an internal battle.
At the age of nine, I watched my daughter falling backwards. My husband and I struggled and wondered what curveball we were being thrown? I knew deep down it was SPD. The teacher in me was screaming internally and I had a million questions with no answers. Thoughts of ADHD, ADD, and every other acronym started to consume my thoughts. Each day the temper tantrums increased, and our frustration rose. I reached out to her teachers, but it was too late. She had already shut down because she believed they did not care about her. I was concerned about her emotional well being and they wanted to talk academics. I knew third grade was going to be a loss. The stars were definitely not aligned and I felt like we were heading into a meteor shower. After months we learned we could add anxiety to the list of struggles that she was dealing with on a daily basis. At this point, I wondered which was worse, the anxiety or the SPD? The anxiety seemed to be worse at this point. I wondered if we could ever manage her anxiety, help her cope with SPD, and have her succeeding in school? She started medication and for six months we tried out different levels of dosage. In time, we added therapy to the mix of our busy family, I was going to continue to fight for her as I always had. The lists of fears were endless. The bully of her fears was named Icky, and one by one we took on Icky. I was shocked. As I sat with her in therapy each week we conquered one fear at a time, beginning with bandages. Slowly, the time between sessions increased and we all started to see changes.
The last challenge of her anxiety was conquering the emotional eating. The emotional eating had rapidly made the scale climb and her clothes tighten. I worried about her being bullied in school because of her weight and it happened at times. We all agreed the medicine and therapy needed to be in place before we do anything about the emotional eating. As school ended I dug my heels in and decided it was time. I had one month until her yearly physical. Again, I found myself on a mission and we changed the way the whole family was eating for a month. Then, we went to see a nutritionist.
Well, this past Saturday my husband and I had an appointment with our daughter to discuss her transition to middle school. Three weeks before she was a mess, but we followed all the transition strategies and she has come out on the other side without a hint of anxiety. I started to feel like Icky had released my child from its grasp. All of a sudden, the stars are aligned. Her therapist turned to us and said she is doing wonderfully and does not need to come on a regular basis. She can come whenever she needs to, but she is doing wonderful.
For this one brief moment all the stars aligned for her, until the next hurdle. The moral of this story is remember, that no matter what the diagnosis, how many problems develop, or how bad of a day you just had, at some point the stars will align for your child, even if it is just for a brief moment in time. Also, you are never alone with your struggle of SPD and anxiety. Today, I will breathe and appreciate the stars being aligned.
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Kim Jacobs lives in the state of New York with her husband of 21 years and currently works in an urban school district. She has a wonderful family of three children, two girls and a boy. Their ages are 15, 10, and 7 respectively. She is a teacher that has worked with toddlers to fifth graders in her twenty year education career. Over the years, she has developed a passion for advocating for children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and anxiety due to the diagnosis of her daughter. At the age of two, her daughter was diagnosed with SPD followed by a diagnosis of anxiety at the age of nine years old.