Being a Parent Detective: Encouragement For Your Path Through Sensory Processing Disorder

Some parents just seem to know what to do when their children start showing symptoms that something is "off".  "Johnny looked at me funny yesterday and instantly I just KNEW.  He has a food sensitivity to portabella mushrooms.  So I removed it from our entire family's diet and now we are doing great!"  Well, my friends, that has not been the experience of MY parenting.  I have to be hit over the head to see that something is wrong - and then I need to be convinced that it isn't just a phase.  And THEN I can be overwhelmed about what to do.  But over the years, I have become a better parent-detective, following the clues of my kids' symptoms and needs to get them what they need.

Is this you too?  Do you sometimes feel clueless as to what move to make when your gut says something is wrong but there isn't an obvious fix?  Runny noses and a fever are (usually) fairly easy to "mommy diagnose."  But what about behavioral issues?  Problems that show up that aren't so "cut and dried"?  With endless Google information at our fingertips I find that for any one symptom, there could be a million reasons for it.

One of my children has struggled with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  But this "disorder" has such a wide range of manifestations, all of which could be a symptom of SO MANY THINGS.  In this article I am taking a look back at the steps our family took and listing a few encouraging "to-do's" for you parents out there who may be wondering what to do if you see behavioral or other problems in your kiddo.  (Disclaimer:  I am not any kind of medical professional!  Just a mom passing on a bit of advice on the steps I took).

To SOLVE a mystery, you need to become a DETECTIVE!  So parent, put on your detective hat. Have you ever read a Sue Grafton novel, with her famous character Kinsey Millhone, the world-class P.I. (A is for Alibi, B is for...)?  If not, let me tell you, this lady knows how to figure things out and solve the case.

Below are a few of her amazing detective skills we can borrow.

1 - She takes every. single. bit. of information and detail she can and jots it down in her little notebook.  Nothing is too minor!  Document everything and you'll have it for your next visit to the pediatrician or for reference on down the line.  Having trouble academically?  Start a notebook and put in reports cards, homework, etc. that highlights your concerns.  Having problems with behavior?  Start a log to see how different food(s) might affect him/her, noticing when the behavior seems to get worse or better during a day or week.

2 - She leaves no stone unturned.  Sometimes it's the little things that will tell you what you need to know to help your child.  Don't consider anything irrelevant.  Keep notes and research everything!  In this case, even though it probably does drive a doctor crazy, why not google and research everything you can regarding your concerns?  Take notes and write a list of questions you may have for your doctor.  He or she can at least help you rule out or re-think options.

3 - She makes no assumptions.  Everyone else is convinced your child has a particular disorder because of a predominant symptom(s).  But keep on your doctor.  Get a second, third opinion.  And if you are finally convinced you have found a diagnosis for your child, don't assume that any one particular doctor has all the answers.  Keep searching for newer, better ways to treat your child.  You are your child's best advocate!

4 - She is intuitive.  Just like Kinsey Millhone, the detective instinctly knows how to solve a mystery, hone your own parental intuition.  A parent's intuition is a powerful thing.  Even though others can many times shed light, sometimes you need to shut down outside opinions and just listen to your own instincts.

5 - She never gives up.  The case is always solved in the A-Z mysteries, and every time it's because Detective Millhone never gave up.  It's true that your child's issues may be clouding your judgment.  You may even be so worn out from dealing with stress and family fallout from behavioral symptoms that you cannot see more of your child than the problems they exhibit.  After giving yourself a break and taking a moment or a day for self-care (on a consistent basis),  take heart!  Keep looking forward.  Make a list of your child's strengths and best qualities.  Savor any small moments of happiness and hang on to them in dark days.  Make friends with other parents who are in the same boat as you.  Just keep swimming!

As far as Sensory Processing Disorder goes specifically, there are many doctors you may need to see to get to the bottom of your mystery.  First stop to the pediatrician!  Get good referrals and then research credentials whether you need a pediatric opthomologist, audiologist, neurologist, occupational therapist, nutritionist, etc.  Get your child to the RIGHT doctors, hear what they say and move forward.  Good luck - you are not alone!

~SPD Mama

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