This is Noah.
Noah is my oldest baby and just turned 2 in November. When Noah was born he was the SWEETEST baby on the planet. Seriously, people would stop to comment about how he was the happiest baby they had ever seen. And he was. People have used a lot of adjectives to describe Noah. “Wide open,” “Wild,” “Hilarious,” “A social butterfly,” “Awnry.” I, as his mommy, would agree with all of those adjectives. If someone were to ask me to describe Noah in 3 words I would say he is LOVING, WILD, and BUSY. I get kisses from Noah roughly every 30 seconds during the day….he is SO loving and just wants to be hugged and cuddled and loved on all day. And I gladly oblige 🙂 He also LOVES his baby brother. When Peyton cries, Noah gets incredibly concerned and makes sure everyone knows that Peyton is not happy. When we leave the house, he panics if I don’t immediately pick up the carseat to carry it outside…”BROTHER!!” he shouts at me. This kid is awesome. Because Noah is my first, every day with him is an adventure. I have no idea what stage the next day will bring, and I learn a little more every day about what 2 year olds are actually capable of (hah). As the days had gone on, however, I had become increasingly concerned that he wasn’t acting like a normal 2 year old. Everyone kept telling me, ” Oh, he’s just 2. That’s how 2 year olds are!” but it just didn’t feel right to me. I’m the one that spent every waking minute with him, and I knew something was just a different about him. It seemed like some of his behavior was very extreme. For example, he head bangs. He’s done it since he turned 1. And this isn’t just “bumping” his head against the wall. When Noah gets mad, he searches for the sharpest corner of the hardest table and whacks his head on it hard enough to leave a goose egg. He does this regularly. Sometimes he’ll bang it twice in a row just for good measure. When I took this concern to Noah’s pediatrician a few months ago, the pediatrician told me, “Oh, he won’t do it if it hurts.” Uh, do you not see the bruises all over his face from banging it on the floor and tables? He offered to fit Noah with a helmet. While I appreciated the gesture, that didn’t solve my problem. How do I deal with it and how do I make it stop?
So, with no help from that pediatrician, I just dealt with it the best way I knew how, which was ignoring it and hoping he stopped (even though I couldn’t help but kiss the boo boo’s afterward). In addition to the headbanging, Noah developed a few other strange habits. He likes to rub people’s arms and legs. If a complete stranger comes to my house wearing short sleeves, he’ll rub the back of their arm for a good 15 minutes. We just thought it was this strange quirk he had and ignored it. Then, he seemed to be incredibly sensitive to sounds. When he hears a faucet running in the house he covers his ears. We didn’t put much thought into this because he didn’t react this way EVERY time, just sometimes. He also covers his ears when he hears airplanes and various other sounds. He doesn’t seem to get upset by the sounds…he just covers his ears. It’s strange.
The most obvious and troublesome behavior that developed was the way Noah acted in public places. I know I know, 2 year olds act like crazy people in public. But Noah only acted this way in public noisy places. In restaurants and grocery stores he likes to cover his ears and scream. At first we thought he was just doing it because he liked to scream. But we noticed it was only in loud places. He’ll also do it at home if a lot of people are talking at once. In addition to covering his ears, Noah acts out behaviorally when things get loud. For example, at Thanksgiving time we had a LOT of people in our not so big house. Noah’s cousin was here and he would NOT stop hitting her. He hit her with his hands, with toys, with whatever he could. This was the most distressing for me. Noah had hit before, but never like that. He just would not stop. So, I brought all of this information to his pediatrician and asked her what in the world I should do.
The pediatrician had Noah assessed for speech delays (unrelated, and we found out he actually does not have a speech delay) and said that the people assessing his speech would also assess his behavior and cognitive ability. Through the assessment we learned that Noah has a high probability of having a Sensory Processing Disorder. A sensory processing disorder occurs when a child has inappropriate responses to outside stimuli. It isn’t anything that is learned or observed, just the way a kid with SPD’s brain is wired. Hearing this was both heartbreaking a relieving at the same time. Before I knew there was an issue I felt like the world’s worst mother. My kid hit, my kid acted like a serious crazy person in public, my kid hurt himself…but now I knew those were all ways of him reacting to overwhelming outside stimuli. Groceries stores ARE too loud for him. Thanksgiving WAS too overwhelming for him. Houses with lots of clutter ARE overwhelming for him. The faucet running IS loud to him. After hearing that he probably has SPD, it seemed like we should have seen it LONG ago. Only now are we beginning to put the pieces together and pick up the clues that were being dropped for the past year.
Treatment for SPD is behavioral therapy. Basically a lady will come to our house and play with Noah once a week for a while and somehow this is supposed to help him learn to respond appropriately to things (I have no idea how this works yet…we’re at the BABY stages of learning about this and we haven’t started the behavioral therapy yet). I do know that there is NO medication involved, which is a yay for me.
A lot of people wonder what they can do to make sure situations aren’t overwhelming for children with this disorder. I can’t speak for everyone’s kid, but I do know what you can do if you happen to be around Noah.
1. Don’t judge him, or my parenting. At a restaurant last week a woman MADE FUN of Noah.
She actually MOCKED him. It is by the grace of God that I didn’t knock her out. Also, no. I
won’t “spank his butt.” He has very little control over the way he acts. Also, HE’S TWO.
2. Maintain a calm tone and demeanor. If you get high strung, he’ll get high strung. If you get
loud, he’ll get loud.
3. Turn the T.V. down. A loud T.V. plus talking people plus lots of visual stimuli = overwhelmed
4. Let his parents handle him. With a kid that already gets overwhelmed easily, the last thing he
needs is a room full of people trying to direct him and tell him what to do. He can’t process all
of that and you’ll make his behavior WORSE. You can help by letting us handle him 🙂
I know that 75% of the stuff that Noah does that drives me crazy isn’t because of this Sensory Processing Disorder..it’s because he’s TWO, and that’s what 2 year olds do. But it’s nice to know that some of the more concerning stuff has a reason behind it, and it’s something that we can work on! We start some sort of in-home play therapy next week for him…I’m anxious to see how it works and learn techniques that I can use myself.
Does anyone else have a child with a special need? If so, what is it? What can other people do to help your child when they’re around?