I thought I’d give an update on Caroline’s therapy; such as who is coming, how often, what we’re working on, and what they say about her.
First we have a Behavioral Therapist coming for 1-2 hours twice a month. She observes Caroline in her natural environment at home with her mom and sister. Any behavioral concerns I have are addressed. The therapist gives me suggestions on how to teach Caroline proper behavior and teaches me how to properly discipline. She has taught me how to set and enforce limits. It’s not that I haven’t been doing these things, she just teaches me how to do it more effectively for Caroline’s needs and temperament. In January the therapist is going to be here during a typical hard time, getting ready in the morning, and accompanying us to the library. We go every week and this is a notorious location for power struggles and behavioral issues. I will be getting more “tips” on how to deal with these and other problem times. I’ve already learned a lot and can see that it is going to help with our frustrations.
Next we have an Occupational Therapist who is coming for an hour once a month. He is addressing Caroline’s sensory needs. I’ve been suspicious of her craving more input, specifically vestibular and oral. She loves to be upside-down and not only in a “this is fun!” kind of way but a “Ohhhh, yeah. That feels gooood” kind of way. It seems to relax her. Many times throughout the day she is trying to get me or Rob to hold her upside-down or she will sometimes do it on her own.
His suggestions are to increase her ability to focus and calm down by lengthening the amount of time that she gets vestibular sensory input. For example, instead of just letting her sporadically run wild and bounce and be crazy whenever she feels like it, give her at minimum a good solid 20 minutes of stimuli after she wakes up in the morning, after lunch, and after she wakes up from her nap. Maybe again before bedtime. Then in between those times she will be more relaxed, amicable, and able to focus. The stimuli could be going to the park, pedaling a bike, jumping on a trampoline, etc. We will be using a yoga ball to help her to be upside-down more comfortably and a swiveling swing to help her get some unpredictable vestibular movement.
He also explained to me her hyposensitivity to oral input. He affirmed that she needs extra mouth input to be able to feel what is going on in there. He compared it to being numb after visiting the dentist. She can feel things and kind of knows what she is doing with her tongue and cheeks, but they’re not as sensitive as they should be. That’s why she drools, stuffs her mouth, chews on very hard things (breaking pens this week), and has a hard time speaking. He also asked me if she likes to taste hand sanitizer, since it’s also very common with these kids. Just yesterday I had to call Poison Control after finding she had climbed onto the counter to reach a small bottle of hand sanitizer, dumped it out, then licked it up!!
The third is a speech therapist that will be coming a couple of times a month beginning in January. Speech therapy comes after we take care of some of the behavioral issues so she can focus better.
This all sounds overwhelming and a little scary. But, in fact, the therapists are very optimistic. Caroline isn’t a major case (that’s rare) and most kids with these needs tend to get better and better with maturity. Even without therapy, most symptoms are lessened drastically by the time kindergarten comes around. It seems to be a factor of the neurological system maturing to a satisfactory level. The therapy mostly just helps in the interim. It reduces the frustration of both the parents and the child, lessens the severity, and usually decreases the amount of time it takes the system to mature.
I do have to say that I feel a little vindicated. All this time I had these suspicions and now I know that all my worrying and researching was for a reason and I was actually correct in what I thought was going on with her. Knowing her condition has increased our patience for her. She’s not just being a stinker or crazy, she has a need that isn’t being met. I’m happy with the therapists and their positive outlook. It’s reassuring to know that it’s not uncommon and is mostly temporary. I know she can function just fine without their help, but I want Caroline to feel great, not just fine.
If you have any questions regarding Caroline or any other child you know, I’m happy to talk about it and I can point you in the right direction if you need more information.