For many kids jumping in balls is child's play. For James Conner, it's therapy...
"When we first came here, we would try to get him to jump in the balls and it was fine as long as he was on top. If you started covering him up, he would become frantic," said James' mother, Belinda Conner.,
"James came, initially, with chewing on stuff, chewing on his clothes and everything. So, he came with Sensory Processing Developmental delay and then a coordination type," said Beth Bishop, Senior Occupational Therapist at Georgia Health Sciences University.
Children who are diagnosed with some form of Sensory Perception Disorder (SPD) often face challenges.
"That's what I learned from Beth...your brain doesn't process like other people does," said Mrs. Conner.
Bishop knows first hand that children who are diagnosed with the disorder can become functioning adults....because she was diagnosed, too. "I am hypo-responsive, so that means I need more of that input for my brain to register that I get it," she said.
Statistics show that 1 in 20 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with SPD. As awareness increases and more studies are being done...
"Alot of parents ask...well they're just headstrong or are they're just being a terrible two's. What I look at is, when I put them into different positions, or you're holding them and you see sheer terror on their face or your holding them and their heart starts beating really fast or they start sweating or white out, just like a ghost. Those are signs and symptoms that they can't handle that," said Ms. Beth, as Bishop is referred to by her patients.
At one point, James didn't like to crawling through this cloth dragon...it was too dark and he didn't like the material touching his body. Today, he slides through with flying colors.
"He used to...whenever I would do like that, he would...just really, really push in on his head, but now he doesn't do that so much. So, we're able to tolerate that touch from other people," said Bishop.
Look at him now, thanks to his sessions with Ms. Beth, "which goes in nice with parents being able to wash hair and to brush their hair, being able to put on clothes without the seems and the tags bothering them."
"He would have meltdowns, not tantrums, just meltdowns as in can't control himself, screaming yelling out of control," said Mrs. Conner.
Two years later, James can also enjoy the squishy beads. There was a time when he couldn't stand to touch them. Now, he just has to wipe his hands every now and then, but manages to keep playing.
Through patience, training, and lessons on how to cope, he's come a long way. James was born premature, and doctors say it is usually a factor for the disorder. However, they both have made major improvements since going through the therapy.
"I know what's going to set him off, if we've had a late night and short rest I know that's going to set him off, any time we're changing activities I give him a 5 or 10 minutes warning. TV tends to set him off and diet is a huge deal," said Mrs. Conner.
For this mom, what to watch out for is half the battle....and it's one that they're winning together.
Signs of Sensory Intigrative Dysfunction may include, overly sensitive to touch, unusual activity level and even coordination problems. Check with your childs doctor if you have concerns.
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