I haven’t talked about it a whole lot on here, just touched on it once or twice, but Bowie was diagnosed last summer with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). He’s a mild case, I follow an SPD parents support group on Facebook and you wouldn’t believe the kinds of issues some of those poor parents are going through! But, he’s definitely got it, regardless, and we’ve been trying some different therapies at home to work through the behavior, and to improve his behavior at school because, Kindergarten is fast approaching, GOD HELP US ALL.
I wanted to talk here about a therapy we recently completed called the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol. The basic gist is you take this soft-bristled brush, and you brush their whole body with it (in a specific way, so it doesn’t hurt them). You do this every hour and a half for 2 weeks. YES, you read that right, every hour and a half, except when they’re sleeping. This is why our OT had us doing it over winter break, so we wouldn’t have preschool to contend with.
This makes for a pretty hectic couple of weeks. You have to remember to bring the brush if you leave the house, and wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you have to drop everything and brush. So, we brushed in restaurants, stores, Christmas parties, the side of the road, you name it. And it was so hard to stay motivated in those last days, wondering whether it was even doing anything for him. Made even more difficult by the OT saying, “It might make a difference, it might not.” Also, we felt a little ridiculous doing it, and I’m sure it looked ridiculous to other people watching us do it, but when it comes to making progress with Bowie, we’re not shying away from anything. It was two weeks out of our lives with the likelihood of improvement. So, of course we did it.
The therapy itself is meant to help reduce some of the more problematic responses that sensory kids can have to their triggers by kind of desensitizing them to it. For some kids, it changes their whole lives, but for some it doesn’t make much of a dent at all. I thought maybe it wouldn’t help Bowie that much, because being touched in and of itself isn’t one of his big triggers. The OT didn’t explain that it can help them with so many other issues.
We noticed some minor changes, nothing to write home about. But, online recently I ran across a checklist of items you can expect after the brushing therapy. And, I was astounded! We had actually made quite a bit of progress, and it was really showing, I just didn’t know to look for it. Among the things he made drastic improvements on were more motivation, less irritability, less rigidity, better sequencing, better attention span, less impulsivity, better transitions, better tolerance of grooming, more touching, better repertoire of foods, better communication, better eye contact and improvement in fine motor activity (specifically handwriting).
I never would have noticed much of this, it was so subtle, but now that I know what I’m looking for, I see signs of improvement all over. Just as an example, the preschool director always looks the kids in the eyes and says hi to them when they sign in for the day. She says it gives her a chance to connect with each child, and it improves social skills. For a while, she had to really coax Bowie to let her see his eyes, and to look at her and tell her how he was doing. But, lately, he’s looking right at her, and he’s excited to see her, and often he’s got something to tell her about his outfit or his brother or his morning, stuff like that. Such a small, small thing, but definitely falling into the “improved communication” and “improved eye contact” categories.
And with handwriting, not that he was ever really bad or really good at writing his letters, we’re just beginning to teach him that, but he would get too frustrated that his letters weren’t perfect, and he’d quit rather than practice. (In fact, seeing the point of practicing with many things is difficult for him. Like his mom. Ahem.) But lately, he’s writing letters all over the place, and he’s really curious about which letters make up which words. He’s writing a “B” for Bowie and an “F” for Fox every day at preschool sign in. And I gotta say, they look great for a 4 1/2 year old with no formal instruction. He’s able to get past them not being perfect, and he’s also patient enough to draw them more slowly, increasing the odds they’ll turn out well.
The other biggie we’ve noticed lately is the eating thing. We really struggled for a long time with Bowie’s eating habits. I’ve documented that one on the blog many, many times. Picky eating is a pretty common problem with all kids, but especially sensory kids. Most kids will outgrow picky eating after a few years, but Bowie still struggles with it. The good news is, he’s trying new foods left and right these days. And lo and behold, actually enjoying some of them!
Before, where we’d have to put the new food on his plate and ask, nay, demand that he at least try it, now we have an eager kid who sometimes asks to try the new food while I’m still cooking, before it’s even on the table! He doesn’t always like the foods, obviously, but the willingness to try them is GIGANTIC progress for him.
The other day for lunch, we made some simple skillet hamburgers. We didn’t make Bowie one, because he’s never enjoyed meat at all, let alone beef, ground or otherwise. I made him a little plate of foods he would like, and we all sat down to eat together. Imagine my surprise when he asked me for a bite of my hamburger. And imagine my surprise when he asked for another bite. And IMAGINE my SURPRISE when he asked for his own whole burger!!! So, a few days later, we made them again for dinner, and we made him his own burger and he ate…
…THE WHOLE THING.
I never thought I’d see the day when he not only asked to try a food he hadn’t liked in the past, but also thoroughly enjoyed it.
The next day, he was chattering away while I made lunch, and he said to me, “Have you noticed that I like hamburgers now?”
Yep, kid, WE NOTICED.