Friday, July 29, 2016

Sensory Processing

Sometimes I think of some of my more veteran colleagues and wonder about the paths they've taken to get where they are. They have areas of expertise, or schools they've been at for decades, and I wonder if they can trace back to an event that tipped their interest in that area. One woman I work closely with is an expert on autism and visual supports. I wonder if she can go back and remember a school assignment or a student who triggered her interest...the first step down a path that would lead her to become who she is today.

I suppose the path we take in life isn't really a path, is it? Right now my career seems like a series of doors. You pick one, and it leads to a new room with more doors. And right now, my career is much more influenced by my experience as a parent than it is influenced by any professional endeavor. I'm not proud of that...although it leads me to learning about new conditions (twice exceptionality has been a whole new world to me) and gives me new insight into how to work with families, I fear that it makes me less objective. But, it is what it is.

As I parent, I've been walking through a lot of unfamiliar doors the past two years, ones my friends don't pass through. Some doors I just open and peek through, like the door labeled Your Child Was Diagnosed With Autism. I saw a glimpse of that world when I was traveling down the hallway labeled Your Child Was Referred For An IEP Evaluation. But instead of entering and making a home there, I scooted out the door for parents whose kids don't have a disability after all. I've been spending more time in the Your Child Is Gifted room, but the You Have A Really Quirky Kid is usually what I give as my address.

One room I've been spending more and more time in is Your Child Has Sensory Processing Problems. It was a door I opened recently when I joined a Facebook group for parents of kids with sensory issues. I was directed there from another group - I can't remember what information I was looking for that made someone recommend it - and I remained subscribed to it because I figured I could pick up some tips for working with my students. I never thought it would really be for me. Recently, though, P had his annual check-up and I asked his pediatrician if I could have a print-out of his OT report, in case his new school needs a medical excuse to allow P to type on a computer instead of hand-writing things. She gave me P's OT evaluation, which I had never seen. There, in black and white, was his list of problems, and right at the end was SENSORY PROCESSING.

I felt the door to that room slam behind me. This was my home now. I guess I hadn't really taken it seriously, but really, how many other kids chew the necks of their t-shirts to pieces? Or require new chewy necklaces as a part of their back-to-school shopping? Or still cover their ears when they hear sirens? Recently P said to me, "It's just kind of hard when you're really really observant and sensitive like I am." I guess, as usual, he knows more than I do about how he works.

It feels weird to have it be official. It also feels weird to eye up the Your Child Is Twice Exceptional door. I don't know if he's "officially" 2E - usually I see that designation used for gifted kids with anxiety, autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, dysgraphia, or dyslexia - but someone recently told me that if I was using multiple therapists for my child, that was pretty 2E. P is currently enrolled in OT, and as of Monday he'll be on the waiting list for our local university's Speech & Hearing clinic. I'm also thinking about finding a therapist to work on emotional regulation...and then there's the sensory issue. It looks like the Parent of a Twice Exceptional Child room might be added to my suite.

But even as I walk along my path, I know how lucky I am. I know people who are pacing through rooms that are much harder to navigate. I have the parenting equivalent of first-world problems, I'm aware. I don't feel sorry for myself. I just feel overwhelmed sometimes because I wonder how many more doors I'll have to open.