Our Journey: The First Signs My Child Had Sensory Processing Disorder
I always knew my second daughter, Sienna, was different. Of course the midwives told me otherwise and shrugged off all her problems. Newborns cry. Babies have trouble feeding. Not every baby wants to be swaddled. My family said I had post-natal depression behind my back. They saw my baby laying on a rug in the middle of the floor with a bottle propped up on a rolled up muslin cloth so she could suck on it, instead of being swaddled and cuddled and fed by her mummy. They saw me crying and having trouble knowing how to comfort this glorious little human. They couldn’t know the ache inside me that just wanted my baby to be “normal”. That wanted a baby that didn’t scream when you held her or one that calmed at the familiar scent of their mother. But that was not my baby. People assumed the problem lay with me and didn’t even entertain the possibility that my baby was somehow broken…not one single person offered to help.
My first daughter was a textbook baby. She loved to be swaddled, slept through the night from the first night I had her, breastfed without an issue, had the occasional wind pains that were remedied with a warm bath or a couple of wind drops. She loved to be cuddled. So when this baby that despised being touched or held, didn’t enjoy the comfort of being fed and snuggled, screamed when being swaddled and refused to sleep came along, I was lost. All babies are different I always told myself. Sienna is just her own baby. She was just the opposite of her sister and you can’t get that lucky twice. People told me I had been “spoiled” the first time and this was what motherhood was really like. But I knew they were wrong.
As she grew she developed more challenging behaviours. She started taking off her nappies regularly and playing with her poo. Sometimes even eating it. We would put her down for a nap and come back later to check on her only to find our baby, her cot, walls, floor, face, mouth covered in baby poo. We got to the point where I had to buy non stretch onesies and put a safety pin under the zip to stop her from removing her clothes and getting into her poo. She never learned to sleep. She never settled. She never learned to snuggle. She constantly cried for her bottle. Thickened feed after thickened feed- she never seemed content and full. She had reflux so she vomited regularly. She started rolling, crawling, walking, climbing and jumping and accidents followed. Dislocated elbows by the dozen, dislocated wrists, stitches to the head and eye and an impressive skewered stomach at our local shopping centre on the clothes rack. Over 2 years we had been to around 6 different hospitals in WA.
It wasn’t until I had my third baby, a boy, that I realised how much more difficult Sienna was. This baby slept, fed, cuddled, settled and did everything a baby should do. As I watched him grow I reflected back on Sienna and realised how different she really was. So, off to the doctor for what seemed like the 100th time I went. Only this time, it was different. They listened to me and responded and it felt like something was finally changing. Of course, nothing happens overnight. It started with an appointment to a paediatrician and has been followed by physiotherapists, ophthalmologists, occupational therapists, social workers and everyone and anyone in between. Two years on and we feel like we finally are making progress. We have so many strategies and plans and suggestions that our brains may explode, but nothing seems to work more than twice in a row so we are thankful for every last option. We have learned that Sienna seems to peak at 30 minutes of “good” behaviour and that’s when we need to change it up. We have a good idea of what may trigger her and we can plan around those things. We have recently worked up the confidence to venture out for a full day’s worth of activities without the assistance of extra adults. We are slowly making inroads and every day is an opportunity to learn more!
Stacey Brick is a mother to 3 beautiful, cheeky children and has an insanely supportive husband, Matt. She started her blog, The Sensory Mum, after having her middle child diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and needing a place to share her thoughts and feelings as well as engage with other parents in a similar position. You can follow her on Facebook under The Sensory Mum or find the blog here thesensorymum.wordpress.com