Thanks for joining me along the journey! I'd love to hear what you want to know ... do you have questions about sensory processing disorder, gluten-free/dairy-free diets, homeschooling, faith, life in general? Send me a note or post a comment and I'll try to write something that addresses your interests and questions!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

30 SPD Facts in 30 Days -- Fact #10

What are some signs of Sensory Processing Disorder?

Signs Of Oral Input Dysfunction (taste and gag reflex):

Hypersensitive:  Picky eater with extreme food preferences and limited repertoire; may gag on textured food; difficulty with sucking, chewing, and swallowing; extremely fearful of the dentist; dislikes toothpaste and brushing teeth.

Hyposensitive:  May lick, taste or chew on inedible objects; loves intensely flavored foods; may drool excessively; frequently chews on pens, pencils, or shirt.

Remember that inconsistency is a hallmark of this disorder, so you may find yourself/your child being hypersensitive one day and hyposensitive another day and on yet another day seem completely normal.  For a more complete checklist of symptoms, click here.

This was our first, and most irrefutible, sign that Josiah had sensory issues.  He nursed exceptionally well from birth, but would gag on "solids" when we tried to feed them to him at 6 months.  At first, we weren't concerned -- lots of babies just aren't ready at 6 months, and besides, he didn't get his first tooth (which is often a good indicator of food readiness) until 10 months.  We tried every few weeks to offer food, even trying rice cereal that was more milk than cereal, but nothing worked.  By his first birthday, we started to wonder whether something was amiss, so we started looking into it more deeply. 
Our family doctor assured us that there wasn't any physiological reason that he couldn't eat and referred us to a neurodevelopmental specialist instead.  The waiting list was long, and our insurance refused to cover the evaluation, so at 14 months we got an evaluation by representatives from the state's "birth to 3" program.  Not surprisingly, he qualified for free services and we were immediately put on a wait list for individual therapy and a therapeutic playgroup.  By 16 months, we had finally started therapy and were beginning to learn about the sensory issues that were keeping our son from eating.

Over the next year and a half, we used tactile input to help desensitize his oral system (gag reflex) and spent a lot of time helping him tolerate the feel and texture of food in his mouth, then learn to chew it, and eventually coordinate chewing and swallowing instead of just pocketing food.  By the time he "graduated" from the program at age 3, he was successfully eating enough to sustain himself without continuing to nurse and we thought his sensory issues were resolved!  How little we knew -- over the next six months I would see failure to progress in several areas that indicated more pervasive sensory processing issues and eventually sought OT to understand and treat them.

Now, at nearly 6 years old, Josiah does fairly well with foods but there is still a clear challenge with oral input.  He is very sensitive to flavors and textures, even smells, so he is a very picky eater.  He's also a bit uncoordinated when it comes to eating, so he often bites his lip or tongue, tends to overstuff his mouth (so he can better feel what's in there), and chokes on liquids fairly frequently.  Add to that his dietary restrictions (gluten intolerant and dairy/soy allergic) and he's a rather tough kid to feed :)  But we manage well enough and even have some fun moments with food!  Stay tuned for a post in November about food ideas (both successes and failures!)
Don't forget to stop by Hartley's Life with 3 Boys to read 30 Stories in 30 Days, guest blogs from 30 different families about their experiences with an SPD child.

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