Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dealing with sensory issues. Again...

I think one of the hardest parts of parenting, whether it's a typical child or a child with special needs, is trying to adapt to their ever-changing needs, behaviors, and personalities.  In our case, it can be difficult for us to tell which of Tera's behaviors and actions are related to her inability to communicate fully, her sensory issues, or just typical three year old behavior.

A few weeks ago Tera was going through a stint of waking up several times a night and also very early in the morning.  She would wake up anywhere from one to four times during the night and then again by around 4:30am some days.  Sometimes she would go right back to sleep, sometimes it would take us laying down with her for a while, and most times when she did go back to sleep, she would wake up again an hour or two later.  She goes through these patterns every couple months, but this time it was happening more frequently than past times. After ruling out any obvious health related issues, we decided that there was no good reason for her to be waking up and that we had to try and take care of this behavior now before we add a newborn, who is at least expected not to sleep well, into the mix. 

We had thought at first that her allergy medicine could be having an adverse effect on her so we stopped that first.  It made a difference one night, but after that she went right back to waking up.  So we decided that the next night that she woke up crying, we were just going to let her cry it out.  Now you may be wondering why we haven't done that before now, seeing as she is three, but the truth is most of the times we've gone through this in the past, there have been health related issues going on.  She's rarely been healthy enough for a long enough stretch for us to think something else wasn't the culprit.  We also know that her tonsils are rather large and that that can affect her quality of sleep.  

Anyway, the first night was rough.  She woke up about four times, and we just stayed in bed and let her cry.  She would start at her doorway (we have a gate up) and cry there for about ten minutes, and then eventually make her way back to bed, cry a little more, and eventually go back to sleep.  That first morning after was a little rough for her because she was pretty tired and we ended up having to wake her up to get her ready.  But each night after that got better and better and she started sleeping later also.  Last weekend we actually got her to sleep until after 6am, it was a dream! 

Around the same time, we started noticing more instances of Tera trying to hit us out of frustration.  She also has these instances when she gets very agitated and will bite her own hand or arm, sometimes pretty hard.  We had assumed that because she is now in preschool and daycare that she was getting more than enough stimulation, but with Tera and her constant motion, it's not just mental stimulation that she needs, she has definite sensory input issues.  We joke all the time about her constant motion, but in reality it really does affect her temperament sometimes.  She doesn't just move all time time because she's hyper, she does it because she needs the input and movement helps keep her calm.  

The night this finally occurred to me, I did a quick search on Pinterest for sensory input ideas and stumbled upon a mom's blog about her daughter that described Tera perfectly (here's the link ).  So Tom gathered up our resistance bands and 6lb medicine ball.  Thanks to Uncle Mike and Aunt Cathy she now has her own trampoline which has been a huge help, and we already have a weighted vest and blanket for her.  We decided that just like we need to make time for our own workouts, we were going to have to make a little time each night for Tera's exercises.  Each night we try and spend anywhere from ten to twenty minutes having her bounce on her trampoline, pull on the resistance bands as we run around the kitchen, roll and pick up the medicine ball, and we even tried swinging her in a sheet (she loved it, but then threw a tantrum when we wanted to stop).  

And the results? She hasn't slept this well or this long in quite some time.  We've had little to no hitting incidents, and she seems to be listening a little better.  We never really know for sure what is actually affecting her and what is a coincidence, but for now, there seems to be a correlation between the exercises and her sleep and behavior.

I will admit that it can be difficult to realize that every aspect of Tera has to be dealt with in special ways.  Counting works better for her therapists and teachers, but at home she almost always makes it to three and ends up in a timeout.  We have to remember that she has this sensory issue and that she isn't like other kids.  Her behaviors are often tied how she processes things and what she can understand and what she can communicate.  It's another one of those times I find myself experiencing some self-pity, but then I realize this is the way it is and we just have to deal with it the best we can.  She will always be a challenge, but Tom and I just have to gather up all the energy we can muster and figure her out!

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