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An update on Oliver

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A few weeks ago, our Baylor Feeding Clinic Occupational Therapist (OT) recommended that we start two practices with Bennett before his feedings: joint compression and brushing.

While "brushing" Bennett one day, I realized that "brushing" would be excellent for Oliver, who seems to seek sensory input.  I knew he would love the feel and would appreciate the extra attention I could give him.  I asked the OT if I could use it on my other son.  She warned me not to do so without evaluating my other son first.  Apparently, it can do more harm than good on a child who doesn't need it. 

So, this afternoon, along with Bennett, I had Oliver evaluated for in-clinic Occupational Therapy services.

Oliver loves to run.
And run.
And run.
And run.
In circles around the living room,
down hallways,
on our driveway.

And often, he runs while making "car" noises. Sometimes, these "car" noises are so loud that I can't talk.  Recently, I have begun to be more aware that his "car" noises (growls, really) and running are something he feels compelled to do, not just something he likes to do.  Oliver will demonstrate this behavior to the point where any other child would be fatigued.

A few months ago, Brian and I mentioned to his play therapist that he seemed to be sensitive to sounds.  He hears sounds we don't often notice (like the humming of the light) and is overwhelmed by sounds that seem fairly common (like the hairdryer).  She wondered out loud if he had sensory processing issues.

As we spoke, we began to realize that Oliver actually craves sensory stimulation.  So, the Play Therapist recommended that we purchase a rocking horse or swing to help him.  She also recommended that we play with him physically and get him involved in physical activities.  Both which we did.

But, after thinking about it a long time and seeing the benefits of joint compression and brushing on Bennett, I decided to follow my gut and have Oliver evaluated for occupational therapy.

As soon as we walked into the small room at the in-clinic therapy office, Oliver went to running.  (He usually does this when he is anxious, which is easy to be in a small room at a new place you know of no reason why you are there).  While trying to speak with the Occupational Therapist throughout the evaluation process, I said, "I believe my boys both have sensory issues.  But for totally different reasons."

The therapist replied, "oh, I can absolutely tell.  One is sensory-seeking.  And the other is sensory-avoiding."

I wanted to bust out laughing.  She is SO right!  And I was absolutely unequivocally relieved to hear her say that.  Bennett struggles to put his hands in a variety of unfamiliar textures.  He wants nothing to do with new sensations.  Oliver, on the other hand, seeks out sensations all day.  It is what helps him find his calming place.

As we talked about Bennett, I outlined my understanding of his needs and how we would likely want to proceed forward with continuing the good work we had with the Occupational Therapists at the Baylor Feeding Clinic.

But, as we talked about Oliver, I asked more questions.  I yearn to better understand his needs.  The therapist, who by this time, had done some evaluative exercises with Oliver, seemed to greatly understand some of his issues and offered her insight into what she saw was the problem. 

Relieved to hear our concerns were validated, I finally asked, "well, if we had done nothing about this, what do you think would have happened?"  The therapist replied, "oh, you would have eventually done something by the age of 7...because his teacher would have told you he had the worst handwriting in class" (because of his delayed fine motor skills).  The therapist also mentioned that we might would have heard from teachers "he can't keep his hands to himself, he wants to touch everything" or "he can't seem to be quiet in school" (due to his need to seek sensory stimulation).

I wasn't surprised to hear about the sensory stuff.  But the handwriting stuff??  It turns out that what I perceived was a lack of interest in crafts and coloring may actually be a difficulty with fine motor skills.  At three and half years old, Oliver can only barely draw circles bute cannot draw a cross, boxes or pictures of any kind.  And he doesn't enjoy puzzles in the least.  Turns out he may just have such a hard time with them that they aren't fun and he doesn't ever want to try them.  I had no idea!

So, both boys qualified for therapy.  Thankfully, I can take them at the same time twice a week for 30 minute sessions. 

I am ecstatic that Oliver is going to get care in this area.  I want him to enjoy writing (clearly, I love it!).  And I want Brian and I to learn how to help him feel safe and secure through stimulation, getting it in any healthy way he can.

In addition to Occupational Therapy twice a week and Play Therapy once a week (which continues to be WONDERFUL for him), I am sending Oliver to Mom's Day out twice a week this summer.  This gets Oliver out of the house, into fun things and provides me more one-on-one undistracted time to feed Bennett. 

The introduction to "school" for Oliver was hard for me at first.  I have seriously considered home school up until recently.  But I believe it is best for Oliver not to be so tied down to the care of his brother.  The more he can do independently and outside the daily care routine of Bennett, the more, I believe, he will thrive. 

Sometimes, I wonder if his watching me care for Bennett day in and day out can actually cause him more anxiety.  So, I have found a "big brother" or "big sister" for him to take him out of the house regularly to do fun things I am simply unable to do with him as often as I would like.  As one of my friends mentioned, "everybody needs to be somebody's #1."  And I feel that it would be greatly beneficial for him to be somebody's #1 (outside of mom and dad).  It's easy for Bennett to be everybody's #1...he's the baby and he's sick so he needs lots of care.  So, it's harder for big brother to catch people's attention.  I hope this will help.

I was recently asked how I balance giving Oliver the attention he needs with all of the care responsibilities I have with Bennett.  I feel like I am unable to give him as much time as I would like, which is why I am delegating some of that time to dad and a "special buddy."  But more importantly, through Play Therapy, I am learning how to make the most of the time we have when I do have time.  I am learning how to be much more present with Oliver when I am with him (like staying off of the phone in his presence, trying not to multi-task when I'm with him, actually reading to him or playing with him on the floor, etc.). 

Through play therapy, I have learned how to better bond with Oliver and him with me.  So, this has made it easier for me to send him to Mom's Day Out, allow Daddy to take him or send with a babysitter for small amounts of time.  That way, Oliver knows that when we are with each other, Momma is present and paying attention.  On the flip side, when he is gone, I get very busy on other things so I can handle those things outside of his presence. 

Before I realized how important this was, I believed that as long as I was with Oliver, he would be fine.  Now, I realize that it isn't the quantity of time with Momma that is so important, it's the quality.

So, my parenting recipe for Oliver at this point is: quality time, time at "school", a "big brother/big sister" and proper care from experts keeping a watch for ways to meet his needs (Play Therapy and Occupational Therapy). 

The real confirmation that any of this is working is when my son grows up to be a happy well-adjusted fully functioning young adult.  But, for now, I think it's working well.   Oliver is very very happy these days, a huge change from where he was even two months ago.  For that, I am thankful!

One Response to “An update on Oliver”

  1. Wow! What an interesting insight! If you hadn't taken him now, maybe later in school, they would have misdiagnosed him as ADHD or something. Goes to show you, gut feelings are usually right on! That's awesome that you can take them both at the same time! Wow, I really admire your commitment to both of "the brothers".

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