Our Appointment With An Occupational Therapist

After reading all the comments I received on my blog post a few weeks ago about whether or not Hannah was just bad tempered or if she had sensory issues, I decided to take the bull by the horns and called up Kate Bailey for an appointment and could immediately see why she was the number one referral by all my friends. She was so compassionate and never once made me feel like I was being a neurotic mother so after a lengthy phone conversation, we set up an appointment for her to see Hannah yesterday.

In the interim, Kate emailed me the all the relevant parental questionnaires which I completed and emailed back to her so she could do an evaluation on paper prior to seeing Hannah yesterday. Of course, as Murphy would have it, there’s been a significant change in Hannah’s behavior and even her appearance in the last two weeks and so I started worrying that now we really were going to come off as neurotic and hysterical parents. But I needn’t have worried. Kate is amazing. She offered us so much insight into Hannah’s behavior within the 1st ten minutes of the appointment, I’m going to bullet all the info here as there is just so much:

  • Hannah does not have SPD- Sensory Processing Disorder, however, she does have Auditory Defensiveness which explains her fearful and over reaction to sudden loud noises and also her agitation when presented with noisy toys.
  • She has an over developed sympathetic nervous system so goes into flight or fight mode very easily hence her almost constant agitation.
  • She is tactile defensive on her arms.
  • She doesn’t know how to self regulate, so once she gets agitated, she doesn’t know how to calm down. This is why she bagds her fists on her stomach and also does other repetitive behaviors like rotating her wrists and ankles, its all futile attempts at self soothing.
  • Kate explained that because there is no known scientific proof of when the emotional and physiological bond between a mother & child is severed after birth, it is impossible to know the exact effects that that separation has on the new baby and that she believes the bulk of Hannah’s issues are related to issues surrounding grief, fear and abandonment.
  • She is a visually very curious child and Kate has recommended that I take Hannah to some kind of baby class as she thrives on that kind of visual interaction. She also showed us that the reason why Hannah topples over when left in a sitting position is not because she can’t sit, but because she so vivaciously swings her head around and her body around to see everything that is around her and to grab things.
  • Her heat sensitivity in her mouth seems to be a learned reaction to a bad experience, so at some point something hot has gone into her mouth and scalded it and we need to slowly desensitize her to warm in her mouth.

So our plan of action for now is to follow a Sensory Diet which includes the Wilbarger Brushing programme and also joint compression which I started doing yesterday and we’re trying to do 6 times per day for the next 6 weeks.  Amazingly, I can already see a difference with the brushing. Initially Hannah would become very agitated when I brushed her arms and already after just a couple of brushing sessions, she’s much calmer and is tolerating it much better.

Also on Kate’s advice, I headed to the Crazy Store and our local pet shop yesterday, to buy all kinds of balls and toys that Hannah can mouth and touch that have lots of nobs and different textures and I scratched out Ava’s old Hello Kitty play mat which we’re now using for Hannah in the lounge with all her toys. The tough part is that Hannah cannot be left alone for a moment as it feeds into her fear of abandonment and she immediately becomes agitated. So any time she spends on the mat she needs to have company. Kate also did some exercises with her yesterday and it was amazing to see, during just one session, Hannah has learned to do a 360 roll and to start crawling… backwards. So she is now semi mobile and able to help herself to toys when playing on the mat, by either rolling or crawling to them.

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Kate did explain that Hannah’s issues are not at all extreme and that if we address them now, they should right themselves within a matter of weeks or a couple of months but it is nothing serious and nothing worth worrying about. She also had a look at Hannah’s tongue thrust, which interestingly seems to be normalizing by itself. A couple of months ago, Hannah’s mouth was always open with her tongue protruding, that is no longer the case and her tongue thrust is much more subtle than it used to be.

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She also explained the importance of preemptive methods with Hannah because she is such a sensitive child so it’s NB that we start learning the signs of her agitation and dealing with it by immediately picking her up and using repetitive sound like humming and rocking motions to soothe her before she goes into a full melt down.  And amazingly, having Kate point out the signs during the session yesterday has really helped. We’ve not had a single melt down since then as I’ve been able to pick up that the belly beating, hand/foot rotating is a sign of an impending meltdown.

Hannah just seems calmer all round since yesterday and the session did so much for both Walter and I, it really allayed our fears and I left there with such a deep sense of love and pride in my little girl and a determination to do right by her, to handle her with love and compassion and to help her overcome.

And today my precious little bird is 6 months old, happy happy little bird, you are such a blessing to us!

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