He was only a few months old when friends, family and even strangers began to comment that my first child Grayson, who has now just turned three, was a busy boy. In his first 18 months when I told stories of his activities and people witnessed his behaviour, the common response was ‘my child was busy too’ or ‘he’ll grow out of it’. In my heart, I was convinced that his behaviour was extreme compared to other children his age; he was more than just busy. He was army crawling all over and into cupboards at five and a half months, running at nine months old, climbing the counters and unable to sit still. He would literally run up a ramp, kick a ball, knock over a cone and push another child down all at the same time. He struggled every morning as I tried to dress him and rarely kept his clothes on throughout the day. He had zero concept of danger and no fear; he didn’t feel any pain.
Since Grayson’s birth we’ve taken part in the infant development program in our hometown of Fort St John, British Columbia. This is a program at the Child Development Centre involving monthly check ins, monitoring growth, development and health. At 19 months old we were seeing the program physiotherapist along with the infant development coordinator for Grayson’s in-toeing and hips. Grayson was running around, in and out of the ball pit, up and down the ramps and touching everything. The physiotherapist asked me if I thought he was a bit overwhelmed because he was nervous in the new surroundings with new people. I looked at my husband and began to cry. This was calm behaviour for him so I tearfully asked if there was something wrong with our child or was he just ‘busy.’ They both acknowledged my concern and the infant development coordinator set up an appointment for us the following week.
She visited us in our home, met with Grayson and watched him play. Sensory issues were discussed and we were put on a long wait list to see an occupational therapist. Like any parent would, I googled sensory processing and everything I found was related to autism. For seven months my husband and I didn’t know what was going on with our son. We didn’t know how to deal with it and the worst was we didn’t know how to help Grayson. We didn’t know if we should be correcting him for his erratic behaviour or if it was all part of this sensory processing issue. Is it his body reacting this way or is this a reason to be disciplining him? He would climb onto the counter 50 times a day, like a spring. It wasn’t something I could explain to anyone unless they were there to see him. He was crawling out of his crib at 16 months old, with a sleep sack on. He began lifting and throwing his crib mattress. We removed all of the handles off the kitchen drawers and didn’t have any dining room chairs at the table. He could still skillfully climb onto both the table and counters.
At 16 months, as his behaviour became more dangerous and impossible at times to control, we didn’t want to wait any longer. We contacted a private clinic and made an expensive appointment to have a sensory assessment done. A week before our private assessment Grayson locked myself and my new daughter in his bedroom. This was incredibly scary and it happened to be the one time I was without my cell phone. Without options and unsure of what Grayson would do alone, I had to jump out his window. I ran around the house in fear that he had already locked the deadbolts. I found him sitting in the kitchen sink playing with the water. It was terrifying but thankfully everyone was okay. I decided to share this story on a facebook wall as I often shared unbelievable Grayson stories. I knew that sharing our experiences were helping other families. Our infant development coordinator saw my post and contacted me. She agreed Grayson’s behaviour was presenting a danger and our family needed help. She was able to bump us up the waitlist and came to our home the following week with our current occupational therapist.
It felt wonderful to know we were going to have support and have someone give us insight into what Grayson might be experiencing. The occupational therapist explained things we had noticed but didn’t understand; even simple things like how he stumbles and was always running into things. Turns out he doesn’t know where he is in space; he’s not aware of his surroundings and doesn’t mean to be rough. The therapist explained how the vestibular system monitors motion, equilibrium, and spatial orientation. Things started to make sense but were heartbreaking. I realised my child was actually scared all day long. Nothing felt right to him and this is what kept him ‘busy’. We now know that Grayson’s vestibular system doesn‘t work properly and he fits under the “hyposensitivity to movement” classification. To finally get support has been life changing. I can’t image how many people raise children never understanding these conditions or having support available for their struggling child.
With new understanding, support and tools we’re seeing lasting improvements in Grayson. Wilbarger Brushing therapy was our first form of therapy and it was incredible. We brushed Grayson with a brush similar to what doctors would use to scrub into surgery. We brushed his arms, legs, back, hands and feet every 90 minutes for 10 weeks. We did joint compressions with every brushing. Within four days we noticed a difference.
A few weeks into the therapy, optimistically sensing a moment of calm, I snuck upstairs, leaving Grayson in our living room. When I got back he was sitting on the couch peacefully playing with his truck. I began to cry. This was something so simple that was so normal for other kids his age to be doing. For us this was not in our realm of normal, it was an unbelievable accomplishment. That same week I was able to get him to lay on the floor with me and take pictures, selfies. He was able to smile at his image, imitate my faces and stay still long enough to take a few photos. Of course I cried again, these were huge ‘firsts’ for Grayson. His imagination and his speech started to take off. It’s been explained to us that the back of his brain was on overload, functioning at a high speed all the time. Therefore, the front of his brain, speech, imagination and focus were all fogged. My husband and I were told that when we were growing up this would have been quickly misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
For kids with sensory issues even wearing clothes can be stressful and uncomfortable. This can be a huge battle for parents as well as the child. The more I’m learning about sensory issues the more I understand the value of brands like Peekaboo Beans playwear. Full disclosure, I am a Peekaboo Beans Play Stylist. Once I discovered the brand and Grayson’s love for it I wanted to buy all the clothes and tell everyone about it. So I became a Stylist to learn more about the products and to share that knowledge within my community. The playwear has soft, removable tags, there are no itchy pieces. Most bottoms are zipper and button free and the fabrics are chemical free, with no heavy metals or carcinogenic dyes like many other brands of kidswear. Everything meets the Oeko-Tex Standard 100, an independent testing and certification system. Stitching is flat locked and reinforced in ‘high traffic’ areas to protect against wearing out from crawling and climbing. The clothes are designed to grow with your child and they truly do. The bottom line is kids feel good and are happy to get dressed in their Beans. The pieces are so comfortable and such wonderful quality. For a child who already has so many struggles, if parents can make one daily task like getting dressed easier, that’s a huge win.
In the last six months we have seen some great improvements in Grayson. He has been communicating better and able to focus more and calm himself. We are all more educated and aware of what’s going on in his little body and mind, but our struggles are very much ongoing. Since I heard that Sensory Processing Disorder is not in the medical book of diagnosis I have made an effort to talk to other parents about Grayson and his issues. We’ve connected with some great families whose child or children have sensory processing disorder. It’s so important there is understanding around this struggle as it’s all too common. Finding resources like we have at the Child Development Centre and products like Peekaboo Beans make kids more comfortable and able to function better. They’ve helped our everyday tasks to be a bit easier and I want to share my findings with other parents. I would advise any parent who feels their child is more than just ‘busy’ and or experiencing other struggles to ask questions, do research, consult experts and share your experiences. I’m very proud that we have been huge advocates for Grayson and pushed for answers and support. We won’t stop learning, pushing and supporting our son through this. I know that we will be able to get him to a better more consistent state. Look out world – this sweet, smart, funny and crazy busy boy is going places and I’m so happy that he is mine!