Mmm, Mmm, Good!
We cooked up a “sensory diet” for my daughter, who has ADHD and SPD,
to help her focus and succeed at school. BY JENNIFER GAY SUMMERS
EACH SCHOOL MORNING, I GET into the car at 7: 35, take a deep breath, and wait. Just when my
mind sees the word tardy, scrawled
angry and red, Lee bursts out of the
house with her rolling backpack in tow,
its wheels flying off the ground, clutching her boots and jacket. She heaves her
backpack into the trunk and yanks open
the car door, punching on the radio and
popping in a piece of gum. It is now 7: 40,
and she will make it to school on time...
I marvel that my daughter gets ready
and leaves for school in 20 minutes flat.
She is a high school junior, and has
learned to cut corners: skipping breakfast and taking baths at night, so she can
sprint the fast lap into school. It’s her
responsibility, so I step back and watch,
a spectator at the track.
SPD and School
Getting Lee to school has been one of my
hardest jobs as a mother. Preschool
wasn’t so bad, with Tinker Bell and
Indiana Jones costumes, art easels with
butcher paper, and rainbows of paint.
But then came kindergarten, with its big
interlocking mat of alphabet squares and
the teacher’s command to sit in one
square and be still while she talked. Lee
decided she’d rather stay home.
“I don’t want to go to school!” Lee
screamed, as I tried to get her out of bed.
“Wake up, Honey” turned into “Now,
Honey,” which turned into “Blanket
ride!” Her protests turned into laughter
as I resorted to my inner cavewoman,
tugging her behind me on her blanket. I
set my alarm for 5: 30 a.m. to leave the
house at 8:00 a.m.
But getting to school was nothing
compared to being in school. In first
grade, the teacher asked how much is
2+2, and Lee’s big brown eyes drifted off
the page and outside the window to the
trees with the branches that looked like
gnarled monster arms. She’d grab a pencil to draw them, and miss the math lesson, falling behind the rest of the class.
After school, Lee was fine as long as
she was chasing lizards and climbing
trees, but the minute I said the word
“homework,” she’d head to the couch
and bang her head against the cush-ions…again and again.
My husband and I sought help from a
child psychologist, who gave us a diagnosis of ADHD and recommended a visit
to a neurologist for medication counseling. Desperate to help Lee, we decided
to go. The neurologist underlined “HD”
in ADHD as Lee darted around her office,
touching every one of the many figurines
on the shelves. Medication was strongly
recommended, and she added that Lee
might have Sensory Processing Disorder
(SPD), which often occurs with ADHD.
She explained that a child with SPD has
trouble processing sensory information
correctly, which creates problems at
school. Occupational therapy could help
alleviate the problems.
OT to the Rescue
The occupational therapy classroom
looked like a glorified playground, complete with a ball pit, swings with har-nesses, and trampolines. As Lee raced
into the ball pit and threw herself
around, the occupational therapist gave
us Lee’s diagnosis. Lee had SPD and was