At the age of four months my daughter was adopted and I became the mom of a beautiful girl. Like most new moms, I had no clue what I was doing, and my daughter’s constant discomfort was making me feel increasingly unsure of myself. She was stiff, disinterested in cuddling, had terrible reflux, and was already missing milestones. I started reading, sure that all the changes she had gone through were the culprit to her unhappiness. I was sure that if I could figure out ways to help her through the transition she would warm up to me and get on track with development.
As we bonded, she continued growing and eventually hitting milestones 4-6 months behind schedule. Her pediatrician was not concerned and reassured me that all babies develop differently. I wasn’t so sure. My interactions with my baby were not like the ones I saw on social media or at daycare. Was I doing something wrong? She was stiff to hold. She wasn’t interested in food and still wouldn’t hold her own bottle. She seemed like she was in a fog. Her differences were minor, but together, they were adding up and weighing on me. I kept reading anything and everything about delayed milestones with a feeling of uncertainty.
One day I dropped her off at daycare and I turned back to watch. Our daycare drop-offs were always easy. She didn’t cling to me like the other babies did to their mommies. I watched through the door as they placed her at the table with the other almost 1-year old babies who were feeding themselves cheerios and babbling with each other. They moved her to a seat with the wall behind her and my heart dropped, because I knew why. Almost as soon as she was seated she began rocking hard in her chair, staring at the table in front of her. She made no effort to reach for a cheerio. She had no interest in babbling or even looking at her peers. She rocked harder and harder until one of the teachers had to go stand near her and place her hand behind her head. It was in that moment that I knew: my kid was different.
My heart sunk deeper as I walked to my car and cried a big ugly cry. I felt alone, lost and overwhelmingly sad in that moment. The tears fell heavy and hard. After I dried my eyes, I called a friend who had gone through a similar situation, and she told me what to do. I called the pediatrician and demanded a referral to the early intervention program. I took my daughter for a hearing test and an electroencephalogram (eeg) and scheduled an evaluation.
She was immediately approved for speech therapy, followed by occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and eventually physical therapy. She was testing as high-risk for autism on the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), but her neurologist wasn’t convinced that she had autism. Her Occupational Therapist then told me about a sensory diet. If you’re wondering if you are the only one who thought that a sensory diet had something to do with food, you aren’t. I had previously never heard of sensory diets and sensory seekers/avoiders, vestibular input and proprioceptive input. These were all new concepts to me and my head was spinning.
I spent nights lying awake and digging through the Internet to find information about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). I struggled to wrap my head around what this meant and how it would affect my daughter The information I found was scattered and not always accurate. My daughter is now 3.5 years old, and I continue to learn and research ways to help her. There is no cure for SPD, but there are resources and support available. I have found success with a new sensory play game and support in the words written by other bloggers. I have laughed and cried alongside strangers in Facebook groups because I can relate so deeply to what they share. Similarly, I have celebrated achievements and late milestones of those I have never met, because I know how good it feels to see something happen that you were once told may not be a possibility. Our experiences may be different, but we can all find common ground in our journey for knowledge and understanding of Sensory Processing Disorder.