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The Impossible Child - Page 8


Because we assume that these children are neurologically and physiologically capable of doing what we ask them to do, we may describe them as inattentive, hyperactive or clumsy and complain that they are stubborn, angry or oppositional. In fact, they are all of those things--but for a reason. That reason is faulty sensory processing. Sensory integrative dysfunction is not a diagnosis like AD/HD, which is merely a list of symptoms that can be identified reliably. Rather, it is a conceptual framework for understanding what is causing some of the symptoms on that list (and others).

I was flooded with sadness and relief as I listened to Rebecca's descriptions of Evan. Through her eyes, I saw a boy who couldn't-- absolutely couldn't --stop thinking about the seam of his sock, or the waistband of his underwear or the tag on the back of his shirt. A boy who didn't yet button his pants, zip his jacket or fasten his seatbelt because he wasn't able to determine which of his fingers were touching the things he was handling. A boy who constantly made noise in order to screen out noise. A boy who had to bump into things or keep moving in order to maintain his balance. A boy who felt under attack by his skin, by smells, by noises. By his friends. By his father. By me. No wonder he was pushing back. His body was in a constant state of alert--and he was putting out tremendous effort just to get through each day.

It was the first explanation of Evan's behavior that made sense.

We quickly learned to recognize the obvious examples of sensory interference in his life. His consistent, adamant refusal to hug his grandparents because of his fear of losing his balance and the confusion and discomfort that light pressure on his skin created. His extreme reaction to the least little bump, scrape or cut. With Rebecca's guidance, we learned to detect the more subtle clues: the times he was driven under the dining room table by the smell of a fish stew, collard greens or even fresh bay leaves. The severe meltdown following a friend's crowded, noisy birthday party. The way he avoided schoolwork that involved tracing or writing because he couldn't discriminate between his fingers and couldn't control a pencil.

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