I've spent thousands of dollars on Occupational therapy for my son who has had Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD. I believe in Occupational Therapy and who knows where we'd be if we didn't have the OT. But I've found how to integrate it into our life, and save us some money.
My son loved OT and I know the many benefits that he received from it. But it didn't come without a struggle. Each session was $60 per half hour, or $120 an hour. I loved seeing him thrash around in the mats, swinging on the swings or spinning, running and jumping. I knew that he was getting mental benefits as well as physical and we continued the work at home by doing jumping on the trampoline, wheel barrels and crab crawls. But the money I was spending without being reimbursed started to cut into other things I wanted to do for my son. For instance, I wanted to get him allergy testing, but that $1300 for the test was something I'd have to save for, so we cut out OT.
I've made hundreds of little changes in our lifestyle over the past year and a half since I became somewhat educated about my child's needs. It truly has been a series of trying something and seeing if it worked, and trying another to see if that worked. Some days, it seems we have moved forward several steps, but then we can take several steps backwards in one day, or one giant, dramatic episode.
Here are a few things I've learned about my son. I need complete structure in the house and with his routine. He gets up at a certain time, eats, bathes and does story time every day and every night. We have to plan far in advance to do something out of the ordinary, and the whole house has to be set up to accommodate that. That means, if we have cub scouts or basketball practice, then the house has to be clean before he gets home and I will focus 100% of my time on him before he goes. If we have a play date, the date wraps up at exactly 5PM so I can get home and get dinner on the table by 6:15 and have him in the tub by 7PM. His bedtime is strictly 8:30 and there is no negotiating.
I've learned that I have to spend more time with him in the afternoon. I get all of my work and chores done during the day around my work, so when he gets home, I play with him and part of that play is his OT. He jumps on the trampoline, we box, wrestle, go hunting for treasures in the yard or go for a walk. The afternoon routine always consists of homework and exercise.
I have learned that TV and play dates with other kids are rewards. For good behavior, he can watch a cartoon. He does not get to plop down in front of the TV whenever he wants or turn on the computer. He has to do his home work and gets to play with friends if he has good and we usually plan these play dates. We do this so there is not much stimulation and there isn't a lot of chance where he can get over stimulated.
All throughout the morning and day and evening, I rub Jeremy's muscles. I scratch his back and affectionately massage his legs, arms or feet. In the bathtub I scrub him with a washcloth and he always makes sure that I get under his armpits! That wash cloth takes the place of the OT brush and the massage he gets throughout the day must help too. He doesn't seem to complain about it because I tell him we want to warm up his muscles and keep him in shape.
I have asked Jeremy to help me get in shape so we do push ups together, crab crawls and bear crawls. We race each other and we compete. In the evenings or in the mornings, I have my husband wrestle with Jeremy or have Jeremy try to push my husband over by pushing his hands against my husbands' hands. This helps with the upper body strength and is similar to wall push ups. The wrestling is good for his body as well and acts like the mats in therapy.
Bath time used to be the worst time of the day. Getting him in and out of the tub was a literal nightmare. I dreaded it for the hour before bath time. Now, I give him choices. He can stay in the tub for the whole time or he can get out and watch 15 minutes of TV. He has choices to make and it doesn't matter to me which choice he makes, it is up to him. He usually gets out the tub to watch a few minutes of TV. I have stopped screaming for him to get out of the tub. I simply give him a choice of two things: tub or TV. If he chooses to stay up for longer than he is supposed to, then he loses a play date with friends the next day. If he gets in bed on time, then he gets a special reward and I'll make a special play date for him the next day if I'm able.
We've experimented with no dairy, magnet therapy, supplements and tae kwan do. We've done allergy testing, toxin testing and are hoping to do Mind mapping in the near future. My goal is to get him off of any type of ADHD medication. We'll keep doing different therapies until we've found the magic potion of what works for him. We regularly read healing scriptures and the Psalms in the Bible.
We are on a journey together and I'm definitely not "there" but I have learned a few things along the way. I've learned that my child needs me to keep him comfortable and needs me to structure his life. I've learned that yelling isn't the answer and that building up his body is a process but it's one that is worth the effort. I've learned that putting him first above everything else has worked for me. My career is on hold. Marketing is on hold. Moving ahead with dream projects are on hold. Jeremy has my complete and full attention at the moment.
I've never worked so hard in my life. I don't even eat sugar or drink alcohol much anymore because it might affect my mood and I just don't have time to slow down. I do many of my workouts at home with hand weights, pushups and lunges because I know I need to be strong for this journey.
My son has made me into a better person. His challenges that he had early on due to a premature delivery has made us all work harder in our life. But I see a remarkable person developing right in front of me. He's smart about nutrition and exercise. He understands the value of hard work. He sees that when he eats well and exercises that people comment positively on his body. He has such in depth knowledge of historical bible characters from the cartoons, that he often shares pearls of wisdom with me from the leaders of the Bible. He understands that everyone is a little bit the same like that we all have skin, eyes and hair, and that we're all a little different, in our attitudes, beliefs and actions.
I feel honored to have a child that has had challenges in life out of the gates. He changed my attitude of entitlement to one of hard work and commitment and devotion. I would never give up the last several years of incredible struggle and learning that we've gone through. Now I know what it takes for him to have a good day. It takes muscle work, good food to feed his body, reading to him, being with him and loving him.
Sensory Processing Disorder is a situation that can cause families to be in crisis and have chaos. When the kids are whiney and uncomfortable and mom and dad aren't sleeping, the whole family life is turned upside down. There is hope though, and I hope one day I'll be able to say that all of my discoveries are things that worked over the long haul, but for right now, they seem to, and I'm going to continue to integrate our OT, healthy eating and nurturing of my son into our daily routine.
After all, I've never met another person who I thought was more worth it... than my son.
Mary Gardner, Author of "The Insiders Guide to Professional and Motivational Speaking" , is an executive Communications Consultant and Coach. She is president of Lifestyles Communications, Inc. which helps individuals communicate in the new global and virtual world. Her website is http://www.marygardner.com Sign up for a free report on Sales Tips for the Non Sales Professional at http://www.marygardner.com