Friday, February 4, 2011

Sensory Processing Disorder

Today I picked up Stella from her pre-school, Adath Jeshurun, and took her directly to Hear Here for Little Ears, a place in Louisville where they test, as the name indicates, hearing for children. It is paid for by the state of Kentucky, and is something we needed to do to ensure that Stella's developmental delays/issues are not related to her hearing.

(Wait, did he say developmental delays? I did. I will get into that more as the entry progresses.)

We were tested by a friendly woman named Shelley Moats. We were supposed to meet up with her about two weeks ago but had to cancel because there was a pretty severe snow storm, which in Kentucky means it came up to about my ankles. It's not so much the roads I worry about here, it's the other drivers. There's a little ice and they totally lose it.

The process was fairly painless (other than the truly awful cup of pod-coffee I had in the office: caramel mocha? Ugh, something like that); Stella sat in my lap while they put a foam covered tube into her ear to test the makeup of the canal. Both sides were perfect. Then we went into a small room with a doctoral student and Shelley piped in sounds from a control booth. When the sound would come from the left and Stella turned appropriately a picture of Minnie Mouse would flash. When it came from the right Winnie the Pooh would flash. Occasionally, for no reason I could discern, a middle picture of Tigger would light up too. Stella was a great little trooper through it all, even during the part where they put the tube in her ear. She hates having things put in her ear, she's very sensitive about it.

Before going in I had a nice conversation with the receptionist, a pleasant woman who also has a three year old. She called me Mr. Serchuk, which took me a moment to deal with. ("Dude, Mr. Serchuk's my dad!") Then she asked probably one of the stranger questions I've heard in some time.

"In New York are the Starbucks faster than they are here?"

I had to think about it. I am not a great drinker of coffee, despite risking it with the caramel pod above, and when I do I avoid Starbucks. Not for anti-corporate reasons. But for taste reasons. I think their brew is unremittingly bitter, with the added bonus of being expensive too.

Still, it was an interesting question. I would have to imagine that virtually everything in New York is faster than here in Louisville, but it's also much more crowded, right? So that's how I answered. If there isn't real traffic, I said, the New York Starbucks would have to be faster. My memories of Starbucks, in fact, are of them kind of joylessly shoving a hot cup of liquid tar my way, more or less with some alacrity. And that's what I told her.

"Because here, it just takes them so long to make the actual coffee," she said. They just keep talking her ear off, when all she wants is some joe. That's the South for you, I suppose. I really don't know. As a guy who spends 85% of his time in his apartment I don't really meet to many people during the day. But when I do they seem thoroughly decent. And friendly.

Anyway, back to the hearing test. Stella, it turns out, has great hearing. A bit better than average. This was great to know, but it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. As I've documented in this blog at some length back when she was a toddler the problem was that she heard all too well. When we would try to get her down for a nap or, heaven forbid, some actual sleep it would take just the slightest sound, the merest crack of the floor or creak of the lead-paint covered door to jolt her awake, wherein she would then proceed to stay awake for hours on end. So hearing, yeah, not such an issue with this one.

The issue, though, is why she was so sensitive to sound in the first place. Because we expected to stay away for the first several months without sleep. We didn't expect to have a child who seemed completely shocked and pained by the sheer volume and rawness of the world. Who cried from exasperation all day and all night for weeks, neigh, months. It was expected that she would cry, all babies do, thank god. But this, this, was something else. It was, we have only recently come to know, because Stella was afflicted by something called Sensory Processing Disorder. Which I had never heard of until we finally had her examined by a series of therapists within the past two months.

Once we learned what this disorder is it all started to make sense, all of it. The extreme crankiness that had no cure, and went on for over a year. The sleep that virtually never came for 18 months. The fact that she hated being swaddled, hates loud sounds, hates even being touched or held. We felt so alone, for so long, we thought this was just stuff that we had to deal with, that this was simply what having a kid is all about, only worse. Other parents simply couldn't relate. We'd hear advice that worked wonders for their kid, and it would never do anything for us. We'd hear about letting her cry it out, how there are choices you make about how to train your kid. None of this ever worked for us. And why? SPD.

Now, the question. What is Sensory Processing Disorder, and how did we know Stella had it? That is a question for the next blog entry.


Amanda said...

Wow, that is very interesting. It must be frustrating to realize your daughter has this, but did you feel some sense of relief because you finally knew why she does the things she does?

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear hearing fine though and know several parents w/ kids who received this diagnosis at her age. Kiddos all fine; be interested to read your next post. Nice to see your name in L'ville Mag. Christine

Holly said...

Glad to see you're back blogging. I had read Randi's blog, so I knew about the SPD, but it's always great to hear your take on each situation you encounter. I wish you all the best of luck with this. I don't have any experience with SPD, so I have nothing to add. But I am positive that everything will work out well for Stella. She's a wonderful little girl with great parents.

David Serchuk said...

Hi All,
Great hearing from you and thanks for reading. Anon, do I know you?

And, yes, it was a relief to at least have an idea of why she never slept and it was so very tough.