I have been a part of a discussion with a group of mothers who deal with homeschooling children with SPD. It started with the question of a theory of exactly what SPD is. Is it a diagnosis independent of any other thing, or is it a symptom of something else. Is it both?
And then. THEN. The moms started coming forth with their theories as to why their children happen to have SPD. Some of them think with their children it’s probably hereditary. They have always had sensory issues themselves, it makes sense that their kids do too. Some of them started mentioning specific things that happened in their children’s development that seem to be likely causes. Things like not being able to hold their child for weeks or months due to a personal injury they had. Or their children who had to spend time in the NICU at birth and part of the course of treatment included isolation, so their child was not allowed to be touched.
Babies are not born able to integrate the sensory input they have. They have to be taught. They have to be held, snuggled, touched, cuddled, stroked, spoken to, kissed. They have to be given the input they need for their brain to learn what is good input and what is bad. There have been so many studies (some horrifying) done on this need humans have to be touched. Very often children in orphanages that are understaffed and underfunded are not touched. They’re not held. They’re left in cribs. They come out of those orphanages with severe neurological deficiencies, developmental delays. Because they are not allowed to make the connections in their brains.
Now, here, I see so many mothers buying whatever latest gadget there is to keep from holding their child. When I was researching a new bassinet I looked at the reviews for the model we had chosen. It was receiving poor ratings so we were close to not purchasing it. Until I read why. It rocks, like a cradle, but with the stability of a bassinet. It got lower ratings because it was not automatic you had to rock it. People were giving it bad reviews because it required they be by the bassinet rocking it themselves. I was amazed. Completely amazed. We have bouncy seats, swings, papasan chairs, jumpers, strollers, infant seats, rocking cradles, mats with things hanging over them to occupy the child. Who is holding our babies? Who is snuggling them? Why must our infant beds rock our children to sleep? Why can’t we?
Sit back at Mass on any given Sunday and look around you. Even think back a bit to when you had teeny tinys. What do you see? Lots and lots of infant seats. LOTS. With babies snuggled down inside. How many babies do you see against their mother’s breast? Hearing her heartbeat? Feeling her breath? Listening to her sing the wonderful music to praise and glorify Our Lord? We put our children in their seats, take the seats out of the vehicle and transfer the baby via seat to church, the store, the nursery, daycare, or to the stroller. Not once touching our children. Not once. We might wake them up, or make them want us to hold them.
We are not teaching our infants to properly integrate their sensory input. We are leaving their precious little brains to try to figure it out for themselves. And then we are surprised when as they grow they start seeing a simple touch on the shoulder or kiss on the cheek as excruciating pain.
I was not able to touch or hold my son for 5 days. He spent the first 5 days of his life without his mama or papa touching him. The only touch he received involved needles, or exams. Not a snuggle, or a kiss, or a nuzzle from those that loved him. I am torn between anger and thankfulness. My son is finally, at 4, after a full year of OT treatment able to give and receive hugs and kisses. He can sit through a dinner without incident. He can interact with other people with having a violent reaction to the sound of their breathing. He can have a bath without screaming in pain from the sound of the water in the bathroom. I firmly believe that we struggled with those things because of that 5 days.
It’s nice to know that others feel the same way. That this mom’s theory isn’t not a lone theory in the sea of diagnosis.
I no longer use my infant seat as anything other than a car seat. My babies are in my arms, where they belong.