Sunday, December 4, 2011

SPD: Motor Sensory Seeking

This past Friday I finally bucked up and got an occupational therapy [OT] evaluation for Ellie seeing as we are never going to get OT through Early Childhood.  Here is the conclusion: Ellie has sensory issues.  Really?  For real?  No way!  Shocking! I had no idea!

Sorry about that.  It is good to know that all of Ellie's therapists (minus Early Childhood) and doctors have come to the same consensus and are on the same page. Yes, my daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder.  In explaining SPD, I frequently state that Ellie Bear has extensive oral cravings (i.e. mouthing objects) and motor sensory seeking behaviors.

What do I mean by motor sensory seeking?  Well, it is complicated.  I am not even sure if I can fully explain it or if I even understand it completely myself.  Perhaps the best thing to do is picture a pinball machine.  Ellie is the ball.

When she is in full blown sensory mode, Ellie is like a pinball bouncing around the machine, hitting all of the different barriers.  At home (or at a park or in a doctor's office), Ellie flits from one area of the room to the next.  She frequently climbs up on objects-chairs, stools, exam tables, doors, etc.  She has a look of confusion about her and most importantly, the movement is purposeless.  It is almost like she had been shot of a cannon and is ricocheting about the room or park.  I am not sure if that makes sense.

She's a pinball wizard. 

Consider this:

Ellie goes to the bookshelf and throws all the books off of the shelf. She then runs across the room to the dresser, opens the drawers, and removes all the clothing.  The then climbs onto the glider chair and then climbs off.  She runs back to the bookshelf while stepping on the books.  She then runs to the crib and shakes the rails.  Then she tries to scale the rails of the crib, thus giving mama bear a heart attack.  Ellie runs back across the room to the toy box and throws every single toy out of the box without playing with any of items.  She runs to the little table and chairs and climbs on top of table.   She does all of this in less than 5 minutes.  She is a mini cyclone of destruction.


Ellie goes to the book shelf and removes books one by one until she finds the book she wants.  She climbs the glider chair and "reads" the book.  After reading, Ellie slides off the chair, runs to bookshelf where she removes more books one by one until she finds the next book she wants to read.  Repeat with climbing into the glider chair.  She then runs to the crib where she reaches through the rails for her stuffed dog and blanket.  She then runs to the little table where she places the dog on top of the table.  She turns to the toy box and methodologically removes toys and plays with the ones of interest to her.  When she is done with the toy, she places it back into the toy box (I know, right?  The Bear knows how to clean up after herself!).

The first scenario offers a snapshot of Ellie having a "bad" sensory motor moment.  The second scenario shows that Ellie, while going from one thing to the next, is behaving with a purpose (reading & playing).

Here, let me help you knock that down.

Anyway, I do not know if that makes any sense at all, but I have learned that a "Sensory Diet" is very important.  Currently our sensory diet not only includes heavy work with weighted backpack or pushing a weighted-down baby stroller, but also giving Ellie opportunities to climb, bounce, or swing.  Before big outings such as therapy, doctor's appointments, sitting in a restaurant, or shopping, I take Ellie to a park or an indoor playscape such as Chik-Fil-A or The Big Bounce.  Providing Ellie with these brief moments (sometimes only 10 minutes is enough) of running, bouncing and climbing typically helps ensure that grocery shopping will be manageable and that we can sit down at a restaurant without Ellie escaping from the highchair and climbing onto the table (hey, it has happened before. . . more than once and yes, I did laugh because it was sort of funny).



  1. Your description was right on. I have a friend whose mom went to school every day to go with her son to the gym (this was 20 years ago). He would run nonstop like a madman for 15-25 minutes so he could sit through school. He had the same reaction to red colored food additives.

    I hope it helps Ellie!!!

  2. Makes perfect sense. Your first scenario made me tired just reading it ; )

  3. I'm sure you've mentioned this before and I've just missed it, or you've already found it, but I just found this yesterday: Great stuff! I've passed it along to several people already that have kids with SPD. Sammi's starting sensory OT next week, which should be very, very interesting.

    Btw, I left you a comment on my blog about your question regarding the big girl bed...


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