Sensory Processing Disorder is something I am still learning about, six years after we begun the journey of our diagnosis of Autism. My youngest boy, now 12, has always had sensory issues with his feet. It begun with needing socks and shoes to be tight. It meant having to replace shoes up to eight times a year due to them having to be tied up tight so they felt right on his feet. The past three years have not been so demanding in terms of sensory feet difficulties.
It now seems that puberty is approaching and this means hormonal surges. No surprises there, I can hear many of you say. That is true! What I am totally unprepared for is the effect it is having on his sensory system. My boy has spent more days at home than at school recently as getting socks and shoes on his feet has resulted in two hour meltdowns. It has been distressing to see him so upset and hitting his feet, saying his feet are stupid and that his feet don’t want him to even have fun at soccer. Two hours at a time when the need to wear socks and shoes arises. As we are currently in a school term, the meltdown was happening day after day. I watched as he pulled his socks so tight they crunched his toes. I watched as he put his shoes on and then took them off and threw them across the room as his feet didn’t feel right. I tried to tie his shoes tight to help him. I purchased sensory socks, to no avail. I took him to the Occupational Therapist who suggested therapeutic brushing of his feet. Will follow up in two weeks. We went to the podiatrist to see if he had any wisdom or insight to share. He suggested trying barefoot runners as he needs the feel of bare feet to help him ground and center. He is seeking feedback from his feet hence the need for such a tight fit. I thought to myself “that makes sense”. We went shoe shopping, again to no avail. A controlled meltdown occurred in store and the fact the he was about to get his first pair of Nike brand shoes did not persuade him in anyway to conform to my requests or suggestions. He only wanted to go home as his feet were stupid! Next week we return to the Occupational Therapist to see what happens next.
The podiatrist has suggested a mini trampoline for bouncing and providing frequent feedback for his feet – brain connection. A meeting at his school has resulted in him either wearing slippers or joggers to class depending on how he is coping each day. Learning support are also providing him with lesson work in the learning support area when he cannot attend class. The school want to see him continue to engage in school and participate as he has transitioned so well to high school.
But how long will this last? When will his sensory system allow him to continue as before? When will he happily get both socks and shoes on his feet? When will the hormonal chaos of puberty settle enough to make his days at school happy again?