When SPD Kids Get Sick by Michelle

All parents dread this time of year, when children far and wide transform into SPDs: Seasonal Plague Dispersal units.

In the shiny imaginary world of stereotypes perpetuated by childless mad men, little Johnny sniffles politely into a tissue while his pearled and pumped mommy hovers nearby with homemade chicken soup.

Somehow, I don't think that's how it goes down in even the most picture perfect neuro typical families.  It certainly isn't how it goes down when the plague infested child in question has Sensory Processing Disorder.

I've heard a lot of moms say it's kind of nice when their kids are under the weather.  When the average NT kiddo doesn't feel well, they tend to be... subdued. Snuggly. Quiet.

Jaimee over at Our Life With SPD summed it up perfectly with this post, in which she posed the question "Is that what it's like in a normal house?"

I know that's not what it's like at ours.

When Bear gets sick, that first day or so is like the calm before the storm.  With first post-diagnosis illness I got all cocky - totally deluded that his mellow behavior was the result of mommy's awesome sensory diet - and then the snot hits the fan.

That was when I learned that a day or so of him coming down sick is a day or so of him refusing to participate in his insanely strenuous regimen of high intensity vestibular and proprioceptive activities.  The inability to participate is understandably worse when he's fully sick.  I've since learned to do my best to compensate - extra deep pressure hugs and massages and the like - but it will never be enough for my little seeker.

In addition to illness impacting his sensory diet, there's the nasty sensory experience of being sick in general that throws him for an additional loop. I got him to blow his nose a grand total of ONCE. Last year.  Apparently the sensation thoroughly freaked him out, because to date we have not been able to convince him to try again.  He runs and hides when he sees us reach for kleenex.  (Consequently, I have to change his shirt a lot when he's sick.)

The first time he got really sick after his diagnosis, there was this a-ha moment.  A few days in he was an incoherent, disorganized, short circuiting mess and it hit me hard that it was the way he had ALWAYS been... before.  Before neurologists and OTs and sensory diets.  I vividly remember saying to my frustrated husband "This isn't him.  This is his disorder taking control of him."  It was the first time I really, truly got it.  

For me, it was concrete proof that my baby's disorder was a tangible thing. And that the things all these new people in our life were telling me to do with him were actually having an effect.  And an object lesson in what happens when I let those things slide, even for a couple of days.

A very sick me snuggling a very sick Bear
just before his first urgent care visit
So, yeah.  It's really hard when the SPD clashes with the plague.  Some of them get quiet before exploding (like mine), and some of them start exploding as a kind of plague early warning system.  Many an SPD parent has vented about these challenges.

But so far, I haven't heard anyone talking about the second half of the equation - what happens when YOU get the bug your little darling's been incubating?

Due to a health condition, my immune system isn't what it ought to be.  Which means I'm typically crashing and burning from the virus o' the month about the time Bear is starting to feel better... and is in dire need of a huge amount of extra sensory input to make up for lost time.

I'm talking hour long trampoline sessions, spinning until I'm ready to puke just watching, crashing into anything that doesn't move (and a good number of things that do), and every last bit of heavy work your imagination can scrape together.  All, of course, while clawing at my face/hand/arm/fingers/clothes screeching "Do it wis meeee, mama! Do it wis me!"

My own sensory issues tend towards raging oversensitivity.  I've always wondered how people could walk and talk and think and omg go to the gym and work out with a cold.  It's only now that I'm learning about SPD that I get it.  Apparently when the average person has a little cold, they don't feel an overwhelming need to claw their eyes out and then climb out of their skin through the new exit.  Or tear open their sinuses with the nearest sharp implement, because that would suck less than the drippy tickling sensation of a runny nose.

So, my new normal is that when I need a NyQuil nap, Bear's sensory needs are at their most demanding.  Tap dancing through a day with a recovering Bear takes energy and focus and patience and a mile long list of activity ideas and more patience and foresight than a whole gaggle of therapists could likely muster to navigate the transition mine field. 

After which I am mentally and emotionally drained. Still sick.  And have accomplished little more than bringing him back to his baseline, which still takes everything I've got to maintain when I'm at my shiniest.

I got my flu shot a couple of weeks ago.  And Bear got his.  Fingers crossed...



Penny said...

Sensory cravings increase several days prior to my child's illness; can predict illness coming due to the sensory cravings.

I'm surprised you chose to get flu shots - were you able to find mercury free? Mercury can affect the senses in a big way.

Itsy Bitsy Spider said...

Ack! I SO feel for you! I also have an immune disease and when my little one gets sick it's only a matter of hours before the same thing shows up for me!

Lucky for me, my husband is a very kind, tolerant man. His bedside manner leaves much to be desired... but he is totally there for us when the little one and I get sick.

Thanks for this post. It's really heartening to know that we're not all alone in this!

Patty O. said...

Oh, boy, so much of this sounds familiar. Except the day before sickness, Danny tends to be a super emotional mess, who is crabby and more unreasonable than normal. Then, he'll get sick. The problem with him, though, is that he doesn't feel pain the normal way, so he rarely slows down, even when he's sick. The few times he has been lethargic when sick, we were really, really concerned, since it doesn't normally happen. But, he still feels crappy, so he's bugging his sister (who is probably sick too because she picks up every single germ he brings home) and is just overall monstrous.

Thankfully, he rarely gets sick. Knock on wood. Luckily, he has inherited my immune system--I typically don't get sick enough to stay in bed. Just a migraine or cold here and there. Thank goodness! because these kids wouldn't let me recover if I were sick.

Midlife Army Wife said...

I feel for you! Not too long ago our SPD kiddo was sick and throwing up all day. The pain, the taste in her mouth - it was almost more than she could handle! Even worse because our foster baby and I were both sick too. We were a mess. Our daughter goes back and forth when she's sick - either can't move and wants to cuddle (which I gladly take because she *never* wants to cuddle), or she's bouncing off the walls trying to convince me she's "fine" right before she barfs again.

Heather said...

When my SPD kiddo was younger, she was sooooo underresponsive (and thus, soooooo sensory seeking) that she never could sense that she was about to throw up or was throwing up. So, she'd barf and be completely unaware and keep on sleeping or playing or whatever. Not bothered in the least unless it got on her and then she was all "ew messy" - ya think?

It was actually a moment of pure joy the night she finally woke us up with the words parents don't usually want to hear "I think I'm going to throw up!" Gradually, the window of time between her body warning her and the actual barfing has increased to the point where the barf usually makes it into the toilet or barf bucket and not all over her. Hooray!

(This is after 4 years of OT, of course - and they say SPD isn't real, heh.)