I Have Sensory Issues

by Courtney Sirotin on January 17, 2012

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Dylan has been working with a team of occupational therapists for about six months now and today it was uncovered that his “issues” may actually be my fault. Not only has he inherited his sensory issues from me but my own sensory issues are exacerbating his. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to conceive…

First of all, let me start by saying Dylan is perfect and there is absolutely nothing wrong with him. He is cunning, spirited, curious and earnest and shows a great passion for learning about the world. He also has a deep emotional aptitude. So there. (Ha ha, okay, I am a little defensive.) That said, he has had a delay in meeting a handful of developmental milestones: he only started to walk recently (at 15 months), he has yet to say many words (though he is extremely expressive in nonverbal ways!), he doesn’t sleep on his own and he has not taken to solid food.

These delays have been explained by his therapists as “sensory issues.” He hasn’t actually undergone any testing, but it seems to explain some of his behaviors (quirks?). For example, maybe he doesn’t like the way certain things feel on his hands so that’s why he doesn’t want to pick up and eat something mushy. Maybe it feels weird for him to balance on his feet so that’s why he hasn’t mastered walking yet. Maybe it’s soothing for him to nurse and stroke his mother’s belly when he’s falling asleep so he’s not willing to go to sleep on his own. Things like that.

Except…

Today during Dylan’s six month check-up with the therapist overseeing his “case” it was suggested that perhaps my continuing to breastfeed Dylan is the true culprit.

I had offered up that I was a little overwhelmed by the eventual prospect of weaning. It has been my plan to let Dylan wean on his own, at his own pace, because I don’t want to force him to give up something that he still seems to need nutritionally and emotionally before he was ready. This is called “child-led weaning” and it is a common practice and is not weird. However, I was worried about how successful this would be because I am a creature of routine and habit in many ways and I find myself offering to nurse Dylan just as much as he is asking to nurse on his own. Thus, the problem is, neither of us is moving toward weaning and, in fact, we are both actively reinforcing the breastfeeding relationship.

Well, the therapist took my concern and ran with it, noting again that Dylan seems to have inherited his sensory issues from me. (Perhaps the fact that I was maniacally kneading Play-doh while we talked was a red flag). This was not shocking or insulting to me, as I am familiar with my issues. She reasoned that nursing is a sensory issue for both of us, in that we both take great comfort from the routine of it, and since Dylan is getting a sensory need met from the process it is unlikely he will ever initiate weaning, as I was hoping. In fact, it will only become more and more important to him in time. Therefore, it is up to me to initiate weaning.

Furthermore, she thinks it is possible that many of his “delays” are a result of continuing to nurse. Perhaps he doesn’t like solids because he is never hungry enough? Maybe he doesn’t sleep on his own because he has never had to learn to “self-soothe” because I have always been exceedingly willing to nurse him back to sleep when he wakes up in the middle of the night?

Nothing she said was news to me. In fact, I have been having the same conversation with myself for many, many, many months now. I have come up with numerous grand plans for how I am going to change things, even though it’s more comfortable for me not to, in order to help Dylan become more independent. But when push comes to shove, I never make a change.

I know I started this post with a bit of sarcasm and defensiveness, but in truth, I was hoping one of his therapists would have this conversation with me sooner or later because I think I need to be held responsible to someone else, someone in “authority,” to actually make a change. I also need the guidance. She and I set a “small” goal for the week and we will take it from there. This week I am to cut out all of his feedings that are done on a whim…like when he wants to nurse in his car seat or during a diaper change…times like that. We have set aside 4-5 times during the day when it will be considered appropriate to nurse and I will try to stick to them, even if it makes Dylan a little upset. She suggested I let him fuss (aka “cry it out”) but I have never subscribed to that philosophy and I’m not going to start now. I will try to distract him instead.

Wish me luck.

(p.s. Have you ever seen a baby reject his first birthday cake? You’d think we were poisoning him!)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

JASON SIROTIN January 27, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Seeing how small he was as a baby still freaks me out. That was such a scary time for me. Hell I’m still scared. As far as the sensory issues go I think everyone has them, but when you go around seeking answers or looking for something that’s wrong with your kid the people you are paying are going to find something. It makes them feel like they are accomplishing something. It’s almost like those shows where they compare master chefs. If no one asked them to judge these delicious meals they would just say “It was great. Better than that McDonald’s hamburger I ate yesterday.” I don’t think there is one sensory thing wrong with Dylan for the record. I think he’s a little boy with a ton of energy and that’s all right with me because that’s who I am.

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COURTNEY January 28, 2012 at 1:09 am

You know I agree with you; he’s perfect. The things that make him a little different are just so…him. We just have to help him feel special if he is a little unique and not “different”. Anyway, your comment is a perfect example of why you are such a great father; you are his biggest fan. (next to me)

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