As a mom of many, I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff. There is a balance that a parent must try to achieve, though, when the long-term well being of a child may be at stake.

For example: little Suzy wants to stay up late and catch fireflies, fine. Why not? Little Suzy’s climbed a large tree and is about to jump off? Maybe time to step in.

The balance is trying to figure out when and if we need to step in.

We faced such a time with Nora when she was four.

She was always so different from my other three children, but I always chalked it up to her being a girl. Wow, she’s talking full sentences, no, full paragraphs at age two.  Girls must talk earlier than boys.

Wow, she is literally loving that cat to death. She can’t stop petting it and carrying it everywhere. Well, girls really love animals.

But then some things were harder to explain by that rational. Wow, she has been spinning around on that playground go-round for 20 minutes and screams if I try to get her off. Must be a girl thing?!???

Wow. She just climbed to the very top of the monkey bars and jumped. If I wasn’t there to catch her surely something would have been broke. But she doesn’t care. In fact, she’s climbing it again…and jumping off… must be a girl thing? No, I don’t think so…

The eye opener happened one windy stormy night. Our porch swing was practically flying away in the wind. Nora caught sight of it out our window and went crazy. She ran outside in her pajamas and desperately tried to stop the swing from moving.

I can still see her little four year old body half flung on the swing, her little legs trying frantically to grip the porch. The wind beat torrents of rain down her face as she screamed at me, “Make it stop! Make it stop!”

“Don’t be silly. Come in and I’ll close the curtains so you won’t see it,”  I calmly stated while trying to pry her little fingers off the swing. She just screamed louder. I finally had to get a chair and unhook the swing’s chain. Only then could I get her back inside. That was a little weird, I thought.

A couple weeks later her preschool teacher stopped by. She had a problem with Nora. There was a rocking chair in the classroom, she explained. But if anyone rocked in it, Nora would rush over and make them stop. Only now it is to the point where Nora no longer plays with her friends, she spends the day guarding the rocking chair, making sure no one rocks it. The teacher was wonderful, and said she was fine getting rid of the rocker, but would I consider having Nora evaluated?

Whoa. That was a kick to the gut. I wanted Nora to be fine. I knew, though, that I had been brushing off the warning alarms going off in my head for a while. I agreed. Our family doctor referred us to a wonderful program that had Sensory Integration Therapy. I had never heard of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and must admit I was a bit skeptical at first.  I went to the local library and checked out all kinds of books on SPD. Then the blinders slowly started to come off my eyes.

Why does Nora chew her shirts until there is nothing left of the sleeves and neckline?  Because she has SPD.

When Nora is walking, why does she stop every ten feet or so to touch the ground? Because she has SPD.

Why does she sleep with so many blankets over her head that I am sure when I go to wake her up each morning that I will find her suffocated?  She has SPD.

After weeks and weeks of therapy, Nora and I were taught how to help her. We bought chew necklaces to wear for chewing.

She has leaned to do wall presses (like push-ups, but done upright against a wall) when she feels like the room is spinning.

I’ve learned to just let her have all those blankets, and now, at age 11, she still hasn’t suffocated.

SPD isn’t something we can cure. We have just learned to cope. Today Nora is a wonderful, if not shy budding artist who loves cats and has many friends.

Why does Nora have SPD? While we will never know for sure, some research has suggested a link between traumatic birth and SPD.  She was such a big baby her collarbone was broken at birth, and to make matters worse, the doctors didn’t catch it until her two week-old check up.

Bottom line, or lesson learned: trust your parenting gut. You are your child’s best advocate.

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