Eloise Grace – 2 years old
My oldest daughter, Eloise is by far the most intelligent young child that I know. She has a memory better than mine, and she picks up on things so quickly. Her speech and language skills are phenomenal. I’m serious. She talks better than most 4 year olds! She can put together puzzles. She knows her colors and can already count to 3. She can get dressed on her own and loves to take off her diaper to hop in the bathtub. She is kind and gentle hearted, but can also be stubborn. Eloise is so independent and loves to do everything on her own!
But Eloise also has some struggles. It’s hard for Eloise to get dressed in the morning. To brush her hair. To have her diaper changed. It’s hard for Eloise to play outside or in a gymnasium with too many kids. It’s hard for Eloise to walk through parking garages. Some days it’s hard for Eloise to eat lunch or to choose what she’d like for a snack. Enjoying parades can be tough. Some days it’s hard for Eloise to even play with other children. All of these struggles led me to push to better understand what was going on with my sweet, independent young girl.
Like my nephew (Aidan – 8), Eloise has sensory processing disorder. What the heck is that? “Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction”) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks.” (spdfoundation.net) Sensory Processing disorder is technically not a diagnosis, it’s not well known, and it’s continually being researched… but I don’t intend to get into all of that. I’ve been told Eloise has “sensory issues,” and her goals in therapy are created around her sensory development. The only reason I was able to see all of these symptoms in Eloise is because I was alongside my sister when she was finding answers for her son.
What I do know is that it’s hard. It’s hard to go places… even our front yard… without Eloise having a meltdown. I use the term meltdown lightly. I’m not talking about screaming, yelling, and throwing herself on the ground kicking like a typical toddler meltdown. When I say “meltdown” I mean she’s so fearful that she’s shaking or running or crying for me to help her. She wants to escape. To disappear. To make the fear/anxety go away. The sounds of cars, kids playing, people talking too loud, echoes, etc all make Eloise extremely anxious. When she hears a car zoom by in our front yard, she runs up to the porch petrified. The sounds of car horns, fire trucks, hell even the sound of the school bus driving by. You can see the fear in her eyes. At first I thought she was just being dramatic… and then I learned she truly can not process these sounds like a typical toddler.
Using a cookie cutter to make cookie cutouts.
Sounds aren’t Eloise’s only struggle. She struggles with textures (clothes, diapers, food) and invasion of her space. Eloise has a hard time getting dressed in the mornings. She doesn’t like to have her clothes put on and off. She doesn’t like having her hair brushed and screams as though I’m putting her through so much pain. She becomes extremely anxious of the hair dryer. You never realize how easy it is to get a toddler ready… and then you have a girl like Eloise. Eloise struggles with sleeping.. falling asleep, staying asleep. She has nightmares. When children (or adults) get into her space, she responds with biting even though she has the words to express herself. Smells. Eloise is the only 2 year old I know that gags at smells. When we go to the zoo, she has a meltdown because the scents are too strong.
Sound. Touch. Smell. I could go on and on about Eloise’s struggles… lord knows there are new struggles everyday…. instead, I want to talk more about her successes. We attempted to start Occupational Therapy services to assist her in developing healthy coping skills. Due to being unhappy with one agency, we are in the process of switching her to another agency in a nearby city. Little did I know, we’d have services in our own home…. The Snyder babies!!
As I’ve mentioned before, my sister’s children are staying with us for a period of time. Aidan (8), Elsie (5), Charlotte (3), and Anisten (2) have been staying with us for 12 days now. (Yes, I’ve been counting!) The first few days were difficult for Eloise as she had to adjust to her own environment. She had to figure out how to survive with 4 extra little ones roaming around her space. She had many meltdowns – both anxiety/SPD based and typical toddler based – and she didn’t have the appropriate tools to cope with the chaos. The 4 Snyder babies became pin cushions for Eloise’s little chompers. She had a really hard time adjusting.
Eloise and Charlotte playing with the dollhouse at Main Library.
BUT… Eloise has learned more skills in the last 12 days than I feel like she ever would with mass amounts of occupational therapy. Eloise has learned how to use her words. She is getting so much better at TELLING the kids to leave her alone. “Go away, kid!” …. “I don’t like that.” ….. “It’s too loud!” She’s getting better at expressing herself in the appropriate way and not jumping straight to biting. She’s learning how to take her toys into her own space to give herself a break from the other children. She’s learning how to PLAY. Not only independently but with other children of all ages.
Before the Snyders came, Eloise wouldn’t leave my side in public places. I’d take her to the park and she’d be so scared of her own shadow that she had to hold my hand everywhere we go. Today, at McDonald’s play place, I watched her go through the playground set independently. I saw her playing with kids she didn’t know. I saw her laughing and smiling… giggling as she enjoyed her time there. She continues to struggle walking from the car into stores/restaurants, but she’s beginning to lean on Aidan to help her. She grabs Aidan’s hand and they walk together into places. It’s so crazy watching them together. They have so many similar characteristics. Some days it’s like watching twins from different stages of life.
Aidan and Eloise watching YouTube videos on the tablet.
Her vocabulary has TRIPLED in the last 12 days. She’s using full sentences and can communicate with everyone (adults and children!). She’s using her imagination. She’s reciting songs she’s heard on television shows and YouTube. She watches the other kids eat different varieties of food, and she’s become more open and willing to trying new things, too! She’s a completely different kid!!!
While SPD continues to be a struggle for us, I’m so glad Eloise had the opportunity to spend this time with her cousins and learn new skills from them. I’m so thankful that she’s being taught how to cope with her struggles through the eyes and actions of others. She has her buddy, Aidan to help her… and the other 3 to teach her how to survive. I don’t think she’d be as successful if it weren’t for this experience. Maybe a little bit of occupational therapy services combined with quality time with her cousins will do her some good. Whatever it takes to help her get through this. No matter what, I’m so proud of her. I’m so proud of how smart she is and how kind she is to others. I’m so proud to be her Mommy and to watch her grow!
Eloise put on my lipstick and wanted to make kissy faces for the camera.
At the end of this all, she is my little mini me. And for that, I couldn’t be happier.
For more information on Sensory Processing Disorder please visit http://spdfoundation.net/.