SPD & Behavior

by Letha Cantrell

Question: My Son is 5 yrs old and is in Kindergarten. He was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) in the area of communication, with an emphasis on auditory and speech when he was 4.

Before his 5th Birthday I took him for an SPD evaluation and found that he did have SPD. He currently has an IEP that encompasses OT, Speech, Social skills training and a special needs para-pro in the mornings in his school setting. He is also in private OT one day a week.

He is still exhibiting agressive behaviors at school, from hitting other children when not picked to play, to getting angry with adults when they tell him "No" or "Follow Direction". He has been written up multiple times since school started and has been in ISS more than 2 times in a week.

The school does not seem to grasp the relation between the SPD and behavior and it has been insinuated that is the discipline or lack off at home. At home and at school he has a behavior plan, but it seems that it is always changing, as far as the next behavior he exhibits. If he is not aggressive and angry he responds in uncontrollable crying and fits.

He thinks all the kids at school are against him and are always laughing and picking on him. He is really sensitive. He is above average in academics and does well. The behaviors at school are not the behaviors at home and I feel that it is due to a possible sensory overload and challenging environment.

My question is what is the next step, a child behavorial evaluation, family counseling? That would be affordable. I know a lot of care is not covered under insurance-such as our OT.

Answer: I would like to first thank you for providing so much background information as this makes it easier for me to help.

I definitely think that the sensory overload at school could be related. I would recommend requesting an IEP meeting to go over his needs in the classroom. Is it possible that a person familiar with SPD, maybe the person that diagnosed him, would be willing to attend
this meeting?

Do not sign the IEP until you are satisfied with what it says for him. Many parents don't realize they have the right to refuse signing it and then the school is required to continue having meetings until you agree and sign. Try to get special modifications for him in the classroom that perhaps his OT can recommend.

It may be giving him a special area to have to calm down with comfort objects or allowing him to wear headphones during "noisy" parts of the day. It may be for his teacher to use a picture exchange communication system to give him a visual and help him understand any verbal requests she makes.

You should also strongly emphasize the importance of a behavior plan remaining consistent for him. This is the most important aspect of any behavior plan. Then, consider reading the book Parenting with Love and Logic.

I am pasting a link for you to review it, but my son was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder with respect to vestibular dysfunction. We also had an OT evaluate him and applied the methods in this book. I like that you and the teachers can say a specific phrase, such as "Oh bummer.." or "That is so sad..." and then give a logical consequence.

For example, they may say, "That is so sad, it looks like you will have to sit out this game until you can stop hitting and sit calmly for 5 minutes." The empathy really helps avoid escalation which is common for kids with SPD when being punished and improves their ability to learn from the consequence.

You can try and look for a behaviorist in your area to help evaluate his behavior at school by going to this link Board Certified Behavior Analysts. However, you want to make sure to find one that has experience with SPD and I'm not sure how affordable this would be.

Another consideration, if it is possible in your situation, would be to homeschool. If you are able to do this, it might be a better environment for him to learn that helps to build his self esteem.

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