Well, now. I am, once again, embarrassed to have to inform you that I
have just learned about yet one more malady which I had never heard of,
the other one being
Puberty,” about which I have already written. My latest revelation concerns (drum roll and cymbal clash, please) “Sensory Integration Dysfunction.”
I learned about SID on a recent ABC “20/20″ program which began by telling us that this is “a bizarre problem” afflicting “some young children.” And “bizarre” this “problem” is with the program’s intro reporting that SID causes these children to “scream in pain” even when the contact with their mothers is “gentle.” But, do not despair. Because, we are assured, the lives of those with this “strange disorder” — these “little patients” — can be changed by (you guessed it) “amazing therapy.”
We begin by seeing a child “actually hurt” by the sound of his mom running a vacuum cleaner. “Turn it off,” the child pleads. Even Mom’s “loving caress” causes the child to say: “Don’t touch me like that.” The mom says she’s sorry.
ABC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman says all this seems like “more than a battle of wills.” She notes that even the simplest things would set the child off, like wiping his face. We see the child saying: “Let go of me.” Why even combing his hair causes the child to exclaim: “Don’t! You’re hurting me with that.” And putting socks on the child makes him say: “Ow!”
When the doc asks if the mom ever thought that she just had “a bratty kid” on her hands, mom says, “There were times when I couldn’t — I couldn’t understand how upset he could get. It didn’t seem just behavioral to me. It seemed something else was going on.”
Well, the doc says, there was something else going on. After years (!) of searching for answers, the child was diagnosed as having SID. His parents were told he had extreme reactions because he was “overly sensitive to sensation.”
Now, we see another doc, Dr. Lucy Miller of the Denver Children’s Hospital, an “expert” on SID. She tells us that children with SID “cannot deal with sensation. They cannot process sensation correctly.” At this point, we see the child one more time saying, “I told you not to touch me. Don’t even touch my shirt.”
Hmmmmm. “Don’t even touch my shirt,” eh? Have we, perhaps, seen here the birth of a new “bizarre problem” — call it SISD, “Sensory Integration Shirt Dysfunction”?
After this shirt incident, Dr. Snyderman notes that she saw “anger on the surface,” regarding this child. To which Dr. Miller replies: “It looks like anger. It’s really protect, alarm, it’s danger. His nervous system is saying, ‘This hurts. This hurts me.’”
OK. Then Dr. Snyderman says, “Almost everyone has some sensitivity to sensation.” Brilliant! Absolutely unassailable! In fact, I’d go further — though I am not a doctor. I’d say that everyone has some sensitivity to sensation — unless, of course, they are dead.
Dr. Snyderman continues pointing out that some folks may hate crowds, or the smell of perfume may nauseate them. I would add: Or some may even be nauseated by programs like this. At the end of this sound-bite, Doc S. admits, “Little is understood about sensory dysfunction, but Miller and her research team are beginning to unravel this mystery.”
Now, the “amazing therapy”: We’re told that SID-afflicted kids like the one we’ve seen “are wired up to measure their reactions to a variety of sensations.” Why such kids are not overly sensitive to this wiring up, and, evidently, don’t scream and yell when the wires are attached, we are not told.
In any event, Doc S. tells us that Doc Miller has found that children with SID “not only respond more strongly to stimuli like touch and sound, they feel bombarded by the sensation.” Well, duh! This is what’s known as a tautology, which means saying the same thing twice but in different words.
Doc S. tells us that this child’s brain doesn’t have “a mechanism … that automatically screens out things you don’t need to know about,” like a normal person. Thus, the child’s brain “doesn’t screen out sensation that way.” The child’s mom says this piece of information was just what they were looking for “to kind of connect all the dots together.” She says this info also opened her eyes to the fact that her son lives in “a different kind of world” than the one lived in by herself and her husband.
As if all of this wasn’t sufficient, see another SID victim, a young girl screaming “No, no! Don’t! Don’t! No. Not soap, not soap!” when her Mom tries to wash her hair. Doc S. says this child’s head “is extremely sensitive to touch, and she finds the sound of running water painful. She’s also petrified by the size and feel of a bathtub.” Yikes! Could this be yet one more “strange disorder” being discovered before our very eyes — call it, perhaps, “Runningwaterbathtubphobia”?
Doc Snyder, in a rare moment of lucidity, says there are undoubtedly people watching who are saying, “Get a life. Why don’t you just grab that kid and put her in the bathtub?” Nice try. But, the mom says this “wouldn’t work,” that her daughter would “just completely lose it.” Oh, and this daughter also “screams when her brother plays the fiddle” — though I’m not sure this is a problem until I know how good or bad the brother plays this fiddle, something we are not told.
And, sorry, I almost forgot, it is said to be “an ordeal” when this daughter has her toenails clipped. And school is said to be “difficult” for her, and she “plays alone” on the playground because there’s noise and all the kids running around can be “overwhelming.”
Her mom says her daughter has said: “Mom, my brain just doesn’t work like other children’s brains do.” Doc Miller says that if we can find such kids early enough then “we can prevent them from losing self-esteem.” Doc S. adds: “There is treatment.”
We see more “treatment.” It’s in a place that looks like an indoor playground where “specially trained occupational therapists” challenge kids “to confront the sensations they fear.” Because the just-mentioned daughter is sensitive to sound, “she’s encouraged to blow a toy whistle as loud as she can while she swings, an activity that calms her.” Huh? But, why? Why wouldn’t a sound-sensitive kid “lose it” when she blows a whistle “as loud as she can”? This makes no — well — sense.
And to cope with this young girl’s sensitivity to touch, “the therapist strokes her arms with brushes and gently coaxes her to get into a tub filled with plastic balls.” Plastic balls? Yep, plastic balls.
Doc Miller explains: “Her brain inside is saying, ‘Don’t move, don’t move. This is a threat, this is dangerous, back off.’ But at the same time, she sees all these beautiful balls, and they look like so much fun she wants to jump in, so the motivation to play is greater than the fear that she feels from tactile stimulation.”
All clear now? Of course not. Indeed, Doc S. says that while all of this “is not a cure, some experts speculate that therapy may change the way the brain experiences sensations, like sound and touch, so that in time the child begins to respond in a more normal way.”
This report (finally!) concludes with Doc S. telling us that the first SID victim mentioned has “completely” gotten his “quality of life back” from “therapy.” And a co-host of this program, John Stossel, tells us, “Of course, not every child with behavior problems has this disorder, so it’s important to get a good diagnosis.”
OK. So, let me give you a good diagnosis. I have three children, who are no longer children, and six grandchildren — three boys, three girls. And none of these kids, when kids, ever wanted to do what they didn’t want to do!
God tells us, in Proverbs 22:15, that “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Children are not naturally good, nor naturally obedient. They are — dare I say it? — sinners.
When you are a child, not wanting to bathe, have your hair washed, toenails clipped or, on occasion, even be touched, are not “disorders” requiring “therapy.” These things are all misbehavior, disobedience. They require, first, verbal admonishment, telling the child he or she must do what you as the parent says. If this admonishment is ignored, corporal punishment (“the rod of correction”) must be applied. But, please, no shrinks, no plastic balls. As a parent, be sure that the brain that isn’t working is not your own.