Families That Inspire: Meet Braxon
Photo courtesy of Jayne Erickson Photography
Gallery: Meet Braxon! [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
By: Kacey Reis
What made you decide to try sensory therapy?
We were introduced to sensory therapy when Braxon was diagnosed with SID (Sensory Integration Disorder) and Autistic tendencies. The woman who did his initial "screening" said that sensory wise Brax was literally "off the charts". I really did not want to use medication for many reasons, one being Braxon's age (4). I was willing to do any therapies, diet changes, and homework to develop true cognitive coping skills for Braxon. We were then referred to Robin Mills at Children's Care. After his evaluation and our discussion she thought sensory therapy was a good fit.
Why did you choose to bring Braxson’s siblings along to therapy?
Braxon has four siblings, one of which is his twin sister. Braxon's "spirit" is something we all as a family have to work with. The tantrums, isolation, and extreme mood swings can be very trying. Braxon's daily behavior at times determined what activities we are able to do as a family. I have worked very hard to help my other children understand the "differences" that Braxon experiences. I explained that most things we feel, hear, see, or experience is just "more" for Braxon, and the things he does at Children's Care help bring that to a comfortable level. I had each sibling join us for a session hoping they could see the apparent and immediate difference it creates in Braxon. Robin was great about designating an interactive "helping" job for the joining sibling. I hoped they would listen and watch how Robin interacted with Braxon and that her tone and approach with him would be an example for harder times at home. I felt they might acquire more tolerance if they were able to have a part in the therapy process.
Do you do any activities at home in addition to scheduled sensory therapy sessions?
At home I try to maintain a structured schedule for Braxon while still allowing some fluctuation. His time at home is the time I have to make each lesson count. It is a lot of "deflating behavior" followed by a lot of talking and role-playing so he can see the whole picture of the situation. We keep a calendar where we write certain things or days that are going to be different so we can be talking about them before they take place. Doing that seems to help ease the transition the change requires Braxon to make.
We will, at times, do an incentive chart. I allow Braxson to make his own choices. For instance, if he is beginning a tantrum, I will tell him he can make a good choice, stop the bad behavior, and get a star for his chart, or he can continue and not get the star. I also let him help decide what the driving incentive is. That way I know it is something he wants. The charts also give me an overview of his behavior (struggles and strengths). Than I am able to relay that to Robin, and she reinforces with her own incentives and determines what things may be best for him to do in their sessions. At different times we have also included emotion/behavior flash cards, chiropractic care, and massage therapy. We use a homemade weighted blanket and toys that are "sensory driven" toys. The tool is dependent on the day or week’s needs.
We also do pet therapy at home. Braxon is responsible for helping care for our dog, Izzy. He helps feed, water, walk, and brush her. She has a very calming effect on him. Also he deeply loves her and is very attached to her. She is sometimes his reason for choosing good behavior.
Are there any resources you would recommend?
In the beginning, I read everything I could get my hands on that explained SID. Once I felt I had a basic understanding of SID, I began to seek out other families, children, and parents that had learned to cope with cognitive skills instead of medication. I have since found a couple of blogs that I follow. These are words written by real people with a real "Braxon" in their own lives. That connection is sometimes in itself a comfort. I know that they "know." The last thing we have utilized is faith. Regardless of the "higher power" you choose, I have honestly seen Braxon at times be emotionally and physically relieved by just asking for (in our case) God's help. It is at times a way to take the pressure off of his shoulders. Behavior analysis is a constant for these kids, and I think it’s only fair that they at times are able to pass it over for even just the sleep hours or a family picnic.
What advice do you have for other parents of children with sensory challenges?
I would recommend seeking out any and all sources of information. Become educated so that when your child is struggling, you don't feel helpless and frustrated. Remember that this is actually harder on them than it is on us. We feel frustration, but they feel that and so much more. Our acceptance of them, just as they are, is so critical in beginning to set goals to achieve together. At those moments when you feel like you cannot handle it anymore, remember it is only a moment. We are exactly who they need! We are equipped or they wouldn't have been given to us. Then remember to mention that moment to your favorite OT next time you're there. Their help can change so much!