My boy is happy, happier than I’ve ever seen him, and my heart could burst.
From the moment he was born, JJ seemed to be uncomfortable in his own skin. For the first year of his life, he screeched with the wail of a dying animal. Doctors diagnosed him with colic and reflux. When he cried, he screamed as if her were being stabbed. For all I know, that’s how he felt. We gave him omeprazole and special formula. We brought him to specialists, but nobody could really help. He only seemed at peace was when he was burrowed at the bottom of a sling around my husband’s or my neck or when we lulled him with hundreds of deep (deep) knee-bends.
Once the reflux stopped, the ear infections began. One after another. After another. Antibiotics helped, but the infections always came back. JJ got tubes when he was two.
My husband and I then waited for JJ’s happiness to set in. His medical issues had passed, so we waited to see a happy boy.
Although JJ did have fun and loved to play outdoors, he seemed frustrated and inconsolable a lot of the time. Therapists determined that he qualified for Early Intervention since he exhibited sensory-seeking behavior, meaning he needed frequent stimuli to feel relaxed. Whereas many of us feel overwhelmed by too much movement/texture/noise, these are the things that relax JJ. With the therapists’ recommendations, we began a sensory program for him. We gave him things to suck on and bins of beans to run his hands through. We had him push big weights across the floor and lean and against the wall. When he got upset, we wrapped him in a yoga mat and squeezed him. Compression calmed him down. We lived in an urban environment without a lot of space. He craved physical activity, so we brought him to the park most every day where, like a puppy, he bounded endlessly across the fields. But we couldn’t always be outside; we had dinner to cook and chores to do. When we left the park and returned to our house with its tiny yard, he was once again, out of sorts.
What could we do to help our boy feel happy? We were running out of ideas, and he was getting more and more fidgety and agitated with his time in the house.
As time passed, my husband and I decided it was time for us to move to more of a country setting. We wanted to be closer to the ocean, and we wanted to have more land. We wanted these things for ourselves, but we thought, maybe by a long shot, that these might be good for JJ, too. We moved two months ago, and here is what we have seen:
JJ spends his days jumping on the trampoline in our yard, running around our yard and through the neighboring soccer field. He swims almost every day, either at a neighbor or babysitter’s pool or in the ocean. He digs for hours in the sand. He looks for bugs. Basically, he is performing his own “sensory program” on his own, every day. He’s in an environment where he can find what he needs to make himself happy and to calm himself down.
I’ve always thought of JJ as my own little misunderstood superhero, wearing an invisible cape with a big S for Sensory Boy. He’s spent the past years whirling through rooms, jumping, bouncing, spinning, splashing in the water and then covering himself with sand. I’ve prayed that he’d be able to channel these superhero energies (and, believe me, they are superhuman) into something positive. Now that I see him smiling so often in the sand or water or through some plants, I know he’s found his niche.
I know we’ll have challenges ahead, but for now I’m rejoicing in these moments.