Being a kid can be a lot to chew on. But, so can being the mom of a kid who chews on everything! In celebration of our new Sensory Collection, Jenny sits down to talk about her family’s journey with discovering that her son, Shep, has a Sensory Processing Disorder which inspired this new line of products.
How did you find out about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?
Two years ago, I reached out to Sprocket Therapy Solutions in Nashville, to learn more about SPD after several customers and friends reached out to tell me how our products helped their older children when they were feeling overwhelmed. I had never considered that our chewable jewelry could be useful to school-aged kids in this way and I was curious to understand more.
Natalie, occupational therapist and co-owner of Sprocket Therapy Solutions, was kind enough to sit down with me for a crash course session on SPD. She described what happens inside the body when it struggles to organize sensations and information from the environment around it. Our professional conversation became personal very quickly. As she was describing SPD, I kept thinking,
“That’s exactly what Shep does!”
“That’s how Shep acts!”
“We have that struggle with Shep!”
I told her that he couldn’t sit still, that he didn’t have great body awareness, that loud noises made him angry (even though he’s the loudest person I know?) and that he often played too rough and became frustrated with his peers. He had always been (and is still) a very challenging boy–NICU for breathing problems, seven months of colic, long emotional outbursts, obsessively attached to his blanket and thumb, plus endless, ENDLESS energy. By the end of our talk, Nat encouraged me to bring him in for an evaluation session.
We did, and when we received his results, it was very clear that our Shep had SPD.
What is your definition of SPD?
Sensory Processing Disorder is not currently recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a disorder, It can look vastly different from person to person. But, I would describe someone with SPD as an individual who needs additional support to help them feel safe, comfortable, and regulated on the inside of their body in order to adept to certain external surroundings. A person with SPD may be averse to certain sounds, textures, tastes or activities or, they may crave them. I’m encouraged that the conversation around SPD is growing. If you want to learn more, your child’s pediatrician is a good place to start for trusted resources and information.
Once you learned that Shep displayed the characteristics of SPD, how did you feel?
I thought the results of his evaluation would be crushing, but I actually felt an immediate sense of relief! So many of my concerns were suddenly validated. We found out that he is a “sensory seeker,” which means he seeks sensory input at a higher level than others, and that he also had some “avoidant tendencies”. Once we knew what he was struggling with, we were able to take action and get him the support he needed to thrive.
We completed six months of occupational therapy at Sprocket where we addressed his deficits in fine, gross, and visual motor skills, sensory processing, attention maintenance, reflex integration, and frustration tolerance. It was enormously helpful! And very empowering for my husband and I to have a plan in place going forward.
What kind of strategies did you start using that had the most impact?
We plan ahead more! Thinking about the type of environment we are going to be in before we get there can alleviate a lot of stress. We have learned to limit activities in large loud crowds. If we do decide to go somewhere that we know he might experience processing issues, we pay better attention to his cues and follow his lead. It doesn’t always go perfectly, but if/when he has an emotional outburst we now understand that we pushed him too far and it’s time to leave. We also build in down time everyday so that he can regroup and decompress. And we always make sure that his blanket available in situations where he might need extra comfort.
Educating his teachers and caregivers about SPD has also been crucial. Once his Pre-K teacher knew how to support him, she moved up recess time because she knew playing hard and exerting energy would help him come back into his skin and be able to focus better in the classroom.
How have your expectations of Shep’s behavior shifted?
Our expectations haven’t necessarily shifted, but our understanding of how he might behave in certain situations has changed. Parenting a child with SPD is not easy, but when Shep does act out, or struggles to regulate his body, we’re better equipped to support him in those moments. Instead of getting angry, we ask him what he needs to feel comfortable. That shift in our thinking alone, has helped us all function better as a family and we have seen so many positive changes in his behavior.
What was your initial spark of inspiration for creating the Sensory Collection? Why did you choose to design a necklace and bracelet for this collection?
January Moon has always been based on the needs of my children. I probably wouldn’t have started this company if my first born had been any other child! When I started dreaming up designs for sensory products, I kept trying to think of an item that would provide the sensory input Shep needed in order to feel safe, Something he could easily fidget with in a new environment, like on the first day of kindergarten. (Which is rapidly approaching for us!) I assembled a miniature necklace for him to test out and noticed that when he when was faced with one of his common SPD triggers, he immediately began squeezing and chewing on the beads.
I’m a problem solver, which is the why I started this business, and there’s nothing more gratifying than watching something I made make somebody I love feel better. My hope is that these sensory products will be as helpful to your family as they have been to ours.
What would you like other mothers to know about what it’s like to have a gorgeous, fabulous, normal kid who lives with SPD symptoms?
We all have sensory needs and kids with elevated needs can still enjoy a wonderful, well-rounded, adventurous childhood with the right tools and support. Don’t let fear or embarrassment keep you from asking questions to other parents, teachers and therapists. There are so many resources available to support moms and dads with the encouragement they need when things get tough. We love our little “Tennessee Tornado” and learning how to manage his SPD has made us a closer, more compassionate family.
Founder | Designer | Wine Expert | Problem Solver at January Moon Wife to Mike | Mom to Shep and Delaney at Home