Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Infant and child brain development has started to really strike a new chord (again) over here. When babies get born, their brains are more or less ready to cope with the external stimuli around them. They've got a sucking reflex. They can multitask certain body functions- like eating, breathing, and keeping their heartrate steady. Preemies often get born before their brains are able to cope with even that seemingly simple task. This helps explain why so many of their parents are obsessed with weight gain.

What I'm thinking about this morning though is SID. Sensory Integration Disorder. Which is somewhere on the autism spectrum but like so many other disorders has a full range all it's own to play with. Symptoms can be totally dramatic, or not quite. The Toddler has a mild case of it. Which is a good thing to be aware of. We've been watching her for this ever since she came home from the NICU- SID is one of the more common afflictions of preemies, once they get a little older. Also to be considered is that I've shown signs of it here and there, scattered among all my other depressive/neurotic things. It's when you get so overwhelmed that your brain just seems to shut down. It's the child's tantrum when they have a serious meltdown due to overstimulation. With SID, it's not so much that they're overstimmed (though they are) as they cannot process anything, they forget what they do know -such as how to calm themselves- and they get scared on some deep level. Personally I think the scared portion comes into play later on as they realize that this is not the norm and that there is a way out if only they could find it.

It's heartbreaking to see that in my Toddler. She gets so upset and I can see in her face that she knows this doesn't have to be. She knows something's horribly wrong and can't remember how to fix it so she just cries and screams and thrashes around in my arms. I swaddle her up in a comfy blanket, not too thick or warm, but something without a lot of give. I make sure her legs and arms are swaddled tight up against her body. I hold her, and I apply gentle weight to those swaddled limbs, and I make quiet shooshing sounds. And eventually she will calm down.

I can only imagine what it would be like had not we been watching for these signs from the time she was born. If we had done less or nothing. If she was allowed to go unswaddled during these horrible meltdowns. With this swaddling technique her episodes grew less and less. Less awful. Less frequent. She can calm down and maybe rest a little and then she's off again with a smile from ear to ear; none the worse for wear but secure in the knowledge that Mama made it better.

I wonder if we're going to face the same issues in her little brother?

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