Livi Jones was a very busy toddler. She constantly put things in her mouth. Often, she filled a backpack with toys and wore it for hours on end. Her pain tolerance was as high as her willingness to take risks.
However, she seemed more sensitive than other toddlers. Wet sleeves, certain foods and various textures bothered her. Noise from passing cars or the air-conditioning unit turning on sent her into a raging meltdown. During these meltdowns, she would rip off her clothes and scream and cry inconsolably.
Livi’s parents, Brianna and Craig Jones, felt lost. Other children didn’t have such extreme tantrums. Brianna suspected she’d done something wrong as a parent. Exhausted, she probed the internet for answers.
One night, she came across sensory processing disorder. All at once, everything fell into place.
“A light bulb went off,” Brianna says. “I instantly felt relief.”
That night, Brianna messaged Livi’s doctor and got the therapy ball rolling.
Diagnosis and Getting Started
At Livi’s evaluation, it wasn’t obvious that she had a sensory processing disorder. She was having a good day. Noises and her environment didn’t cause a meltdown. Fortunately, the Altru therapist evaluating Livi wasn’t fazed.
“Sensory processing problems aren’t always easily detectable,” Brianna says. “Because of everything we said about Livi’s behavior, the therapist agreed she had sensory processing disorder. It was reassuring to know I wasn’t crazy and that we could move toward a better future in which Livi would more easily get her needs met.”
Once diagnosed, Livi began therapy. Once a week, she headed to Altru for a 45-minute outpatient session. Most weeks, occupational therapist Alissa Sundby provided sensory integration therapy for Livi.
The first step was determining which of Livi’s senses were under- and over-sensitive. Then, Alissa worked to help Livi respond appropriately to her environment, situations and stimulation.
Some days, Livi played in a ball pit. On other days, she swung in a special sensory swing. She worked on emotions and feelings, discussed stressful situations and practiced staying on task. A specialized listening intervention helped Livi process sounds around her and react appropriately.
Reaping the Rewards
Livi’s therapy didn’t just take place at Altru. Brianna and Craig partnered in Livi’s therapy, using tips and tricks from Alissa to provide the sensory input their daughter craved at home. According to Brianna, the impact was immediate.
“Within a few months, Livi was having fewer sensory-related meltdowns,” she says. “She also slept and focused better, and we could relate to her better, as well.”
After more than a year of weekly therapy, Livi graduated from the program. Soon after, she started going to preschool two days a week. This gave her the opportunity to try out the tools she learned through therapy.
Today, Livi is a busy girl. Full of spunk, she loves making people laugh and helping around the family farm. She’s determined and silly and loves crafting and cooking.
While Livi still has challenging days on occasion, she has improved tremendously. Brianna credits Altru, especially Livi’s primary therapist, for this progress.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without Alissa,” Brianna says. “Alissa made such a special bond with Livi and the rest of our family. We will forever be grateful.”
If your child is struggling with sensory processing difficulties, ask their provider if therapy might be right for them.