Ovis is a young fictional sheep with sensory processing disorder.  Since writing the children’s book, “Ovis has Trouble with School,” people have referred to me as “Mrs. Ovis.” You can read an overview of the first Ovis book here.

This spring, while I was attending a resource fair in our community representing my private practice and promoting the new book, a colleague I hadn’t seen since the book was published came toward me from across the room exclaiming, “Hey!  It’s Ovis’ mom!” It felt good. I was proud. Just like a mom. And so today, in the week after mother’s day, I think it’s appropriate to begin our new Ovis blog by sharing part of my journey of being a sensory mom.  I am, after all, the mom of a sensory kiddo. I also work daily in my own private practice as an OT with other moms of sensory kids. Parenting can be difficult. Parenting a child with sensory processing challenges presents unique situations, and there are definitely times that this Mrs. Ovis has trouble with parenting.

In hindsight, I first realized my baby had “sensory issues” before we even left the hospital. She was my second child so I had some experience with infants and the comparing of my two children, despite knowing that it’s not fair to do so, began immediately. This baby sucked constantly! And just like my comparing began immediately, so did the “advice giving” from lots of other people. “Don’t let her suck all the time, you’ll spoil her.” “She’s better off with a pacifier.” “Are you sure you don’t want to give her a bottle?” “Let her cry, it’s what babies do. She’ll be fine.”  Another red flag is that she did not fall asleep when being held. She tried, and I could tell she wanted to fall asleep, but she just couldn’t rest and wanted her own space. Once we got home she startled VERY easily with touch. I’d go in to do the whole, “check to make sure she’s still breathing” thing, and her entire body would flinch, her head would raise, and she’d wiggle out of a full heavy sleep with just a light palm to her back.  Alternately, my husband’s larger heavier hand to her back (his hand was nearly the size of her entire body) could soothe her into a relaxed calm when she was tensing and waking up. She didn’t nurse easily. She was on-again-off-again and never fully settled into the routine.  She couldn’t keep up with the flow of milk and gagged and sputtered, which required me to switch her from breast to breast. As an infant she had two states: hyper alert or completely off. She slept like a dream! (unless I made the mistake of checking on her which only caused her to wake up). At the time we considered her solid sleep habits as our due reward for enduring the sleepless nights for two years with our first child, but in hindsight, I now see that her body had no in-between. She expended so much energy throughout the day being alert and on and defensive, simply trying to get through the day, that when it was time to shut down, she did. We are grateful that she was able to fall asleep because we learned through the toddler years, and still see in adolescence, that if she does not get her sleep, everyone suffers.

Check out our SPD Signs and Symptoms lists here.

I didn’t put the pieces together when my baby was an infant but I did know something for her was off. I wasn’t worried (yet) but I sensed she was not comfortable and I knew she felt different and needed something different from me. It took a long time and a lot of learning to trust my instincts. This is my point to all  mothers: TRUST! Even if you don’t have words for it, even if you don’t know what to do about it, and even when others are telling you “she’s fine, let her cry.”  Trust what you see and what your body is telling you, as a mother, that you need to listen to. Those first few months are chaotic, overwhelming, and wonderful. They are so important for establishing your relationship with your child and for helping your child to begin developing  their understanding of the world.  Of course there are things I would do differently if I could go back, and one of those things is to seek support. I had this false sense that I had to figure it out. It was my job to make it better, by myself. Asking for help meant my failure because I “should” be able to figure out. I was an OT after all. If you are concerned, seek support. In my practice we offer an open parent discussion time to connect with other parents and professionals, just to talk and ask questions. I also offer consultations because understanding sensory challenges can be confusing but seeking support does not mean “diagnosis” or that something is “wrong” and it doesn’t mean mom has failed. It means parenting is hard and sometimes other people have ideas that can make it easier. I am here to help.

Our hope with the Ovis section of the blog is to share real life stories about living with sensory processing disorder (SPD).  For too long, children and the families of children with sensory challenges have struggled alone. The science is now out there to show it exists. People are becoming more and more aware that sensory is a real thing, even without a medical diagnosis, because more and more research exists about the brain and the nervous system and the lived experience of an overtaxed nervous system, and what it takes to learn as children grow. Sensory processing disorder is about how the brain and body connect to do everyday things, and our Ovis books are written to support connection. Ovis wants to help parents connect with their children, to help teachers and professionals connect with their clients, and to help children living with SPD connect with something bigger than themselves, so they don’t feel so alone in whatever their struggles are.

I’ve learned a lot along the way, in my work and as a mom, and I am here to tell you, thisMrs. Ovis does have trouble; every mom does at one point or another. But Ovis is a GREAT kid, and Mrs. Ovis is the best mom she can be!  Every mom is–and this mom and Ovis will both be fine–and you will be too. Happy Mother’s Day Mrs. Ovis! You’re a great mom!

–Kelly Beins

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