When my daughter was only three years old, her psychiatrist at that time ‘strongly suggested’ that I put her on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. I refused. It wasn’t that I was anti-medication. I simply felt that when dealing with children, especially those experiencing neurological struggles, how would I have known if such medications would have actually helped and not hindered? Because no one was able to tell me for certain, I chose to go the natural route first.
I spent countless hours researching different avenues. The following are a few of the alternative therapies known to help children with varying degrees of exceptionalities that I tried.
Chiropractic: The focus of chiropractics is to address abnormal movement of nerves, muscles, and joints. It can help with posture, and teaching the child to be more aware of their movements within their environments. Here, the key is helping to re-connect the mind and body by defragmenting the nervous system, teaching the child how to be aware of her body, and what it can do, without fear.
Craniosacral Therapy (CST): In summary, a therapist checks the effectiveness of the membranes and fluid that help to protect the brain and spine using light-touch massage on the bones and structures of the skull. It’s supposed to help correct the adverse results (such as sensory, motor, and neurological dysfunction) stemming from imbalances during the development of the brain and spinal cord.
Hippotherapy: This horseback riding therapy can help posture, muscle tone, reaction to stimulation, sensory-motor skills and movement. Essentially, OTs and physical and speech therapists integrate movements of horses into regular therapy interventions.
Perceptual Motor Therapy: The idea is to get the child participating in activities stimulating left/right brain integration so he learns to be more in tune with what’s happening to his nervous system when he does things.
It’s very effective for children whose body awareness, balance and coordination are fairly poor, and who also struggle with performing tasks requiring the use of both hands, crossing over their midline or using both sides of the body at the same time.
Visual and Auditory Training: Being able to see is one thing. Being able to determine what one sees is quite another. A lot of children with SPD have difficulty with fine-motor coordination, hand control and visual discrimination, which are all determined by how they see things.
Hearing not only helps children communicate better, but it is also incorporated into gross motor skills, balance, posture and body awareness. Auditory therapy also helps teach how to discriminate among and/or attend to different noises.
Children who have great difficulty with tuning things out and being able to focus on a task at hand benefit greatly from these therapies, both at home and in school.
Play Therapy: This is one of the most raved about and non-intrusive ways to treat a child’s behavioral difficulties. It forms the basis of the way OTs treat children with SPD in their sessions.
The child engages in non-directive play while the therapist simply observes how she interacts with the toy/object, what she’s saying during play, how long she’s able to engage in play with the toy/object, etc.
The idea is to help the child use the toys as a way to deal with feelings she can’t express in any other way. All the therapist does is throw in a supportive interjection every so often to let the child know someone is there.
The hope is that once the child can draw these feelings out through play, she’ll eventually be able to share the feelings with the therapist or parent in a more productive way.
Physical Therapy: For children with SPD, therapists encourage activities that help to strengthen muscular control and motor coordination so that the child can prepare his or her muscles for movement.
Reiki: This form of therapy can help children with severe tactile defensiveness as it gets the child to focus on their body’s energy and softening distractions so he can experience a certain degree of calm.
In the end what matters the most is finding what works best for the child. A parent knows their child better than anyone else so trusting gut instincts, and how a child responds, is key to guidance to the best therapy.
‘Strong suggestions’ are just that, suggestions. Only the parent can determine what’s best.