Caleb's Story

Caleb had been having a lot of trouble at school.  He was starting to clash with the teacher, and wasn't doing the activities he was supposed to be doing.  He was constantly fiddling and moving around, and driving his teacher nuts.  We also saw it at home at the dinner table, or when we tried to do homework with him.  On top of that sometimes little things would really distress him - things other people wouldn't notice, like the sound of a clock ticking, or the feel of something messy on his finger tips.

We were at a loss to understand what was happening, and everyone was becoming increasingly frustrated about it.

We organised an occupational therapy assessment at school.  Caleb was observed in class and some individual assessments were also completed.  Having a fresh perspective helped us understand what was happening in Caleb's world and what his needs were.

One of the most useful things was an assessment called the Sensory Profile.  That helped us understand some of Caleb's puzzling behaviours.  And over time, in therapy sessions we learned how we could use different strategies to help Caleb be more settled and focus.  For example, Caleb really needed to be able to move around to concentrate and listen.  So we tried some different cushions and seats with him, and we ended up getting a worm bOble to use instead of a seat.  Caleb loves it because he can rock and move and sit in different ways.  It is amazing that he concentrates more when he is using it.  Because it's not a typical seat for a classroom we are happy for the teacher to decide when she considers it appropriate to use. 

We also learned that deep pressure touch is calming for Caleb, but light touch is really irritating.  It has been a process for us to learn ways of desensitizing the irritating sensory experiences in every day life.

The more we watch the techniques being used with Caleb in therapy sessions, the more we feel confident in using these ideas in real life.  And we have even been able to figure out our own strategies based on the deeper understanding we have of Caleb's underlying needs.  For example, recently we have been able to enjoy a family meal at a restaurant (Caleb's behaviour had become far too challenging to consider that in recent years).  But we focused on Caleb's sensory needs and bought activities with us with sensory calming strategies in mind.  And we gave him a short, deep pressure massage sequence to his hands. We were amazed to see how he remained settled, and we could all enjoy a special outing.

It has been a learning curve for us.  But we are all much more understanding of Caleb's needs.  And Caleb himself is becoming more aware.  Sometimes he will say to us "I need to have a movement break," and he will have a short break and then be able to concentrate again.  We are really grateful to have found some breakthrough strategies for issues that were starting to feel overwhelming. 

Most of all we feel that we have all learnt that there wasn't anything "wrong" with Caleb as such.  We just needed a different way of seeing him and understanding him to help him cope with the regular demands of his daily life.