David is a little boy who literally could not stop. When I first saw him in the village hall just a year ago, he simply ran and ran until he was exhausted. He was so overactive and unpredictable in his behaviour that mum and dad did not take him out much, simply because they couldn’t control him. He also had terrific sensory processing problems. If anyone sang, or clapped, or whistled, David would overreact wildly as if terrified or as if he was in pain. In addition to this, upon examination, he was very oversensitive to tactile stimulation in all his limbs. Also David never slept for more than an hour. At two and a half years of age, mum and dad were obviously keen to try to calm him down in preparation for entry to nursery.
On my first assessment of David, I spent most of the morning chasing him to try to pin him down long enough to perform various tests / observations, which isn’t an unusual situation in itself as I find myself in such a pursuit of various children, but David’s level of activity was bizarre. Finally after much chasing and wrestling, my work was done and mum just looked at me and said, “what on earth can we do?”
The programme which I instituted was based upon the ‘opponent threshold theory’ – The research which supported this theory seemed to suggest that in some children in order to reduce the level of activity of a particular neurotransmitter system, it was necessary to stimulate that system beyond a certain threshold of activity. The programme activities were designed to do precisely this. The repetitions of those activities would serve as a basis for stimulating brain plasticity, - encouraging the brain to make new connections within this normal framework of activity.
Now mum and dad are the type of people who will readily admit that they go away and hibernate. Although they still regularly see me to this day, they take the programme and go away never to be heard from for the next four months. This is fine, the last thing I would wish to do is to impose myself upon anyone’s privacy. So the next time I heard from them was four months later when they made the appointment for their reassessment. I was a little dubious because I thought mum sounded a little cagey on the telephone and I was thinking that maybe very little progress had been made.
The Friday morning of their first reassessment arrived and I waited nervously for them to enter the village hall. I was expecting to have to chase David down again and had joked with Janet, my wife that I had a lassoo in my bag. I was overjoyed when David walked in holding his mum and dad’s hand. Just looking at him you could tell he had lost that ‘frantic’ overactivity. He came to the table, took a tesco bag of his mum and emptied his Mr Men books onto the table. This child who four months earlier had not produced any language which I could recognise then proceeded to tell me the titles of the books. He was making good eye – contact, paying appropriate attention to me and was just so much calmer.
Dad said that when they left after their initial assessment four months earlier, he had been sceptical about the programme and what benefit it would have, but that all of that scepticism melted away when they got home and after one particular activity David had just immediately calmed down. He slept for several hours that first night for the first time in months and with the addition of a weighted blanket, was now sleeping consistently well. His auditory processing problems had also dissipated to the point where mum no longer had to dive for the remote control to change channel every time there was singing on the TV.
David still has problems and I still see him to this day, but these problems are now minor compared to a year ago and we are steadily making inroads into them. He now speaks in four word sentences, mum and dad can take him out and his learning abilities are progressing nicely now he isn’t being hindered by lack of sleep, an inability to attend and sensory processing problems which were simply preventing the correct environmental information from being processed in the brain. David is heading in the right direction and will have no difficulty in being accepted into a mainstream nursery and school.