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THE NEWSLETTER ABOUT YOUR HEALTH AND CARING FOR YOUR BODY
WHAT MY SON TAUGHT ME Please look inside for Joy and Aaron’s story with Chandana.
Hear From Pediatric Occupational Therapist Chandana Dash
I t wasn’t until I had children that I felt the true effects of the occupational pediatric therapies I’ve committed my life to. As a toddler, our son was very intelligent and already reading three grades above his own. He was my first child, and despite my advanced degree and experience in pediatrics, I figured his anxieties were normal for a little kid — until we had our daughter. As parents, we got excited to see our son doing so well at a young age, but we weren’t looking at the whole picture. So, I read, researched, and learned more. What were we missing? Why was he so skilled in one area but falling behind in others? What could we do? I wanted to learn more about ways we could make the world quieter and less stimulating for him and children with autism, ADD, ADHD, and various other sensory and muscular disorders. This is when I started putting all the pieces together. When I was pregnant with my son, we were laid off, combing through visa guidelines, dealing with changing Medicare laws, and trying to sell our house. I never drank or smoked, but I still put immense pressure on my child that forced his little body to adapt to high levels of stress. I don’t blame myself or any other women who is struggling while pregnant. Like in our situation, some of this is unavoidable, but you have to pay attention to how your child interacts with the world. Getting help is easier than most parents think. When a child doesn’t like bathing or getting their fingernails cut, we chalk this up to a behavioral issue. In reality, sometimes these actions are too much stimulation for children, especially those who are living with a sensory-processing disorder. At times, their body is trying to process something that it cannot physically handle, and that stimuli becomes a major stressor.
I give a lot of credit to my son. Having him made me a better person, and it’s forced me to look at life differently. He’s extremely positive, always laughing or smiling, and is vigilant in making sure he doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. He’s taught me that anything can be possible with a little work — and I now teach my patients that same idea. I’m proud to say that I’ve been able to help patients and their parents find solutions that work best for them. I remember one patient who began seeing me when he was just eight years old. His mom told me he had a learning disability, like many parents do out of protective instincts. I told her that it’s fine that he has this, but I don’t want to use those words to define what he can and cannot do. We had to find a way — and we did. That kid is now succeeding in college, and we have a great relationship today. This mom’s story isn’t unique. Often, parents want people to understand that their children have a diagnosis to explain why they may act a certain way, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make their situation more well-known. But it’s important to learn more about your children’s symptoms and habits to find ways to help them lead full lives. I often have parents ask if I would like them to wait outside while I work with their child, and I tell them that I want them to stay, learn, and understand why and how I’m working with their kid. Your child’s sensitivity or struggles aren’t downfalls that need to be cured; it’s just an obstacle your child — and your family — can learn to happily live with.
– Chandana Dash
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