Kellan was two years old when he began receiving weekly occupational therapy through our Program. His parents initially requested help due to his extremely limited diet, but they were soon describing tantrums whenever the vacuum was run, whenever the family hosted parties to watch football games, whenever he was taken to the mall on a Saturday afternoon, or when taken to swimming lessons at an indoor pool. The common denominator among these experiences was an over-stimulating environment full of loud sounds that Kellan could not escape. He perceived many sounds as threatening, and he over-reacted to them.
Kellan’s negative behavior had a large impact on his family, as it severely limited their activities. Nearly 18 months passed before his family and preschool teacher were fully equipped to address his rapid deterioration in behavior when overreacting to loud, unexpected sounds in his environment – sounds that other children could easily tune out, or become accustomed to.
This behavior also negatively impacted Kellan’s social development. He had spent the first 2 years of life trying to shut out irritating sounds in his environment. The result was a child who did not listen well and avoided the unknown: no new activities, no new foods; speech development suffered, as well. Kellan was in protective mode and he could not calm himself. His only coping mechanisms were to run, hide, cover his ears and raise his own voice to drown out the sources of sound that agitated him. Therapy focused on parent education, teaching Kellan to anticipate alarming sounds, playfully increasing his tolerance for noise, use of calming activities like swinging, and creating an environment in which he could feel safe enough to focus, learn, and try new things! Kellan’s ability to anticipate environmental triggers improved and his family developed strategies to calm him. He became increasingly willing to try new foods. He gradually tolerated icky fingers and unfamiliar textures in his mouth. His speech has improved and he is finally making friends at school! Partnerships between Elks Therapists and the families they serve produce great results. Thank you Washington State Elks!