There are more than a few parents out there who have children who find it hard to sit still and pay attention. You've probably heard of ADHD but there's another disorder parents should be aware of.
This is Lucas, he's just like your everyday rambunctious five-year old. Only Lucas has a hard time shutting off his rowdy behavior. You see Lucas has what's called sensory processing disorder.
"He came into this room and moved from activity to activity and did not stay with one thing for more than a few seconds." Said Karen Hermens, an occupational therapist at Avera St. Luke's.
Sensory processing disorder or SPD is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. An easy way to think of it is like a neurological traffic jam where the brain isn't receiving and interpreting sensory information correctly. This means for kids like Lucas, everyday tasks can be impossible.
"They might be clumsy, they might be picky eaters, they might not be able to sleep at night because their brains are unable to shut down for the night so they're constantly revved up." Said Hermens.
For Lucas, he couldn't handle being touched; even by his parents.
"Lucas he wouldn't let us touch and we couldn't hug him, couldn't give him kisses. He would be very violent, punching, kicking, hitting, slamming himself into the wall and jumping off whatever he could climb up on!" Said Chancey Marshall, Lucas' father.
Out of options, the Marshall's came to Avera St. Luke's and occupational therapist Karen Hermens. The cause of SPD is unknown but there is effective treatment. While the room may look like every kids' dream, Karen guides Lucas through an obstacle course of fun tasks that are subtlety designed so Lucas is constantly challenged but always successful.
"We will have him squatting, he will be jumping, he will be pushing and pulling things and that's what helps calm the brain down or what we say organize the brain so that you can concentrate." Said Hermens.
Because of his condition Lucas has a hard time eating certain foods because of the texture. So a simple snack has become a key part of his therapy.
"He has gotten better with everything that he does his parents say he's eating better at home, he's sleeping better at night, and he's tolerating being with his family more than he was." said Hermens.
After each session, Amy Marshall says Lucas has an easier time focusing and is much more calm.
Amy: It gives us hope, it gives me a child.
Chancey: I mean do you see him sitting in there it in the sausage before that would've been impossible!
The goal of this therapy is to get Lucas to have the right response to each sensation, both at therapy and in the home. And after almost a year of hard work, the Marshall family is finally starting to feel whole.
"I'll put him in bed at night and lay down with him for a few minutes and just told him and he goes dad when you hug me and makes me feel warm inside. And to hear that from him after months and months of him telling me no daddy! Don't touch me! Don't touch me! Don't be around me! that is pretty nice." Said Marshall.
What Lucas is going through is called integration therapy. Like most therapies, every person or child may react differently. To effectively treat the disorder could take more than one method. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.