You’ve come a LONG way!
You learned the symptoms of sensory processing disorder and when to be concerned.
You’ve weighed the pros and cons of getting an official SPD diagnosis.
Hopefully, you’ve managed to convince your spouse to take sensory issues seriously. (If not, check out this post my husband wrote to other sensory DADS.)
And now… it’s time to get evaluated.
It’s totally reasonable to be nervous about new situations like an initial visit to the occupational therapist. I hope in this post to give you a sneak peak, so some of those first day jitters can be relieved.
What Happens at an Evaluation for SPD?
Lots of Playing for Them
I’ve got some good news. Your child is going to have a BLAST at occupational therapy. The whole goal of OT is to make sensory input so fun that it’s irresistible! Depending on what your OT is looking for and how well their office is equipped, expect you kid to do a lot of games and playing. They’ll stack blocks, use writing utensils, show their balancing skills and coordination all while having fun. It shouldn’t feel like a test or an ordeal. If it does, start looking for a new OT.
Lots of Paperwork for You
You as the parent will need to fill out a LONG questionnaire. Hopefully the office will send it to you before the appointment. I remember it taking me over two hours to fill out. It also helps to be asked a question and have a couple days to observe that specific skill in your child, because trust me, they’ll ask you about things you never paid any attention to before.
Gather your child’s baby books or start skimming your social media posts, because you’ll need to know specific milestones in your child’s life! Make a photocopy of your answers so that if you switch practices later down the road, you won’t have to do your research all over again!
How to Explain Occupational Therapy to Your Child
Don’t forget that your child may be nervous about going to the occupational therapist evaluation, especially if they can sense your anxiety. Assure your kiddo that this is going to be fun! They’ll get to play with toys and equipment that most kids would go gaga over! You could describe it as going to a kids gym to play. If they want to know the “why”, tell them that an OT will help them have the tools to handle (Insert Struggle) or that an OT will help YOU and your child learn how your brain works and help them feel more comfortable. My son loved going to the “gym”.
What to Expect Afterwards
After the evaluation, it will probably be a couple days before the offices calls you because they usually have to score tests and such. They probably won’t be able to officially call it SPD because insurances don’t recognize that diagnosis. So they’ll give you a “side” diagnosis to keep the insurance companies happy and paying for services.
They SHOULD tell you which senses are a struggle (auditory, oral, proprioception, tactile, and vestibular) AND whether they are seekers or avoiders in EACH of these areas. Make sure they get specific so that you will be able to research and understand your child’s behavior better. Without that information, it’s incredibly hard to decode your child’s behavior and needs.
They will let you know how often they recommend coming in for occupational therapy. Finances may be shocking, I’ll warn you now. If money is tight, consider some of these ways of getting sensory needs met despite financial struggles.
And congratulations! This is a crucial step towards getting your child the help they need. You’ve come so far!