Ok, so I admit we were skeptical. What looked like soft play was supposedly going to help with an autistic spectrum disorder. But we liked Sarah’s* therapist, so decided to go ahead. It was the best decision we have ever made.
We had always felt that parenting was harder for us than for other people. After years of distressing outbursts, we realised that our daughter wasn’t just going through the terrible twos. This was something much worse, for her and for us, which became impossible when her brother was born. Her meltdowns were horrendous and she started hitting her brother as soon as he could move. When her nursery called us in to discuss Sarah missing some speech targets and her lack of interaction with other children, we knew that it was finally time to act.
Sarah was put on a long waiting list for an NHS assessment. In the meantime we sought advice from psychologists, who considered her to be on the autistic spectrum, most likely having Asperger’s Syndrome. They advised us to work on her motor skills while we waited for the NHS assessment as school was approaching and Sarah’s balance and co-ordination were poor. They thought that Maximum Potential would be a good start for us.
At Maximum Potential Sarah went through a thorough assessment, and we were impressed that the therapist seemed to “get” her immediately. Sarah then began her weekly therapy sessions, which we supplemented with various strategies at home. We began to learn about Sensory Processing Disorder. We understood how Sarah couldn’t process certain sensory input, something that most of us take for granted. It all began to make sense. Of course she couldn’t hold a conversation if she was having to concentrate on holding herself upright all the time. How could she make eye contact when all her energy was focussed on blocking out her brother’s crying?
Within two months of beginning therapy, we had some startling results. Previously never tactile, Sarah began asking for hugs. She also became much more emotional, telling us, for example, for the first time, that she loved us. It was as if our child had been unlocked. Where once she had sat stony faced on fairground rides, she began to tell us that she was excited about things, and started asking all sorts of new questions – who, where, what, why? As her motor control improved, she became less frustrated and much easier to be around. Her self-esteem sky-rocketed. She was much happier, and the distressing outbursts became less and less frequent.
With Maximum Potential ‘s help, we then implemented strategies to support Sarah’s sensory processing at her nursery. This had a huge impact. For example, helping her cope with the noise levels freed her up to interact more with other children.
Eight months later, Sarah’s singing and dancing with us, dressing up as Cinderella and playing with other children. The long awaited NHS assessment did not diagnose an autistic spectrum disorder, and cited the progress she was making with Maximum Potential as one of the reasons for that decision. The autistic-type symptoms are disappearing over time as her sensory processing functions improve. She has begun to self-regulate, avoiding certain activities that disturb her (e.g. spinning) and choosing those that help her (e.g. hanging by her arms).
Sarah starts school in a few months, a step we had been dreading. However, we are now all positive about the transition. Maximum Potential will be working closely with us and Sarah’s school to set up the ideal environment for her and we are confident that she will go from strength to strength. We know that we still have a way to go, but are thrilled that Sarah’s future now looks so bright.
*the child’s name has been changed to protect her privacy