North Olmsted mom advocates for recognition of sensory processing disorder

NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio - Major meltdowns and explosive behavior at home are common for many parents of young children, but for some, it could a be sign of a larger health problem.

"I think a lot of people don't talk about it, I think they're afraid to talk about it," Elizabeth Malik said.

Her warmth and loving touch are often rejected by her son, 5-year-old Luca, caught in a dizzying game of hide and seek with the world. The slightest embrace at times sent him into a tailspin.

"It's been such a long journey and it's taken such a long time for him to accept the love," said Malik through tears.

At just six months, Malik said she knew Luca was different. He was later diagnosed with sensory processing disorder or SPD, a neurological disorder where the sensory information perceived results in abnormal responses.

Malik sadi in Luca's case, he is a "sensory seeker." The family home is now equipped with a crash pad, sensory swing and sensory bins; things to make him feel more in control and happy.

"They are either oversensitive to certain things: sight, sound, smell, touch or maybe they are under sensitive to things," explained Christine Chambers, an occupational therapist for Abilities First LLC.

In Luca's case, he  would erupt in a volcano of emotions. At times, it was a daily struggle to navigate, but now it's easier to understand.

"This bean bin, sometimes, it's very calming to dig into the beans find some different activities and toys in the beans. And that can just take kids down a notch," said Chambers explaining tools used to help calm anxiety or discomfort.

"Everyday is such a battle and you just take one day at a time," Malik said. "I guess, you do the best you can for your child."

Luca is not alone. Nearly 200 people are registered to attend the "Connecting for Kids" meet and greet Thursday night in order to find help and hope for troubling behaviors.

The event lasts from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Don Umerley Civic Center at 21016 Hilliard Blvd. in Rocky River.