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When Temper Tantrums Are Something More

August 9, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

When Temper Tantrums Are Something More
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

Chances are you've been in the grocery store or mall and noticed a child having what many parents call a "meltdown".  Many onlookers think the child is acting naughty or spoiled.  But there could be something physical going on. Five to 16 percent of children have Sensory Processing Disorder.  But not many know what that is.

Tamara Nankivel enjoys playing with her sons. They bring her a lot of happiness, but also a lot of stress.

"Just normal settings, like restaurants and playgrounds, they get very agitated, upset and distraught.  And other people continuously give me advice on parenting on how I could solve those issues," Nankivel said.

You see, while this may look like play, five-year-old Draven and four-year-old Ryker are actually getting therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder. Children with the disorder misinterpret everyday sensory information, such as touch, sound and movement. They may be afraid of how something looks, feels, or sounds or the opposite, which can lead to behavioral problems.

"A part of you does feel like you're a bad parent because you see all the other children go to the grocery story. My children would be screaming. Everybody else's children would be walking along with their cart," Nankivel said.

While the Nankivel brothers have a more severe case of sensory processing disorder, other kids have mild forms.

"Whether it's not liking certain foods, only eating chicken nuggets and pizza or macaroni and cheese, not liking socks that are too high; they have to be a certain height," Children's Care Hospital and School Occupational Therapist Megan Johnke said.

Some studies show that as many as one in six children have some sensory processing problem.  But how do you know it's serious enough to come in for therapy? Occupational Therapist Megan Johnke says that depends on how it affects your family or school activities.

"Does it impact your ability to go out and eat at a restaurant or go do community events? Can they not go to a concert anymore because their child just holds their hands over their ears and screams the whole time?" Johnke said.

To deal with the disorder, the Nankivels have been coming to therapy for around six months. They do activities that stimulate their senses, such as pushing, pulling, and massages, and help create different reactions to that stimulation.

"I can tell when we miss a week. For some reason that whole week is just off," Nankivel said.

And that's a relief because Nankivel wants both her and her sons to have a happy, less stressful life.

Children's Care Hospital & School is sponsoring the workshop Thursday and Friday at Avera Hall. For more information, visit the Children's Care website.

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