Eight-month-old Ella rolls around giggling on the floor of Caritas Baby Hospital’s physiotherapy room. She reaches for toys and excitedly points at various objects in the room. "A completely healthy baby," says Caritas Baby Hospital’s occupational therapist Victoria Zaatreh with satisfaction.
When the mother came to the hospital for the first time a few weeks earlier, she could have never imagined her little daughter to be such a joyous baby: The child cried for hours, did not want to be touched, hardly slept and was afraid of movement. After numerous unsuccessful medical examinations by various doctors, the mother came to the Caritas Baby Hospital on her family doctor’s advice.
Victoria Zaatreh diagnosed Ella with a sensory processing disorder. The brain of affected children has difficulties receiving sensory information and reacting adequately to it. Certain affected persons – such as Ella – react in a hypersensitive way to their sensory perceptions; being touched or hearing sound can feel painful and overwhelming to them. “Ella felt something, but her brain did not explain her the sensation correctly”, explains Victoria Zaatreh. If the disease is not properly diagnosed, children often develop walking difficulties and learning disorders. If the disorder is discovered early, it can be treated relatively easily.
The occupational therapist developed a so-called individual "sensory diet" for the girl Ella: The “diet” has nothing to do with food, but represents a carefully designed individual plan of physical activities. The latter provides the child with the necessary dose of sensory inputs that it needs to react correctly to its surroundings. The mother implemented the programme with Ella at home: For two weeks she gave the girl rhythmic massages and warm baths, put a heavy blanket on the baby to simulate the well-being in the womb and let Ella listen to soothing music. The plan helped calm Ella's over-stimulated brain and optimize the processing of the impulses.
“After two weeks, my daughter seemed to be born again. She now moves, plays, laughs and sleeps without any problems”, Ella’s mother says enthusiastically. The occupational therapist adds: “The biggest achievement is that Ella learned how to calm herself down. She can now discover the world fearlessly.”
Author: Linda Bergauer