Sensory Processing Disorder – also known as Sensory Integration Disorder, SPD. or SID – is a big part of our lives.
Four year-old Mr. Sensitive is the poster boy for the ‘out of synch kid’. Please see http://out-of-sync-child.com/ for more info on this one. As a (naïve) special ed teacher, I used to believe that Sensory Processing Disorder was not ‘real’ because it was so inconsistent.
What do you mean little Joey can’t touch the paint today but was happy painting yesterday? Don’t worry, karma, god, whatever force is out there, got me – I have TWO children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). But the kicker is they react is opposite ways!
For example, before our SPD labels we took Little Miss Adorable and Mr. Sensitive to an IMAX movie (dumb, I know, but that’s another story). Little Miss Adorable became alert, her muscle tone improved, she actively looked around and was engaged. Mr. Sensitive buried his head in my lap, covering his ears and cried. I can’t believe I was so stupid. Now we carry sunglasses and industrial grade noise-cancelling head phones where ever we go.
Every situation is considered in terms of sensory demands on Mr. Sensitive – flickering classroom lights; overwhelming visual stimuli (kids moving around cleaning up); overwhelming auditory stimuli (the clean-up song and sound of toys crashing onto the shelf) – means that it is ok if Mr. Sensitive hides in a cubby hole while the rest of the kids clean up. Add the anxiety to sensory overload and you have a total meltdown.
Although I will say that Mr. Sensitive does not have Autism (as far as we know, and he’s only been seen by half a dozen doctors); I completely emphasize with parents of kids with Autism. It is so frustrating to see the seemingly little things in the world wreak havoc with your child’s central nervous system and the resulting behaviour. Every parent wants to see their kid happy.
So-called little things – tooth brushing, face washing, sock seams, clothing in general, hair (washing/cutting/brushing), food too hot/cold, take on nightmarish proportions and lead to catastrophic meltdowns. Shirts ‘hurt’ him. A new winter jacket is a complete issue unto itself. (See Mr. Sensitive vs. His New Winter Coat)
Mr. Sensitive is happy with his favorite green shirt (no tags, sealed seams). He is happy to play in the dirt pile, bum shuffling while letting the sand and pebbles sift through his fingers. He is happy to smell unusual things and thinks his baby brother smells like peaches.
He is happy to glue and paint and make a ‘swamp’ on the kitchen table. He is happy to do wash dishes and loves the feeling of the aerator hose on his hands. He is happy on the playground swings and asks us to push him higher and faster.
I wish we could.