October is an awareness month for some pretty important issues, the two most widespread being breast cancer (1 in 8 women) and pregnancy loss (1 in 4 women). Those numbers are huge. However, until I experienced a loss of my own 4 years ago, I never realized how many women I knew personally had experienced a loss. Why? Why do we as people feel the need to keep our experiences to ourselves, when there are so many people going through the same thing and feeling so alone?
Up until a couple of months ago, I had never even heard of Sensory Processing Disorder, let alone understood any of it. I just thought that my 3 year old was clumsy, and was loud and defiant to get on my nerves (how terrible is that?).
My parenting was being judged because it was meltdown after meltdown after meltdown over what was seemingly the littlest things, like what shoes she was going to wear (and which one went on first), and what foods she was going to eat.
I struggled getting out of bed every morning because I knew what was on the other side of my bedroom door. Something that I just didn’t understand. A tantrum over the shoes she was going to put on. Screaming because she wanted to be the one to open the car door. Throwing herself into the walls. Running full speed into me. Sobbing because she wanted her pink sweater over her blue one. I was emotionally at the end of my rope and felt hopeless. It put a strain on not only my relationships with friends because I was turning down invitations for play dates or lunch, but also my marriage because my husband was emotionally spent, too.
I cried myself to sleep often just praying for normalcy. But what I would soon realize is.. this is our normal.
I made an appointment with an occupational therapist, per recommendation of my son’s physical therapist. The night before the appointment I was researching things online at work and came across Sensory Seeking Disorder, which is one of the sub-types of SPD. As I read down the checklist, I nudged my friend Ashley, who at this point was the only person I would voluntarily see outside of my house because our daughters are best friends and she knows Addie’s quirks and doesn’t judge me, or her, for them.
“Oh my God. This is it. I know it.”
She read down the list and nodded her head in agreement. I printed it out to bring with me to the OT evaluation.
The next day, it was confirmed. My little girl was 1 in 6 kids with Sensory Processing disorder. How something was so common, yet I had never heard of it, was baffling. I joined a few support groups on Facebook and was shocked to see people that I knew personally were in some of these groups.
So what does Sensory Seeking Disorder entail?
Sensory Seeking Disorder causes children to “crave” stimulation through the senses. The biggest indicators for Addie were: constantly crashing into walls, big tight bear hugs, stomping instead of walking, yelling instead of talking, putting inedible objects in her mouth for the texture, constantly making noises just to hear herself, getting lost in thought staring at something that was spinning, jumping into and onto furniture.. There are so many things on the list that make up who Addie is, so there was no doubt in my mind that THIS was the key that unlocked the door to a lot more understanding in our near future.
Opposite to Sensory Seeking is Sensory Avoiding, which would be kids who are sensitive to certain feelings (like lines in a sock, or a certain sweater material for example), who hate loud noises, water (like from a bath or shower) may feel like torture. Again, these are just some examples. Others can be found on this checklist.
When SPDers dont get their needs fulfilled, it leads to meltdowns, which are commonly mistaken for tantrums. I found this great article that differentiates the two.
It was a relief to finally have a diagnosis for our sweet girl, so we could do our research and find new ways of doing things. Don’t get me wrong, we still have our struggles. If certain things aren’t done a very particular way (like the chain of events leading up to us leaving the house), we have to spend the next 20 minutes diffusing a melt down. But we have begun understanding and it has helped us become better parents. We have been working with her occupational therapist on a “sensory diet”, which are specific activities that will help her get to where she needs to be. I’ve read books such as Raising a Sensory Smart Child and The Out of Sync Child Has Fun. I still have books on my list that I would like to get eventually, but these two have already been super helpful and I would absolutely recommend them to anyone who had any questions about sensory disorder.
If this post introduces and educates just one person on the basics of Sensory Processing Disorder, then it has served it’s purpose. I felt alone for too long, but have met some lovely women going through the same thing as my family.
This is dedicated to my sweet Addie Grace, who has taught me so much in her 3 1/2 years of life. It is my prayer that awareness is spread so that you can be more understood, and that you get all of the love that you deserve.