Sensory processing disorder causes you to doubt your ability to parent. People wonder why you can’t control your child. You share what happens in your house with friends who have the same age kids and they say the same things happen at their own home. You pause for a second and think “Really? And you don’t think anything is wrong?” Then you witness that one time their children explode and you realize they have no idea what you are talking about. The explosion that you just witnessed is what you would consider to be what occurs on a calm day in your house. It is in that moment that you start to feel alone. You begin to doubt yourself. Maybe you aren’t the great parent you thought you were. Maybe, you are doing something wrong…
Then, one day you decide to have a second child and everything is different. Washing up after lunch doesn’t involve kicking and screaming bloody murder. (A daily routine that I am sure makes the neighbors believe that I use acid rather than water to clean my children). Transitions are not as hard and his temper tantrums are laughable. My second child can be stepped over and left on the floor if need be or dropped in time out without breaking a sweat or stopping a conversation.
Somewhere after the birth of the second child (or at least that was when ours arrived) comes the fateful day that every sensory parent talks about; the day you will never forget. The day where you realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that something has to be done. You are faced with the understanding that what you are witnessing is beyond the “spirited child” posts found all over Facebook and instead the life of a child constantly in survival mode. Everything changes on that day. My moment of awakening occurred in the middle of a crowded bathroom at an outdoor museum in front of an audience of 20 pairs of eyes. My daughter was melting down because the bathroom was crowded and the hand dryers were really loud. To make matters worse, the changing table was not in a quiet location and instead in the middle of the bathroom because most people are not still dealing with diapers when their children are 3. I carried my sobbing daughter out of the bathroom and back into the quieter lobby with the dirty pull up still on. The minute we reached the quiet, she relaxed and within a few minutes was calm again. I’ll never forget when she told my sister “That room was too loud. It hurt me.” As I changed my daughter behind a bush outside of the museum and made my sister, who runs a nature center, promise me to never put loud hand dryers in her bathrooms, I thought, “I need help.” I have over eleven years of elementary teaching experience and I can’t do this on my own.
The thing is, I don’t want to take the sensitivity out of my child. It makes her who she is. Her sensory processing disorder makes her so empathetic to others emotions. It makes her see colors brighter and think outside of the box. It has helped her become one of the most imaginative children I have ever met. I just want her to be able to swing with her peers and go to the bathroom without screaming. I want the world to be not such a scary place. I’d also like to be able to trust my gut instinct again.