There is a lot of confusion out there about Sensory Processing or Sensory Integration Disorders. It seems that every child has it, if they don’t sit still and act perfectly. If they get overstimulated and have meltdowns, it’s because they clearly have a disorder. Right?
Ok, stop. Don’t get your hopes too high about the post. The bottom line is that I am going to share my experience and opinion. And I’m totally aware that the latter may be flawed and convoluted, but it is my opinion and thoughts as of right now.
In a culture has become increasingly fast pasted and overstimulating I don’t know one person who doesn’t get overstimulated and thus overwhelmed. It’s become the new “American Way”. In trying to make life bigger and better we’ve made it louder, brighter to an extreme that is affecting us all. Food is bigger, kids shows are CRAZY, entertainment consumes more of our time than it ever has before. Yeah. We’re all living the life, alright.
Everyone has experiences like this at some point being overstimulated. Some more than others. So we have a range. We have the average American, who, based on their lifestyle choices, is going to experience Sensory Overload in varying levels of frequency. As many of you know, I dream of going off the grid to minimize my frequency of this, but don’t see it happening for many years. But you do it, I do it, your next door neighbor does, too.
Just because your child does not behave perfectly, does not mean they have a disorder or that something is wrong. You don’t have to panic about this. It means they are a child. Just because we as adults can relate to the panic, frustration and feeling of being overwhelmed that comes with an SPD, doesn’t mean that we have one. You’ll be ok. Promise. I feel like if we look around and pay attention, we will find that we as a country are experiencing Sensory OVERLOAD. And we ourselves are the disorder. Because out lifestyles are…out of order.
So I do agree with those who have said it doesn’t always mean you need a label. But sometimes, you so. And when you do, it sucks.
No matter what you do, you get judgement coming from both ends. You get those who look at you like you are a mess and not normal. They get frustrated by the inconvenience of your needs because they’re different. They don’t know how to handle you. Then the next day you’ll run into the friend who thinks that all of it is a crock. All of it is just labeling and making excuses for varying levels of what is really normal. You’re a wimp, or a bad mom for accepting the diagnosis. You’re selfish for allowing your child to be labeled. You just want to use it as an excuse to make you look better, or to get pity. But your kid is fine, and you’re the problem.
I have actually experienced this. I have people who were a pretty regular part of my life a few years ago who now don’t even communicate with my family anymore. Because of the two reasons above. Either it’s just too hard to deal with the issues when they don’t know how. Or it’s just too shameful that I dare to admit my child has them.
But let me explain something that you may not have known. I don’t just speak from experience as a mom. I speak from experience as a child.
I always had a hard time listening, and dealt with so much frustration as a child and even more as a teen. Because, you know, as a teen everyone assumed that it was because I was CHOOSING not to listen, right? Darn rebel. You would think that it may have tipped someone off that as a preschooler I could only sing harmony to any song. In chorus at 10 years old, I struggled to start learning to hear the melody of a tune, because all I heard was the abstract tones of the harmony. To this day, I almost always sing harmony. To everything.
When I started college at 17, I had my first real classroom experiences and the frustration was over the top. I quickly became fed up and went to get my ears checked by a specialist. I was diagnosed with CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder) a way before the diagnosis of ADHD, ADD, Autism and Aspergers were so common.
Let me explain it for you the best I can. Some people have a neurological disorder where they have loss of depth perception visually, right? They bump into things, can’t tell how far away something is. Well, I have the auditory version. I often can’t distinguish sounds from one another. They blend together and I can’t tell which are close and which are far. When the number of sounds get to a certain number, or volume, my ears short out. That’s what I call it, anyway. Take your hands and cover your ears tight. Now take them off and on rapidly. That’s what it feels/sounds like. Not fun.
I often can’t find my cell phone because I can’t tell which direction the ringing is coming from. I’ve been known to post on Facebook asking someone to call me repeatedly until I answer. Then I stand in the middle of my house trying to figure out the direction the ring is coming from, sometimes needing as many as 10 calls. So glad I have good friends who helped me out with that! As soon as my kids were old enough, I taught them to find my phone for me. I’m not even kidding. That was SUCH a relief!
That’s why I recognized that Lucas’ issue went beyond just “being a little slower”. It was the frustration and signs of being in pain and confused. And, as anyone who has read me knows, the poop. So Lucas has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and a Vestibular Processing Disorder. He craves and makes extra sounds, because the vibrations the sound make in his head soothe him. When he is frustrated, little repetitive noises are one of his main sources of comfort. Sometimes they are NOT so little, as he was doing Chewbaca calls in a perfect repetitive rhythm for 2 hours yesterday morning before I could redirect him to making a quiet lip-pursing noise. That’s one of my lifesavers of balancing my auditory needs with his sensory/vibration needs. It’s a great trick learned from a friend who has an older son with Aspergers. Let them make a noise, but help redirect them to one that you can agree works for both of you.
So where am I going with this? Oh, right. Sharing this video and rambling a bit first. That was the plan.
This is a phenomenal example of what it can feel like. But be aware that MOST people wherever you range from being busy and experiencing Sensory Overload to those who have a diagnosis of Sensory Integration or Processing Disorder. We could all use to think through what our nervous systems need…
And I have no clever ending for this post. But thankfully, I have the video to share. The End.
This video was shared by a friend on Facebook and got my brain turning, so that’s why I wrote this rambling for your reading pleasure. The source was HERE on NPR. It’s a great read. Check it out.