I'd like to take a moment to reflect on a little known sensory disorder that many times coincides with Autism. This disorder is known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Autistic persons often have SPD, but not all persons with SPD have Autism.
SPD involves any disorder of your senses. This can range from over-sensitivity to light, smells or sound to an under-sensitivity to taste and touch. SPD can also affect the vestibular and proprioceptive systems which control balance, movement and spatial orientation.
As a mother of a young son with SPD, I've come across so many people who are unsure of and even put off by his unique behavior. Here are 10 things I'd like to say.
Please take a moment to read, share and spread the word. The more we educate others, the better we become at responding to these children who need us.
Some sensations, though inconsequential to you or me, are overwhelming to him. The tag on your shirt isn't noticeable to you, but for Vincent, his nerves are telling his brain that a thorn is digging into his neck.
He fidgets, but he has very good reasons for his fidgets.
You hear the voice of your boss telling you the deadline for your next project. Vincent hears his teacher explaining a math problem, but also hears the humming of florescent lights, the rattling of the heater, the chatter of other students, the footsteps of the aid, the cars driving by outside the window, and even his own breathing. Because his auditory discernment is not as strong as yours or mine, he is unable to focus on priority sounds and, in an effort to push aside all that noise, he makes sounds, himself, that help drown out the confusion.
I did not cause his Sensory Processing Disorder. My parenting style did nothing to bring on his sensitivity to certain situations. I love my child fiercely and do everything in my power to see that he is cared for, protected and loved. I may not be the most savvy parent in regards to the latest therapies available, but don't you dare mistake my novice ignorance for bad parenting. I are fighting to make myself and others aware of this disorder, and I are doing all I can to give Vincent the therapy he needs to cope.
So the next time you see us in the store while Vincent is having a meltdown because the lights hurt his eyes and the cart feels especially frustrating to his backside, refrain from suggesting I stop spoiling him. I might not be so charitable in my response.
We are working on this. Please be patient with him.
In addition to forcing John and I to keep the floors relatively free of items, this also creates a problem with shoes. Vincent is very sensitive to the type of shoes he's willing to wear, and it's many times a fight to get him to keep them on, even when we're outside. He's not throwing a temper-tantrum because he wants to wear his SpongeBob boots vs. his Spiderman sneakers... he's having a meltdown because his SpongeBob boots give him relief from his tactile craving while his Spiderman sneakers compound the frustration and add to his anxiety.
Again, please be patient. He is doing so much better with this, but it is a difficult skill to learn when your nerves rebel against you.
His memory is better than mine, his math skills never cease to amaze me, and his appetite for his new passion, spelling, makes my heart swell with pride. The creativity and problem-solving skills he's developed while playing adventure games with his Daddy have only proven to me that his capacity for intelligence hasn't even begun to be appreciated. Standardized testing cannot verify his penchant for architecture. Circle time cannot concede to his superior grasp of cause and effect. No Child Study Team will ever capture the wisdom he shows in his thoughtful, gentle care of those he instinctively understands need his affection.
Again, my son is fearsomely, awesomely intelligent.
What joyful music.
My son loves laughter. He loves being "tricked" and surprised. He loves being the cause of laughter around him. He'll clown about or say silly things with the sole goal being laughter... glorious laughter.
In a word, my son is love... pure, unblemished love.
Please remember that the next time his sensory challenges leave you frustrated or confused. Above all, simply remember that he is capable of giving and receiving love. Next time a sensory-craver like Vincent has a melt-down, respond with love. Push aside your own frustration and confusion because it pales in comparison to the anxiety he feels on a routine basis because of this disorder.
Respond with love, too, to the parents of these special children. Do not discount us as bad parents or folks to be pitied for having a "problem child." Far from it. We love our children and are proud of them. We are joyed at being given the opportunity to unwrap their potential and can't wait to see how they change the world.
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Spread acceptance by spreading awareness. <3
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