The Back-to-School Blues

School’s back in session. “How’s it going for B?” you ask. “I underestimated the back-to-school blues and challenges.” I reply.

Most of us parents cannot wait for back to school. Structure, routine, and normalcy. Who wouldn’t want that? What we sometimes forget is how challenging it can be for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder. Transitions, last-minute changes to the routine, new clothing to get used to, social awkwardness, fear of failure (aka the need for perfection), weather drill chaos, assembly noises…the list goes on and on.

For kids with SPD, these everyday experiences lead to emotional meltdowns. Specifically at home. The hard part about that is, a lot of the time, our kids hold it together at school. Especially when given the proper sensory tools to get through their day. An exercise ball? Yes, please. A wiggle cushion? You bet! Noise cancelling headphones? Absolutely. Snack/lunch sent from home? Of course! Gum, chewelry, or the Ark Grabber? Couldn’t go without.

You see, when given the proper tools our kiddos can hold it together much better at school. That combined with the emotional need to “fit in” with their peers…makes  some administrators and school staff question if our children really have the sensory challenges we see at home. I can honestly say I’ve thought, more than once, about bringing out the video camera. One time I actually did. Mostly to prove to myself that I wasn’t crazy. She absolutely did have full on meltdowns at home.

That being said, we’ve been dealing with a lot more emotional stress at home. “B” is starting to recognize that her body responds differently from others. She also realizes that she needs specific tools (like her therapy brush to help her get through her day. So do her peers. They think they’re being helpful by reminding her, but she’s annoyed that they constantly check to make sure it’s been done.

She realizes that her feelings/challenges about food make her different from others. She’s starting to vocalize it too. Yesterday at breakfast, she became very upset that her sister is able to eat the same cereal over and over (her sister is a picky eater, but not a selective eater). I explained that she doesn’t get sick of eating the same thing over and over. B knows she does. She still considers this very unfair and it leads to meltdowns. She knows smells and appearances of foods do not bother others like it does her. She also knows she wants to try new foods, but just can’t bring her body to physically go through with it.

This morning she could FINALLY change her newly pierced earrings. She was so excited! Until I tried to pull off the back of steel. She is extremely sensitive to pain and that stopped that idea right there in its tracks. It also caused her plenty of emotional distress since she wanted to wear her new purple earrings from Great Grandma super badly.

Her sister’s crying bothers her again. Even the headphones aren’t helping as much as she wants them to. Fear of bugs and bad weather is causing trouble sleeping. She wakes up with nightmares at least 2-3 times per week.

We think OT might need to come back into play on a weekly basis again. Her therapist warned us her emotional stress might escalate after school began. She mentioned that it happens to a lot of kids with SPD. The expectation put on them in the school hours leads to a lot of meltdowns at home. At home they are comfortable and loved unconditionally. It’s their safe place to release.

B has been getting a lot of extra deep squeezes lately. That along with jumping rope, head stands, jumping on the trampoline, taekwondo, and swinging seem to be her sensory activities of choice right now.

So, in honor of Sensory Awareness Month (October)…please remember that just because you don’t always see a child with physical challenges doesn’t mean that our kids aren’t struggling. They are holding it together at least 7.5-8 hours per day. That’s some pretty awesome self-control. Keep in mind that parents aren’t making these things up. We aren’t looking for sympathy. Simply said…a little kindness and understanding go a long way 🙂

About Jessica

I am currently a stay at home mom to my two beautiful girls. B is 7, thoughtful, and has sensory challenges. C is 5, spirited, and keeps me on my toes. Before B, I was a special education teacher. She's taught me more in her 7 years than I learned in my 5.5 years in college and my seven years teaching combined :)
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3 Responses to The Back-to-School Blues

  1. Lakesha says:

    Hola! I’ve been reading your website for some time now
    and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx!
    Just wanted to say keep up the good work!

  2. Hi! I just found your blog and IM VERY EXCITED!!! I have a 7yo daughter she has Down syndrome, Speech Delay(my dx as “everyone else thinks it is a behavior-Ugh!) and SPD. She has LOTS of triggers some are very prominent and others not so much-just depends on the day and whatever else has happened 😉 Anyway Im curious on how,what,who and where you deal with B eating at school? We( I say we because if she has had a tough day at school-whether I am TOLD about or not- we still may have meltdowns AFTER school and into the evening. We live in a small town so services are tough to come by and to this day she has never been “OT approved” (<– whatever the heck that means) They chalk her "withdrawing and having her hands up covering her ears as a behavior and that she is trying to get out of having to do her work or participating, etc. I am very close to pulling her out of school and giving homeschooling a try with her. Im at a point where I have said, sent, talked to, taken her to, whoever and wherever will see her. I have gotten NO WHERE! I personally want any kind of focus taken OFF OF FOOD! They seem to think that "they know better and only want her to be healthy and not stand out". Seriously this is what I deal with! Ok so I know that I am going to tell them to let her have her headphones when she feels she needs them, but Im not sure how to deal with the food situations she comes across at school. Im sorry this is sort of a rant but I know, just from the few posts Ive read so far that you "get it"! Any direction or ideas or and calming phrase, quote or verse will be appreciated 🙂
    Kim- trying despartely to advocate for my kiddo.

  3. Jennifer says:

    The Sensory Spectrum is hosting a special blog hop of posts from bloggers in June and we’d love to have you participate! Just imagine a list of bloggers sharing their stories about what it’s like to have sensory challenges and what it means to have a sensory kiddo! Read more here:

    Joining in on this blog hop will undoubtedly get your blog more exposure as people will hop from one blog to the next to read the stories. I will also be tweeting everyone’s stories during the month and highlighting some on my Facebook page.

    I hope you’ll join us!
    Jennifer @ The Sensory Spectrum
    (and you can find me @ The Jenny Evolution, too!)

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