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 http://wp.me/p1Wc6a-N) 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 🙂