To the Mom of the Child With Sensory Processing Disorder


I’ve learned to follow my gut instinct over the last five years and it’s never failed me yet. Over the last 15 months, my gut has been telling me that my 4-year-old may not be as high-maintenance as I thought, and that it runs a lot deeper than just being a sensitive soul. Maybe my gut has been telling me a lot longer than that, but I was in denial.

That’s the thing about the term “special needs” – you’re accepting of everybody else’s children under that definition, but it can be harder when it’s your own children. It’s hard to accept that life is never going to be “normal” by society’s standards. It’s hard to embrace it.

I admit I struggled when I realized my child may have sensory processing disorder (SPD) and some autistic traits. My child? No, not my child; yet he ticked every box! Things started to make sense. He wasn’t just sensitive, he was overloaded and couldn’t cope. They weren’t tantrums 40 times a day, they were meltdowns from sensory overload. He wasn’t sniffing everything just because. He wasn’t repeating everything to be rude, it was echolalia. He wasn’t being awkward about his clothes being just right. He wasn’t being naughty when he had a screaming fit because plans changed. He wasn’t being silly about refusing his nails being cut. He wasn’t just sensitive when smells made him cry. He was overloaded. His senses are literally in control (or out of control) of his every thought. This breaks my heart. I can’t fix it. His momma can’t fix it.

How as a momma did I not know something was wrong? I’d have done things so differently. I would’ve been more patient. I wouldn’t have made him have time-out for every meltdown that occurred. I wouldn’t have yelled when he wouldn’t try a new recipe. I wouldn’t tell him he was rude when he wouldn’t acknowledge people or say goodbye. I could kick myself now looking back. How did I not know?! But life is too short for regrets.

I was in denial for a long time. I was grieving the life I thought I’d lost, but I was wrong. Nothing has changed, except my knowledge and recognition. This is the life we have, my boy has. He’s not defined by a label. His brain may be wired a little differently to the average person, but that doesn’t make him weird or less of a person. As soon as I accepted that, we were able to approach things differently.

I think when our children are diagnosed with disorders we, as parents, are often so worried about the stigma attached to those disorders that we’re the ones with the actual problem. We fret so much about what others think that we often do more harm than good. We have to accept the circumstances ourselves, and once we do, nothing will hinder our perception of the disorders.

After researching SPD, I understood more and more about the challenges my boy was facing, and I became prouder by the second for his accomplishments. Daily life is overwhelming for him sometimes, but he tries so hard. Even simple tasks such as getting dressed are big accomplishments. I find myself begging the Sock God to be kind and not make the seams irritating today; I hold my breath when labels meet skin. The thought of asking to trim his nails sends shudders down my spine. I’m constantly holding my breath waiting for the next reaction armed with calming words and cuddles.

I try to be as patient as possible. That is a key factor with SPD. Anxiety levels are already on the edge daily, and an impatient momma will not help. I’d like to say I’ve perfected this, but that would be lying. Some days I yell. Some days I cry. Some days I feel mentally exhausted. Some days I feel like a crap mom.

Not a second goes by that I’m not planning the next moves around the sensory needs of my child. It’s a never ending job and my mission is to avoid meltdowns at all costs. Sometimes that means staying home all day, or spending days speaking about upcoming plans, or swapping housework for an afternoon of cuddles. I’m never, ever too busy for cuddles. Sometimes it even means joining him under the table to eat at a party when he’s overwhelmed with all the people.

I fret about going to the mall, to parties, to people’s houses, to new places, but it never stops me from going. I don’t want my boy growing up feeling ashamed or lonely. I want him to know it’s OK to feel how he does and that people understand. I want to teach him healthy strategies to cope with his issues.

I want the best for him. And the best is not me denying there’s an issue. The best is not me wallowing in self-pity and feeling sorry for him and his future. The best is instilling self-worth in him every single day. I need to remember he’s highly sensitive to the world around him, and that even on calm days, he probably feels like a tornado has just buzzed around him.

There are some things that I can’t stand, one of those being veins. Even the word makes me cringe. If I see veins or hear someone talking about them, I feel sick and weird. My boy sees and hears veins every minute of his life, except it’s not veins, it’s smells, noises, textures, crowds and bright lights. This keeps things in perspective.

SPD might wear you out as a momma, but imagine how much more it wears out the child who has it? Momma, your tears won’t change the future, but your perception of SPD will. More patience, more cuddles and less apologies to the public will help. You don’t have to justify anything to anybody, and if people question the diagnosis, let them. Some disabilities are unseen. Momma knows best.

I hope sharing a little of our world helps in some way. It can be a lonely road, but I’m right there cheering you on.

Keep going. Tougher days might be ahead, but plod on through the tears, the meltdowns, the aggression, the misconceptions and the brick walls – your kid needs you.

Follow this journey on Swords and Snoodles.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one piece of advice you’d offer about your (or a loved one’s) disability and/or disease? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.


11 Tips for a Great Beach Day for Your Child With Sensory Processing Disorder


The beach is the most tactile place I know. It’s like stepping into a giant sensory bin that you can’t escape. From the moment your toes touch the sand, you’re bombarded with tactile information, such as sand and salt water, then the combination of the two; the sun’s penetration; possibly wind; and maybe wind whipping sand across your burning skin.

But this isn’t to deter you from a beach day. In fact, I highly recommend going to the beach as often as you can; I believe it’s the best free sensory therapy ever. Go boogie boarding, build sand castles, eat a picnic. Just bring all the supplies your child may need for comfort.  There were days when I packed as if we were going camping.  And yes, it’s a pain to organize and then be a mule and unload it all on the sand. But what a difference it can make.

Growing up, I loved going to the beach. But then I had a child with sensory processing disorder, and it became an entirely different experience. The water physically hurt him. He said it felt like nails on his skin, perhaps from the freezing cold temperature. The salt burned. The sand itched. The sun sizzled his skin. His eyes stung. For him, it was a torturous experience.

But he wanted to build sand castles with his father, so we focused on that. We purchased a rash guard, a big straw hat and dark sunglasses, and he’d tolerate the beach for short periods of time.

If you have a sensitive kiddo or a kiddo with sensory processing disorder, too, here are 11 tips for taking them to the beach:

1. A tent

Seriously, I’m not joking. Hear me out. You can go all out and get a pop-up cabana tent so the whole family will have shade and a protected environment. Or you can go with a regular two-person camping tent for your child to escape to. That way they’re at the beach but still have their private area to self-regulate and take breaks.

Please take account of the wind factor, which can blow tents around. So make sure to take safety precautions and use stakes on windy days.

2. An umbrella

OK, I prefer a tent over an umbrella and here’s why. Umbrellas can be super hard for me to dig into the sand and get stable. And it’s hard to keep moving the umbrella as the sun and clouds move. Plus, the wind can rip the umbrella out and end up skidding down the beach, which is so not fun to chase after and keep your child next to you at the same time. So yes, an umbrella can be great, but it can also be a pain. Pick what works for you.

3. A beach blanket

Bring a heavy one so it doesn’t fly up with the wind. And the bigger, the better. Make sure to have a rule that it’s for sitting on only around the edges and not to get sand all over it, which defeats the purpose of the blanket.

Blankets will eventually get covered in sand as the day goes on, and sometimes it’s a goner from the get go. But when it does work out, it’s nice for the kids to get to lie on it without the sand itch.

4. Many towels

How many? As many as you may need. The first towel will get soaked and sandy in minutes. A second towel is great for wiping the sand off your children’s hands when they dig into a bag of chips. And keep at least one towel in the car for the ride home.

5. Protective cases

Phones, tablets or games can be ruined in a second at the beach, whether it’s water, sand or wind. Electronics + beach + kids = disaster, so tread cautiously. 

Either you’re the gatekeeper to the electronics, and you tell them they can only use gadgets while in the tent or while lying on the blanket. Or have an electronics-free day. It’s up to you. Some kiddos are fine without electronics, and others may need the break, especially if you have other kids to tend to as well.

6. Flip-flops

Be sure to teach your children flip-flop etiquette. I taught my son at a very young age to walk flat-footed on the sand if he was wearing flip-flops, otherwise it sends sand flying on everyone you walk past. And no one appreciates sand in their eyes. But sand gets hot, so sometimes the flip-flops are needed to get to closer to the water.

7. Water

Drinking water for hydration is crucial. And a spray bottle filled with water will help wipe sandy or sticky hands (think popsicle drip) or help clean their backs before reapplying sunscreen. 

Also, it’s good to keep a gallon of water back at the car in case you need to rinse feet off before the car trip home. Or you can even use it to dump it all over your kid’s head to get off the itchy salt water, but only if your child agrees to it. Keep in mind that some beaches don’t have showers.

8. Snacks

Moms know we can’t go too far without snacks. For the beach, use resealable containers and a cooler if needed. Fruit is always good beach food, along with juice boxes, chips, crackers, pretzels and sandwiches. Think of the items you’d pack for a school lunch. Popsicles are great, but eat them early since they’ll melt even in a cooler.

9. Sun protection

Whether it’s a combination of sunscreen, hats, protective swimwear and sunglasses, bring it. Use it. And remind your kids to use them often.

Sunburn is painful, so it must be even more painful for a child with sensory processing disorder. I love the sun, but please be overly cautious and use sun protection even if it’s cloudy, since those rays will still shine through without you being aware.

10. Dry clothes

You may need to switch into more comfy clothes at the end of a long day. Or maybe your child can’t tolerate the wet swim trunks or swimsuit any longer. Sweats and a loose t-shirt can feel great after being squeezed into Lycra. Pajamas are always good for a long car trip home. Just remove as much sand as possible first!

11. Sand toys

What better way to motivate your child to play with sand, water, seaweed, shells and crabs? Pick up some shovels and sifters at the dollar store or tools to make a sand castle. Or you can use gardening supplies or your child’s favorite Play-Doh molds. 

If your child is on the older side, you can dig a huge hole close the water and keep them busy dragging seaweed into a pile of mermaid salad. You know how slimy seaweed can be, right? Best tactile sensory therapy ever.

By bringing the necessary accommodations, your child may be motivated by the fun they’re having to work through their sensory discomforts. How great is that?

young girl at the beach partly buried in the sand

Follow this journey on Peace, Autism and Love.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell a story about a time someone helped you and/or your child when you needed it most. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

, , , Contributor list

One Easy Way to Better Understand Sensory Processing Disorder


One of the biggest obstacles I face as the mom of a child with sensory processing disorder (SPD) is most people simply don’t understand what it’s like for my daughter to navigate through the challenges that everyday life throws at her. They also don’t know what it’s like to be her mother and have to consider her needs in every decision I make on a daily basis. Things most people don’t think about like trips to the grocery store have to be planned with the most careful precision.

Most people think my parenting style is overprotective or neurotic even when I tell them my daughter has SPD. I actually don’t want us to leave the party early, but she can’t take the volume of the music being played.

I also used to run home for her nap time because the only place she can sleep is in her bedroom with all natural light blocked out. “Skip her nap” is what most people say, not knowing doing so would overstimulate her so much that the entire rest of the day would consist of one meltdown after the other. She would also have problems falling asleep at night and would wake up at least an hour early the following day.

Don’t get me wrong, I know most people mean well. There is little known about SPD and most people simply don’t understand what it’s like to have it or be a parent of someone who has it.

In the everyday hustle of life as a parent, even I sometimes find myself dismissing the challenges my daughter goes through. Like when I get aggravated because we’re running late for school, and she wants to change her pants because they feel funny. Or when she begs me for weeks to take her to Chuck E. Cheese and after driving all the way there, she won’t enter the building because she can hear how noisy it is from the outside.

Every day I wake up and tell myself today is going to be the day when I have more patience. I’m going to respect her sensitivities and make her feel good about herself even though so many things can be challenging for her. And yet, every day life gets in the way, and I find myself frustrated with her and hearing her say, “Mommy, I’m sorry,” about things I know she simply can’t control. The fact of the matter is, unless you can truly feel what a child with SPD is feeling, you can’t understand it even when they’re your own child. So how can I get annoyed with people who don’t understand our situation when even I can’t understand it most of the time?

I propose you all try this little exercise. Think about your quirkiest habits: things you avoid, things you seek out and those little things most people wouldn’t notice but drive you up a wall. Once you’ve thought about it, think about how those things make you feel physically, mentally and emotionally.

I’ll go first: I hate turtlenecks. I like the way they look. I even get jealous when I see people wear them because I wish I could, but I hate them. I have tried countless times to wear them, but no matter what, I just can’t. How do they make me feel? When I wear them, I feel like I can’t breathe. I start to sweat, actually. I can’t focus on anything else but that piece of material around my neck, and the longer I have it on, the tighter it feels. One time, I was driving with a turtleneck on and I actually had to pull over because the feeling of it made me so anxious I thought I was going to pass out.

The same goes for fluorescent lighting. It gives me such a bad a headache that I feel like I’m going to get sick. I sometimes wear sunglasses indoors. The brighter the light, the sicker I feel. And I hate rides. Any and all types of rides. That stomach drop you feel that most people crave. The rush of adrenaline. Just thinking about it makes me feel woozy. So I never went to amusement parks. I just didn’t want to hear one more person tell me to “just try it, it’s not too fast.” No, thank you. I will happily stand at the bottom and hold everyone’s stuff while you enjoy that awful, nauseating feeling most people call an “adrenaline rush.”

While you might be reading and laughing about this,  just sitting here and conjuring up the feelings over my “quirks” is literally making me feel dizzy and sick to my stomach. Now, as you think about your own quirks and sensitivities, think about what it would be like to wake up every day and have every little part of  life making you feel that way: the drip of the coffeepot, the clothes you’re wearing, the smell of breakfast cooking. All day, every day. Everything you encounter makes you feel as awful as turtlenecks, bright lights and roller coasters make me feel. Luckily for me, I can avoid those things if I want to (and I do!). But for my little girl, the things that make her feel this way can’t be avoided. And that’s what it’s like to have SPD or at least that’s what I believe what it’s like to have it.

So the next time I lose my patience with her, I think I’m going to lock myself in a brightly lit room wearing a turtleneck, then I’m going to give her a hug and tell her that I love her just the way she is.

young girl smiling

Follow this journey on My Sensational Girl.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one commonly held opinion within the community surrounding your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) that doesn’t resonate with you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

Sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.


How My Daughter Explained Her Sensory Overload When I Couldn't


One day when my daughter was 3, she came to me and asked, “What’s wrong with me? Why do I cry all the time?”

I didn’t have an answer for her, and it broke my heart. She was desperate for me to define things going on inside of her things she couldn’t understand. She was in her first year of nursery school and couldn’t get through a two-hour day without breaking into hysterics multiple times. Her teachers’ method of choice was to ignore her, and it wasn’t effective. She wasn’t acting out to seek attention. She screamed at birthday parties when they sang “Happy Birthday” and hated to get dressed in the morning, but she couldn’t tell me why. She cried while watching cartoons when a character seemed mad or sad or hurt. So, finally, she turned to the number-one person in her life she felt she could trust: her mother.

I was speechless. I knew she was acting this way because she had sensory processing disorder, but I was stunned to realize she was aware of it. But how do you explain that to a child so young?

I sat there, saying nothing. In that moment, I had failed her. That day I vowed never to fail her again. Immediately following this incident, I took her to a therapist to work on communicating her feelings. I found a sensory motor group for children her age and began to address her sensory needs with the help of an occupational therapist. I had a laundry list of evaluations to assess every possible area of her development. I left no stone unturned and over time, with the help of many different professionals, I started to piece together the puzzle of why my daughter felt the way she did.

Although I started to feel more confident about our situation, my daughter did not. While I was gaining insight, but she was still in the dark. It was taking its toll. I had no idea how to fix it.

One day at school, my daughter had a meltdown because she wanted to sit in a certain chair for snack time and the teachers wouldn’t allow it. She broke down in front of her peers while they all stared and covered their ears. The teacher had no problem telling me about this incident and said it was her job to teach children they couldn’t always get what they want. She said her meltdown ruined the rest of school day. I was devastated and so angry. I was angry at her teachers for judging my daughter and refusing to notice her cries for help. I was angry at myself because I didn’t know how to protect her. I had this smart, funny little girl who was sweet and compassionate and friendly, but she was starting to look worn and weathered. Her eyes were always red from crying. She walked with her head down and started to become anxious. Any little thing she deemed “wrong” she would nervously apologize for. She was drowning in her issues and I felt helpless to save her.

Then one day my daughter, now 4, said the most amazing thing. She was bouncing around the house, extremely hyper and I was trying to get her to stop. She turned to me and said, “I can’t help myself, Mom! My brain feels tricky and my heart beats really fast.”

I was amazed. At this moment, I realized my daughter was explaining her overstimulation to me in her own words. All this time, my daughter knew something different was going on inside of her. Because of the way others (including myself) treated her or talked about her, she thought these differences were bad. All the times teachers and I spoke about her behavior in front of her like she wasn’t even in the room, she knew exactly what we were talking about. She didn’t feel bad about having a sensory processing disorder. She felt bad because we made her feel like she should. After all this time, I had finally figured out what was bothering her, and I felt like I knew how to fix it. I needed to explain her sensory processing disorder to the one person who needed it the most. This is the gist of what I told her:

“Yes, your brain feels tricky. But everyone’s brains feel tricky about something. For me, I’m bad at math. I hate roller coasters and scary movies. They make my head feel funny and my heart beat fast. For you, your brain finds it hard to listen to loud noises or wear scratchy clothes. And that’s OK, because those things aren’t bad. We’ll work on them. I’m here to help you.

“Yes, you have a lot of feelings. But that’s not a bad thing. We can work on controlling your feelings. All those feelings make you so kind and caring toward other people. That’s called being sensitive, and it just means you have a big heart.”

daughter in ballet costume

When I said this, I could see a wave of relief washing over her. It was the start of a brand new chapter for us: For my daughter, who finally found some concrete answers to questions she had about herself, and for her parents, who stopped hiding her difficulties as if they were something to be ashamed of. From that point on, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about her issues in a kid-friendly way. In the last year, we’ve started teaching her ways to recognize the signs of sensory overload and behavioral tools to express her overwhelming emotions in an appropriate way.

Since giving my daughter this power over her SPD, she walks a little taller and laughs a lot more. She is silly and funny, not sad and anxious. Lately, I hear her say things like, “I am brave!” and she couldn’t be more right. She is, in fact, the bravest person I’ve ever met. She pushes herself out of her comfort zone more at the age of 5 than I ever have in my entire adult life. Her SPD came with an awareness that is far more mature than her five years. And for the longest time that awareness, without any explanation, made her feel like something was wrong with her. Now, we use that awareness to empower her. It may have taken awhile to get here, but it was well worth the wait.


A version of this post originally appeared on My Sensational Girl.


The Awesome Reason Everyone Is Talking About This Photo


Charity Stewart Robinson was moved by a moment of kindness that she witnessed between her son and an anonymous man. Now, this moment has turned into a new friendship.

Robinson, from Gladewater, Texas, was with her family at a rodeo on Saturday, June 13, when her recently adopted son Lincoln went up to a stranger and began engaging him. Lincoln has sensory processing disorder as well as a language disorder, so Robinson was touched to see him interacting so easily with the unknown man. She snapped a photo of their interaction and uploaded it to Facebook.

Dear stranger next to us at the rodeo,When my son came up to you and grabbed your arm, you didn't know he used to be...

Posted by Charity Stewart Robinson on Saturday, June 13, 2015


Along with the photo, Robinson posted the following.

Dear stranger next to us at the rodeo,
When my son came up to you and grabbed your arm, you didn’t know he used to be terrified of people. When he talked to you about the bulls, you didn’t know he was diagnosed with a language disorder. When he jumped in your lap and laughed as you tickled him, you didn’t know he had a sensory processing disorder. You also didn’t know that as his mother, I sat in my seat with tears running down my face, sneaking this photo. When we adopted him a few short months ago, we didn’t know how long it would take for him to laugh, play and engage others like this. You didn’t know any of this, but you took time to connect with a child who has had to fight to learn to connect. My heart is full. Thank you.

Robinson’s post was shared so rapidly that when she woke up the morning after posting it, she was put in contact with the “stranger” from the rodeo, Robinson said in a post on her Facebook page. His name is Jason Taylor, and he’s the preacher of Bar None Cowboy Church in Tatum, Texas.

Robinson and her family drove the 45 minutes so Lincoln could visit with his new friend and his congregation.


Last night when I shared that photo, he was a stranger. Today he is a friend we sat next to in church. Here is Lincoln...

Posted by Charity Stewart Robinson on Sunday, June 14, 2015


Last night when I shared that photo, he was a stranger,” Robinson wrote on her Facebook page. “Today he is a friend we sat next to in church.”


To the Medical Lab Staffers Who Helped Me When I Couldn't Do It Alone


I’ve been a neglectful mom as of late — I’ve been putting off something that needs to be done. I don’t think I’m different than any other procrastinating parent, but my reason is the anxiety associated with it.

I’ve been needing to get my son’s blood work done to test him for allergies and a full blood panel to test for vitamin deficiencies. He’s been on medication to help him sleep with his Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), acid reflux and restless legs syndrome. My infant sleep specialist thinks it’s related to his allergies.

I too need to get blood work to figure out why I have a cataract in my early 40’s and why my prescription changed so drastically. So I’ve made parenting mistake #5,411 by putting off the tests.

This morning I made a social story up about going for blood work. My son watched it on my phone for an hour before we left for the appointment. I rubbed some lavender oil on my pulse points to calm me down and sprayed it on my kids and off we went. I had phoned prior to request two nurses be with my son, who has sensory processing disorder (SPD) and is being assessed for autism spectrum disorder.

I registered us and sat in the play area of the lobby and waited. My oldest son was reading, and my youngest son was playing. I was sitting and playing the social story so he could hear it. Our turn came, and I left my oldest there and took my youngest to the room.

He sat on my lap, and the lovely nurse talked to us both about what would happen. A second nurse came in and prepared my son. I was playing the social story and feeling a little vulnerable.

I looked away, but I began to feel sick, and then my son was shrieking and wiggling out of my lap. The nurse stopped; she wasn’t able to find his vein — something he inherited from me. “Invisible veins.” He wouldn’t wear the tourniquet either.

Suddenly I felt nauseous and dizzy, and when the nurse asked me if I was OK, I replied, “No, but I’m trying to be.” She quickly got me a garbage can, and I leaned forward and inhaled the smell of rubbing alcohol, which made me almost pass out.

After I started sliding down the chair I could see my son giggling and saying, “Mommy’s funny,” and the nurse got me a wheelchair. I felt so relieved and silly at the same time. My kids joined me in the exam room, and my husband was called.

The staff at the medical lab were incredible as they helped me onto the exam table, set my sons up with paper and crayons and checked on my blood pressure. It’s always been low, but since I was experiencing emotional flashbacks to my son being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), it was even lower.

All the memories of my poor helpless premature baby being held down to be tested day after day for jaundice played over again. He was so small and vulnerable, with a shrill cry. It all kept flashing back to me as I sang my son’s favorite song to calm his nerves. My husband arrived, and the nurses were relieved and got the blood work finished.

He held our youngest son while my oldest drew me pictures. Five vials of blood later and then three from me and we were on our way home. I’ll never forget how amazing pure love, kindness and compassion felt. Truly the best gift to give and receive.

For all of February, The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. No gesture is too small! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

Want to celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.


Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.