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When I Realized What My Son’s Sensory Processing Disorder Feels Like

“Momma, I need you to turn off the air conditioner,” my son said as we drove to his appointment.

“OK, but why?” I asked, thinking about the 95-degree heat that was sure to make us a sweaty mess in about three minutes without the air on.

“Because I am eating something crunchy,” he answered, as if I should know. “It gives me weird, yucky-feeling goosebumps and makes me shiver.” He took another careful bite of the popcorn.

I turned off the air.

The realization of what he was saying hit me all at once. The sensory experience of eating something crunchy made him feel the way I feel when I’m at the dentist getting my teeth scraped.

No wonder my son avoids crunchy foods.

No wonder he used to have meltdowns when he was younger. He just didn’t have the language to explain why.

No wonder I can’t get a flipping carrot into this kid.

I fixed my eyes on the freeway so he wouldn’t see my tears. After all this time, I wish I had known.

It’s here every day, day in and day out, making my son uncomfortable in his own body and unable to tolerate so many things that I just take for granted.

In her book “The Way I See It,” Temple Grandin speaks candidly about the sensory issues that accompany her autism diagnosis. She talks about how little research and understanding there is for something that she considers to be the most significant impairment in her life.

I’m with her. It makes me a little panicky and upset when I read about some of the lack of understanding, research, treatment and care in the medical community when it comes to sensory processing disorder (SPD).

The one thing I wish I could alleviate for my son, above anything else that he deals with, is the way his sensory system impacts his overall well-being.  It has been so much a part of his daily existence for so long, it’s hard to imagine what his life would even be like without SPD.

This goes way back for him. I’m going to venture a guess and say that when he spent hours upon hours, every single day, crying inconsolably at 3 weeks old, sensory issues may have been a part of it.

He has never known a life where his body isn’t fighting basic aspects of his daily life.



Crunchy foods.

Chewy meats.

Drinks that are too cold.

Drinks that are too warm.



Riding a bike.

Sitting in an upright chair.

Smells, even pleasant ones.


I could go on and on and on.

The good news? I understand now. I hate that I didn’t used to. The more we discuss and begin to understand sensory processing disorder, the more we can truly begin to know our children. And when we do, we can be there for them, empathize with them and teach them exercises to help them.

Now that I know, I can help.

Shawna Wingert the mighty.1-001

Follow this journey on Not the Former Things.

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