When I Did Not Remember My Child's Needs Due to Her Sensory Processing Disorder
Last night, I learned a valuable lesson on being aware of my child’s needs and that even mommas make big mistakes. My daughter has sensory processing disorder (SPD). Sometimes, she looks and acts “normal,” even to me. But in her wonderful and amazing world, colors, sounds, smells, tastes, touch and light can all be very powerful. Usually, she loves to point out how amazing things are.
Yesterday, at the Children’s Museum, they had moon bounces. My girl loves to bounce. We go to Monkey Joe’s often, just so she can exert that energy. So I thought, what a wonderful thing to do on a Saturday morning. But this week has been a week of irregularity. No school, long drives to visit family and fighting a cough that won’t go away. She had done good all week, but even princesses reach their limits. My daughter thrives best when everything is the same. Transition and change throw her off balance. I had forgotten that this week.
Yesterday morning, when we entered the museum, we were both excited at the idea of bouncing. But as soon as the front door closed, my girl froze. She had seen the bouncies; I thought she’d be thrilled. She was frozen, her thumb in her mouth. That should have been my clue. I should have realized what was happening. But I didn’t. For 20 minutes we battled getting her into one of the bouncies. I got frustrated. What was wrong? She plays on these things all the time. In a quiet voice, she told me “they don’t feel right, Momma. They scare me.” I should have remembered. This was her cue, one we set up long ago, that she could tell me when things felt wrong, so she wouldn’t be forced to do something her SPD wouldn’t allow. But I had forgotten, and I was annoyed. And the other parents stared, which made me more frustrated. So I made her get inside and bounce. She went slowly inside.
While she was inside, I looked around. I realized something: everything about the museum had changed that week. They had decorated for Legendary Santa, and all the normal stuff had been redecorated. For a child who thrives on normalcy, it wouldn’t feel “right.” And there, in the middle of the room, was a giant bouncy, making new sounds and looking strange. Not the same at all.
My girl was out of the bouncy in one minute and into my arms. She was shaking. “Momma, I want to go. I don’t like it here today! Please!” And I finally got the hint. I finally remembered. I remembered that sometimes my daughter sees the world a little different and doesn’t like change. She has watched the same TV show (only 14 episodes available) before bed and every nap and night time for the last year. She eats the same of four breakfasts. And she made me keep our Christmas wreath up from last year, because she didn’t want it taken down. Transitions are not her friend, and big changes are unthinkable. But when she finds normalcy, she is incredible!
We left the museum, and got “pretty nails.” Something she does like. We stayed home after nap time. We watched “Up,” and she giggled and laughed “squirrel,” the whole time, she cuddled in my arms, a sign that she needed comfort more than I had known. We both enjoyed the night.
In this season of holidays, its easy to get caught up in the festivities, the fun, the lights and the sounds and the smells. But we all need to remember that many kids have trouble with this joyous time. If you are out and about, and see a child struggling, screaming or even just silent and seeming shy, remember, that child may have a disability. That child may be struggling to enjoy the simple pleasures of the holidays because it is different than their norm, and change can be hard and scary. And that child may be my daughter.
Let’s make this season something everyone can enjoy.
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Getty image by Madhourse