When My Son With Anxiety and SPD Participated in the School's Christmas Concert

Our 5-year-old has sensory processing disorder (SPD) and high levels of anxiety. Like other families who have kids with disabilities, we have invested a lot of resources in our child to help him cope with what feels to him to be a “hostile” environment.

Last night was our son’s kindergarten Christmas concert. For most parents, this can be a joyful time full of pride, happiness and camera flashes. But for the last two years, Christmas concerts have been difficult for our son. His first year of preschool, he was overwhelmed with anxiety and experiencing a complete sensory overload. At the following year’s Christmas concert, our son stood on that same stage, motionless. For him, standing motionless was a success from the year before.

I once heard sensory overload explained as “everything coming at you all at once.” Imagine you can hear things, maybe even feel things, that make it hard to function. You might feel frozen, completely stuck and overwhelmed by the sounds, smells and sights all around you, unable to process it all. I can’t even begin to understand how difficult Christmas concerts are for our son: the bright, hot lights shining down, the loud music and the crowd of proud parents clapping and cheering for their children, the array of different smells from an auditorium full of people. It must be awful for him.

So, last night, as his class took the stage and filed up onto the risers, marching one by one, I closed my eyes and said a quick prayer that he would make it through the next five minutes with no anxiety and no sensory overload. One song — that was all I was hoping for.

The lights dimmed. The music to “Up on the Rooftop” began, and his peers all began to sing. And there he stood — back row, second from the end — looking adorably perfect, but motionless. That familiar lump in my throat started rising as my husband reached over to hold my hand. In that moment, we thinking “Ok, this again. This is not so bad. He’s going to make it through.”

But then, his lips began to move ever so slightly, followed by his hands. And by the middle of the song, he was dancing and singing along loudly with the rest of his classmates. The lump in my throat soon dissipated and tears of joy were streaming down my face.

I knew how difficult this must have been for our boy. How hard he must have worked at school to master the actions and remember the words. How anxious he probably was with all those eyes staring at him. What his senses might have felt with those hot, bright lights beating down on him. But he persevered. And in that one moment, we knew all the sacrifices and hard work over the past few years were worth every single second and every single dollar. It truly was our very own Christmas miracle.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Sensory Processing Disorder

30 Awesome Gifts for Kids With Sensory Issues

Kids with sensory issues process sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch differently than others. Some kids are sensory seekers (their brain needs more input from the senses), while others are easily overwhelmed by certain senses and are sensory avoiders. Kids with sensory issues usually gravitate towards toys and activities that involve touch, textures, calming lights or activities [...]

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, [...]
Teenage girl with blond hair in knitted cardigan and black denim jeans sitting on wooden bench in the park.

What It's Like Having Sensory Processing Disorder as a Teen

I have sensory processing disorder. That means my brain processes sensory input differently, which can be very overwhelming at times. When I get too much sensory input I do what is called stimming — self-regulatory behavior such as rocking, humming, or hand flapping. People with sensory disorders do this to provide output to block out [...]
Happy parents pushing children sitting on swings at playground on a sunny day.

How I Live My Life as an Adult With Sensory Processing Disorder

Just because sensory processing disorder (SPD) is not a classified disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not mean it is not real, especially to me. Rather than defining SPD it may be easier to talk about some of the symptoms. People with SPD may become over-responsive or under-responsive to [...]