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I'm a Mom on a Mission to End the Stigma Around Sensory Processing Disorder

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I’m an ordinary mom on a mission to end the stigma associated with disability and mental illness. My world is sensational, thanks to an 8-year-old boy named Landon.  Some days loud noises are our friend, and the next day they aren’t. On most days sunlight is the enemy, food is surely our foe and bedtime is never quick or painless. Anxiety leads to sadness, and sadness leads to frustration, and frustration leads to anger. You see, my Landon has sensory processing disorder, better known as SPD. A. Jean Ayres, PhD said it best when she referred to SPD as a neurological “traffic jam” in the brain. Just picture it happening all the time!

SPD can affect our senses such as vision, audition, tactile, olfactory, taste, proprioception and the vestibular system. It can affect one sense or multiple senses at once. All of Landon’s senses are affected. While some days only certain things act as a trigger for him, he does have days where he has a full blown “sensory day.” Call it mother’s intuition, but I can tell if he is going to have a “sensory day” within an hour of him being awake. While navigating this path with Landon, I uncovered that I also have SPD. At first, I was sad to think I might have passed this onto him, but Landon is who he was meant to be, and he, nor I, won’t ever apologize for being “sensational.”

mom dad and son picking pumpkins

Landon and I have many daily obstacles when it comes to our SPD. For starters, he was a late walker (19 months), late talker (3 years) and was on a milk/formula combo and baby food well into his second year. He was later diagnosed with selective eating disorder and anxiety disorder. We cannot leave the house without sunglasses regardless of the weather.It’s safe to say between he and I we have over 50 pairs! We worry a ton. Then we worry some more. We can’t handle certain sounds and textures. The biggest challenge thus far has been helping him articulate his feelings. I say this because as a 33-year-old with anxiety disorder and SPD, I still sometimes cannot express how I am feeling. Overwhelming happiness often comes across as anger and sadness. Our emotional barometer is heightened and gets lost in the “traffic-jam” more times than we would like.

My child has been labeled “fussy” as baby, “grouchy” as a toddler and now “anxious” as an 8-year-old. I tear these labels off. Labels are for jars, not for my son. Having SPD doesn’t define us. Instead it shapes us. We might move to the right while others move left. But in the end, we are all on the same journey. We want to learn, grow, socialize, love and explore just like the rest of you. We just have a harder time navigating through it all. We do things a little differently, as does everyone in some way, shape or form. And last time I checked, being different makes us unique. The world is better place when we are free to be who we were meant to be.

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Originally published: October 27, 2016
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