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Thanksgiving With Sensory Processing Disorder

Thanksgiving. A time with family and friends, good food, good times and good memories. I think it’s ingrained into the brain of a mom to imagine a picture perfect Thanksgiving dinner. A beautiful table setup with all the food coming out hot, on time and cooked to perfection. The family sitting nicely together, getting along and praising the kids for eating such a wide variety of foods.

But then there’s reality. While we all struggle trying to make the holidays as awesome as we can, different challenges arise when you include sensory processing disorder.

SPD is a condition where the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. There are triggers everywhere that I can’t even begin to comprehend. And since my son had a speech delay, he communicated solely through meltdowns for a long time. So imagine Thanksgiving. Being in someone else’s home is a trigger. So is the noise of conversation. The weird smells of foods he never eats. Strange rooms, a different color carpet, a pet he’s never encountered, family he doesn’t see often, I could go on and on. We realized the holidays were strenuous for him instead of happy occasions.

In years past, we didn’t have a diagnosis. We were as confused as anyone as to why he acted the way he did. Things were tough. I wasn’t. Not anymore. Now that we can put a name to my son’s behavior, we can help him. Now we know there’s a reason he acts the way he does, even if we don’t understand it. Now we can show up for holidays armed with distractions, foods he will eat, and a bit more grace for his meltdowns. Maybe even a bit more grace for ourselves.

So to our families…

You may find us taking a break in the kitchen or bathroom, or roaming the house looking for our boy. We may run off mid-sentence to prevent a trigger or cut you off to help him. We may not both be able to sit down and eat, and some food may end up on the floor. A meltdown can occur. By the end of the night, we may all be frustrated. But it’s OK. Because that means we survived another family holiday. Eventually it will get easier, and holidays will be less hectic. But in the meantime, thank you for having us. Thank you for inviting us over and over again, no matter how many times we’ve had to leave early or run around. Thank you for not offering advice when we just needed peace. Thank you for not judging. Thank you for loving our boy even when he’s having trouble processing everything. Because he loves you all too, and despite how he sometimes acts, he’s been very excited to see you. And despite how tired we all look, we are always happy we came.

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Thinkstock photo by Alex Raths

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