My son’s story: living with Sensory Processing Disorder.
Ooh, it’s story time! I love books, so long as they’re not too scary. I like it when the teacher tells us to gather in the book corner, and today’s story looks good – there’s a picture of a car on the front. We all have to sit on the floor so I’ve got to look about and get a good spot because I want to be able to see the pictures. Ouch! I didn’t realise that boy’s foot was so close, and I can’t keep my balance very well so now I’ve fallen and hurt my knee, and he’s pushing me because I’ve squished him. The teacher’s giving me a row for not watching where I’m going in a loud, shouty voice. I don’t like loud, shouty voices so I’m going to laugh really loudly then I can’t hear her any more. That’s much better, though the teacher doesn’t seem to think so.
Right. I’m turning on my listening ears and I’m keeping my legs to myself. We have to watch the teacher so that we can hear all the story and I don’t want to miss the good bits. The first page is funny so I start to laugh but now the teacher is getting loud again because I’m distracting the other boys and girls. My legs are getting all fizzy – I can’t keep them bent into a basket so I’m going to try to stretch them in front of me because I don’t like fizzy things. Fizzy juice makes me scared. Oops, now I’ve missed the next page and the girl in front is complaining that I’m kicking her. The teacher isn’t happy again – I don’t think she likes me very much. I’ll try turning my listening ears back on again. Ouch, why is the girl next to me so close?
Ok, listening to the story again. I’m going to show the teacher that I can be a good boy and I’m going to sit really still. This is a good story and I want to hear the rest of it. I think I’ve missed a bit because I don’t know who the cat she’s pointing at in the book is but never mind. What’s that noise? I can hear a ticking, bubbly noise. Can anyone else hear it? I’m looking everywhere but I can’t…. oh, look! The fish tank is making bubbles. The fish are eating their dinner – I wonder what it tastes like.
The girl next to me is scratching her legs. Why are scratchy legs so loud? I can’t hear the teacher because she’s soooo noisy. Why won’t she be quiet? I’m going to hum my Cars 2 song and then it’ll all be ok. I don’t think the teacher likes Cars 2, she’s making a big sighing noise now and telling me not to keep wriggling about.
It’s hard to stay still though. These are my scratchy trousers. I’ve told mummy I don’t like wearing pants and trousers but she says I’m not allowed to run about naked, which is silly because it feels so good.
My bottom is sore. Is anyone else’s bottom sore? It feels like my bones are poking out of my skin. Maybe if I lie down it’ll be more comfortable. Oh, look at all the pretty lights. I wonder how many there are. I think I’ll count them. One, two, three… The teacher is angry again. She doesn’t want to know how many lights there are, and she doesn’t want to know why they buzz. She’s telling me to come sit beside her because I’m being a naughty boy. I’m not sure what I’ve done wrong. Why are there so many legs? I can’t work out where to stand to get to her because people are all so close. I’m not trying to hurt anyone but now the boy is crying and the teacher is giving me a Time Out. I want my mummy.
Hooray! Mummy is here! She wants to know about today’s story and is asking me to tell her all about it but I want to run and stretch my legs. I tell her there was a car and a cat but I don’t know what else. I like story time but sometimes it’s very confusing.
This is just a story, but it describes a little of what my gorgeous little four year old boy has to deal with every day. My son struggles with his fine & gross motor skills, and he has difficulty regulating his senses so he is in the process of being diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (or something very like it). He is a loving, caring, happy wee boy but is easily overwhelmed by his environment, and he doesn’t just like to move, he needs to move. He is often misunderstood.
Some people dismiss his difficulties and tell me all boys like to move – but his occupational therapist says different. Others label him a bad boy and me a bad mother who cannot set boundaries for her son – they don’t see the beautiful little boy trying his very best to behave but struggling with the sensory stimulus all around him.
Imagine being asked to sit still to listen to a story with someone repeatedly poking you and someone else whistling at a high pitch in your ear. It wouldn’t be easy, would it? That is what life can be for my wee boy. Nursery is a jumble of routines, noises, textures and smells. Supermarkets and shopping centres send him soaring like a kite, and much as it can drive me mad at the time, I know he can’t help it.
Maybe you are a tolerant, understanding person, in which case I’m sure you are supportive of parents you see struggling with the child who is spinning in circles, screaming, in the supermarket. I’m sure you’ve explained to your own child that the wriggly bottomed little child in their class can’t help moving so much and that they need their friendship and support. But if you’ve ever tutted or rolled your eyes at the “misbehaving” children you pass when you’re out and about, stop and think:
No child sets out to upset those they love. Sometimes it’s just harder than they can cope with to follow society’s rules and show their parents that they are overflowing with love for them, just like any other child.
If you’d like to try to understand these children more, or even feel a lightbulb switch on about your own child, check out this page for more information – http://www.sensoryflow.com/spd/sensory-incompatibility/ or watch a video here. My son is young and is still working his way through the assessment process, but Sensory Processing Disorder explains many of the challenges he faces, just like the ones in his story above.