Wriggly Bum: Sensory Processing Disorder & My Son

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.


23 responses to “Wriggly Bum: Sensory Processing Disorder & My Son

  1. I can relate to so much of your post with my own son but wouldnt be able to put it so eloquently into words. Its exactly the same for my Little Man and so hard for people to understand. You have yourself a new follower!

    • Thank you. It can be really hard to make people understand what life can be like for some children, especially if their problems are not wrapped up with a nice, neat label. We saw the occupational therapist yesterday who validated my concerns and now we’re looking to the future. We’re looking to find ways to support him at home, in school and out & about, so hopefully over time he’ll learn strategies to cope with things. For the meantime I need to grow elephant skin across my big bottom and stop worrying about what people think in the supermarket.

  2. My grandson has been in preschool for 6 months & has problems with sensory-incompatibility. I think these Disorders can be harder on the Parents & older Siblings who become embarrassed over something that we have no control over. These are disorders that the whole family including the child, are just learning about. I know you’ve learned, like we are learning that “It’s one day at a time & sometimes it’s one moment at a time.” Thanks for your story & know you are not alone.

    • Thank you, Dorothy. I knew he had these sorts of issues long before I ever realised that they were a “real” condition. Knowing that others out there are dealing with the same thing helps us to feel less alone.

  3. My 3 year old has sensory, gross and fine issues too. Thanks for that post, it makes for excellent reading 🙂 I’m trying to get my head round how difficult it is for him. We only found out recently that my 10 year old also has sensory difficulties too and I so wish I’d learned and pushed for more info earlier, so we could of helped him more.

    • Thank you, Donna. It can be really hard to understand. My wee one will kick off at the table if he smells tomato ketchup, mustard etc beside him. If I didn’t know to check for it we wouldn’t know why he was screaming. But it’s odd because other smells often don’t bother him – we made smoked haddock mornay last night and braced ourselves for tears, but he loved it.

      I wish you and your sons all the best in the future.

  4. lovely blog – my son has a processing issue as well as sensory defensiveness as part of neurological condition and despite his other complications, this is the hardest part of him to cope with sometimes. For him it is noise that throws him and the pressure of demand makes him very very uncomfortable.

  5. I loved reading about story time from your son’s point of view. My son was 8 when he was diagnosed and I’m still finding out what bothers him, but there’s definitely as bit of SPD in there. Thanks for linking up with Love All Blogs x

    • Thank you. It can be so hard for them, can’t it. People just don’t understand, no matter how they try. My son is definitely going to need an assistant at school or the teacher is going to go insane. I hope you and your son are well.

  6. what a great wee post – i love the way that you have written it – i can imagine sitting beside mr wriggly bum but i cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be so aware of all that is going on around you – you would want an “off” switch to experience peace i think. i’m off to read more about this and i hope to see you back at next week’s showcase. take care

    • Thank you. It’s funny – he was just asking me today how to say, “I want peace” in Gaelic (my answer? Ask your teacher because I don’t know). It’s rare that he’s just still and relaxed, which must be really draining for him.

  7. This is a really great explanation of SPD. I definitely think it is one *story* that should be read by all teachers. (I came over from love all blogs!)

  8. I know some of what your going through, my son is hyper sensitive to some things, like smells, noise, certain fabrics etc it must be really tough to have to stay out when you need to move or something is irritating you. I can’t do it very well as an adult 😉

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  10. So brilliantly written. It is so difficult for them – and really all it would take is a bit of understanding, isn’t it? Being sat at the front for a start – there can only be a handful fo children in every class who actually need this. So good to increase awareness.

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