An Exercise in Understanding SPD

One of the biggest obstacles I have as the mom of a child with SPD is that most people simply don’t understand what it’s like for my daughter to navigate through the challenges that everyday life throws at her. They also don’t know what it’s like to be her mother and have to consider her needs in every decision I make on a daily basis. Things most people don’t think about like trips to the grocery store have to be planned with the most careful precision.  Most people think that my parenting style is overprotective or neurotic, even when I tell them that she has SPD…like I really enjoy leaving a party early because she can’t take the volume of the music being played or that I used to run home for her nap time because the only place she can sleep is in her bedroom with all natural light blocked out. “Skip her nap” is what most people say, not knowing that doing so would overstimulate her so much that the entire rest of the day would consist of one meltdown after the other, problems falling asleep at night, and waking up at least an hour early the following day. Don’t get me wrong…most people mean well. There is little known about SPD and most people simply don’t understand what it’s like to have it or to be the parent of someone who has it.
The truth is, there is a little SPD in all of us. You know, those little “quirks” we all  have that we talk about with others and maybe even laugh about when they are brought up in social situations?!  In the everyday hustle of life as a parent even I sometimes find myself dismissing her difficulties. …like when I get aggravated because we are running late for school and she wants to change her pants because they feel funny or when she begs me for weeks to take her to Chuck E. Cheese and after driving all the way there she won’t enter the building because she can hear how noisy it is from the outside. Everyday I wake up and tell myself that today is going to be the day when I have more patience, that I am going to respect her sensitivities and make her feel good about herself even though so many things are difficult for her. Yet, everyday, life gets in the way and I find myself frustrated with her and hearing her say “Mommy, I’m sorry” about things I know that she simply can’t control. The fact of the matter is, unless you can truly feel what a child with SPD is feeling, you can’t understand it..even when they are your child. So how can I get annoyed with people who don’t understand our situation when even I can’t understand it most of the time?!
So, today I propose to all of you a little exercise. Think about your quirkiest habits…things you avoid or things you seek out..those little things that most people wouldn’t notice but drive you up a wall. Now, once you’ve thought about it, think about how those things make you feel..physically, mentally, emotionally. I’ll go first: I HATE TURTLENECKS. I like the way they look. I even get jealous when I see people wear them because I wish I could..but I hate them. I have tried countless times to wear them but no matter what, I just can’t. How do they make me feel? When I wear them, I feel like I can’t breathe..I start to sweat actually. I can’t focus on anything else but that piece of material around my neck and the longer I have it on, the tighter it feels. One time I was driving with a turtleneck on and I actually had to pull over because the feeling of it made me so anxious I thought I was going to pass out. The same goes for flourescent lighting..it gives me a headache so bad I feel like I’m going to throw up. I sometimes wear sunglasses indoors. The brighter the light, the sicker I feel. And I hate rides…any and all types of rides. That stomach drop you feel that most people crave..the rush of adrenaline. Just thinking about it makes me feel woozy. So I never went to amusement parks..I just didn’t want to hear one more person tell me to “just try it..it’s not too fast.” No, thank you..I will happily stand at the bottom and hold everyone’s stuff while you enjoy that awful, nauseating feeling most people call an “adrenaline rush.”
You might be reading this and laughing while just having to sit here conjuring up the feelings I get over these “quirks” is literally making me feel dizzy and sick to my stomach. Now, as you think about your own quirks and sensitivities, think about what it would be like to wake up everyday and have every little part of  life making you feel that way…the drip of the coffeepot, the clothes you are wearing, the smell of breakfast cooking…all day, everyday, everything you encounter making you feel as awful as turtlenecks and bright lights and roller coasters make me feel. Luckily for me, I can avoid those things if I want to (and I do!). But for my little girl, the things that make her feel this way can’t be avoided. And that’s what it’s like to have SPD..at least that’s what I believe that it is like to have it. So, the next time I lose my patience with her I think I’m going to lock myself in a brightly lit room wearing a turtleneck..then I’m going to give her a hug and tell her that I love her just the way she is!
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2 thoughts on “An Exercise in Understanding SPD

  1. Wow Lauren that was so beautiful and so perfectly said. I’m so sorry Sadie has to go through this on a daily basis. However, it seems she has an exceptionally supportive mom who understands even more than she understands herself. Sounds to me you’re doing a perfect job. Lots of love and hugs to you and Sadie xoxoxoxo

    P.S – I hate turtlenecks too!! I’m a hot, sweaty, red-faced mess in them but I continue to torture myself because they look good on other people! Haha. Thanks to you I think I’m finally ready to give up the turtleneck once and for all 😉 xoxo

  2. oh Lauren, this made me cry, ball actually! You are brilliant and described spd so eloquently that anyone can understand! I love my Sadie Lady and think she is unique and special!. It’s funny, I never notice the”signs” when I am around her, probably because Max has so many 🙂 You are a fantastic Mommy, Jay is the best Dad and Charlotte is precious so Sadie is going to be just fine!! I love you guys!!! xoxo

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