Stop running, Michael!"
I ineffectively command for the third time, at
a family holiday gathering. Michael is excited, over stimulated, and reckless. I am stressed, exhausted, and ready to
go home. We've been here for thirty minutes.
Looking forward to this moment (twenty times a day) for the last
two weeks, he is delighted to see his cousins, and pleased to be with family.
"Arrggh! Somebody get him off of me!" shouts his favorite
"No! Michael, don't touch that, it's glass."
"Really, if you would just be a little firmer with him, he would behave."
"He should sit in the kitchen, you know, he makes such a mess .
. . "
"Of course, he'll do fine in a public school. He'll adapt. He'll
"Honestly, you over protect him. He needs challenges!"
"Now, look, he's hiding and crying under the table. What's wrong
The more we learn about Sensory Integration Dysfunction, the
more we realize what triggers our child. We are seeing circumstances, and situations he is unable to cope with.
Can't... NOT won't. As he goes
through the process of therapy we move along with him, identifying, comprehending, assisting, and yes, challenging. The right
challenges with the capability of success.
Webster's Dictionary defines the word advocate as
"a person who speaks or writes in support of
another. To champion, support, encourage, advance, promote, recommend, approve, and endorse."
We are our children's only full time advocate. Our kids need us
to learn as much about their disorders as we can. They
need us to
they are going through, every day. They need us to feel how frightening and chaotic their world can
be. Above all else, they need us to be their advocates.
To say, "No more" when it needs to be said.
To say, "You can do it, I know you can!" when we know they can.
To say, "I know what he needs" because we really do.
If your extended family is coming along this journey with you,
learning as you go, incorporating new strategies, realizing limitations, wonderful! This is what we all want.
If this is not how things are going with the relatives, then
it's up to you, as your child's advocate, to help them learn, if you can. If
that is truly not possible, it is also your responsibility to set limits for
your child, and the family.
As we attend family gatherings, we must put our child first. We decide when we come
and when we go. If our boy's behavior is escalating, or someone is overbearing toward our child, we take him for a quiet walk. We
sit by his side during stressful meals. We intervene in a calm way when the
other children don't realize he is just very happy to see them. When we know
he's had enough, we leave.
Granted, this doesn't always make us the most popular members of our family,
or friends. But our first priority must be to the child who cannot speak for himself. Who usually doesn't even know he is
committing social faux pas.
We have learned to say "thank you, but not this time," to events
we know would be disasters, understanding that when we do not consider our boy's needs, we are responsible for exposing him to
immeasurable terror, confusion, anger, and discouragement.
Some holidays now, we spend quietly. There is a lot to be said
for "peace on earth". Especially when you find it in your own little house. There are other holidays we visit with relatives, and
friends. Usually low key, with a limited number of people. This is enough of an
ordeal for our boy, right now.
What challenges are appropriate are decisions you, the
therapists, and the doctor make together, according to your own child's therapeutic plan, and
progress. This principle of advocacy extends to daycare, babysitters,
friends, schools, and doctors. Be precise about what your child needs.
Speak up. Check up. Smile and nod, then insist.
Aggressive behavior is too much. No one wants to help a
belligerent person. Passive behavior is too little. Who will listen if we won't say?
Being assertive is stating positively with confidence in a
persistent way. The advocate wields the weapon called assertiveness.
So, enjoy family gatherings and holidays, include your child in all the activities
and traditions he is comfortable with. Standing beside him, hand in hand. Chin up, with a smile on your face, and assertiveness in
I am the parent of a bright, loving, funny, special needs little
I am his advocate.
Copyright © Michelle Morris. Reprinted
About the Author:
Michelle Morris is the mother of six, and parent of a child with a
Sensory Processing Disorder. She
is whole heartedly dedicated to promoting awareness and advocacy for families
with SPD children. She has published over 30 articles supporting and
educating parents about SPD.