Explaining SPD... How, When, Why And How Much To Tell Our Children About Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Pt 4
Your first paragraph ...
(Continued from Part 3)
Other Answers Included Things Like...
"You know how loud sounds bother you?
Well, that is because you have super good hearing and you can hear things other people don't. Everything just sounds louder to you, and this is why it hurts. But if you know this, then you can prepare yourself for the times that bother you. Cotton balls in your ears during fireworks and family gatherings, keeping your hands over your ears during a firedrill, shutting windows when outside noises bother you, etc. Because you can hear things other people don't, you have the ability to hear all the things the way your puppy does. You can both help each other when loud sounds are around."
"You know how you don't like to try to eat new things, and how you don't like many foods that others do?
Well, that is because you have oral defensiveness
. This means that you feel things in your mouth differently than other people. You feel every bump in your food, every new taste, every part of the food that other people can't feel. So it takes you longer to get used to foods, and you have taste buds in your mouth that tell you right away whether a food tastes good or not (or which particular part of the food you liked/disliked).
Your mouth is sensitive, more sensitive than others. Ah, but all this sensitivity in your mouth can really make you taste and appreciate the foods you DO like better than other people." This is also why you have a hard time at the dentist. You don't like people touching your mouth and teeth because you feel it more than other people. The tools, the cleaning, the flouride, the toothpaste, the hands in your mouth... your senses can feel things that others can't. This is not a bad thing... it just is. We will tell your dentist and hygienist about this and they will be more careful. There are also things we can do to help decrease this sensitivity... let's give them a try!"
"You know how you have a hard time being upside down or tipped backwards?
Well, that is because your body is telling your brain this is not fun, and it feels dangerous. This is why you don't like tipping back in the dentist's chair, or leaning your head over the sink to wash your hair, or doing somersaults. The good thing about this is that you won't get hurt as often as other kids. You are careful when you play and it will be rare that you ever hit your head and get hurt. That is a GOOD thing!"
"Remember how you didn't like to sit on Miss Leigh's giant ball? It made you feel unsafe, like you were going to fall off?
This is called gravitational insecurity
. Because your body feels things better than many other people, if your feet are not on the ground and you start to move, it feels scary to you. This is ok, it is just your senses telling your brain BE CAREFUL! I would much rather have a kid that is careful than a child who isn't uncomfortable with anything and gets daring, dangerous, and hurt all the time. So, it takes you longer to get used to these feelings of movement...so what! Oh, that is also why you like to sit down in elevators...that movement sure feels weird doesn't it? Like you are just floating through the air and you don't know when you are going to land?"
"You know how those new jeans we bought feel uncomfortable around your waist from the stitching?
That is part of having tactile defensiveness
. You feel touch, and things touching you more than other kids. Guess what? This is ok too...so, grammy has to sew on a piece of soft fabric to make them comfortable...so what! No big deal.
You know how I love soft things just like you? You know how grammy cuts all of her tags out of her shirts?
Those are just like you...just wanting to be more comfortable, since we can feel more than most. Your sense of touch is so good that I bet you can feel dangerous things before others can, or you can close your eyes and know what something is just by the way it feels, you enjoy the heaviest and softest blankets they make, great, that's why they make them...we ALL have preferences.
And, if someone is bothering you by touching you too much, just let them know it doesn't feel good...give them another way to be close to you. Speak up and let them know you don't like surprise touches, or ticklish touch, or anything rough touching your skin. To you, these things feel like sandpaper and spiders crawling all over you. Everyone needs to feel comfortable and it is a GOOD thing that you can stay away from uncomfortable feelings and know when something makes you uncomfortable. Now you can speak up and tell people what you like and what you don't like, because you know it more and sooner than other people."
"You are blessed with having many of these sensory sensitivities...you can hear, taste, feel, move, and smell better than other kids. This makes some things harder, but other things become talents and skills that you have as a result, that others don't. Your amazing hearing makes you hear every single note and intonation someone uses when they sing a song. AND, you can remember it so well that when YOU sing, it sounds EXACTLY like that person...did you know most people can't hear that or do that? Yes, at times things will be harder for you when your senses are overloaded. You may need more breaks than other people, but in your sensitivities, you will find gifts and talents!
And you will know right away whether you like something or not...so you won't waste your time doing things for a long time only to then decide you don't like it. You will figure out what you do and do not like quicker and be able to share your preferences with people. You will also have to be brave and try new things just to see whether you like them or not. I know this is hard for you, but you can't decide whether you like something or not, if you haven't tried it. Just try, THEN decide. And you know what? You WILL be a LEADER, NOT A FOLLOWER. What a GREAT thing to be...proud of who you are, doing what you want and letting others in who like the same things as you...not doing things just to fit in and be popular. This is a wonderful part of your uniqueness. Be firm, be proud, and trust yourself to know when something feels right."
You get the point, I'm sure. The point is I name it, I explain it, I validate, and I help her understand both the down side and benefits of it, THEN what she can do about it. We have had soooo many discussions, it is hard to remember all the things I have said or worked through with her.
Those times that she cried, recoiled from people, refused to go places, had stomach aches and anxiety attacks, headaches from the noises, couldn't fall asleep, couldn't play on the playground like other kids, felt fear when being upside down, couldn't wear jeans or other clothes her friends were wearing, had to fall asleep to an ocean wave tape (or vibration in the younger years)...I understood, I explained, I listened, I held her, I felt her pain and validated her. When anxiety hits over the unknown, the unfamiliar, the new experiences, she says "I don't want to feel this way mommy". And I say, "I know sweetie, we'll get through this"...and we are with the help of her therapist and her family. Identifying, normalizing, validating, and learning coping mechanisms...at 11, these are key!
Up Next Part 5 "SPD... A Gift? Different Perspectives"
Related Resources and Further Reading
Coping With Emotions In SPD
- A reader asks about coping with emotions in SPD
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