Perfume and Drivers' Permits: My Sensory Integration Story

by Emily

A few years ago, I was in a car driving to summer camp with a group of friends. One of them lost her cell phone, and started to look for it. Unfortunately, she started moving stuff around near my bare feet, and I was feeling uncomfortable, so I involuntarily kicked her and hurt her hand. She was mad at me for the rest of the time, but I couldn't have prevented the incident.

When I was a baby, I never stopped screaming. I was perpetually crying, and only got a few hours of sleep each night. As my parents' first child, they were horrified. My mom knew that I must have a medical condition, but she went to doctor after doctor who told her that there was nothing wrong with me. Finally, I was diagnosed with sensory integration disorder when I was almost two years old, and I ended up going to a special needs preschool. I received occupational therapy to learn how to deal with everyday sensory stimuli like modeling clay, loud trucks, and getting yogurt on my face. The early intervention was enormously important to me - I don't know that I would be able to handle daily life if I had not received attention at such a young age.

Still, I have trouble. It is very difficult for me to stop moving. Loud noises, bright lights, or strong smells give me headaches. There are times when someone sprays perfume near me and I feel disoriented and have to sit down. The subsequent headaches last for hours. I am very clumsy - my family and I joke around about the difficulty I have in gym class. Because of the early therapy, I am not as easily distracted as some people with sensory integration disorder, which is wonderful because I can enjoy school and really love learning. However, it is hard for me to sit still, I cannot ride roller coasters without getting sick, and even though I have my drivers' permit, I am terrified of driving because it gives me such difficulty.

I was extremely fortunate to receive the help I did when I was younger. However, there is still so much more that can be done to help people like me with this disorder.

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