“My son has been diagnosed with something called Sensory Processing Disorder.”
This is how so many conversations start when trying to explain my son’s needs and behavior to strangers. It can be an awkward conversation because, to so many on the outside looking in, my son doesn’t seem to have a “Disorder“. A lot of the time, what I know to be a manifestation of my son’s symptoms just look, especially to someone seeing them for the first time, like behavioral issues. So how do I explain?
Labels are tricky. Appearances are deceiving.
I’ve never felt comfortable claiming the label of “special needs” for my child.
I know families of children with real special needs. I know how hard each moment is, how uncertain the future is. I am in awe of the sacrifice, determination, and sheer audacity of those parents. They’re truly super heroes in my mind.
But if you remove the weighty meaning behind the words, “special needs” are exactly what my child has.
You see it might look like we’re running late again; but the reality is that he had a 30 minute meltdown on the stairs because he couldn’t handle transitioning to a different floor of our house.
I might look like a helicopter mom, controlling what he eats, scheduling out his day; but the reality is that it’s me who has to deal with three days of his terror and anger over everyday life if he has even one piece of red candy.
We might look like we have awesome toys; but the reality is they all have a therapeutic purpose.
I might look like a common housewife; but the reality is that I know the definitions of “proprioceptive”, “vestibular”, “executive function” and so many other sensory buzzwords that they’re as common to me as “playdate” and “laundry”.
It might look like a “typical” childhood behavior to you; but the reality is that it effects his ability to function.
I might look like a bad mom for forgetting to bring his snack again; but the reality is I remembered to bring his chewie, and that’s essential.
It might look like we’re just enjoying the playground or the pool; but the reality is that I’m challenging him to get extra sensory input to expand his ability to handle regular things every chance I can.
It might look like a tantrum; but the reality is that it’s a meltdown, and he desperately needs help to regain control.
I might look like I’m enjoying our large social gathering; but the reality is that I’m trying to imagine what all the noise and chaos feels like to my son, wondering what might set him off and how I can prevent it.
It might look like I’m exhausted, frazzled and on the edge of losing my cool, but the reality is I’m a mom of a child with sensory processing disorder.
The reality is my son is crazy smart and ridiculously stubborn. The reality is my son thinks in such a unique and creative way. The reality is my son is one of my best friends. The reality is my son is a blessing to our entire family.