Tips For Parenting A Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

Today’s guest post is from Celina Miller, a fellow special needs parent who is a passionate advocate for children affected with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

How much sensory can my kid with Sensory Processing Disorder {SPD} take?

This is a question I’m faced with daily. My 12 year old has Asperger’s and with that comes the complex and confusing world of Sensory Processing Disorder. I never know what’s too much, or what’s not enough, sensory input for him. The other day, I’d finally convinced my son to help me clean up our playroom. As he put away toys and straightened up, I started the vacuum. Immediately, he put his hands over his ears and stood completely frozen. He was so overwhelmed he couldn’t even ask me to turn it off, nor could he leave the room. I was taken aback – this wasn’t like my high-functioning sixth grader who plays basketball and loves to dance. I knew the vacuum would bother him, but I thought he would get through it and we would move on.

So why was it that this time the vacuum completely shut him down – whereas before it didn’t? Or why is it that sometimes on the basketball court he covers his ears after the crowd roars and sometimes he’s completely unfazed? I never know how much sensory exposure he can take and so I never know how much I can expose him to – which often leaves me feeling just as uncomfortable as he is.

I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to my son’s sensory issues. How can I know what he’ll react to, and when? The answer is I will never know, and the truth is he often doesn’t know as he’s still learning what works…or how he can make it work for him. If you’re a mom with a child on the spectrum or who has sensory integration dysfunction, you totally understand how I feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath me, which is probably how my son feels when he’s overstimulated.

Here are five thoughts that help me, and may help you, get through a day in the life of the maze that is sensory integration disorder.

1. What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. A phrase I live by personally, but I have found it translates in the sensory world as well. I don’t avoid stimulating things. Exposing my son to different types of sensory stimuli helps him learn to cope with it and to be prepared the next time he comes across it. And while he may be bothered, it really won’t kill him. He will get over it. I never want to hinder him by what I think he may or may not be able to handle. In this world, I have to take his lead, give up control, and let him learn what works for him and what doesn’t.

2. Every day is a new day, and every day is different. I have learned that each sensory experience is interpreted differently every day. And depending on what else is going on during that experience, my son’s reaction may or may not be different. I’ve come to know that even a slight change in body temperature will make his sensory dysfunction… more dysfunctional. Just like he wakes up every day prepared for the unknown, so am I.

3. Talk about it. When I’m able to talk to my son about his sensory experience, we both understand it better. When I ask him to verbalize what he saw, heard, smelled or felt, he is able to learn from his experience and perhaps handle it differently next time. This conversation also helps me to better understand what’s going on in his world.

4. Don’t sympathize, empathize. I will never feel sorry for my son, I think he’s an amazing person with amazing gifts. He also has challenges to overcome and I do have empathy for that. I hurt when he hurts, and I smile when he smiles. When he’s left overwhelmed, in a different way, I am too. It is in this way that I can empathize with him.

5. Be an advocate. This will help you both. When I’m able to go before my son and tell people he has asperger’s – like at school, church or in sports – I’ve removed the elephant from the room. Is my son amazing and remarkable? yes. Is he also quirky and unbelievably inquisitive? yes. And when others have the opportunity to prepare themselves for the possibility that he may become overstimulated on the basketball court or during a burst of applause in the middle of the school play, everyone has the benefit of more understanding. And this understanding gives them the ability to see my son not for a quirky kid, but for that amazing boy who is gifted and overcoming challenges most of us couldn’t imagine. It gives people an opportunity to admire him – just as I do.

Celina Miller’s Bio

Celina Miller is the mother of Jim, who was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome when he was in the 2nd grade in 2009. Celina has worked tirelessly to gain the education support for her son’s civil right according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Celina has worked with the Oasis Center for Women and Children and has spoken on the importance of supporting children with mental disorders and their families. She has also been active in fundraising and reviewing grants with Autism Speaks in the Birmingham, AL area

(All thoughts above are those of the guest post Author.)

 

Comments

  1. I loved this! As a mom dealing with my toddler’s SPD, I still have a lot to learn about the disorder. These tips will certainly help me learn as I go.

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