My newly minted four year old son has (primarily hypersensitive) Sensory Processing Disorder. So do I. I got along well enough as a kid, and no one really knew about SPD, so I shambled through. Simon was diagnosed at about 3 and a half, is in occupational therapy, and is starting services with our county’s early intervention program.
In many ways having both of us have similar types of SPD is helpful. Primarily that I KNOW what he’s feeling because I feel it too. It doesn’t take any effort to see the world through the lens of sensory overload because that’s how I experience the world too. It’s less hurtful when my boy doesn’t want to give me a hug; I recoil from hugs and pats and encouraging arm touches as much as he does. We’re both a little extra clumsy and a lot extra sensitive to sound and smell. Both of us pointed out the mess my husband’s shoes made on the floor, and grumpily shut dresser drawers that are ajar. Being an adult now, I can help give him the language he needs to tell people what he needs, what he doesn’t like, and how it’s affecting him. And as we educate ourselves about SPD for the sake of our son, I learn about myself as well.Simon has better motor control than I do, and so far it seems his muscle tone is better as well. It’s wonderful to learn for myself though that I’m not always being lazy, sometimes I truly am too tired to stand up straight, pick up the house, or lift my very weighty child. (Though sometimes I am fabulously lazy.) It also helps to know that sometimes when he says he’s too tired to walk or pick up his toys, he may be telling the truth and not just trying to get out something. It’d be much harder for me to accept that if I didn’t feel the same way.
The difficulty of it comes from both of us reacting to the same things. Recently he bumped his limbs into things repeatedly, something that causes no harm but, if he’s like me, truly hurts more than it would other people. My sound and touch we’re over the limit though, and his whiny voice and clingy touching pushed me over the edge. I pushed him gently back, told him harshly he was fine, and get off me. I felt bad, but just the same as he was truly hurt, I was truly unable to handle the feeling and sound. As an adult and a parent, I need even more to develop ways to cope or grit my way through until I have a moment to take care of my own sensory needs, but as a person with untreated SPD, sometimes I just can’t.
I hope that as my son grows up, and we talk about SPD, he’ll understand that I have challenges just like him, and can forgive my unacceptable reactions as we’ll forgive his, and work together toward appropriate responses. It may be a difficult balance, how much to model, how much to parent, how much to be a peer in learning about our SPD, but like our sensory diets, quirks, and needs, our little sensory family will figure it out together.