The New Republic’s recent article, “Is Sensory Processing Disorder A Real Medical Condition,” has sparked quite a dialogue in the parenting blogosphere. Despite the controversy (is SPD “sheer quackery”?), I’m happy for the awareness the discussion is bringing to the very real, very heartbreaking, and very treatable medical condition that so many people – children and adults – suffer from.
I’ve written about my journey as the mother of a child with SPD since I began blogging almost four years ago, and I’m compelled to wipe the dust off some old posts for any parents out there looking for insight, understanding, connection, and a reminder that you are not alone on this winding and difficult journey.
I’m not an expert on SPD, but I am a Mama.
(originally published on August 30, 2012)
A few weeks ago, I took Riley to the doctor because he snores like a troll, always has a stuffy nose, speaks as nasal as anyone I’ve ever met, and is a horrible morning person. He’s also failed a basic hearing test in his left ear twice in less than six months. After a thorough examination, the doctor agreed that his adenoids might be the culprit. We were given a nasal spray, a prescription for blood work to check for allergies, and a referral for a pediatric ENT. For most people, this would have been good news. A step in the right direction! Solutions! Not me. I felt the burden of something being wrong rather than the relief of questions being answered.
I promised myself that when Dylan finally wore pants or a long sleeved shirt I would throw a party. Or hire a sky writer! Instead of celebrating the incredible victory, I immediately set my sights on the next challenges – food and bounce houses. I couldn’t enjoy the moment because I had so many more things to worry about.
On Monday, day six of food therapy, when we transitioned from green light (easy) to yellow light (hard) foods, I found it easy to be pessimistic about Dylan gobbling up a grilled cheese sandwich, a food that I haven’t been able to get him to eat at home in more than a year. There was no victory lap for me – only a cynical feeling that he succumbed because the alternative, a piece of chicken, was far too difficult a proposition.
On day seven, I was in my element. After two hours of crying, hiding, and failed manipulations, Dylan failed to eat a single bite of his dinner choices. Our therapist left the house with a big, fat zero in her “percentage of bites taken” column. Oh, how I reveled in the anger, frustration, and guilt! The crying and the second-guessing came so easy!
Yesterday, in a moment of clarity (or mad desperation), Dylan declared that he would eat celery during his dinner session. To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. It was an odd (and green and fibrous) choice for child who’s never eaten a vegetable in his life that wasn’t hidden in macaroni and cheese. The only point of reference I could think of, besides a few occasions where we’d served celery with some kind of dip at home, was the “Wonder Pets,” and if I had them to thank for Dylan’s inspiration then it wouldn’t be the first time I’d expressed my gratitude to Linny, Tuck, and Ming-Ming. Suspicion crept over me, but we stopped at the grocery store and bought a head of celery anyway.
Are you wondering what happened next? Are you sitting down? He ate the celery. It was really hard for him to do, but he swallowed his fear and, by golly, he swallowed some celery. Speechless. Shocked. Flabbergasted. These are pretty good word to describe how I felt. I praised him and went through all of the motions a proud parent would do after witnessing such bravery and achievement, but I didn’t feel the way I thought I would feel the moment ate “new food.” Instead of feeling happy and relieved, I felt confused and duped. I wanted so badly to believe that celery was the hammer that would finally knock down the wall, but I didn’t. Of course not! My strength lies in wallowing in anxiety and doubt rather than basking in the wonder, albeit odd, of Dylan eating celery. Celery, for Pete’s sake! One of my rules, which were published at Voices of Sensory Processing Disorder a few weeks ago, is to savor the victories, especially the small ones. Believe me, I’m trying.