My most read post of 2014 – at least according to my WordPress stats – was “Buttons, Zippers, Pockets, Collars, And Belts, Oh My!” It was the post where I took the liberty of diagnosing my five-year-old son with pain-in-the-butt-itis due to his tactile sensory quirks and idiosyncrasies with things like having his hair combed and his nails trimmed. For the record, he also dislikes any food where pepper is visible, thinks all toothpaste is “spicy,” won’t eat any condiments, abhors the smell of parmesan cheese, and prefers to be pantless (at home, anyway).
Part of the essay’s popularity might have been that people related to my son’s oddities. Don’t we all have a kid who freaks out when different foods touch on a plate, is afraid of loud noises like thunder or fireworks, or hates the toe seams in socks? Part of it might have been the cute pictures. He is an adorable little boy, especially when he wears something other than athletic shorts and crocs!
From some of the comments I received and through my own hindsight, I think some of the post’s popularity might also have had something to do with the complexities of parenting one typical (albeit peculiar) kid and one not-so-typical (and also peculiar!) kid. The obvious, intense, and often heart wrenching ways that sensory processing disorder presented itself in my older son made it simply impossible for me to believe that anything was truly wrong with my “picky” younger son.
Until he started Kindergarten. That’s when his skip turned into a limp, his laughter morphed to tears, his joy devolved into sadness, his easy-going personality became rigid, his shirts were chewed to shreds, and each passing day robbed him of the fun, adventurous, and curious Kindergarten experience he deserved. His existence turned into an endless loop of this is the worst day ever, school is hard, homework is hard, school is no fun, I’m not getting out of the car, and the one that stopped me in my tracks, I’m not happy.
I wanted to take Kindergarten out to the playground and kick its ass for having the audacity to unravel my kid, but I also knew that I owed it a debt of gratitude, because even though it tried to swallow my son whole, it also left a trail of crumbs that helped me discover that pain-in-the-butt-itis wasn’t the right diagnosis for my little boy. I needed a second opinion.
A full and proper diagnosis is still taking shape as we hop from one appointment to another, but so far it entails deficits in bilateral coordination and integration motor planning skills, impaired visual memory skills and ocular motor skills, below average visual-perceptual and motor-coordination skills, and deficits in his overall sensory motor processing skills in the areas of taste/smell sensitivity, auditory filtering, and energy/muscle tone.
Whoa. My little boy doesn’t have pain-in-the-butt-itis. He has SPD, and I feel as stunned by all of it as I feel foolish.
The first thing I thought when I sat across from our beloved OT and listened to her assessment was, How did I not know? How did I not see it when I already have a kid with SPD? How did I not see it when SPD is as much a part of my life as SkinnyPop and Stampylongnose?! HOW DID I NOT KNOW?!
I must’ve said it out loud because she said, “How could you have?”
Even though he’s always had some tangible sensory sensitivities, he’s bright and has been able to compensate for his more elusive deficits. Kindergarten, though, engulfed him. It was a rip current too strong for him to swim against. The social, emotional, physical, and academic stakes of “big kid” school shut him down.
I didn’t know, but now I do, and as each new day and each OT session passes, I feel less foolish and more confident that this too shall pass. I’m more determined than ever to ensure that school is a supportive environment for both of my boys for the long haul, and I’m committed to supporting other parents coping with pain-in-the-butt-itis, SPD, and everything in between.
I’m pleased to report that after 99 days of (some) ups and (mostly) downs, on the 100th day of school, my little guy skipped into Kindergarten with 100 wild animal stickers on the front and back of his t-shirt and a 100-watt smile on his face. Here’s hoping for 100 (gazillion) more days just like it.
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CLICK HERE TO READ OTHER FABULOUS POSTS IN THE FEBRUARY 2015 SENSORY BLOG HOP: