There are beautiful moments where I see a perfect light in my child, the potential, the love, I see it all. Those carefree moments when all is going well, and at least in my world the stars are all aligned.
I love it, I live for those moments, but I don’t enjoy them fully… I’m always on edge….because they never last.
What will change it this time? As we walk through the isles of the grocery store, I feel all eyes on me, watching, waiting for it to happen. The tantrum is brewing and I never know what will set it off.
An idea that comes on a whim to which I can’t cater at that moment? An unwelcomed sound? An unexpected touch? Or maybe nothing…. I PRAY it doesn’t happen….but then the whining starts and I brace myself for the worst.
Judging Sensory Processing Disorder
THAT is the life of a parent who has a child with Sensory Processing Disorder. Those who live with it are the ones who get it. We see another kid screaming in the grocery store and we feel a sense of relief that this time it isn’t ours…or at least someone else might understand.
But when it actually happens to me, my world shatters. That light I saw in my child’s eyes disappears, the confidence I had in my parenting skills disappears, I question everything.
Then there is that inevitable look of judgement in their eyes.
Will they say something? If so do I explain that this isn’t a result of “bad parenting” it isn’t because I am “too soft with him” and it isn’t because he “gets away with everything.”
We have all encountered the unwelcomed comments by perfect strangers in the grocery store, or those coming from people in our lives we care about such as family and friends, all revolving around the ways we SHOULD be parenting our SPD child. I typically became defensive, hurt, or feel inadequate as a parent after hearing such comments. Sometimes I try to explain away his behavior by saying “he has sensory differences,” to which people generally don’t even respond. After a recent occurrence like this I have decided to stop trying to explain SPD to most people, and in turn I take their “advice” in stride. Here’s why.
When a family member recently started bombarding me and my son with comments about his behavior, lack of discipline and “scary future if he continues down this path” I took a minute to step out of being a victim and saw the situation in a different light. I realized that the person saying these things had no idea what sensory differences are, how they affect my son, and what it means to live with them on a daily basis. I also realized that this person really didn’t care to know any of that. The comments directed towards me and my son were more of a reflection of the person saying them, not us.
SPD Breaks The Rules
Most people simply don’t understand how SPD makes parents and siblings and children with SPD break more rules than any of them ever imagined.
When it comes to children with sensory differences, as any parent of a child with SPD would know, “misbehavior” is NOT always a result of parenting styles. It’s more of a reflection of sensory regulation or disregulation. There is no way to yell, spank, or discipline the SPD out of a child (heaven forbid a person even try to do such a thing!).
Any person who takes a step back to see the daily struggles of a child with SPD can understand the goodness and potential within each of these kids. Allowing that goodness and potential to come forward at all times is simply not possible. It takes constant work, and flexibility on the part of everyone involved. ONLY a person who is familiar with SPD would understand this.
When I allow myself to accept that people just don’t understand my son and probably never will, I can take their comments, suggestions, or criticism with a grain of salt knowing that they simply don’t have the knowledge or experience to understand. Their comments to me about my son or my parenting are about as useful as my son’s comments about how he thinks that we should fly to the sun to have a huge marshmallow roasting party. They both simply lack education.
I believe knowledge and experience give each of us the right to have an opinion on specific topics. I could go tell a city planner that our city is horribly planned and needs to be changed, BUT I have no clue how it SHOULD be changed because I’m not a city planner. Sure I LIVE in a city, I DRIVE around the city, but none of that will make me a city planner any more than being a parent makes people an expert on every living child, especially not one with SPD.
The times I feel there is an exception to this theory is when my son is in the care of another person for an extended period of time. My son’s preschool teacher was educated on SPD and my son’s sensory signals before school began. Any teacher he will have in the future will be educated similarly. If he were to be in daycare or any other care for an extended period of time, I would educate the people there as well.
Outside of my son’s teachers and myself I don’t see the need to explain his sensory differences to everyone. What is the point? To gain acceptance? To get sympathy from the random person who decides to give unsolicited advice? None of that matters, all that matters is that my son and I are working towards his self-regulation each day together as a team. People can accept it or not. That is their choice and their business, not mine.
How do you handle unsolicited advice or opinions from others about your child’s behavior? Please comment below and share with us what has worked for you. We can all benefit from the wisdom of others.
If your child’s sensory differences are affecting your home and you want help understanding them and knowing what to do to make them less of a stress in your life, this 3 week e-course could help you.