Mental Health, Sensory Processing Disorder and Spirituality

SPDHe’s that neighbor kid who you don’t want to invite to your kid’s party because he is “just too much to handle.”

She is that niece who your sister spoils her by bringing her favorite food to every dinner out or family event, and doesn’t seem to care about the girl’s diet.

He is that student in your kid’s Kindergarten class who is always distracting everyone else by being constantly on the move, throwing fits, and is in everyone else’s personal space.

She is that child who always seeks out the quiet corner of the room and you gave up taking her to busy places long ago.

He is the child that no matter how much you yell at, punish, or try to persuade, they keep doing the same thing…they are a problem.

Or rather, they are uniquely and wonderfully created by God to be exactly who they are…and it is us who don’t understand.

All we know is our own personal experience of being in our unique body.  As we do not know anything else, we assume others have the same experience and we also are unable to naturally differentiate how our experience may be different than others.

Individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder experience the world differently than what is considered normal.  These individuals process the information brought to them through their senses – smell, touch, sight, hearing, balance, etc. – in ways that can be either too weak, to strong, or a mixture of both.  And it isn’t just the typical 5 senses, but also how they perceive themselves in relation to things around them and how they receive messages from their organs.

Imagine your senses sending you confusing messages, but never knowing how it could be different.  The sound of a loud voice blocks out your thoughts.  A crowd of people moving in different directions makes you anxious and confused.  The texture of certain foods completely disgusts you.  Certain sensations on your skin make you want to run.

These are individuals, who as kids, are a challenge to parent.  You read every parenting book, but the advice rarely works if at all.  Something they love one day, they hate the next.  Trips of any duration to anywhere are exhausting, actually, everyday is exhausting.  You think you are failing as a parent, as you constantly see strangers – even friends and family – glaring at you for your child’s behavior.  People even give you parenting advice as if they know your child better than you.

But the child’s behavior isn’t willful.  They don’t mean to do something wrong, rather, their body is reacting naturally to the world around them.  When they are told to do better, they can’t, because they are already doing the best they can.  We just can’t see it.

Our son has Sensory Processing Disorder.  With occupational therapy, a wonderfully supportive school, a supportive community, modifications at home, grace and trust, we can manage day by day.  He has taught me many things.  Spiritually, he has given me a greater appreciation for God’s Grace.  We are all unique and amazing beings, reflecting different aspects of God, and requiring different ways God’s Love is expressed.  We are not clones, but varied and unique creatures in body, mind and spirit.  Just as God meets us where we are, honoring and celebrating in who we are, we too need to do the same.  We can not force anyone to be something they are not, but rather, we need to help each other discover the true gift of who we are.

Related links:
What is Sensory Processing Disorder (in layman’s terms)
An Appology to Our Son
Having Sensory Integration Disorder and Being Mom
Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation
My Son has Sensory Processing Disorder
My Kid has SPD The Sensory Spectrum Blog (It is truly a spectrum!)
Biological Basis for SPD
Pinterest Sensory Ideas (my board, but you will find tons of ideas under “sensory”)
Out of Sync Child
Parenting Support Group for SPD on Facebook

May is Mental Health month.  Read my May 2014 posts if you are interested in learning more about the connection between mental health and spirituality.  Also, click on an particular category or tag of interest.

Mental Health is a Spiritual Issues – post 1

About SFriant

I live to walk with others on their journeys - because everyone needs to know that they are loved, that they matter, and that they are doing amazing things. I'm a lot like our two kids: obsessed with learning, and constantly creating.
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