Over the past almost 6 years I have learned so much about sensory needs. Not just the needs of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder but the fact that every human being needs sensory input of some type as they go through their day. If you think about it, life would be pretty boring without our senses. We wouldn’t be able to hear, taste, smell, see or feel. These past 6 years I have watched and worked with my son as he learned to navigate a world that over powers his senses yet at the same time doesn’t give him enough in some areas. There have been a lot of tears, frustration, accomplishments and hard lessons learned(for me). Trial and error have seemed to work the best. This past Saturday as I sat in my living room watching my kids playing contentedly with their sensory bins, I took a sip of my coffee and sighed. There comes a time when, no matter what is going on in life, your senses are overloaded and you need to step back and let the senses that calm you take over and bring you back to the core of your happiness. For me that is peace.
Peace for me can mean many things. The most recent things that bring me peace are my children happily playing and getting along, instrumental music playing softly, a hot cup of coffee and my bible.
Over the past few months our family has really been struggling with finding peace. In January we had the firefighter evaluated and found that he is developmentally delayed in several areas, and the cause of the delays are mostly sensory. He struggles from day-to-day because he needs more sensory input from the world but at the same time the world is just too loud and he can’t take the input that he needs. I have always known that he was special. Not in the ‘special ed’ kind of way but he was unique. He has always reacted to the things around him more powerfully than other kids his age. It can be so enlightening to watch the world through his eye’s but it can also be the most exhausting thing I do that day.
When you have a child that struggles with everyday things, it wears on you as a mom. I question myself daily on what I could have done/could do to make things different. I wonder what I did during his pregnancy to ’cause’ this.
This last weekend, I just couldn’t handle the world anymore. My senses were overwhelmed and I just couldn’t keep up the front of being OK anymore so we hunkered down at home and just relaxed.
Sensory bins have always been something that I have done with my kids. So much so that they expect it most weekends, and used to expect them everyday. They love sensory play and how it feels(yes, pun intended). Saturday, I pulled out old bins for them to play with. A transfer station with cornmeal and dried corn with ABC magnets on a cookie sheet.
While I relished in the peacefulness that comes from children being content, they enjoyed having their senses soothed and eye – hand – coördination strengthened. The princess had so much fun finding the ABC’s in the corn and proclaiming loudly which letter she had found.
The firefighter, on the other hand took a more reserved approach to his cornmeal transfer station. He had fun using a whisk to mix up cookies, or the funnel to transfer the cornmeal from one container to another.
Everyone needs sensory input. You don’t have to be sensitive to noise, taste or smell to realize this fact. No matter how you react to the senses around you, there are days where it all seems overwhelming and you just can’t deal with it. That is the everyday struggle for the firefighter. It is a constant, there is no relief for him. The only time that he can get away from things is to go in his room, shut the light off and have it absolutely quiet. Even when he does that he needs sensory input so he has to have a heavy blanket on him or be wrapped up like a burrito.
This past weekend as I watched him play with the cornmeal he was happy and relaxed. He was peaceful. After while he saw that I was watching him and came to give me a hug. After the hug he asked me,
“What does peaceful mean?”
I didn’t know how to explain it to him. Explaining peaceful to him is like explaining Sensory Processing Disorder to someone who has never experienced it personally or watched someone they love deal with it every day. The closest I could come to an explanation was,
“It is what you feel like when your tummy and head stop feeling crazy.”
After I told him that I got to thinking, that is exactly how it feels. Feeling peaceful means that everything crazy going on, stops and you feel like you are free. It isn’t hard to breath, no fake smile is needed. It is just quiet and still. My life is crazy, just like any other mom’s is. When was the last time you sat down and said, Enough! I need my tummy and my head to stop feeling crazy?
So, I guess, if you made it through all that rambling, I want to challenge you to notice the senses in your life. Pay attention to the ones that make you feel crazy and out of control. Notice the ones that make you feel peaceful. Take note of the peacefulness that you feel and make time for that.