The last couple of days have been loud. Honestly, with 6 children in the house, every day is loud to some degree. But with a mommy and one other child dealing with Sensory Integration Disorder, this isn’t just noise…it is pain.
Today, as I was trying to carve out little bit of peace and quiet, I wondered how many other mommies out there have SID and how they have learned to cope (or not) with it.
I didn’t know what I’ve dealt with all my life even had a name until about 7 years ago. I was reading Educating Your Gifted Child by Vicki Caruana when I stumbled across her chapter on SID. I could hardly believe what I was reading! Suddenly, the years of hating crowds, not eating “mushy” foods, and not wanting to dig in the dirt made sense!
Related post: The Foods I Don’t Like
It also gave me the ability to explain what I was feeling. When friends would ask me to go to crowded places, I could tell them that I have trouble processing everything that is going on and end up shutting down, making it unsafe for my children. Not everyone understands, but at least I do. That’s what matters.
It also gave me better insight into my daughter’s struggles with SID. I knew we were very alike, but gaining a better grasp of the intricacies of SID made me realize that all of her little idiosyncrasies were actually all the same thing.
Now, I did not want to make this a post about the specifics of Sensory Integration Disorder/Dysfunction (also know as Sensory Processing Disorder), because you can read about that just about anywhere on the net (and please do—you might recognize someone you know!) However, what you don’t find much of is how to cope with it…especially when you are an adult and a mom.
To be honest with you, a lot of my coping skills happened without me even realizing it. My mom was very understanding of my aversion to beans and mashed potatoes and jello and…well, you get the idea. When, as a baby, I screamed at my sister’s ballgames, she simply took me home. My sister was 14 years older, so by the time I was 4, I was for all intents and purposes an only child, so noise in the household was minimal. My coping skills consisted mainly of avoidance.
Note: Some people will be diagnosed “sensory seeking” or “sensory avoidant” rather than SID or SPD.
But, as a mommy I can’t very well avoid everything that overloads me…especially those wee little noisemakers, otherwise known as my children! I’ve had to learn a whole new set of coping skills, some of which do still include avoidance, but most of which involve creative decompressing.
So, that’s what I want to share with you today…and in fact, these things aren’t just for those who deal with sensory issues. Every mommy who feels like her brain might explode if one more thing happens can benefit from taking a moment and learning how to process all that goes on in a household full of little ones.
*Step away from the noise. I have a friend who used to go in her backyard and take 3 big deep breaths when life inside got too crazy. I’ve been known to plug my ears and breathe deeply a few times. Sometimes all it takes are a couple of seconds of silence to regroup and get your brain back on track. Ask the children to give you 30 seconds of silence (and that doesn’t include counting to 30 as mine are so prone to doing!) Take those 30 seconds to just do nothing, then come back up for air. You will more than likely feel 100 times better!
*Do something different. One time I was at a school event that took place in a gymnasium. As more and more people crowded in to see all the exhibits, my eyes began to glass over. I knew I was zoning, but it wasn’t until one of the children needed to be taken to the bathroom that I was able to process everything. Changing my focus helped me to gain my focus. That’s what I did today. I got up out of my chair, made myself a cup of coffee, and restarted my brain simply by doing something different.
*Reroute the children. If things are really rough, you may need to get the children focused on something else in order to help your brain settle down. Take them outside to play, find a game or project to work on, put in a movie. Something that changes their focus so you can get yourself back where you need to be before you bring them back to the place all of you were before you shut down. When things got crazy today and I got up to make a cup of coffee, I also set my children to the task of getting the table ready for lunch. This gave them something to do while I decompressed in the kitchen. By the time they were finished, I was ready to go back to the schoolwork that only moments before was creating more chaos than I could handle.
*Know your triggers. Noise is the biggest trigger for me. I just can’t handle too much of it, especially if I’m under stress or need to concentrate on something important. I also know that when I am required to concentrate on keeping track of the children in a public place, I must have my hair tied back and out of my eyes or I will quickly lose my mind. I also wear sunglasses nearly year round because the sun is very bright and can easily overwhelm me. Taking the time to figure out what your triggers are allows you to plan and prepare in order to avoid situations that might cause you to come unglued.
*Be aware. Try to catch the fact that you are about to bubble over before you actually do bubble over and end up yelling or crying or calling your husband and begging him to come home from work. Knowing that too much of certain things are hard on your lil’ ole brain will make it easier for you to avoid those things. I know I cannot read to the children from their homeschool books when all 6 of them are awake. At least one child must be asleep. I don’t know why…it just is what it is. Today, I tried to read a very dense book with all 6 children wide awake in the same room. What was I thinking? Obviously, I wasn’t. However, I quickly realized my eyes were crossing and I was getting nowhere, thus the reason for my jumping up and making coffee. But, it would have made much more sense for me to avoid the situation altogether by not trying to read the book until naptime.
*Pray. I enlist my children and my husband to help out with this. Today I called Ty and told him I was having a hard day and needed him to keep me in prayer. Prayer for patience and the ability to process it all. I also asked the children to pray for mommy, which brings me to my final point…
*Don’t hide. My children know I have days when processing is hard for me. I’m honest with them about my struggles and my need for mercy from the Lord and from them. I humble myself and ask for prayer. And yes, there are times when I say, “Mommy is not being very patient right now because she can’t seem to process it all,” to which they reply, “Yes, we know.” I have to fight the urge to say, “Well, you didn’t have to agree with me!” because I know that they can see just as easily as I can when I am having a bad day. I’m not perfect, why pretend I am?
Every mother struggles to process it all at some point in her mothering career. For those with SID, the struggles come more often. I never know when I wake up if today will be a difficult day or an easy day. Sometimes I have to postpone certain things because the day is proving to be more difficult than I had expected sensory-wise. And that is okay. Knowing your limitations is half the battle. The other half is learning to cope with those sensory issues you can’t avoid. With a little prayer and a lot of grace, you (and I) can learn to reclaim these difficult days and be the moms we need to be!
The Out-of-Sync Child