Parenting SPD Kids Takes Unicorn-Ninja Skills

My kindergarten girl is pretty typical when it comes to loving her unicorn toys and pink…I’d say she blends in pretty well…Nevermind, she dresses herself and can stand out quite a bit with her leopard print pants (we consider leopard print a neutral at our house) and floral sleeveless dresses in the middle of winter. She also has a preference not to wear a heavy winter coat. (What she usually opts for is a fuzzy jacket, not very heavy at all.) That’s because she has SPD like her brother.

My son is now 7, and does not seem too affectionate most of the time, but on occasion does still allow me to hold him (usually when he’s injured somehow). When he’s a little hurt his howls are as loud as when he’s a lot hurt. Seriously loud. I think I have damaged hearing. His body just sends pain signals in a very pronounced way. I don’t coddle him or make things a big deal, but they just are a big deal to him. It’s very draining when each day is full of many accidents. (Both kids have proprioceptive issues, meaning they do not have a good sense of where their bodies are in space while moving especially, and fall down the stairs a lot, trip, kick furniture on accident, stub toes, walk into doorways and objects often. Honestly, they get that from me; I was and am a klutz).

But when I said my daughter has SPD issues “like her brother,” I don’t mean that her SPD issues are the same as his. No individual’s sensory processing challenges are the same combo as another’s. My son was a swaddle baby, while she hated and still hates blankets. Yes, she does have sensory avoiding tendencies when it comes to clothes and loud or “annoying” sounds similar to him. But she is also VERY sensory seeking. She has been a cuddler from day one. Ok, a clinger is probably more like it. (As I climbed out of postpartum depression, this was quite the challenge to me. I sometimes felt claustrophobic. “Treasure every moment!” was a dreaded comment I’d hear in public during my postpartum struggles…The commenters did not have to endure my every moments.)

Everyone has different needs and personalities, and sometimes the pairing of these traits are particularly challenging…My son seeks silence while my daughter MUST MAKE NOISE! But that doesn’t mean I’d ever want to change who my kids are. I love both of my SPD kids and find so many things about them adorable and amazing. But I will say that I feel like I have needed to develop and continue to hone sparkly unicorn-Ninja level skill and a DEEP prayer life to keep functioning sanely as a mom to these special high-needs kids.

You can’t just figure out what they like or don’t like, master the skills and move on confidently. Sometimes their particularities can even keep changing, because SPD is a neurological issue and they are still growing. (An adult friend with SPD issues has told me that this does not stop as adults though. Something one could wear for a long time might suddenly become unbearable for some reason.)

Right now we are in a stage where ALL CLOTHING IS ESPECIALLY HORRIBLE for the 5 yr. old. My kindergartener never liked to wear much at bedtime because of getting too hot (meanwhile older sibling is piled under not only a weighted blanket, but two other blankets and wrapped in a bathrobe.) But not wearing underwear is not an option…so WHERE IN THE WORLD DO THEY SELL UNDERWEAR THAT WILL WORK?! So I am on a mission to buy all the underwear in the world until we find a few pairs that do not cause immense distress.

At the end of a day (or middle…) where I’m spent and want some space, it can be hard for me when my sensory seeking child wants to get in my face and squeeze my cheeks because she loves me so much and she just needs that extra input that tight hugs and such give her. I have to remember to take a deep breath and remind her what feels nice to me instead of face squishing, like one big hug. Just two kisses instead of ten. For my sanity, I need to make my needs and boundaries clear while understanding and helping her meet her needs, too. Lots of movement. Lots of jumping, bouncing, singing (and chewing) SO LOUDLY, touching everything, etc.

If you are in the same boat, parent friend, I get it. You have been trying so hard to do this parenting thing for so long…and you are extra tired.

But you know what? You are the best person to help them learn how to see the world with eyes full of joy. Their SPD stuff is normal to them, so they don’t know what it’s like to not deal with it. We have to help them see through the discomfort, we have to see through our own discomfort and frustrations, and see the beauty in every day. It’s not always easy. But you’ve also been earning your sparkly unicorn-Ninja belt, right? We got this.

If, perhaps instead you were the SPD child, btw, please feel free to share your experience and any tips you have for us parents or others in the comments below! We want to understand your perspective!

Images courtesy of Canva

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