Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sensory Issues: Finding Empathy for that moody disposition

     Sensory Issues.....A bucket of all different kinds of nuts & bolts.   Dressing issues, eating issues, maturity delays....There is a lot to take on as a parent when faced with this issue.

     The most challenging part of  Michael's Hyper-sensory issue was dealing with the effect that it had on his moods. Not only was it difficult learning how to help him manage his moods, but even more difficult understanding him and feel empathy.

     For the last couple of years when my Michael's Hyper-sensitive issues came to the for front, this is what he looked like much of the time:  Along with his other issues, he woke up with an edge. He was crabby, irritable, mouthy, and prone to temper tantrums. His tone was that of an insolent teenager.  It did not matter if I was asking him to pick up his toys or asking him if he would like some ice cream, it was always the same: his responses came in this snappy, edgy, disrespectful tone that just cut right through me.

      It was so disconcerting because I did not talk to him that way, I did not teach him this. So why?  Why would this child be so disrespectful to me?  It really got under my skin. Why would this child treat me, the very one who was trying the hardest to make his world a more harmonious and sensory integrated place?

     I tried everything. Talking to him, coddling him, ignoring him, reprimanding him, behavior charts, you name it.  Nothing seemed to work.

     Understanding this was just almost impossible.  Over time, when it appeared that there was not a thing I could do about this I just got angry. Angry and at times resentful.

      Then one evening  it came to me. Clear as day.   It came to me in  the way of a hot, itchy,  woolly, sweater.  They say you should not judge someone until you have walked a mile in his shoes...  Well try walking that same mile with an "itchy woolly sweater on a 90 degree day.


     I was out to dinner with my friend.  We were eating Sushi.  We were drinking wine.  ( I love Sushi, and I love wine).  She was one of my favorite friends, I was looking forward to this night and I should have been having a great time. However, I was not.  There was a problem.  That morning I came across this woolly sweater that I could never remember wearing so I put it on.  That was the problem. It was hot, it was itchy, and I was miserable.  As dinner progressed, I became more and more miserable.  I could not enjoy my Sushi, I could not enjoy my wine, and I could not enjoy my coveted girl talk with one of my best friends.  I really just wanted to go home and TAKE OFF THIS SWEATER!   I was trying my best to hide my discontentment, but my friend, whom can read me well, finally said, "what is wrong with you? Is everything okay? Your not yourself".  I responded, rather heatedly, "It is this sweater! It is driving me crazy!" I took a few moments to express myself...#!!%##*!!"

     In that same moment I stopped..."OMG!", "Michael!"..."Huh?", my friend was clearly puzzled.  "Michael!, this is how Michael feels!".

     In a New York second I had a taste of what it might feel like to be Michael.  My Michael with sensory issues.  My Michael who is Hyper-sensitive. Who had been expressing  displeasure with his body's reaction to the world for a long, long time.  The world to him often, to LOUD, to HOT, to TIGHT, to LOOSE.

     He has been walking around in this "Itchy woolly sweater" for years, with a sweater on that he could not take off at the end of the day... and I wanted him to smile.

     I now understood why sometimes even when we are at his favorite place, doing his favorite things, Michael does  not feel like smiling.  Why, sometimes, when he wakes up in the morning, he is snarky, and irritable.  Why there are times that he just can't pull off what I am asking of him.  No matter what the circumstances are.

     We have come a long way in the way in helping Michael get through the world in a more sensory organized way.  We have our good days, and we have our could be better ones.

     But on those days, when my son comes in the door looking and talking like a disgruntled, mouthy kid...before I react, or judge him too harshly, I ask myself, "How would I feel right now if I had to put back on that itchy, woolly sweater?...

     EMPATHY.....It can come packaged in the most extraordinary ways....




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