Sunday, February 28, 2016

How I explained sensory processing disorder to my 4 year old

You know that feeling of irritation you get if the tag on the back of your brand new t-shirt is scratching up against your skin, it bothers you until you take it off and take the scissors to it, or it drives you to madness and you just rip it off, not even bothered if you end up leaving a hole in your new shirt.

What about that pair of socks that you thought would fit and feel just right, and half way through your day, you realize they do not feel or fit just right and you are taking them off in a mad frenzy so that you can feel free and breathe.

And then there's that feeling of having someone put their hand on your back, or trying to hold your hand, wanting to hug you, or even kiss actually hurts you, and you can't explain it, you just can't. So you avoid affection because that is your way of protecting yourself from the pain of human touch. 

How do I explain this to my beautiful little girl? She's 4 years old and I didn't know how to explain it to her, how do I explain it to her in a way that she would understand? How do I explain that her younger sister has severe Sensory Processing Disorder? 

Zoey is 3 years old, she's diagnosed with autism, global delay, ADHD, dyspraxia of speech, and severe sensory processing disorder. 

That is hard enough for me to understand, never mind the idea of my 4 year old understanding it. 

I put it off, and I would say to her that her sister is "different" and that "different" isn't bad. 

That explained nothing, I was taking the easy way out. Just telling her that her sister is "different" wasn't cutting it. She watched as her younger sister had a year of intensive in home therapies with multiple therapists, all of them with their own special bag of toys, all coming to play with just her little sister. My big girl watched, and everyday said "what about me?" I saw the sadness in her eyes and I watched as my big girl was feeling left out and confused. 

She watched as her little sister got so much more attention and she started to regress herself, because "what about me?" was how she felt, and if she was "different" like her little sister than she would get to have all the extra attention and play with all of the therapists special bag of toys, just like her "different" little sister. 

I had no idea what to say, what to do, and how to help them both...I needed to help them both. I took my big girl aside one night and we had a talk in her room, just her and I and I was not sure how this talk was going to go, but it was time to explain it to her in a "different" way.

I looked at my beautiful 4 year old and I said "You know how you have "itchies" on your arms and legs (eczema) and they bother you so much that you scratch em until they feel better, but they don't ever really feel better until mommy gives you lotion to help?"

My big girl looked up at me and she said "yes, those itchies hurt so bad and I scratch and scratch and it doesn't feel better until you help me."

I said, "yeah, I help you to make those "itchies" not itch so bad. Your "itchies" are on the outside, and we can see them and we know where they are...well "sissy" her "itchies" are on the inside and mommy can't see them, so I help her by giving her "squeezes" (deep pressure message on her arms and legs) so she doesn't itch so bad. 

 I know that saying she's "different" wasn't working for us, and I finally found a way to explain sensory processing disorder to my beautiful big girl. 

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