TheLastSixBrainCells: Holiday traditions + sensory issues = ……..

TheLastSixBrainCells: Holiday traditions + sensory issues = ……..

I specifically took this picture of our son Hayden holding this egg close to his mouth (he was actually smelling it) because I wanted to remember this moment; after all we had been waiting for it for over 12 years!! “Waiting for 12 years for your son to hold an egg?”, you ask….”you people seriously need a hobby!!” Yes, and yes!! This photo is significant because Hayden has sensory integration issues along with having T21 (commonly referred to as Down syndrome) and it’s ALWAYS been nearly impossible for him to hold smooth things in the palm of his hand.

This year, for the FIRST time ever, he not only held the egg in his hand and smelled it (it briefly passed the smell-test, but he quickly handed it over to me, not wanting to prolong the relationship with the elliptical sphere), he also joined the rest of the family at the table outside where we colored the eggs for Easter. For those of you who have kids with sensory issues, you GET why this is a big deal and a big victory and you’re probably smiling right now along with me.

For those of you who don’t have kids with sensory issues, you would have been part of the crowd that for years has just thought Hayden was weird, or spoiled or “touchy’ for not being able to even be in the same ROOM as a smooth and shiny egg (or shaving cream, or cotton balls, or play dough). That’s okay, I forgive for your ignorance because to the uneducated it just doesn’t make sense what’s such a big deal about an egg. And in the heat of various moments of being at playgroups with Hayden, family gatherings, public outings, etc…I never had time to fully explain what “sensory” means to him, but now I’m making a feeble attempt at a blog and will try to explain this as simply and practically as possible.

When a child has sensory integration dysfunction it means that the messages that fly between the nerves and the brain stem along the neuropathways don’t often get to where they’re going in order, or in a timely fashion. Ever seen photos or video of rush hour in Boston or downtown Cairo?? It looks like a red-hot scary mess and that’s kind of what it’s like for a kid with sensory issues. Some sights, sounds, textures, touches, tastes, etc… are just TOO much for them to handle. And so they don’t. Kids might run away, hold their hands over their ears, scream, kick, throw the offending object, not be able to come to the table or a variety of other reactions, but they’re telling you they just can’t handle it.

So this year, after years of being coaxed, cajoled, begged (never by me, always by people who thought they were “helping” him by forcing him to face his fears) and nearly forced to be in the same room as the Easter egg coloring festivities, Hayden sat on the couch and I brought the egg to him. His initial response was really good….he took the egg from my hand and held it and investigated it, smelling it. And then he was done with it. He put in my hand telling me he had enough, and that was fine with me. I did have to coax him to come outside and join us at the egg coloring table, but once he was seated, he was happy to be there and he even picked up a few of the eggs his sister had been decorating (much to her delight–not!!).

So all of you out there with kiddos with varying degrees of sensory integration dysfunction, hang in there!! Continue presenting your children with a variety of textures and smells and experiences, but don’t force anything. Our kids always do what they can do when they can do it and not a minute sooner.

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