I had the most amazing time talking to Lisa Davis at It’s Your Health Radio this last week. It was truly like talking with a good friend – we laughed, and exchanged stories about our kids and our husbands, and of course talked a lot about Sensory Processing Disorder and my book This is Gabriel Making Sense of School. But the best part? Laughing about our own sensory issues.
Yep, that’s right, turns out that we as parents of SPD kiddos seem to have our own sensory issues. Just call me Captain Obvious.
There is always time to chat about our kids, and exchange stories about their therapies or quirky and funny behavior, but how often do you actually talk to another sensory-mom about yourself? Never. I know.
So, when Lisa and I started laughing about our childhoods and how those little sensory quirks of ours are playing out in our kids, it was just a blast. And, I wanted to include all of you in the discussion too!
When I was a child I had definite sensory preferences that lean towards being defensive (Nick is exactly me, but I ate more than peanut butter). I needed to have my socks just right, no itchy tags, definitely no screen-printed shirts (that feeling was AWFUL on my skin!), I wore my jacket inside during the winter, I learned to self-soothe by rubbing my feet on my sheets and shoving them under anything heavy (my hubby’s legs are my fave now), I hated certain food textures (like peas, lima beans, olives, mushrooms) and to this day I can’t stand loud noises.
I am definitely more auditory defensive than anything else these days – it is like I have the capacity to handle a certain amount of noise, and once it is reached, I am done. No additional background noise, no crowded places full of people moving and making noise, and by rule, no electronic or battery operated toys after 4pm.
I also have to out myself here and say that I hate to brush my teeth. I just hate it. I hate the taste of toothpaste, and the feeling of the brush, but the thing I hate THE MOST is the feeling of all of that spit in my mouth that I have to hold there while I brush. Holding the spit in to brush over the sink is IMPOSSIBLE. I will gag, and throw up. Truly. As embarrassing as it is, I just can’t do it. And don’t get me started on mouth wash – same problem (spit in mouth) but worse.
When I was a kid, my dad was super-crazy-obsessed with me brushing my teeth. So, I would go in the bathroom, put toothpaste on the brush, wash it off, and then say I brushed my teeth. I went to great lengths to avoid actually doing it.
So, do I brush my teeth now? Yes. (You thought I’d say no, huh?)
Here’s the deal – I learned to brush my teeth in the shower where the spit can run out, and I can rinse it away quickly. Yes, that may be gross to you, but it took me years to develop a way of doing this without throwing up. I think my gag reflex for throwing up while brushing my teeth peeked in my late teens, so this is a trick I learned while living in the dorms in college. Since I had to carry all of my toiletries to the bathroom each morning, I got in the habit of brushing my teeth in the shower to save time. And, it was more tolerable that way – so it is a habit that stuck.
You can walk in my bathroom right now and find my sonic care toothbrush on the top of the shower’s edge right next to the toothpaste.
If I have to brush my teeth over the sink because I don’t have time to shower, I truthfully do a half-ass job just go get through it and not have stinky breath. But I hate it.
I think understanding that some of my sensory ‘preferences’ border on diagnosis, but knowing that they are not SPD for me, gives me a better sense of empathy for my kiddos. If what they are feeling is even half as intense (and probably is 10 times as intense) as what I feel about my teeth or noise, then I definitely understand why it is so all consuming for them. And more importantly why their behavior is off the charts from sensory issues.
What about you? What is your biggest sensory challenge? How does that make you more empathetic towards your SPD kid?
You can hear my entire interview including Lisa’s own personal stories of sensory issues for her daughter and family on It’s Your Health Radio in September. I will be sure to post the link once it is up (the first half of our interview is 25 minutes!).