Tag: Sensory Processing Disorder

How To Embrace Your Sensory Friendly Halloween

sensory-friendly-halloween

If you have never heard of sensory processing disorder you are not the only one. Most parents do not know what this is until their child is diagnosed with the disorder. The difficulty is that even with a diagnosis, you as a parent may have no clear and final definition of what makes your kid tick. Every kid is different and it can take time to identify your child’s sensory triggers.

According to the website Understood.org, children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) “may be oversensitive or undersensitive to the world around them. When the brain receives information, it gives meaning to even the smallest bits of information. Keeping all that information organized and responding appropriately is challenging for them.”

As unique as your child is, so is the way their brain processes things like smell, taste and touch. Some kids never notice the feeling of a tag on their shirt, or the seam in their socks. But there are kids who are so distracted by this sensation that they can cry or scream, or even become aggressive. If you have a kid with sensory issues you are not alone! One in twenty children live with some varying degree of sensory processing disorder. Navigating daily life can be a struggle, let alone having to wear an itchy costume in a crowded, loud setting.

Both of my children have mild sensory issues which mostly involves volume levels and large crowds. When they were little I didn’t take them very far on Halloween. The year we let them choose on their own which houses to stop at was the year they decided they liked trick or treating. Now we let them take us as far as they want to go, we carry extra snacks and we call it quits when they get overwhelmed. We begin our evening slow and head home in time to hand out treats.

I polled some of my mom friends who are in the know about sensory processing and the sensory demands of Halloween. The best piece of advice: is to not force your child beyond their limits. Halloween activities are for their enjoyment and it is OK to let them enjoy activities in their own way. If your child can only handle wearing a small piece of their costume, or no costume at all, let that be enough. My friend Erin shares that one year she let her son go as himself at his request. “Thankfully the people around us accepted that. And he had a great Halloween because he could do his own thing.”

MOM TIPS

Select a costume that is mask free, or does not require face paint. Let your kids use their own familiar clothing as part of their costume to help them enjoy dressing up. For kids with auditory sensory issues, using noise cancelling headphones works great. For kids who are sensitive to bright lights, start your trick or treat night as early as possible and take advantage of the day light. If your child tires easily map out a short route, or bring along a wagon to let them take a break. And again, it’s OK if you cut your time short and head back home early.

PRO TIPS

Being a parent of a child with sensory issues can feel overwhelming, but imagine being the child who is struggling to process so much sensory information at once. It can provoke a lot of anxiety not knowing what is happening next. Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Gina Bergdall suggests allowing your child to carry a fidget toy. This will allow them a constructive “place to focus their anxiety on.” Bergdall also shares these tips provided by the American Occupational Therapy Association. 

It may also be helpful to pick only a few places to trick or treat and review that plan with your child before hand. If they know they are only going to 5 or 6 houses nearby, they can feel a sense of control ticking the number of houses off the list. Seeing familiar faces can also make them feel more at ease.

HOW TO EMBRACE

If your child is overly sensitive to crowds or noises there is no rule that mandates they go trick or treating. You can make some really amazing traditions right at home. Bake some great treats, make a fun meal together, or if they want to, let them help with handing out candy. Invite the grandparents or family over for pizza and a movie. There is no wrong way to participate in Halloween! Staying at home where it is familiar may be just what your child needs to celebrate comfortably.

I get it moms! Having to make these kinds of accommodations often feels like our children are missing out on experiences other kids get to have, or the experiences we had as kids. But really, the holiday is about our kid’s enjoyment. If that looks different than the way other families celebrate, that’s OK. Embrace your unique traditions! If your child is comfortable at home watching Halloween specials and eating popcorn, join them! Deciding to follow their lead helps them feel capable! Plus, sharing a special night in together as your Halloween tradition is way more relaxing than walking around in the cold wearing a cookie cutter costume.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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Things I Won’t Do For My Kids

Welcome to Week 3 of the No Frills version of The Whatever Mom! Hope you are enjoying my personal insights into this parenting gig!

Eating Utensils

 

We had the luxury of going to dinner at two different restaurants this weekend. We are lucky if we eat as a family at a restaurant two times in the same year. This was pretty exciting for all of us. I am not ashamed of the dance of joy I did when my food arrived… food I didn’t have to plan for, shop for or cook! I was even more delighted that I didn’t have to wash the dishes after our meal either. And, this happened TWO DAYS IN A ROW!! If you’re a mom you know the joy of which I speak.

You may be shocked to learn that dining with little ones is not always a relaxing experience. I have to say I am pretty proud of the way my kids behaved and we didn’t even have to bribe them! We reviewed the rules with them before entering and again once we were seated.  Hubby and I were so excited to be out among the living! (I even wore make up and left the frumpy pants at home! I was that excited!). My excitement, however, was dampened when we were seated near a woman who was clearly annoyed by my child’s enthusiasm for being out in a restaurant.

My girl wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary for a 4-year old (I was actually feeling really grateful for that!). But, nonetheless this woman is shooting me looks and glaring at me as if to send the message “do something about your kid.” At first I felt like I needed to rush in and appease this woman’s expectations for my child to be seen and not heard. I felt like I needed to apologize for her discomfort sitting near a small child. Then I realized it isn’t fair to punish my child when she really wasn’t doing anything rude, or breaking any rules.

I shared last week my kids can have terrible tantrums in public, but they can also be really good in public! No, really! I felt like we were having a good night and my kids were being charming. So, why all the scrutiny from this onlooker? Is there truly NO place for parents to go without being watched and quietly critiqued? My emotions took several twists and turns as we ate our meal and I felt the burning gaze from this woman. Here are the cliff notes of my inner monologue:

I will not apologize for who my children are. Both of my girls are talkative little story tellers full of excitement and energy. I will not expect them to stop talking because it is bothering someone else to hear them. Although most mornings I’m wishing for a pause button on their conversations while I finish my coffee. Only because they wake up like this and its hard to fain interest so early in the day. I could have shushed my child for talking too much, but it wasn’t bothering anyone else except this one person. I was raised in an environment where children were to be seen and not heard. It didn’t stop me from talking. In fact, I think that’s why I talk to every single person I meet because I was rarely allowed to share my thoughts. (And now I have all of you!). I ran through the check list of things in my head: my girls wasn’t shrieking, jumping, yelling, kicking, running or throwing things. She was just being bubbly, chatty and a little wiggly (in all fairness so was I). That’s who she is as a person. I will not ask my daughter to squelch that so someone else can feel better for the 1 hour of their life they have to sit near her.

I will not feel guilty for having spirited children. It is amazing how other people’s glares or judging stares can make us immediately feel guilty. It can make us feel like we have already failed as a parent just walking in the door. I am not entirely sure where this pressure comes from, but I often find it stopping me in my tracks. I want my children to be perceived as the beautiful little people they are. Trust me, they are NOT without faults (hence the reason this blog is not titled, Damn Right My Twins Are Better Than Yours!). My children love to be fully engaged in what’s happening around them. They will soak in all the details and discuss them and ask a ton of questions about them. They notice details like the ceiling fans are not moving and want to know why. They’ll notice every last do not smoke sign, point them out and then count them.  They notice there are two forks on the table and ask why and then rearrange them in an order they like best. It’s just who they are. Again, no one’s throwing knives or running across tables here. It can be completely exhausting to get through a meal with this intensive Q&A (I almost always finish my wine before my meal). But, my child wasn’t asking this person 1,000 questions. So what am I really feeling guilty about here?

I will not explain my children to other people so that they are more comfortable. During this trip we also met up with family. We had to skip out right after our meal to get on the road and  make the 3 hour drive back home. Oh how I wish we could have stayed longer and really soaked up the extra time with everyone. But, I could see how hard my kids worked to get through the last 2 hours in a restaurant, after they worked hard to get through the 1.5 hours at church after not getting nearly enough sleep the night before. I knew in my mother’s heart I could not push them a minute longer let alone another 2 hours of socializing. I spoke with my husband who agreed we should take this opportunity to exit. Not everyone understood why we were leaving. I really wanted to explain that I was saving them (and myself) the torture of a one hour shrieking meltdown once my kids had reached their max. I wanted to explain how Sensory Processing Disorder works; how I am the expert in my kids and I know what’s best for them. I wanted to explain that the last two years of extreme meltdowns has taught me how to recognize when my kids are going to blow. I didn’t explain anything. They just observed my kids being awesome, why can’t we just leave it at that?

On this Whatever journey of mine, I am learning to let a lot go. That includes the pressure from strangers to guide my children in a way that makes THEM comfortable. I have to spend 24/7 with these little people. I also have to make sure they grow up to be productive members of society. I can’t cave under the pressure from outsiders and adjust my parenting style according to the standards of every stranger annoyed by my kids. I have bigger things to worry about in life; like making sure my kids aren’t throwing knives and jumping over tables.

I wanted to be angry and for a second that mama bear in me started to imagine ripping this woman’s face off. But, instead of getting angry (or removing body parts) I gave her a little tip of my glass and said, Whatever!

 

I am having bumper stickers of this one made.
I am having bumper stickers of this one made.

Have you ever had a situation where you felt you wanted to defend your child to a stranger?

 

 

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