I am not an expert on Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID). I
don't know for sure what causes it. I possess limited knowledge of
treatments. I don't know how many people are diagnosed with it each
year. But I do know that having three little boys with
varying degrees of SID has made it really hard to keep track of
clothes. Why? Tags stand zero chance of surviving a single night at
the Walsh household. Those with SID hate tags. It's the universal
indicator if you ask me.
Before I continue, I'd like to give a quick shout-out to all
those stores who have started selling tagless shirts. Without them,
I am fairly certain I would have gone mad years ago.
The different manifestations of the dysfunction are evident in
every person in my house. Typically, a person with SID falls
somewhere between the Oh No! category (avoiding things
that overstimulate the senses) and the MORE! MORE!
category (seeking stimulation by doing things like running in
circles and singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider at the top of one's
lungs). In preschool, Daniel had a hard time focusing if there was
a fan running. Joey, on the other hand, once sought to investigate
the texture and smell of a Great Dane by prying open its mouth and
sticking his head right between its jaws.
This has made my life a lot of fun.
In trying to figure out the origins of my boys' dysfunction, one
need look no further than my husband and me. I have always been the
Oh No! variety of person. I get easily overwhelmed in
loud, busy rooms and feel anxious walking around bustling city
blocks. I suppose in some way, my decision to live downtown for 10
years represented a kind of immersion therapy. I went to bed each
night in the Viagra Triangle (Oak & State) listening to sirens
and bar fights. Still, I was never really cured. I remember my old
boss once tried introducing me to several important Chicago
business leaders at a large corporate event I was managing. I was
so overwhelmed by the music, the background chatter, and the
crowds, that I somehow morphed into Dustin Hoffman:
Hi. I see you have a nametag. I got to get more nametags.
Nametags are important. There are people walking in. They're going
to need nametags. Excuse me while I handle the nametag thing. What
is life without a good nametag? You guys all have your nametags,
right? Good. That's good. Nametags are good. Nice meeting you.
Thanks for wearing your nametags.
To this day, I will never understand why I wasn't fired.
My husband, on the other hand can't tolerate certain textures
like sand. Yet the guy loves the beach. I will never understand
this dichotomy. Once we leave the beach, Joe has to make sure that
not a single grain remains anywhere on his person. I, on the other
hand, could care less and will remain coated in the stuff until he
makes me shower before bed. Joe hates sticky, and I still
don't know which of his shirts are dry clean only because
the guy hasn't kept a tag on in 25 years.
Still, Joe doesn't drone on about nametags at parties. Because
of that, he obviously has a lot more friends than me.
Danny spent the first four years of life throwing up any time he
found the texture of a food too much for his sensory system. He was
really good at it, too. By the time he was 20 months old, he would
just walk right over to a garbage can and take care of business.
This wasn't merely spitting out distasteful food like a lot of kids
do. Daniel was committing to full-out chunky spews. And he didn't
spill a drop anywhere.
We were so proud.
Daniel would also choke on heavily textured foods. With
absolutely no air getting through, he would require the baby
Heimlich. My husband and I got so good at performing it, that I
feel a lifetime achievement trophy should be awarded us. Or at
least a free breakfast at Denny's.
Jack was easier. His SID coping device was music. As long as I
sang, no matter how bad my voice, he was a happy kid. When he
became stressed in the car, I'd just pop on a Broadway tune, and
all was right in Jack's world. He was a seeker with sound, but
still had certain peculiarities and strong aversions to smells and
textures. While my husband gave me immeasurable grief for the
non-stop playing of Rent and Wicked to keep Jack
happy, I credit those choices for his great ear for music now. At
least that's what I'm trying to convince the piano teacher to tell
Joey is a world-class sensory seeker who screamed through his
entire first year of life. After that, he became a whirling dervish
of motion and noise. Always moving. Always singing. Always touching
and investigating the world around him.
Thanks in large part to the wonderful CPS therapists who worked
with our boys during the early years, most people would never know
what a rough start we had to parenting. Nobody would believe me if
I told them I couldn't get Danny out of the house for two months
after the fourth of July because he was deathly afraid of "the
kabooms" (fireworks). It seems inconceivable that my happy little
Joey used to whine and cry for hours on end, day after day.
Of course there's still the tag thing. I fear that one will
always be with us.
If my silly little blog inspires one parent to seek therapies
for children like mine, it goes on my permanent record and
hopefully earns me a ticket to heaven. The treatments have made
such a difference in our tagless little word of SID. An ounce of
intervention now can truly alter a child's path and positively
impact his ability to focus and flourish.
It is the best present a parent can give this holiday
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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