The Out-of-Sync Child

A dear friend of mine once told me I was benighted. I don’t think she actually meant “benighted”. I’m pretty sure the word she was looking for was “bewildered”. I hope that’s what she meant, anyway. The poor girl was always using words that almost meant what she thought they meant. She once called my mom homely (ugly or plain), when she mean homey (comfortable and home-like). You can imagine how happy I was with her until that little misunderstanding was cleared up. Nobody talks about my mom that way and gets away with it! Anyway, NOT the point.

The point is, if my friend actually meant “bewildered”, she was right. I was, as a child and teenager with sensory processing disorder, selective mutism, and attention deficit disorder, often as lost and confused a person as you’re ever likely to meet. As an adult…well, I guess I’m still a little confused sometimes, but it’s different now. Thankfully, I’ve (mostly) overcome the selective mutism by what must be the miraculous grace of God. Now it’s hard to get me to shut up! But the neurological problems persist, to some degree.

I just picked up a book I found through Sunflower Schoolhouse called The Out-of-Sync Child. I bought it because I see so much of myself in my oldest child, and I’m hoping to find out how to help him learn to cope with the world better than I could at his age.

The introduction describes the author’s reaction to children who just didn’t get it. “It” being pretty much anything involving activity, motion, and sensation–in other words, nearly everything kids do.

Why did Andrew buzz around the room’s perimeter while his classmates, sitting on the rug, sang “The Wheels on the Bus”?

Why did Ben tap, tap, tap his shoulders when the musical instructions were to tap, tap, tap his knees?

Why did Alice flop onto her stomach, “too tired” to sit up and strike together two rhythm sticks?

At first, these children annoyed me. They made me feel like a bad teacher. They also made me feel like a bad person when their inattention or disruptive behavior caused me to react negatively. Indeed, on one regrettable occasion, I told a child that turning away and covering his ears when I played the guitar was “just plain rude.” That day I went home and wept.

I know I was just as frustrating to my own teachers. If the author had been a teacher of mine, he would have wondered “Why did Cindy raise her hand when everyone else clapped at the end of play? And why did she refuse to remove her shoes to walk on the new carpet in the music room?”

I was obviously not challenged intellectually, and yet my teachers couldn’t make me do anything. I could see the fury on thier faces, sometimes. And of course, when my teacher started sending me to the guidance counselor every week for an hour of something like therapy, I couldn’t help but know she thought there was something wrong with me.

Despite a few years of frequent visits to the counselor’s office, no one ever put a name to my problems, nor did they come up with an answer to the challenges I presented to my teachers.

Watching my own son freeze up when the music and dancing started during Kid Zone one Sunday morning, and his huddling up in the middle of a crowd of dancing kids at VBS really brought home to me just how much I want him to be able to do the things I can’t do. Hopefully, this book can offer a few answers as to how I can help him. In trying to help him, I’ve already discovered a lot of things I hadn’t known about myself, such as the fact that my tendency to freeze up and get hostile when someone (even my extremely patient husband) touches me unexpectedly is related to my sensory integration problems, and not that I’m just a touchy you-know-what.

I’ve never blogged my way through a book before, but this is important to me in a way that most books aren’t, so I may just try it. I’d love to have some input from parents of children with SPD and other adults like me, as well. Having spent the first 30 years of my life utterly confused, I hope to spend the rest of it only mildly perplexed.

Thoughts, Moms and Dads?

Responses:

  1. Love your blog….from twitter. I can appreciate your post…and can not wait to read more. Strong Willed Child or Dreamer is a good book, too. I have been reading that because I have a daughter who is Dyslexic…and a dreamer!

  2. I really wanna read this when you’re done, please.

  3. I have three out of sync kids. One huge issue for me is keeping calm. No matter how frustrated I get. They can’t help it. Taking time to remember that makes for a better day all around.

  4. Cindy! I saw your tweet saying Out of Sync Child and HAD to click… just in case it had something to do with the book.

    I have the book. My son has Sensory Processing Disorder. We’re going through the process of getting him into Child Development and Rehabilitation Center to get an official diagnosis and start working with him.

    Cindy, hearing that you have this makes me want to cry ~ I HAVE to talk to you! I HAVE to know what he’s going through… I cringe when he says: “I don’t get it, I’m confused.” I”m thinking to myself… WHAT? How in the world are you confused? He’s 9 years old and JUST learned how to ride a bike. He’s 9 years old and we buy shoes w/out laces, because it’s too much for him to tie his shoes. There’s so many things and sometimes I just really need advice from someone who’s been there done that. I’m starting the book myself as I thought I lost it and JUST found it! I’d love to blog my way through it with you.

  5. My kids all have some degree of Sensory Processing Disorder, I think. I wouldn’t pay to find out as I just accept it. Oldest d will not wear pants. She is 11, almost 12 and everyone who just meets her thinks we are a Mennonite family. She learned to tie her shoes quite late and didn’t start riding a bike until she was almost 10. I just didn’t push it – but when she tried, she got it right off the bat. She’s also sensitive about her shoes and socks -they have to be just right. I catch myself getting frustrated with her with school because sometimes we’re not on the same wavelength.
    My second daughter has auditory processing problems and maybe visual processing as well – definitely a dyslexic case. Using the Dianne Craft lessons, Earobics program, Secret Stories phonics and Straight Talk Speech to try to work out these issues.
    Too early to tell about the younger ones..

  6. So, send me the book when Jesse’s finished (unless I’ve downloaded it by then.)
    I remember the experiences so well. Unfortunately, I think the guidance counsilor was ill-equipped to handle children with any sort of real issues–I’m pretty sure her main job was to watch out for child abuse and truants. My introverted little self did find it quite nice to have the time away from other chidderns, though. I don’t know how it was for you in her office, but as for myself, we never set goals, we didn’t make a plan, we hardly even actually spoke; she never even told me why I was there. I just came in week after week (every thursday) and played on the paint program on her computer. Sometimes I would try to freak her out by drawing rather morbid (at least for my age) pictures and see what kind of reaction she had. I was a strange child…

  7. Amanda (my online friend), I’ll give you just as much info as I can! I wasn’t even diagnosed until I was an adult, and after I was diagnosed, I stopped seeing the psychologist who was trying to help me, so I have NO professional advice to pass on. I do, however, know how the boy must feel. Take heart. He’s not broken. Just different. :0)

    Amanda (my sister), I completely forgot that you had the same experiences with Mrs. Pennington. I wonder if they thought our parents were abusing us or something. They certainly never told them they were observing us once a week. I loved my time in that office, because it was so quiet, and I could just curl up and read as much as I wanted to. Maybe they just felt we needed the time out. Maybe they knew more about our needs than we thought they did. I looked forward to it.

  8. This one has been on my must read list for ages. I will be following your series here closely! Thanks for linking it.

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