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?