I haven't written anything in a long time. Mostly because of FB, really. But I want to talk about Simon and sensory processing disorder. And me and sensory processing disorder. And it's much easier to go on and on without annoying folks on a blog than it is on Facebook.
So. Sensory Processing Disorder.Simon has it. So do I. I haven't been officially diagnosed, but it's obvious. Looking back on my life, at the odd things I did and said, it's obvious. And while it's much too late for 'early intervention' to help a grown up like me, it helps just knowing why I feel and respond the way I do. It also helps knowing that most people DON'T feel the way I do. That dirty faucet handle that I think is the worst, most disgusting, crusty, slimy, untouchable thing in the world? It probably feels normal to most people. The background noise that makes it hard for me to pick out words someone speaks, or the inability to recall what the person I just spoke to looked or sounded like? People don't have those problems. Or they do, but not to this degree, and it might be the only one, instead of one of many.
Sometime in fifth grade I was walking home from school and noticed a stream of water running down a curb into the gutter. The street was full of little piles of sediment, sending the water into little patterns, moving and changing as it went on it's way. It was captivating. Hypnotizing. It fed some visual-processing part of my brain in a way that left me completely unaware of the rest of my surroundings. After some time a neighbor walked by and asked me what I was doing staring at a police car for so long. The look on her face was part concern, but disgust. I was mortified. I had no idea there was a police car inches from me. All I saw was the water. I had no idea I'd been staring for a long time, and I had absolutely no idea that staring at water running by the tires of a cop car would be so socially unacceptable. I had no way to explain what was going on. I couldn't tell her I was so overwhelmed by the visual stimulation that I noticed nothing else. I couldn't tell her how powerfully the running patterns affected nervous system, or how relieving it was to see that, only that, and understand and enjoy it. So I blushed until it burned, mumbled something about the water, and walked home, crying. I want to go back to little me and the neighbor and tell us both that it's okay, it's not shameful, it's not weird or bad or wrong, it's just SPD. A gentle reminder to continue home would break the spell and I could walk on satisfied.
The benefit of my own painful moments are understanding. I KNOW what Simon feels, I see why he shoves my face when I try to kiss his cheek and how consumingly great it feels to bury his head in his blanket and smell deeply. And now that we have the gift of knowing what SPD is we can take him to his beloved Occupational Therapist and help him desensitize and learn to cope when it has the most impact. We can teach him scripts to get along in social situations he'll never intuitively understand, and provide coping tools to get through the parts of life that will always be unbearable. And we can give him his own understanding of how his mind works with his body, how it's different than other people, and we can give him a way to tell people he's not weird or batty or bad.
And we can all enjoy the parts of Simon that are fun and good, and understand that they come with the challenges of SPD, and we'll celebrate and encourage them all the more.