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Sensory Overload for your SPD Kid

When J was a baby, I was very concerned with how much television he watched. I listened to the reports about how much a toddler should watch and how much was considered too much. This was all before I even thought J had any kind of ADD/ADHD. This was before I knew J was on the Autism Spectrum. This was before I knew J had SPD.

J liked certain shows on TV. He never seemed to get TOO upset when we turned off the TV, as long as we had something else for him to transition to that he really enjoyed. When your SPD child is your first child, and you are a stay-at-home mom, you can cater to their (almost) every whim. So it never seemed like too much of a daunting task.

Flash forward to now; to when I know that J is “Sensory Seeking” and I see how much too much media (i.e., TV, video games, iPad, iPod, Leapster, computer, Wii) time has an effect on him.

One of my main concerns about summer vacation (or any vacation, for that matter) is how many battles we will have about J NOT getting all those technological tidbits he craves so very much. This is why he is going to the camp he is going to this summer. But the majority of programs for special needs kids come at a steep price (literally) and J is only going to that camp for four of the (ee-gads!) ten weeks of summer vacation.

Since his first day of break (which was only yesterday) he has wanted to “go on something”, as J puts it, from the moment he wakes up. He knows that there is little scheduled and he is primed to take full advantage of that fact. We are negotiating with him umteen times a day about whether or not he can go on the computer, and did he ask permission to go on the Wii, and why did he switch to Netflix on the Wii without asking us first…you get the idea. And this is all before 10 am!!!

The other part of this is the diet. Because J is home more often and is being schlepped on my errands, he is around food that we normally try to keep him away from. Also, before the end of school last week, there were a lot of celebrations where he ate foods that are not ideal for his system. What effect does this have on him? Well, he gets very agitated. If it is enough to really effect him, he gets downright nasty. Talking back to us and yelling. Telling me I am a “nasty mother”.  All I am trying to do is keep him healthy…both his body and his mind and this is the thanks I get??!!

Today, after a morning of over an hour of PBS Kids on the computer (which ended up with him sinking out of the chair I currently sit in typing this, onto the floor and whining/grunting at me), we went to the grocery store where J had part of a blueberry muffin. Not an ok food but a way for me to get through the shopping I had to do today. Then he grabbed a bagel. He ate less than half of the bagel and about half of the muffin. Later, we went to the movies where he had popcorn (even though we don’t get butter on it, movie theater popcorn is too good not to have SOME butter flavor in it) and a few pieces of a Kit Kat.

So, here he is getting hit with a double whammy. He is at the movies (sensory input) and eating sugar and dairy, on top of the computer time earlier today and the food at the store.

Later in the day, he and I had about an hour to do whatever we wanted while we waited for my daughter. J has recently expressed an interest in photography and so I thought it might be a good time for him to take some pictures. J did not want to do this. J was tired and did not want to walk. Most likely, this was a result of him crashing from the gluten and the sugar he had earlier in the day. What he DID take pictures of, were of his own angry face. We sat down on a bench near a fountain. I thought this might calm him down. It did, for about two minutes. Then he rallied and started up all over again. I actually took some pictures with the thought that when he was calmer, I would show him how angry he was and explain to him why that happened. I wonder if he will understand?

Then, he wanted to go to Starbucks. Now, this is usually okay for us because he gets a fruit smoothie with soy milk. But that’s not what he wanted. He wanted a birthday cake pop. When I tried to convince him otherwise, he started up all over again. So, I got him the friggin cake pop!!! Mom of the year over here! I KNEW I shouldn’t do it, but I did it anyway.

Next stop, into a candy store (seriously, what was I thinking????) to introduce J to someone I recently met who has a close family member with Autism. Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

J wanted this. J wanted that. I kept reminding him of all the treats he had today. It didn’t matter, he wasn’t hearing me. Not one word. So, there we are, walking down the street in this little downtown area, me, holding his hand, as he wails.

Now, I am way past the point of caring what other people think about me or my child so I am unphased by the side smiles and the looks of “awwww, poor child”. But, I do feel bad for my son. I feel bad because I put him in this physical and emotional predicament and I KNOW BETTER. J doesn’t. We explain what foods are good for him and what foods are bad for him but he is all of 7 years old. He cannot (yet) be held accountable. It is all on me.

As I head into day three of summer vacation, I am wondering what I can do to keep J off the tech stuff? We have to be home all morning tomorrow, as I wait for a repair guy. It should be a beautiful morning and playing outside would be ideal but most of the other kids in our neighborhood are off to sports camp this week and J doesn’t like to play outside unless other kids are out there too. His sister doesn’t count.

When parents of “typical” kids tell me about how they look forward to vacation and school breaks, I feel a huge sense of guilt that my gut reaction is that of dread and fear. Worse yet are the parents of “typical” kids who actually have the nerve to complain about how they are going to keep their kids busy in between all the camps they have them scheduled for. It’s not that I can’t empathize with them because I do have one typical child who definitely gives me a run for money when she is not occupied. I understand, I truly do but it is not the same. No way. With my daughter, I can always find something for her to do that puts her back on track. The only problem is, it usually involves me playing princesses or something else like that which I find to be completely tedious and boring (lack of imagination, perhaps?). Still, I can put aside my not wanting to long enough to realize that it is a blessing that my child is actually asking me to play something with her while her brother bounces around from thing to thing to thing, never quite filling the void that is actually growing deeper with every piece of electronic contraption he fixates on. And my trying to stop him before he crashes.

Categories: Behavior, Diet & Nutrition Tags: , ,


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