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Anything is Possible if you Dare to Dream

January 13, 2008

A Mother's Guide to Survival in a SID World . . .

Say what?

Sensory integration disorder (SID), also called sensory processing disorder or sensory integration dysfunction. In our case a dysfunctional family.

I prefer to dress in grey, black or tan cotton clothing, since I can buy 3 of each favorite clothing item at Sam's Club for the price of one item at the mall and I always have one on, one off and one in the wash. I know that the black shirt, which I have on today is clean, even if it looks just like the one I wore yesterday, and, I know who my true friends are. My friends are the ones, who think I'm eclectic, while everyone else thinks I'm nuts.

If you are a parent of a SID child, you probably aren't laughing about my attempted humor.

Try explaining eclectic to a 12-year-old child, who dresses in the same clothing every day, because it's the only way she can function. Ask me how many times I have spent $$$ for pants for my autistic daughter, because they were on sale and she swore those were the exact pants she wanted for school next fall. Fast forward and ask how many times my daughter went ballistic when I informed her that it's now time to wear those pants. It's not her fault, she wants to fit in, but she can't function when her clothes don't fit or feel exactly right.

A couple of years ago, my daughter wore the same hooded sweatshirt to school every day, because it was plain gray with SOCCER on the front and soccer was her thing back then. This year it's an old army jacket from the surplus store. Yup, you guessed it, now she's into Army stuff.

Ironically, both mother and daughter are in fashion this year. Eclectic is back in style and lots of pre-teens are into the grunge look.

If you are not the parent of a SID child you probably stopped reading this blog when I mentioned a 12-year-old that refuses to wear what's in her closet. If you're still reading, let me ask you this? Have you ever seen a 12-year-old freak out (i.e. have a complete panic attack) before getting out of the car at school, because you told her to wear her jacket and half the other kids at school don't have one on?

Again you probably think this is normal pre-teen behavior. To a point it is, but, with a SID child, the inevitable panic attack can affect her entire day. She may stop communicating, cry for hours or shut down completely so that she spends the entire school day in her own world.

What's a parent to do when it's cold and rainy and your child refuses to wear a coat?
  • Do you let them learn their lesson and freeze in the rain?
  • Do you force the issue and make them wear the coat, which inevitably ruins their day and makes you the bad parent? or
  • Do you sit in the car and try to reason with them while the other parents in cars behind you honk and yell for you to get out of their way?
The answer: All or None of the above.

The truth is, there is no good answer. Each SID child is unique in his or her own way and each SID episode plays out differently. As the parent of a SID child, you can stick to a rigid routine and live your life quite comfortably (in a plastic bubble), but you can't control the weather and sooner or later, no matter how hard you try, the bubble will burst. Here's what I do when that happens:

  • Give your child a choice, whenever possible, but limit the options. Preferably no more than 2. Tell her she has to wear a coat, but let her choose which one and, if the one she wants is in the laundry, pull it back out and wash it later.
  • Give your child a reason, if you can't give him a choice. Tell your son he can wear his crocks to the playground, but he has to wear his tennis shoes to school.
  • When you find a clothing favorite, buy in multiples while you still can. This may mean paying full price, rather than waiting until the right pants go on sale. It's still cheaper than a closet full of clothes your daughter never wears. It also helps to leave the tags on all clothing and keep your receipts. Most stores will take clothes back and give you a refund or store credit.
  • When all else fails and you're pulling your hair out, give yourself a time-out. Lock yourself in your room with your favorite beverage, food and book/TV show (or in my case all of the above, plus my Blackberry and laptop). If you can't get away in your own house, then go out for awhile. Go for a walk, go for a drive, visit a friend or go hang out at Starbucks. And, finally, if you take your cell phone with you, make sure you have caller ID. If your husband calls, don't answer the phone. Let him pull his hair out for an hour or two.

Stay tuned for more survival tips and remember this: If you leave Dad in charge you will most likely return to a dysfunctional house (chances are he didn't pick up the mess, feed the kids or put them to bed). If he did, he's a keeper.