I could hear the pounding in my chest — louder and louder. I felt the palm of my hands begin to drip with nauseating perspiration. It was the first day of school.
While many other parents were rejoicing that the #firstdayofschool was upon them, I was silently crying.
And silently thinking of all the thousand possibilities that could send my son into a frenzy even before we even stepped on school grounds.
As I drove away from him, I had tears streaming down my face.
A transition, for us both
My middle son has sensory processing disorder.
Z-man is no longer in his safe bubble at developmental preschool for special education kids, where he was for the past two years.
He is my child that I’m sure will cause my heart attack death. My little buddy transitioned into regular kindergarten this morning, at his older brother’s school.
How school is different for Special Ed kids
My little Z-man is unique because he is both sensory seeking and sensory avoiding. Generally, sensory processing disorder (SPD) kids are one or the other.
We just never know what can cause him to break down until we try new environments, new things, and new tactile objects, but not tags — never tags.
I noticed he was much more withdrawn and quiet than usual when he saw his teacher and other classmates. His tension was palpable.
I already spoke with the teacher about his specific Individualized Education Plan’s (IEP) and had all his necessary tools tucked into his backpack. Weighted blanket, small pop-up tent, fidget stuffed ninja turtle and his own box of crayons.
What’s up with this community-sharing supply lists anyways? Who shares their crayons? Fastest way to send a sensory kid into a deep-dark rabbit hole, is to ask them to share their crayons — true story.
What others see
Sensory processing disorder falls under autism in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.
According to the DSM-V, it “is a condition that exists when multisensory integration is not adequately processed in order to provide appropriate responses to the demands of the environment.”
It can affect visual, auditory, somatosensory systems.
There is still a debate about the legitimacy of SPD, because many professionals feel it’s more behavioral, such that of a Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis.
As a mother with two, yes two, SPD kids, my middle son being the most severe, it’s real, and it’s NOT anything like ADHD. I grew up with an ADHD brother.
Still, other parents, kids and even some teachers see similar behaviors that resemble ADHD behaviors. They often think they know how to approach him — which shuts him down and makes it worse.
All it took was one abridged distressed tweet about my Z-man’s first day of kindergarten for other SpEd mothers to rally with me and share their stories.
One mother said, “Just act cool — pretend everything is just the same.” Sure? I think I can act cool, maybe? Maybe not… It is kindergarten, which is a big milestone for most moms!
Then another mom gave me some fantastic advice, “Stay positive, walk that tight rope and rein in or let loose depending on his need in the moment.”
It wasn’t long before other frazzled moms were joining in the conversation about their first day of school for their SPD child, and how emotional it was.
As it turns out little Z-man had a FANTASTIC first day of kindergarten at his new school. He couldn’t stop jabbering on and on about it over the phone with me.
His teacher even sent me a little note on ClassDojo that he did not need to use any of his sensory tools, and even participated with classmates.
So all you mamas out there silently trying to make it through the first day of school or even week with SPD kiddios, I feel you. I have a new found respect for moms of special education kids. You all ROCK!
Reach out on social media, join a support group, but most importantly just take it moment by moment. You will have good days, and you will have the pass me another cup of wine days. Yep. Been there.
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