Parenting a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder – My Story

My Story of Raising a Highly Sensitive Child

fingers in ears

When my daughter was born I entered motherhood ready and excited, yet I was also nervous about how the experience would change me. I was grateful to have several close friends enter parenthood around the same time as me. I had hopes and expectations about motherhood that were realistic enough to include the anticipated challenges of sleep deprivation amidst a major life change. What I didn’t expect was the complete overwhelm I experienced associated with raising a highly sensitive child.

crying babyWhen our daughter was born she was strong but fragile and fearful. The car and car seat felt like torture and simple outings to visit other parents or attend an activity led her to cry, scream, shake, or at worst throw up. Vacuuming the house was another ordeal as loud sounds seemed to cause physical pain. I knew that something was different but I didn’t understand what it was.

Her differences became even clearer when I joined my friends to attend early childhood music and gymnastics classes. I watched the other 2-4 year olds dance around the room, shake the shakers, sing along with the music, participate in forward rolls, and jump on the trampoline. However, my daughter clung to me, cried, and put her fingers in her ears and consistently refused to participate. Something was definitely different. Our lives became more and more restricted as we avoided crowds and turned down invitations to circumvent the public tantrums.

Getting the Right Diagnosis Changed our Lives

I spoke to our pediatrician who also noted that her speech was delayed compared to other children and as a result we were referred to the local clinic for an evaluation. It was the speech therapist who put her finger on a diagnosis; Sensory Processing Disorder.

I read about sensory processing disorder in children and I finally had the information I needed to support my daughter and stop blaming myself! My daughter was having neurologically based triggers that were repeatedly activating a fight/flight response. I began to understand her anxious approach to the world.

Early Intervention for Sensory Processing Disorder

This began a five-year process of supporting her development with a caring team of professionals that included play therapy, occupational therapy, speech photo (10)therapy, and an exploration of personal, family and inter-generational patterns.  As a result of early and consistent intervention, my daughter now channels her sensitivity into her creativity, she honors her pace when entering a new environment, and she carries herself with a quiet self confidence.

Further reading:

Raising the Highly Sensitive Child


Parenting a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder – My Story — 4 Comments

  1. Arielle, I had not idea that you two (you four+) went through this kind of experience. What a journey! Your daughter picked a great mom to travel with on this “adventure.” May you guys continue to find your way with increasing ease with the pacing and beauty side of the sensitivity spectrum.

    • Veronique,
      Thanks for commenting.
      You know, as we were going through it we were just in it. It has taken some time to process through the experiences and make sense of them. I am grateful to understand this from the inside out and the ways in which I can now be sensitive to other parents and children with similar situations.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can relate so deeply to your experience with your daughter from infant-hood into childhood. I oscillate daily between a strong maternal desire to support and protect my sensitive, volatile 4-yr-old and a desire to cower and hide just to shelter myself from the overwhelming demands of parenting her. I agree though that therapy, OT and some adjustments at home have helped. And indeed, it’s extremely helpful just to know we’re not alone in it as parents. Thanks again for reminding me of that.

    • Jess, I am glad that you can connect to the post. Parenting these children is a long journey of love (and challenge!). My children (both have SPD and are Highly sensitive children too) are now 12 and 14 and are unique, clear headed, self-assured, and creative. My hope is that you see the strengths in the sensitivity for your daughter amidst the challenges!

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