Maybe the next time we see an out of control child we should judge less and show compassion more. What we see may not actually be their reality.
Guest Post by Whitney Cornelison of Beauty In the Mess
I thought I would be okay.
As soon as she sat down next to me with her checklist, she started naming off all the things wrong with my son. Tears started welling up in my eyes and falling down my cheeks. She ignored the tears and continued talking.
I only semi-heard her as I watched three of my other children out of the corner of my eye in the waiting area. My husband has told me that I should reschedule the occupational therapy evaluations, but I thought I could get through them.
How did we get here?
My children were showing me signs of sensory processing disorder. I knew that in order to help them navigate life, they needed help sooner rather than later. My Mommy Gut was right.
What were the signs I saw? There were pretty normal signs of SPD like:
- Overly sensitive to stimulation
- Unaware of being touched/bumped unless done with extreme force/intensity
- Intense, demanding or hard to calm and has difficulty with transitions
- In constant motion
- Does not seem to understand verbal instructions
- Jerky movement when in motion, not fluid
- Covering ears with hands.
There seemed to be good days, months, weeks, but lately it seemed to be getting worse. Maybe the growth spurt? Talk of selling the house and moving? Daddy being gone a lot with work? Disruptions with our routine? There are so many variables that can cause SPD to be triggered.
We had already been through getting a diagnosis when my oldest son was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech. I knew that Sensory Processing Disorder was a possibility. It usually surfaces as the child gets older. Since he was only 2 when he received his Apraxia diagnosis, we were just waiting.
There is something heart wrenching and soul crushing when someone sits down next to you and makes a list of everything they see wrong with your child. The little boy that you birthed with the perfect tiny fingers and toes. The toddler with the ability to light up a room with a smile. The 3-year-old who is quick to make sure people who come into your home are greeted well and hugged before they leave. The 4-year-old who loves his baby sister so much and tells the best stories. Even when you know that there is something that seems off, it still hurts.
Then the guilt comes crashing in.
What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? If I had caught it earlier would it not be this bad? Why am I such a bad mom?
As we waited for his sister to finish her occupational therapy evaluation, I took everyone for a little walk outside. I needed air. The younger two were getting restless. We just needed to be outside.
We practiced balancing on the curb, walking lines, listening for birds. But when it was time to go inside, my oldest son didn’t want to go in. I had to leave the stroller at the door with the kind man who was holding it open for me and run to get my son. As I carried my son in my arms to the door I started apologizing to the gentleman. He just looked at me and said, “It’s okay. I get it.”
And for once, there was no judgment.
He experienced the same thing with his child. He had been there.
Another mom had her younger child with her waiting for her older son also. My son started playing with him and got up in his face. He wasn’t being mean, but most parents start getting nervous when he does this. She looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “It’s okay. Really. He has an older brother. It’s really okay.”
There was no judgment in her look or in her voice. It was refreshing to not have to explain his behavior. To have a mutual understanding with another mom. It was glorious.
I was not prepared for how emotionally spent I would be after the two hours of evaluations. My head was spinning. Thoughts of how we were going to afford occupational therapy for two kids plus physical therapy for one of them danced through my head.
I just sat in the van with everyone strapped in the carseats, unable to move. Not even sure where we were going next. I turned on a DVD for the kids while I gathered my thoughts and read through some Bible passages.
Being a family of six brings enough stares. Add in emotional outbursts and you’re like a walking circus act.
Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover
Maybe the next time we see a child out of control we should judge less and show compassion more.
The next time we see a mom struggling with a stroller and several children in tow, maybe we should stare less and help more.
What we see may not actually be their reality.
While we may see a child who is out of control with a parent who needs to take control of the situation and discipline said child, the reality of the situation may be that the child is over stimulated and can’t regulate their emotions. Hence the outburst.
Compassion. Encouragement. Understanding. A helping hand. A warm smile. All of those things mean the world to a mother in the middle of a stressful situation. A little kindness goes a long way.
Be the good.
Whitney Cornelison is the creator of Beauty in the Mess, a wife, mommy of four, Jesus lover, blogger, crafter, chai drinker, lover of antiques, and all things vintage. She dreams of one day renovating an Airstream trailer and traveling around the country with her family of six. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and her favorite, Instagram.
Wow, I just want to reach through the screen and huuuuug you, Whitney! I’ve watched a few friends go through the painful and isolating process of sensory-related public outbursts, and have seen how life-giving it is to have another mom give a knowing smile or an understanding nod. Thank you for sharing so openly about what it’s like “on the inside” of a sensory disorder to help the rest of us better understand and know how to support moms like you. Praying God guides you on your journey through it and sends encouragement at just the right times!
Thanks, Dena! It’s hard but God doesn’t make mistakes. He made me his Mommy so I lean into Him when the days are tough. ❤️
One of my grandsons is autistic, and his mom has found that one of the most frustrating things she encounters is the judgment from strangers they encounter. He is doing very well now, and it is not nearly as noticeable in casual interactions, but it has made me very aware of my reactions to others.
It really is so hard to be a mom in a land where everyone expects children to be seen and not heard! This is so unrealistic and psychologically dangerous for parents and children, alike. I just wrote about this recently on my blog, (Are Children Loved Or Hated In American Public Life? is the title if you’re curious).
I’m so sorry you’re going through so much Whitney. SPD are called disorders, but in education, teachers call SPD, Aspergers and Autism learning differences, not disorders, since the brains are just different and process differently. I hope going down this road will become easier for you!
That is so hard to have people wonder what’s wrong with your child. My oldest son showed a lot of signs of autism when he was younger. I got a lot of strange looks and felt really frustrated at time. He pulled out of a lot of those tendencies when he was 3 or so. It would be very hard when we were at church, because I was the associate pastor’s wife, and everyone wanted to know why my son was acting the way he was. I feel for you. It’s like all eyes are on you and that is so hard.
We have been in the same boat. Pastoring, with a child people see as “abnormal “. It can be so frustrating. We struggled with pleasing the congregation , i.e.: being present with kids in tow at every function; or realizing our child needed a schedule that didn’t interfere with his bedtime! I will pray for you and your family. ?
Jaime @ Like a Bubbling Brook
Thank you for sharing this, Whitney. My son has a similar struggle; he was diagnosed with a cognitive processing disorder and also dysgraphia. I wrote about it earlier this month on my blog, in a post titled “To the Mother Overwhelmed with Worry.” I get it. It’s been a blessing to see God work in the midst of our story! Sending hugs your way today!
Beautifully written! I definitely needed a reminder to be a little better today. Thanks for sharing!
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
You are such a wonderful mom! Thank you for sharing a little of what it’s like for you. Your kids are blessed to have a mother who is so empathetic and aware of their needs. I totally agree that whether our kids are having a good day or bad day, we all need to be more in the habit of smiling and showing each other kindness. It makes such a difference and it’s the kind of example I would hope to have modeled to my children (rather than others belittling or ignoring them).
I guess there is an advantage to having children with Down syndrome. People have lower expectations. Not really an advantage, but less judging. Except when I see fear on the mommy’s face because my child wants to help her child. My daughter is not a monster! She’s a gentle giant.
The advantage? They expect my children to be different, but then pity or fear sets in or gushing over those loving children.
Just treat everyone with respect and love and as equals, because we are all created in the image of God! Yea! That’s it! Don’t ignore us and don’t treat us special. Just love us like you love anyone else.
Wow! This resignated with me so much, especially given our current season of life.
My son was diagnosed with a cleft lip and pallet at 35 weeks gestation. By Gods grace we had time to come to terms with what this meant. But with him being our 6th baby, I struggled with the “Why God, why?” thoughts.
My heart ached after our first outing once he was born. As he was crying in the store, I took him out of his car seat to comfort him. As I sat him up on my shoulder I heard behind me a child ask his mom, ” What’s wrong with that baby? Did you see it’s face?”
People often want to run over and coo at a babe lying in a car seat, but for us, when they come over and see him they often don’t quite know how to respond. It winds up being awkward for everyone.
Nevertheless, God knows what He’s doing when He gives these extra special kiddos to us. While we just want them to be “normal” God knew exactly what He was doing with their lives from the moment of conception. Psalm 139 is a testament to this truth.
Thank you for sharing your heart. It’s always encouraging to hear we aren’t alone in our struggling thoughts.
Reading the comments and sending all you mums all the love and hugs in my heart. You are doing awesome. And I’ll know it’s you guys when He says ‘Well done good and faithful servants’… Doing a lot of research on kids with special needs especially sensory disorders and autism.. Learning a lot about the importance of diet and maintaining a diet free from any kinds of additives, coloring or preservatives.. It’s been shown to really help with symptoms. No harm in trying.. 🙂
My daughter-in-law had our autistic grandson in a mall and he was have a hard time. A lady walked by and made a comment to her friend about she needed control of her son. My d-i-l left our grandson with her mom and turned around and approached the lady and gave her a life lesson on judging w/o know the circumstances. I sure took away from this not to judge in these circumstances.
I think it is very much a usa problem. Where i live on aruba,never a stare or remark.
I go around with 6 kids, 3 where from a friends of mine that died. 3 black, 3 white…and people in the states always assume i must have had 6 dads, or comments on the facts that some of the kids are black…. Like ,really lady ,i did not see that. Or they ask me how much i paid for them. One is Autistic. The worst moment was when i ask my son who is 17 to get some thing from my bag on the stroller, the security guy jump on him, my youngest is white,he is black. I was so mad by the fact that this guy assume my boy was a criminal,stealing a sippy cup.this was in Charlotte at a attraction park. we are like a freak show when we travel.
Here never a problem.
That is really so interesting! Sometimes I wish I lived in another country!
I continue to walk the autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, anxiety, learning disabilities journey w/my 2 twenty-six & twenty-four year old son. Many years ago God impressed upon me that He chose me to be their Mama. I don’t know what He saw in me or what all He planned to teach me, but He did choose me. He has taught me much compassion, balanced w/gentle firmness and much grace. God’s blessings! He knows you can do this together!