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A “Hidden Handicap”

Posted by Tuesday, May 8, 2012

By looking at him you wouldn’t notice that he is different. 
By talking to him, you wouldn’t know anything is different. 
It’s when something so minute happens – that’s’ when you start to see it, but even then you would think that we are to blame for his behavior. 
I am talking about my 8 year old son, Camdyn.  Camdyn is a special needs kid.  He has ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder.  He is an amazing little boy.  He’s smart, loving, funny, and cute with a whole lot of stubbornness, determination, and sensitivity all thrown into one. 
Most of you will know about ADHD but maybe 5% of people will know what Sensory Processing Disorder is.  Sensory Processing Disorder (also known as Sensory Integration, SI) is the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.  It can affect things like eating, reading a book, riding a bike; things that what we think is so simple and do not realize that to successfully complete these tasks we need our senses for them. 
Each child is different meaning that it will affect them each in different ways.  Some might over-respond to sensation by sounds, clothing, contact, or food while others might show an under-response to pain or stimulation.  People will label these differences as quirks or just say they are picky and in some cases that is true.
In this case it’s far from it.
C is very successful academically in school, but lacks some motor skills in socializing and coordination which triggers a knee-jerk reaction from others to label him clumsy, anti-social or even uncooperative and disruptive. 
He has excelled in math and reading but has a hard time in art and his handwriting in horrible.  He would rather play by himself than outside with friends because it upsets him that he cannot run as fast as the others and he has a hard time with sports with his lack of coordination.  We cannot put him in sports camps because it will send him into sensory overload which will result into a complete meltdown. 
We work with C a lot, teaching him things at his own pace.  He still cannot ride a bike, but with more practice he will get it.  He has met all of his goals set forth with Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy as of this year which has been one of his greatest accomplishments that HE set out to do.  I am one proud Momma!
Food is a constant struggle for us.  There is only a handful of things that C will eat.  Certain colors and textures create major problems resulting in constant struggles and meltdowns.  Getting him to try something new is hit or miss.  Loud noises such as fire alarms, sirens, car muffles, and fireworks can result into a meltdown.  Any disruption to his routine can be tough to handle for him.  We try to prepare him in advance for things that we will be doing differently.  Even something as simple as getting out of school early to go to the doctors will create anxiety.
The reason I am sharing this with you is because after having a meltdown the other day while out, I could feel the glares from people who were around us.  Usually, this does not bother me but this particular day it did.  It even went so far as to someone telling me that I needed to discipline my kid because he is old enough to know better.  
What these people failed to realize is that he wasn’t throwing a tantrum, he was sensory overloaded.  He was anxious, over stimulated, and didn’t understand why.  Luckily, this time is was a mini melt down but the fact of the matter is that you cannot judge a book by its cover. 
Just remember the next time you blame parents for their children’s behavior while you are out some place, their just might be a “hidden handicap” that you are unaware of. 


  1. Mary R Says:
  2. Air,
    Thank you for putting a spotlight on SPD and for sharing your personal story. There are many out there who, unfortunately, judge our children and their behaviours (and us as parents ) without knowing anything about our children and the personal struggles they might be working to overcome. Maybe the answer is to tell others about SPD and have more of us share our experiences so that the world will have a better understanding of this disorder.

  3. Anonymous Says:
  4. Thank you so very much for putting into words what I have been struggling with for only a short time with my 2.5 y/o daughter n will be dealing with for my 14mos old son. Especially, with what you started with. Even members of my own family look at me questioning why both my kiddos go to therapy beacause "Hmm, they both look so normal". Also though, I often apologize for my babies issues. Last Halloween it was about 55 degrees and Becca wanted to go to the local zoo. I had her in a wagon all tucked in with a blanket. I managed to get her into jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and even a heavier jacket. Socks and shoes just were not going to happen; but I wasn't gonna let that stop our special day either. Everything was fine until the kids wanted out to get their usual picture taken by the lion statue. I tried to brush off the idea that a couple of other moms were staring at us. Finally the older one of the group comes right out and says "You need to have some socks and shoes on that girls feet". Once in the car I thought "well how rude of her". But in the moment I apologized to her and explained "I'm sorry but my child has Sensory Processing Disorder and it effects how she reacts to things, especially on her feet". Then to explain my self further I offered extra knowledge that was unnnecessary with "I do have them wrapped and tucked with a blanket in the wagon". I've improved on not being so apolgetic for my childrens' invisible handi-cap, although it's just my nature. This letter certainly reinforces alot of things for me...Thank you again!

  5. ~Air Says:
  6. You are welcome! Feel free to share your stories so that we can get people to understand what SPD is.

    Thank you for taking the time to read it!

  7. Allison Says:
  8. I have a six year old sensory kid. I too have been told that "he's old enough to know better," during a meltdown. Since learning about his SPD, I've made it a point to include my family in on the things that will simply unhinge him and ways to help avoid meltdowns. They've been so helpful with it. Wouldn't it be amazing if the others out there showed the same kindness and consideration? Thanks for spreading awareness to others that might not know about it!

  9. Anonymous Says:
  10. From one SPD mom of an 8 year old boy to another, I wouldn't glare! I would get your number! My son just learned to ride a bike a few months ago. That was such a proud moment for us! Your son will get it. Thanks for sharing...

  11. kate blue Says:
  12. from one SPD mom to another, I never judged kids out in public even before our diagnosis (diagnosed 2011) for a number of reasons...One, adults keep kids in stores way too long! Two, adults expect kids to act like adults in a store and Three, as a mom of a kid with "different abilities" (hearing loss, SPD and DD) my patience threshold in public is higher than most. I usually sympathize with the child! My son doesn't have meltdowns, but he turns his "listening ears" off in public and that's usually what gets people's attention. Thanks for being so brave to share :)

  13. Anonymous Says:
  14. Your son sounds a lot like mine. Thomas learned how to ride a bike after working on the various skills one at a time. We took the pedals off, lowered the seat and had him use his feet to propel himself on flat surfaces so he could get use to balancing. We then added in (gradual) hills to work on breaking. Finally, we added the pedals back on. It took a while but he now rides like a champ.


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