Dear Child With Sensory Issues

Dear Child With Sensory Issues,

You woke up screaming. I was downstairs – had not yet even sipped my coffee – and I knew that it would be one of those mornings. You were sobbing by the time I entered your bedroom.

As spring threatens to arrive, your allergies have started to rage. Itchy and thick with mucus, your body is turning on itself, and I do not know how to comfort you. Sometimes I have to walk away, just to get a break from the screaming. The combination of sensory issues with allergy issues is creating a perfect storm of misery.

Your nose was blocked, and you couldn’t take in a satisfying breath of air.  You calmed down enough to take one of your steroid inhalants, but the medicine set your nose on sensory fire. Clutching your burning nostrils, you howled and yelled until I had to leave the room.

Your clothes and underwear tortured you, strangling your skin from the outside in.  You finally assented to leggings and a long-sleeve shirt, no socks, no hair combing. Just looking at a hairbrush raises your blood pressure. I slipped a barrette into your hair when you were distracted, sweeping your hair off your damp forehead.

After thirty more minutes of crying, you were ready to take a bite of breakfast. But you gagged on your food – it was a “bad bite” – and vomited onto the counter. I panicked for a minute- had you accidentally eaten a nut product? Was the gagging a sensory response or an allergic response?

A quick inspection of your body revealed no new hives or itching or signs of food allergy. As far as environmental allergies go, the bruises and puncture marks on your upper arms from your twice-weekly injections hurt my heart, but we hope that in three years, your body will be more comfortable in the spring and fall seasons.

You calmed down. You ate and drank. The elevation in your blood sugar led to a decrease in your hysteria. I turned my attention to your sisters, to their breakfasts and clothing and grooming.

But then the screaming began again. Your body felt uncomfortable. I knelt next to you and began doing some of the sensory feedback techniques that the occupational therapists taught me. You quieted. Eyes red and watery, you wailed that you didn’t want to go to school.

But I need you to go to school. I need the break. You scream for me, and then you scream at me. You want my help, but you won’t let me help you. And when I cannot stand it one more minute, I remember that you aren’t trying to be impossible. You are spewing out all the discomfort and agony that your body feels, and you don’t know what else to do except scream and scream and scream.

The whole way to school, you drag your feet and cry and moan and howl, and I half-pull you along, alternating between growing frustration and empathetic encouragement.

It isn’t your fault. Sometimes I forget. I implore you to just TRY not to be so difficult, but then you scream and cry even more, because you can’t help it. And so it goes.

The house is quiet now. You are at school. Your sisters are at school. I have work to do, but I just want to sit and absorb the silence.

I listen to the gentle trickle of the water in the fish tank. We got the fish because they are supposed to be soothing. Nibbling a handful of chocolate chips, I watch them swim. The quiet settles around me, a cocoon of blissful silence. I take slow deep breaths and center myself.

I promise to take care of myself so that I can take care of you. We will get through the spring. We will coax your exhausted battleground of a body through the next few months.

What an irony that the spring, which brings life to the land, is so dreadful for you. Your body loves the cold dead of winter, when the pollen and the mites and the insects sleep. My beloved child, I am so sorry for your sensory issues and your food allergies and environmental allergies.

But we will comfort ourselves with the bulbs that bloom and the sun that shines and the breeze that blows. Be patient with me, my child, and I will be patient with you.

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