I am still amazed at how few people are familiar with sensory integration dysfunction. When I tell people that SID is my adopted son’s major disability, almost everyone says “what’s that?” Yet, almost everyone is familiar with autism these days, which is a good thing. Sensory integration is the ability to organize sensory information for use by the brain. An individual with sensory integration dysfunction, a neurological disorder, would therefore have an inability to organize sensory information as it comes in through the senses. In his case, it is also an “invisible disability.” He has always presented as a “normal” or what we special needs parents call a “neurotypical child.” But then you ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do and all of a sudden he is overturning furniture.
In my son’s case, his brain doesn’t deliver enough sensory input to his brain, so he is always seeking more and more input. He has always asked to be “crushed” which meant lying on top of him, he loves the feeling of being in deep water due to the pressure and he likes to sleep in a freezing cold room with tons of blankets on top of him.
Just as common is the sensory defensive person who gets overwhelmed by too much sensory input; noises are too loud, flavors and textures are too strong, and being touched is unpleasant. We all have sensory issues, even as adults. Having a child with this condition has made me much more aware of my own sensory dysfunction; I shiver when I hear other people chewing ice cubes, I don’t like loud noise and I hate having greasy hands. As we get older and more mature, we learn how to deal with our sensory shortcomings. As my son has gotten older, he is better able to deal with his disorder, although he still has a lot of difficulty in regulating himself; he really doesn’t know when he is hungry, he fights sleep even when he is exhausted and he will leave a building with a bathroom, only to inform us 2 minutes later that he needs to use it NOW. His relationship with time is completely baffling and his executive functioning skills are extremely delayed. Life for him is very difficult and for his father and me. He used to keep it together at school but take it out on us when he got home. Clearly, it took every once of self-control for him to get through each day of school. I felt bad for him, but felt even worse for my husband and me. As he has gotten older, he is better able to handle his disability.
The good news is that because his brain is wired so differently than most people’s, he is incredibly creative, notices things that the rest of us mere mortals do not, and is more nurturing than any other kid his age. I just wish he could deal with his anger in a more acceptable way. All people with autism have sensory integration dysfunction, but not all people with sensory integration dysfunction have autism. If you would like to learn more about this disorder, please go to www.spdfoundation.net
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