Back to school in my household probably looks fairly standard from the outside. We’re getting our eyes checked, going to the dentist and taking those last family trips before school begins. On the inside of our home, our back to school routine may look different than most. Since our son was young, we have noticed his pickiness towards certain things, like putting on shoes, putting on hats and even wearing a Halloween costume. Things that sounds simple to you are a tremendous hurdle for us.Thankfully, my mother is a kindergarten teacher and she was the first one to notice of our son’s sensory issues. I call them issues because that’s all they are – they are nuisances to our day, but we work through them as a family.
It came to a head one day when I found myself physically holding him in a pair of jeans and him screaming in terror like they were burning him. I was so shocked and shaken that I told myself I have to educate myself because I would never do that again. Him simply wearing a pair of new jeans had turned him into a ball of tears on the floor – refusing to leave our house and ripping them off. We had to find ways to communicate with him about these issues without it blowing up into something more. That’s when we scheduled an Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation.
One in 20 children or adults have Sensory Processing Disorder. Sensory Processing Disorder is when children or adults are either over- or under-responsive to various sensory stimuli – be that touch, movement, smell, taste, vision or hearing.
Overall, the OT noticed some mild issues but nothing that couldn’t be overcome. In our case, our son has sensitivities to certain clothing, some loud noises, changes in his routine and he has a low pain threshold. In my mind, the main concern was the one thing hindering his daily life – the ability to wear new pants. It wasn’t the texture, the seams or tags, it was that they were “new” and had never been worn.
How have we overcome this? We’ve built up his confidence – that these special jeans give him special powers. They give him the ability to run extra fast and they have now become his “super cat speed pants.” We found a way where we can all be happy. We have also learned that preparing him for new clothing, asking for his opinion on new clothing, or finding a unique special power for new clothing has given us some options to calm his nerves. This has also been a helpful tool for us when we introduce changes to his routine. With the new school year approaching, we talk about his new teacher’s name, where her classroom is located, who else will be in his class, etc. Those steps seem to calm him so he understands what is being asked of him.
The time has come where we need to do some back-to-school shopping. We’ll be headed out to upgrade his wardrobe before school starts. This year we’re better prepared to help him through any issues he may have with his new school clothes.