I recently read a comment by a parent on a sensory processing disorder support group. To sum it up this parent basically stated that she treats her SPD child the same as her non-SPD child. Same punishments, does not allow bad behavior and that parents of SPD children should not use their child’s disability as a crutch. As I read this comment in disbelief, I was appalled. And it seems that several of the almost 100 other parents of SPD kids felt the same way that I did.
First of all, to that parent, I want to say congratulations that your child is not “bad”! Here’s the kicker, I think that goes out to all of us SPD parents. I can honestly tell you that my child is not bad. He is a great kid. He is very well behaved. He is respectful. He is loving. He has SPD. He has meltdowns. He gets upset very easily over things that I still don’t fully understand. He can get violent in the midst of his meltdowns. When they are over, he is sorry. He feels bad and he wants to stop, but he doesn’t know how. As his parent it is my job to help him not punish him when he is having a meltdown.
Secondly, I want to address disciplining your SPD child when they are having a meltdown. I am guilty have having done this. And truth be told, sometimes I let old habits take over and still find myself doing this. My son is 7 and we got the diagnosis at the age of 6. I started seeing aggression in him at 18 months. So for a little over 4 years, we punished his behavior. We tried several times to put him in timeout and to this day we have not had a successful timeout. Yes, we watched Super Nanny religiously and we could never get our kid to sit in timeout on his own. He would fight it, scratch us, spit at us, anything to get out of our grip. We even tried spanking. Guess what…he said “You hit me and I will hit you back.” So why would I continue to spank him when that obviously wasn’t working. We read parenting after parenting book. We got advice from family and friends. We felt like failures as parents. So to that parent I am glad that traditional discipline works for your child, but I don’t need you to make comments as if though my kid is “bad” because of my parenting skills.
And while I’m addressing discipline, I can honestly say that I do not let one of my children get away with one thing and not the other. I get onto both of them for the same reasons. However, simply telling my daughter no can send her into a world of cries and “I’m sorries” while I can keep telling my son no till I’m blue in the face and he acts like he can’t hear me. Why would I over-punish one or under-punish another, simply so they are disciplined in the exact same way? Isn’t the purpose of discipline to teach our children the difference between right and wrong.
Thirdly, I have to talk about using SPD as a crutch. If what you meant by this is that we use SPD as an excuse for our children’s actions and behaviors…guess what you are right. Finally, when we got the diagnosis for our child, we got an explanation as to why our child acted the way he did. And you know what, we welcomed it, we embraced it, we researched it, we continue to work to figure it out. Finally, there were answers to some of the things that we dealt with on a regular basis. So no we don’t use his disability as a “crutch” as I’m sure many other parents of children with SPD don’t. Instead, we address it. If we don’t acknowledge that he has these issues and help him to learn self regulation skills, then exactly how can we expect them or any child to grow up to be a responsible adult.
So to that parent, I want to say I am truly happy for you that you have found what works for your child and I truly hope that it is benefiting both of you and helping with the SPD. In fact, if it is helping your child with their SPD, I am jealous. I’m simply asking you that if you are trying to offer suggestions about what has worked for you and your child, please reconsider your words. Support groups are a safe place where us parents can come together to look for understanding and compassion from others that “get it,” not put each other down and make each other feel like failures or bad parents. After all, we are there because we are trying to help our children overcome their hurdles in life.