My Son Isn’t Misbehaving — He Has a Sensory Processing Disorder

You know those kids who playfully splash their hands in the water table at the children’s museum? They fill up the cups to pour them out again, making soft waves in the water while playing in their own personal space. That is not my kid. My kid is the one who runs up to the table with a big smile on his face as he slaps his hands and pounds his fists on the surface of the water. He picks up that tiny cup, holds it high above his head, puckers his lips to make the noises of a jet airplane, and nose-dives it, spilling water everywhere. To you, he looks like a misbehaved child, but what you don’t know is that he has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

When Camden was born, my husband and I had so many dreams for him already; he would be smart, kind, compassionate, polite, chivalrous, and active — pretty much perfect. We were your typical first-time parents, in awe of our sweet boy and every new milestone he achieved. When he started crawling at 6 months old and then walking at 9 months, we realized we were in for it. He was on the move, and he hasn’t stopped since.

Camden is an active 3-year-old who loves to dance and jump like most toddlers his age, but after just a few minutes, he’s so wired that he’ll run in endless circles, ninja-kick the air, and throw himself on the couch imitating silly sounds — something that’s nearly impossible to bring him back down from. He struggles with temper tantrums, and I’m not talking about your typical screaming match that can end with an easy bribe. No, these temper tantrums are on another level. Anything could send him over the edge: his hair being combed, his shoes being put on, and even the wrong-colored breakfast plate. He has to choose his own waffle every morning, otherwise he’ll melt into a tearful puddle on the kitchen floor. The control he needs is unbearable at times, but control over the simplest things, like his breakfast waffle, is the only thing about his body that he actually can control.

It wasn’t until he started preschool that we realized our energetic boy was a little different from the other kids. The first time Camden’s teacher mentioned he had a hard time sitting still during circle time, I thought it was just typical toddler behavior. She then mentioned he frequently bumped into other kids (not out of aggression), needed more direct one-on-one cues to complete a task, and also needed to be physically touched and stroked on the back before he fell asleep for naptime. These were just a few of the moments that pulled at my mother’s intuition.

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