Super Senses: A Primer

Trying some superhero looks on for size in the swimsuit I will be happy to never see again. ©2018, Meghan Gross

The summer of 2017 was like many others: my girls lived in swimsuits while playing inside and outside, our dog Spot ran to the door every 5-minutes, my stay-at-home husband was trying to get the girls out of the house so they didn’t just watch screens all day. The only outlier was that our oldest daughter, Georgia, began to insist that she wear her swimsuit 24/7. We were first-time parents and didn’t know any better.


The year is 2012, Georgia is two-years-old and in the toddler room at daycare. I’m not going to have Violet for another 1.5 years. We notice that Georgia rocks once and awhile. Unsure why, we take her to the doctor who thinks she’s constipated. We increase her fiber and don’t know if it’s helping or not.


In the spring of 2017 “My tummy hurts” has become a frequent complaint. I have celiac disease so we take Georgia off of wheat. While the rocking never fully stopped, removing wheat seems to kill two birds with one stone. The reduction in wheat also seems to have helped her mood swings. The one thing it hasn’t helped? Georgia’s pencil grip. In our end-of-year conference with Georgia’s pre-school teacher, she mentions G’s fist hold on her pencil and recommends we try to break her of the habit before kindergarten in the fall.


“I AM NOT WEARING PANTIES!”

“G. You have to wear clean panties every day.”

“But they are droopy and uncomfortable! I’m staying home.”

The fall of 2017 signals kindergarten and we are rushing to get out of the door to make on time. Every morning is a battle and it usually comes down to her panties and clothes.

Georgia cannot tolerate panties and a simple thing like putting clean ones on can send her through the roof. Ever since the transition from swimsuits to clothes began, every time she has to get dressed it is an ordeal. I’m so frustrated we just let her run around in a swimsuit all summer. Did we mess her up?

My husband and I don’t know what to do. We aren’t sure if it’s normal behavior or not. Short fuses issues run on my side of the family so I am a little jumpy and want to nip this in the bud if that is what we are dealing with. I do what all parents do: Google “kid throws a fit when putting on clothes.”


Now, one-by-one, the above parts of life may or may not be a problem. I’m not a doctor, therapist, or any sort of medical professional. I’m just a mom who could tell the fits we were having were not your normal tantrums. I also had some genetic disposition to anger deep down the family gene pool and I wanted to start working with that now rather than later when it’s harder to treat. My google search did not end up with cancer or death like it often does. Instead, there were words like, “sensory processing disorder,” “autism,” “sensory meltdown,” and more. I knew that autism wasn’t possible but the sensory results were interesting. I dug in and everything seemed to fall into place. I found a checklist and worked through the different scenarios…we had found the reason.

For the uninitiated, sensory processing disorders impact those kids who have a hard time processing all of the inputs from the 5 senses. I can’t even begin to explain exactly what it is. Google it. How Georgia and I explain it, is that it’s her superpower—in certain parts of her body, she can feel her senses more than we can. Her senses are hyperaware and when they feel bad, they feel “poky and scratchy” (aka the name of this blog).

As I read more, I discovered that behavioral and occupational therapy are the best solutions. In order to get occupational therapy for Georgia, I needed a doctor referral so I called Georgia’s pediatrician. The nurse asked me some questions and said it sounded like a possibility but an OT could verify. I got my referral.

After a series of delays, we finally got Georgia into a pediatric OT and everything has begun to make more sense. As I filled out the intake form, the little things from the past that we couldn’t solve, like rocking, fell into place and I felt silly for not taking that more seriously before. We had been seeing a behavioral therapist and while that helped some aspects, it wasn’t helping her physically.

This year Georgia is in first grade and I finally feel like we’re embracing her diagnosis and coming to terms with how to handle emotional curveballs brought on by a piece of fabric or another sensory trigger. Georgia is lucky, her sensory processing is something she can control while at school, other kids cannot control theirs as easily.

Given the increased frequency of sensory processing disorders, I thought I would try to document what we go through in an effort to help other parents not feel like they are the sole “punching bag.”* More to come soon.

*No, I’m not actually punched, it just feels like it sometimes. #Parenting

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