I know that must sound so odd. Why would I have to wish for a hug from my own child? My oldest daughter, Jaimie, has a condition called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). When she was born nine years ago, I knew something was going on with her. Although she was physically healthy, she wasn’t responding to her environment or the people in it the way she should have been. That’s what SPD does.
In a nutshell, SPD interferes with how the brain interprets and processes sensory and motor information taken in from the senses. The various sensory systems take in messages from the world around us, and send those messages up to the brain but somewhere along their journey in the nervous system those messages get jumbled. And by the time they get to the brain, it neither understands how to read the messages nor tell the body how to respond to the initial stimuli. You can only imagine how scary the world can be when you don’t know how to interact with it or how it will make your body feel. And that was what it was like living with Jaimie.
Jaimie was on the severe side of things in that all eight (yes, there are eight!) of her sensory systems were affected from moderate to severe. You see, it doesn’t just disrupt the five senses we learn about in school (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile and gustatory) it also affects what our muscles and joints do, including muscle tone, strength, agility, etc. (proprioception). It affects our balance, coordination, body awareness and how our bodies ‘feel’ in space (vestibular). Finally, it affects the functioning of the systems happening under our awareness or control (interoception). Some of these systems work together to help us complete every day tasks most of us take for granted such as eating, writing, skipping rope or even being able to sit still and pay attention.
I’d have to say that Jaimie’s greatest challenge, and still is, was tactile. Touch caused Jaimie tremendous discomfort and she came to fear it. It wasn’t until I learned more about it that I understood why. Think about it. Touch is involved with almost everything we do: getting dressed (ever put something on that drives you crazy?), all hygiene practices, eating, sitting on a chair, having someone talking to or sitting near you, and even the fun stuff like crafts. The most painful thing for me as a mom was not being able to hug Jaimie or offer her comfort when she was scared or hurt because my touch seemed to intensify her anxiety. This by no means meant that Jaimie didn’t like touch didn’t want to be loved. Her brain she never taught her how to deal with these sensations. Light tough actually registers as ‘pain’ in her brain so the reaction to that is ‘fear’ or ‘danger’. So, until I learned what was going on, I did what I called, “Mothering from a distance.”
Imagine not being able to hold your child in your arms. Or cuddle her. Or rub her back when she’s had a nightmare. Or give her a hug or kiss when she’s hurt. We learned later on that Jaimie responds best to deep pressure and heavier forms of touch. Back then, we didn’t have this information. Jaimie’s form of hugging was sticking her head on your arm or leg--she had to initiate it—and say, “Hug.” We got used to that and it was okay. One day…I held onto the hope that one day, I’d get to hug her and have it be a good thing for her.
The Christmas just after we’d found out Jaimie lived with SPD, I left Jaimie watching a movie with her daddy while I went up for a bit of alone time. When I came back downstairs, Jaimie ran across the room to give me one of her hugs. I leaned down so she could put her head on me but instead she threw herself against me, wrapping her tiny arms around my neck, and hugged me. She was almost three at the time and that was the first time she’d ever hugged anyone. I can still feel it to this day.
Chynna, thank you so much for sharing this precious memory of such a special gift!
CHYNNA LAIRD – is a freelance writer and multi award-winning author. Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs. She’s authored an award-winning children’s book, two memoirs, a Young Adult novella and an adult Suspense/Thriller.
You can connect with Chynna online here:
Main blog: The Gift Blog
Special needs blog: See the White Elephants Blog
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I am currently in the editing process of my next YA suspense/thriller/sweet romance, ‘UNDERTOW’. I also have two memoirs out and a children’s picture book that is being re-edited for re-release.
Please check out ‘Blackbird Flies’, my first YA book through Astraea Press, which I am very proud of. The link is: ‘Blackbird Flies’, my first YA book through Astraea Press, You can also find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. More information about this, and my other books, can be found on my Website.
Can you share with us more about your book, Blackbird Flies?
Fifteen year-old Payton MacGregor is a musical prodigy. To him, though, his music is merely a way for him to escape from the chaos that surrounds him. All of his life, he’s had to care for his mother, who copes with her bipolar disorder with booze instead of turning to her own musical talents. He refuses to become a statistic. Then he’s thrown a curve ball.
His mother suddenly dies, leaving him to be cared for by his aging grandparents. As much as they love him, they decide to send him halfway across Canada to live with his father, Liam—the man Payton always believed abandoned him and his mother. Payton isn’t making the relocation easy on anyone until he finds out he's going to attend the prestigious School of the Arts for musically gifted youth. Any second thoughts he has about his new life are erased when he meets Lily Joplin. Their connection is instantaneous.
Lily is a talented singer, but her struggles with drugs and bipolar disorder hit too close to home for Payton’s comfort. And when her issues become all-consuming for Payton, he wonders if his music will be enough to carry him through.
Chynna, thank you again for guesting today and sharing about your precious gift.
If you'd like to enter for a chance to win in Chynna's giveaway, please comment on this blog post and share with us about your most favorite Christmas gift and why it was your favorite. Merry Christmas!