I sit at a table with of 9 people who consider themselves to be my son’s school support. A child- study team of teachers, therapists, caseworkers, a social worker his father and I. We are on the brink of losing his Occupational Therapy (OT) services and I feel the spring of actual terror in my entire body.
My 4-year-old has been eligible for services through the state (NJ) since he was 2 years old. He is a child with obvious sensory processing issues and severe speech delays. He’s always had services available to him,
My child, is not autistic, by the way. He’s not ADD, ADHD, or SPD any other recognizable medical diagnosis. Although I am aware how he may be misdiagnosed as such. But really, he is simply a child who has specific needs where sensory processing is concerned. It’s not that he’s incapable of learning academic material, it’s that, due to his natural wiring, he struggles to process sensory input to regulate his system. He gets overwhelmed easily,which distracts him from learning. He has a difficult time finding stability, and this makes it difficult for him to be in a room with a large amount of people. He’s active and needs space to express the sensation built up in his system. This is the natural make up of the Highly Sensitive Child.
We’re a breath away from losing his OT which has been the only resource to help him work with the sensory data in a positive way. This is a devastating loss in our world. On paper, he scores in the “average range” of development for a child his age. Cognitively, he is high functioning. He knows his letters, numbers, and shapes. He’s incredibly intelligent. His fine motor skills are sharp and large motor skills are mastered. But this information only paints a partial picture, Gene is an extraordinary child with unique needs as far as sensory input goes.
Yet somewhere in the undefined middle, I know my child still struggles. This is the place where my highly sensitive child meets the limited hands of the school system. Where we see our Gene, extrasensory needs and all, not acknowledged or recognized by traditional educational paradigms.
My son is responding to seemingly traditional stimuli through “non- traditional” outlets. His actions are NOT a result of behavioral issues. Environmental input PHYSICALLY triggers him, which cripples his mind, exhausts his body and impedes his functionality. His behaviors stem from an inability to process jarring visuals, auditory tones, unpleasant textures or other endless possibilities.
What I fear most, is we’ll lose HIM by denying him access to relieving the stress that builds in his body in a safe way.
His Occupational Therapist provides a place for him to explore these needs in a contained environment. She recognizes all of this and works tirelessly to identify as many triggers as possible to help him at school and home. She knows how to work WITH his needs in a way that promotes acceptance for his natural design.
But, as each person makes their case in my child’s name, it’s clear this is a losing battle. All that matters is a test score on a piece of paper and we must sign on the dotted line.
I KNOW, my child struggles to self-regulate when a room is too loud. The acoustics in the bathroom bother his ears. He has difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next. He gets overwhelmed in crowds and wanders away. He has difficulty finding the appropriate response to external stimuli, but I can promise you he is academically capable of fact memorization and number/ letter retention.
His academics are not the issue in question, this is about thriving in an environment not built to address his sensitive nature. His qualities should be nurtured and respected, not (mis)labeled and subject to dismissal.
I see it, here in the undefined middle, where my child stands, and know he is NOT alone. Highly Sensitive children process information different than others. Highly Sensitive kids are not broken, but they do need our attention.
I stare into the room while fidgeting my hands. I too get overwhelmed, just like my son. I too hear the ringing in my ears when I feel anxious. Do they even care about how he’ll respond to losing services? Do they see how they’re stifling his needs? Or does “learning” begin and end with ABC’s and 123’s?
I knew the answers to these questions already. Without the appropriate educational
guidance, we’ll lose the element that makes him the creative spark he is. There are an
underwhelming amount of resources and almost zero support available through school for my highly sensitive child.
Mostly because, no one has ever before identified the need for support before. It’s time to create a solution, it’s time to define the needs of Highly Sensitives and give them the resources they need to thrive.
THIS is where I feel my passions flare. I stand with parents who recognize this truth and long to establish a program for their children. Our kids are SUFFERING for this gift. I believe, my child should have a safe space to express himself, to release overwhelming information that floods their bodies. Because this too is an intricate part of learning, processing and functionality.
I see my child, a fiery light, ready to burn down the beliefs that have silenced kids like him for far too long. How many kids are crouching in the corner with their hands over their ears labeled a ‘weirdo’? How many children are screaming out for relief from their own anxious minds, terrified to be disciplined for their true nature? How many kids are considered the problem when in fact all they know is what moves them to their feet?
How many ways can they be dismissed before their needs are too loud to ignore?
It’s time now to listen to the movement of our children. They are the ones who can not speak for themselves. Support isn’t available through the school because no one has identified this as an issue. But, for ever parent who prays for understanding, there is a need. It’s real to every mom who wants to help her child but doesn’t know how. It’s seeded in our bond and exhausts our souls. We are desperate for attention and we are pleading for understanding, awareness, and relief.
It’s no longer appropriate to disregard our sensitive children. Work with them, and watch them lead with their tenacious spirit. Together we will bring forward the necessity of hope hiding
inside our sensitive kids.
I stand before you heart broken but determined, because I KNOW I’m not alone. I stand as a voice, ready, willing, and able to meet your child here, because (s)he is NOT the problem, is not damaged… (s)he is the answer. It’s time we respond to the call.
For more information on how to register for the Sensational Kids program please contact Robin Lynn at email@example.com. This program is designed specifically with the Highly Sensitive Kids and their parents in mind. Let’s help our Sensation(al) Kids thrive.