Every morning, five-year-old Emily would begin her day by arguing with her mom about putting on socks. Emily hated socks or anything on her feet, toes, or ankles for that matter. She complained to her mother that this sock felt too "big", this seam "poked her", and the elastic on another pair made her ankle "itchy." Even after a happy medium was finally found an hour later with the "right" pair of socks, Emily would next resist putting on shoes, wearing a long-sleeved shirt, and finally to having her teeth and hair brushed.
Her mother Dena tried patiently to find the right clothing combinations that agreed with Emily, but many times this seemingly benign routine of getting dressed caused a loud commotion, which sometimes ended in tears of frustration. Finding sympathy but no answers from her friends and family, Dena began searching the Internet for a reason why Emily made mornings such an intense ordeal. This could not be how every child acts about dressing and grooming! Dena felt there must be something else going on that made these mornings such a battle. She found parenting forums that outlined some of the same clothing dramas her family had been experiencing. More importantly, Dena's reading introduced her to a condition known as Sensory Integration Disorder (SID).
A simple definition of Sensory Integration Disorder is the inability to process the information a person receives through their senses. Also called Sensory Integration Dysfunction, SID is a glitch in the central nervous system, which hinders the brain's ability to analyze, organize, and connect sensory messages. As a result, children with the condition might have trouble associating many basic sensations including touch, movement, body position, sight, sounds, smell, and taste. Since the brain is at times struggling to organize a multitude of stimuli from all the senses, many aspects of an affected child's behavior may seem disorganized or challenging.
In Emily's case, the feel of a cotton seam in a sock caused irritation that was almost unbearable on her toes and toenails. Emily was also hypersensitive to the tag on the inside of her shirts that continuously scratched her throughout the day, and long-sleeved shirts must have felt somewhat like wearing a straight jacket. The bristles on a toothbrush agonized her sensitive gums and nerves in her cheeks, while brushing her hair meant pain from her roots through to her scalp with every stroke. When the exaggerated sensations are brought to mind, Emily's aversion to dressing each morning seemed more appropriate.
Although there are many degrees of the disorder and the effects will vary by individual child, parents of SID children are many times the first to identify that something is a bit different with their son or daughter. Even a mild degree of SID can cause feelings of distress in a mother, when the lightest touch or even a gentle kiss is forever wiped off or never easily accepted by her toddler. There can also be endless inconsistencies in a child's behavior or reactions, for example complaining of discomfort when gently nudged on the shoulder but ignoring the pain of cuts and bruises received on the playground. There are also more pronounced degrees of the disorder that can greatly hinder a child's development, sometimes playing a secondary role to autism or fetal alcohol syndrome.
Many children with SID improve when parents and caregivers seek assistance early. By talking openly to a pediatrician, learning about SID, initiating Occupational Therapy, and developing a home life that is rich in sensory experiences tailored to the individual, children can build tools to respond to the daily challenges SID creates.
Anna Chavez is a former Editor Owner of a large weekly Newspaper. She is currently Editor and Author of several online resource sites that can be found at [http://www.thirdplanetsearch.com]