The Input Overwhelm for Kids with Sensory Issues


This weekend we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday. When you have family living in different states, you celebrate birthdays multiple times. I am still undecided as to whether it insights confusion for our kids or they just think they are really awesome because they are overly celebrated.

Regardless, as the parent of those parties, I am tired.

Now, it is Monday morning, I am dragging my sleepless behind to work and with every person who compliments me on how much fun their child had at our daughter’s birthday this weekend, I smile, thank them, and am secretly reminded of what that day really looked like for us, behind the scenes.

If you were standing near our son in the piñata line or if you were close enough to the “Pin the Antler on the Deer” game to be privy to his minor jabs, you may have thought that both he and I were handling the day well. You’d be wrong.

I had dreaded Saturday for weeks. Parties by themselves can be very overwhelming for our son. Generally, the noises, lights, balloons, music, party games, sugary treats…it is all a giant mess of sensory overload for him. I knew that would be a lot, but add to that his soccer game that was scheduled for noon—smack dab in the heat of the day, we knew we were in for it.

His soccer games are good to get his energy managed and allow him to excel at something because he landed on the side of athletic. However, the hot sun, the other nine games going on simultaneously, and the fact that it is inevitable that he will miss a goal or the other team might score against him…it is all mixes together for a cocktail of crazy for us.

He’d managed to keep it together through the heat of the sun, fueling himself on blue Powerade and his desire to win. By the third quarter, his team was down two goals and I could see him trash talking the boy who’d scored when the coaches weren’t looking and balling his fists up beside his little hips. His dad and I tried to calm him from the sidelines. “That’s okay buddy! You’re doing a great job!”

“NO IT’S NOT A GOOD JOB! I didn’t score so it’s NOT a good job!” With the collective “Aaawwwwwww” that went over the crowd of camper-chaired parents, I imagined they were all secretly picturing the heated lectures I must give him on the way to the games saying things like, “If you’re not first, you’re last.”

On the contrary, our conversations on the way to each practice and every game are us having our son repeat back to us that being kind and respectful are more important than winning. But in that moment, the mom to my left who responded to his cry of frustration with, “Oh honey, I just want to give you a hug,” was already convinced that I was some sort psychotic crown-thirsty pageant mom.

So, we made it through the game, filled him with water and positive reinforcement on the way home, and started prepping for the afternoon party. Within moments of arriving home, he was asked to go to his room to calm down and make good choices and he shouted with his eyes angry and his nose crunched, “You are a BAD mommy and I wish someone would beat you up until you are dead.”

I’m going to let you sit on that and process it for a minute. I know I had to.

Yeah. My five year old had just described his desire to have me dead by way of human beatdown.

We left him to calm himself down in his room because, honestly, I had to collect my thoughts so I didn’t have a complete emotional breakdown. Plus, I had all the things to clean and decorations to hang, and cupcakes to decorate.

No less than eight times he threw things, screamed at us, stuck his tongue out in disdain, yelled and spit down the steps and we had to remind him that his next privilege to be lost was his sister’s party.

An hour later, the party was in full swing and he was running and squealing with excitement as the boys chased each other around the yard. He had a mild incident because he wasn’t first in line for a party game, but nothing over the top. “Whew.” I thought, “Dodged that bullet.”

The kids went downstairs to climb on his rock wall and I got a frantic report that he had striped down to his undies, because in his mind, he was in his own house and he shouldn’t have that boundary. Still, we laughed it off, got him dressed, and moved on.

That night and the next day he spent most of his time in seclusion thinking it out, calming down, or otherwise figuring out that he cannot scream and yell his way to want he wants; at least not in our house.

This morning I thought he had turned it around. I thought he was starting out well. He got up and got dressed without prompting, started eating breakfast without a fuss, and then—somewhere between his pop tart and brushing his teeth, he completely lost his mind. He screamed at his dad to let him know “I don’t care!” and “Even if you did spank me, it wouldn’t hurt!” He turned to me, stuck his tongue out, spit, and then announced that, “Tomorrow I am going to have a terrible, mean morning and I MEAN IT!!!”

We calmly asked him to go to his room and when he met our request with further angst, we told him to put on his socks and shoes, get his book bag, and then wait outside until it is time to go.

I cried. I had kept it together long enough and I was tired. After talking to him about how his behavior needed to change while he was at school today, I dropped him off, and I lost it. Before leaving the parent’s drop off line, I cried. I cried all the way out the school driveway, all the way to the on ramp, and all the way to my school.

I mean, in the last three days, my own son has wished me dead, told me he hates me, explained why I am a poor excuse for a mother, and I had to smile through these memories while attempting to entertain guests for our daughter’s party.

You guys, this is our real life.

Days like today I honestly couldn’t tell you what day it is. I am struggling to make it minute to minute. I feel like a miserable failure as a parent and, in many ways, just as a human. In a week we will have a follow up with his behavior specialist where we will have to explain all of this in a feeble attempt to illustrate the every day occurrences of our lives.

Who knows what this afternoon will hold, but if this morning is any indication, I will proceed with caution and wear my hardhat.

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