Sensory Overload in A Wedding


When my cousin’s fiance asked if our son could be the ring bearer in their fall wedding, I cringed. It wasn’t because we don’t love them, but because we weren’t sure how he would handle the task. Most kids might be nervous in front of crowds of people or twirl around as they stand in front of an audience. I was afraid our little darling might use the unity candle to burn down the pulpit.

Reluctantly, after she had given him ring pops to ask his permission, we agreed. I mean, how can you say no to that!?

In the weeks that followed, we prepped him and helped to count down to the big day as kids with behavior disorders sometimes do better with time to warm up to something they might not be so excited about. As the day approached, he liked the idea less and less.

Wedding day came and we had the bag packed with the bribery Shredder from TMNT, a box of post-wedding cookies, and toys he could play with quietly in the floor during the remainder of the ceremony.

Our son walked out to a church packed with supportive family and friends of the bride and groom. Full on thumbs down. The hand gesture of disapproval turned into fists balled and progressively more angry facial expressions. When he got to the end of the isle, he cried as the crowd was bursting with uproarious laughter. My cousin scooped him up and he came over to me saying pitifully, “Mama, I did not like them laughing at me.”

While this was a hilarious scene and it is one that no one in our family will soon forget, it is a small glimpse into the eyes of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, among other behavioral diagnosis. One of four diagnosis our son has, SPD shows itself in a variety of ways, many of which my husband and I are learning every day.

Rewind to earlier in the day before the ceremony, we had a meltdown over wearing the wedding suit because the pants were scratchy and touched his ankles, the bow tie hooked at the back of his neck, and he didn’t like how the collar of the shirt looked when it was buttoned all the way up. So he wore sweatpants to the wedding, changed right before pictures, and then immediately back into the sweats after the “I do’s”. SPD makes the nerve endings extra sensitive so the feeling of certain fabrics can be next to unbearable for him.

The piano music of the ceremony was like shrieks to him and the people laughing was boisterously loud and screamed of disapproval and rejection to him. He cannot process why they laughed. So, I fibbed and told him that someone had just told a joke right before he came down the isle. Kids with SPD have trouble feeling overwhelmed with loud noise and crowds of people. Pair that with ADHD and his worldview is very concrete–black and white. He cannot differentiate sarcasm or joking.

The reception food was turned down for appetizer cheese and a plain bun…not because he doesn’t like pulled pork and macaroni, but because he eats his food on a plate where none of them touch each other and it is all put in the freezer after it is cooked so he eats it nearly cold. The macaroni wasn’t “yellow” and the bbq sauce was “too watery”. Kids with SPD are generally very particular eaters who only eat foods cooked very specific ways and if the texture, color, or odor doesn’t appeal to them–forget it!

He came home after everything, pooped out, but fought sleep on the hard floor instead of the comfy bed because he prefers a hard surface over soft blankets. Kids with SPD generally have a hard time with certain surfaces, feelings, and getting comfortable.

It is so important for us to share our story as we learn what it means to parent a child with different sensory needs paired with behavior disorders. As we move forward, open and honest about what our daily lives really look like, hopefully others can learn what real struggles these kids deal with every day. Out lives usually aren’t happy pictures on Facebook in a pumpkin patch or with the Eater bunny. Most of our days include shoes being thrown or a hysterically hilarious thumbs down in the middle of a wedding ceremony.

The wedding, as a whole, was still a great experience and one we will definitely be telling our son’s girlfriends for years to come.

Want to connect to other mamas raising kids with SPD? Join my Facebook group! You’ll find memes, parenting posts, and lots of encouragement along this crazy highway of motherhood.

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