Remy: “I think ____ has PhD.”
Me: “Is she kind of wiggly and does she have trouble paying attention?”
Remy: “Yes. I think it’s a kind of autism, maybe.”
Remy’s a third grader. While he doesn’t quite know he was talking about ADD nor does he actually understand what autism is, there is a broader awareness that not everyone processes things the same way or with similar ease and that not everyone learns the same way or with the same ease, either—or connects with others the same way or with the same ease. There’s a lot of information for people—young, old, in school or out of school—to grasp.
If you are a parent and something just isn’t coming together for your child, even as a baby, you may be aware of this—or not quite. You may know to reach out for help—or not. Hartley Steiner is a parent who took her experience as part of a family grappling with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and created resources to reach out toward for other parents, including editorship of an anthology of parents’ stories of SPD entitled Sensational Journeys.
There is a colossal truth that you cannot help but hold front and center after reading this collection of 48 families’ stories: parents of kids with SPD love their children mountainously, by which I mean in giant, soaring, vista-seeking ways. These are stories of profound exhaustion and confounding mystery and treacherously hard work and ferocious advocacy. These are stories of devotion.
Lest you think this is a book only to read if your child is struggling with SPD or a book that will only make you heave a huge sigh of relief not to be working this hard at parenting, I want to differ. You may read it with more hunger if the stories resonate more exactly, sure. But I think two things would happen for any reader: 1) you’d be impressed by how much effort it takes to comprehend and advocate for a child whose entry into the quotidian is a more effortful experience than many people’s and you’d want to be a better support and ally and 2) you’d be reminded that being human is its own mystery, and that in order to connect you have to be willing to explore that, with all intricacies respected.
And you are reminded that raising children requires humor, in that way that is generous and gracious:
“The past 5 years of my life have passed in a blur of ball pits, shaving cream, and dried beans. My family spends a great deal of time devising obstacle courses out of mini-trampolines, piles of blankets, and a plethora of cones and rings and plastic balls. We have purchased so many swings that we probably have more than some occupational-therapy clinics do.”
--Patricia Porch Hopper
Hartley Steiner sent me a copy of Sensational Journeys to give to one of my readers; just leave a comment and early next week I’ll announce my randomly picked from the hat winner (and at the same time a winner for In Spite of Everything, also hat-picked).