How to understand and positively approach a sensory meltdown
Flashing back to a year ago, I had my hunches that my daughter had some unique challenges – I had just picked up the book Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and was reading it while the water was running for bath time. Oufff… And Isis jumped into my lap. Done reading.
“Bath time, honey.”
“No mama, no bath.”
“Yes, you’ve got sand in your hair, you need a bath tonight.”
“No, no, no, no.”
“Let’s go play the sink or float game.” Sweeping her up lovingly and carrying her into the bathroom. My stomach sinking like the Titanic… This is going to be a traumatic disaster. What am I going to do? I set her down on the bathroom rug, and immediately she turns from obstinate into a panicking, terrified, trapped animal. I reach over to take off her shirt for bath time and my screaming little girl morphs into that Raccoon that once got into our house – a panicked and terrified animal in flight mode.
The raw terror in her eyes hit my loving mommy core – my heart hurt for her – this wasn’t normal. What do I do? Then Lindsey Biel’s book I had just been reading banana cream pied me in the face. *Wake up*
My body language shifted and Isis paused in her panic for a moment. She knew something had just changed in the room.
“Hey honey – I’m not going to make you get in the bath – I have an idea!”
“What, mama?” her curiosity breaking through the tears. “What is it?”
“I’m going to go get your blue bath (baby bath – much smaller than the bathtub – almost too tight for her 2.5 year old body). And we can put it in the bath tub, and you can choose what temperature you want the water in it, okay?”
Panic vanished. “Yes, mama! I want my blue bath!”
“Okay, you stay right here – I’ll be right back with your blue bath.”
I run outside and grab her old baby bath, clean it with a quick rinse, and then put it in the bath tub – empty. She leaps into it – smiling and happy (Weren’t you just a panicked raccoon? What just happened?). She breathes a daddy sized sigh of relief, and looks at me with the biggest brown pools of eyes I have ever seen and says, “Oh thank you mommy! Thank you so much. I needed my blue bath.”
I hold on tight to my tears trying not to let them out. Something was desperately wrong with the bath to her senses – her experience of that bath – so terrifying that she couldn’t function. Her entire system had short circuited and she had panicked.
At that moment I knew my daughter had sensory processing disorder – and a total change in perspective came over me. I now saw the entire world through a sensory lens – a constant flood of sound, movement, sights, touch, proprioception, taste, and smells. And so I started to develop the skills to help her navigate this stimulating modern world we live in. To follow in my next entry will be my approach to a Sensory Meltdown after a year of trial and error, reading, and learning – In hopes that it might help some of you parents out there!