When Children Feel Too Much -- or Too Little

Sensory integration dysfunction is on the rise, but new research offers hope for kids who suffer from it.

When Children Feel Too Much -- or Too Little

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My son, Jonah, was what parenting experts like to call a "challenging" baby. As a newborn, if he was awake, he was crying. By the time he was 1 month old, he'd developed such a bad case of laryngitis that he screamed without making a sound.

My husband and I gritted our teeth and looked forward to his 3-month birthday, when most babies get over colic. But three months came and went and Jonah's misery continued. Though he no longer cried every waking second, the slightest thing would trigger an outburst. He didn't like the playground, loud noises, or, oddly, being wrapped in a towel after a bath. As he got older, he would have seemingly inexplicable tantrums that rattled me to the core. My 4-year-old daughter had thrown her share of tantrums, but they were nothing like these. He would run through the apartment screaming inconsolably and, on occasion, throw himself against the front door.

By the time Jonah was 17 months old, I was in true despair. My husband and I took little comfort in our doctor's conviction that there was nothing wrong with our son. Living with him was like living with a ticking bomb. We never knew what would set him off, but the explosion was inevitable.

Then, one afternoon, as I sat in a cafe trying to soothe my son, who was falling apart because he was disturbed by the blueberries in his blueberry muffin, a psychologist friend who was with me gave me a serious look. "I think you should have him evaluated for sensory integration dysfunction," she said.

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