…After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that SPD often accompanied it. We went to an occupational therapist who taught us that a trip to the market wasn’t to be taken lightly. It was a transition for Lee’s brain and body, from one place to the other, and time to process the change was necessary. As Lee put it at a later age, “Cars are like time machines. You watch the world go by, but your brain’s still at home even if you’re at the store…”
“Lee, I’m going to the market. Want anything?”
“No. But I’ll drive you. Need a change of scenery.”
We drove down to the market and found a parking place.
I said, “Coming in?”
“Nah. Didn’t plan on going.”
After 21 years of living with a child who had ADHD and sensory processing disorder (SPD), this made perfect sense. Before Lee’s diagnosis at the age of six, we went to the market according to my schedule, which was usually rushed. Little did I know that I was setting into place a sequence of events that would turn into a fiasco.
It started when we got into the market, and I plopped her in the basket. Marketing was like navigating a crowded freeway, as I tried to steer down the middle of the aisle. The minute my cart veered to the right or left, her little fingers set to work grabbing the coupons from the machines sticking out from the shelf. Before we got very far, the coupons were dropped in favor of a bright, shiny package of cookies, fun to put in her mouth. By the time the cookies were back on the shelf, my toddler was leaning over the basket, trying to pick the topmost can off a display case.
When Lee was old enough to walk beside the basket, she ran. I followed at top speed, dodging those display cases, hoping she wouldn’t crash into one. But too often, a tower of cans flew onto the floor with a huge bang, leaving my face burning with embarrassment. When we got into the checkout lane, I reminded Lee to stand back and give the customer in front of us room to check out. My words floated in one ear and out the other, as she sidled up close to the stranger like she was her mother. Pulling Lee back to my side, I unloaded my groceries, only to have it happen again.
After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that SPD often accompanied it. We went to an occupational therapist who taught us that a trip to the market wasn’t to be taken lightly. It was a transition for Lee’s brain and body, from one place to the other, and time to process the change was necessary. As Lee put it at a later age, “Cars are like time machines. You watch the world go by, but your brain’s still at home even if you’re at the store.”
The occupational therapist explained that if my child didn’t have a chance to transition, then the market could trigger reactions. First, Lee’s hypo-tactile sense was on high alert, her need to touch everything in sight, or put it in her mouth, too urgent to resist. Then, the vestibular jumped right in, the body’s sense of gravity, so out of whack from the new environment that it was likely to crash into nearby objects. The proprioceptive sense, her body’s awareness of where she was in space, joined in at the checkout line, and a considerate distance vanished into thin air.
Advance notice that we were going to the market proved necessary, as were exercises before we went, like spinning, for grounding the vestibular sense. She wore a weighted backpack to help the proprioceptive sense, and always held a fidget toy in her busy hands. If I could, I made the trips to the market with her as short as possible.
Bringing my thoughts back to the present, I looked over at Lee in the car, who was putting in earbuds, eyes fluttering closed.
I said, “Be back soon.”
“I’m safe here, Mom. Take your time.”
I’m so excited to have an excerpt from my memoir published this month in MER, Mom Egg Review, the Ages/Stages MER Online Folio! This is a wonderful literary journal about motherhood and all its complexities. In my essay, “Mothers Come First,” I face both the fears and...
Thrilled to have an essay included in the current issue of Dorothy Parker’s Ashes. It’s an honor to be among so many talented writers. The theme is “Lost,” and my essay is about losing my neurodivergent child in the mall at the same time I was losing my mother to...
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