As I was growing up, I heard a lot of the same words over and over again in regards to my behavior. The redundant questions and statements from parents and teachers brought a lot of unnecessary confusion and pain into my life.
I have Sensory Processing Disorder which creates a lot of unique challenges for me. You can learn more about SPD by reading my article, One Reason I’m So Weird. I’m sure my disability was the main reason the following words were repeated like a broken record to me. However, they did more damage than good. Words have a lot of power so we need to be wise about how we use them.
Here are five things I believe you should never say, with some alternatives to say instead. I hope these will turn a struggle with a difficult child into an opportunity to help them instead.
Growing up, I loved watching shows about adventures into outer space. In fact, I took my first baby steps in front of my parent’s black and white TV, while we watched Neil Armstrong take his first steps onto the surface of the moon in 1969. How cool is that?
Neil Armstrong must have been incredibly brave to travel to the moon in a shooting rocket. But despite his courage, he was still required to wear a special helmet and gear for survival. His space suit was a complex outer garment designed to keep him alive, safe and mobile for work outside normal earthly accommodations. As you can imagine, proper maintenance and care of his space suit was necessary to successfully complete the mission.
As humans we have been given special suits as well, which help us accomplish our purpose on planet earth. Similar to an astronaut’s spacesuit, our bodies are a complex system designed specifically for the kind of work we are called to do. However, there are all kinds of problems we can run into with our earth suits. For example, disease and disabilities…plus the fact they’re very susceptible to sin and temptation. That’s why we must take extra precautions to care for them properly.
Most people think I’m a little weird, and that may very well be true, but I also have a bizarre neurological condition called Sensory Processing Disorder. That means my brain doesn’t process incoming sensory data properly. Some stimuli trigger an exaggerated fight-or-flight response, especially certain textures and soft sounds, because my brain interprets the information as a serious threat. Therefore, simple everyday things that most people don’t even notice can be completely overwhelming to me.
To give you an idea what SPD is like, try and imagine how your body would feel if a burglar suddenly entered your home with a weapon drawn. Most likely you would experience a sudden onset of anxiety, while your body filled with adrenalin and your heart raced. Your mind would scramble for ideas to get out of the life-threatening situation. You would instinctively do anything you could to stay alive. Well, my brain responds in a similar way to simple ordinary things, like a keyboard typing or a whispered conversation or even the texture of a Popsicle stick or cardboard. I can be perfectly calm and happy one minute but if someone walks by wearing flip-flops then my body revolts at the sound of each snap against their heel and my spine curls with discomfort. When I’m in a crowd of people at a restaurant, an event, or even at church, I’m probably not engaged in much conversation. I may appear to be anti-social or unfriendly, but I’m really just focusing all my energy towards preventing a meltdown because my brain struggles to decipher which conversations are important, since they all blend together into a nonsensical mess.