Monday, November 16, 2015

My Highly Sensitive Child... 7 Years Later

Way back when I started my blog, I shared a little about life as a mom of a high-needs, highly sensitive child.  Owen has been sensitive to smells, colors, sounds, and other stimuli since birth.  For a bit of background, read this article that I shared on 5 Minutes for Mom in 2008.  I reworked that article for my own blog in 2010. You can read that version with updates here.  

One of the hardest parts of parenting a child with sensitivities is feeding them well.  Because Owen had a strong gag reflex, making him eat vegetables or meat or things with color was not simply a matter of insisting that he swallow what was on his plate. His pickiness was not a battle of wills (though it sometimes came down to that) or even a matter of preferences, but eating engaged all five of his highly-trained senses.  Owen was the child who could identify what we were having for dinner by what he could smell from his bedroom.  I'll never forget the day he asked if we were having peas because he could smell them.  Who knew peas had a distinctive smell?  The color of his food and they way it felt in his mouth affected whether he wanted to eat it.  (I wrote about our philosophy for feeding picky eaters here.)

Other people often took Owen's fear of crowds and people personally.  They assumed that if he wouldn't talk to them, he didn't like them.  They didn't realize that he did the same things with people he knew and loved.  Being in a group was an external stimuli in which he needed help to adapt.  We worked extensively with him on learning to make eye contact and answer when someone spoke to him, but those were difficult issues for him to overcome. (I have other children who are shy, but this went beyond shy.)

a photo from my sister's birthday 6 years ago:
All the kids posed except for Owen who could not look at the camera.

Seven years have passed since that original article from 2008. So how does life look with a highly-sensitive 9-year old?

Owen has learned to adapt to his own needs.  He cuts the tags out of his own shirts, leaves the room when I vacuum, and sleeps all night long without getting up.

He still feels things deeply.  He can be happy one minute and down in the dumps the next.  He has high highs and low lows.  He can be in a group setting, though, or attend a party, without a breakdown.  If he knows all the details like who is going to be there, what he'll be eating, and how long it will last, he thrives. 

Food can still be challenging, but he has made epic strides.  The boy who once liked only white or tan items (potatoes, bread, noodles, etc.) eats a variety of foods.  He shocked me last week when he said, "I LOVE carrots."  Yes, that's coming from the boy who ate no vegetable by choice until he was seven!  He takes far longer than the rest of us to eat his dinner, often because he is chewing slowly and picking specks (pepper or perceived "burned" areas) off of his meat.  (We insist it be done discreetly.)  He is open to trying new foods now, too.  He discovered  a few months that he likes coconut.

We eat dinner at church many Wednesday nights.  There is always a main dish and an alternate "kid-friendly" option.  More often than not, Owen chooses the adult main dish over nuggets or macaroni which would have been unheard of even a year ago.  He's sampled chili, alfredo sauce, and pork with no coaxing from me.  He doesn't  like everything he samples, but just the fact that he wants to try it is improvement.

Owen at age 9, gladly smiling and posing for the camera

Parenting Owen can offer challenges, but patience and time has proven to be just what he needed to become the vibrant boy that he is today.

By the way, he's not afraid of ceiling fans or flamingos (or much of anything) anymore either!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this Kristin. My Rachel wouldn't speak to others outside the family for years! She was probably nearly 10 before she started to talk to others! My Sarah has always been sensitive to textures, and the way things 'feel', or having to have her shoe laces even, etc. I understand when you say others have been offended by these things or think perhaps we haven't dealt with them 'properly.' However my girls are thriving, and have largely overcome or learned to managed these issues, just as Owen has. In fact Rachel works at Chick-fil-A and is often the one on headset taking orders for the drive-thru!

    You are a wise and gentle mother.



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