One day when I went to the pet supply store to get dog food, I took Rugby with me. It was a rainy day and there were very few people in the store. As always, Rugby was scoping out everything at his eye level. I was focused on my errand and we were walking in that direction when I heard people talking.
I heard a child say, “Mommy look at that doggie in the wheelchair.” Then I heard a woman’s voice saying, “Don’t go near him. There is something wrong with him. Let’s just go the other way. No. You can’t pet him. Something is wrong with him.” This was not the first time something like this happened.
It was almost like Rugby was telling himself what to do, “If they can’t come to me, I’ll go to them.”
At that moment, I felt Rugby pulling me down the aisle and around the corner to the next aisle where the children and their mother were. I saw the mother put her hands on her children’s shoulders and hold them. Rugby pulled me right over to them and then barked. It wasn’t a loud bark. It was more like a “woof.”
The little girl looked at her mother and asked her, “Mommy, can’t we pet him please?” I don’t know if the mother was embarrassed or just confused but she still held their shoulders and said nothing. “Mommy, can we?”
I decided that I needed to put my two cents in so I said, “It’s okay. They can pet him. They won’t catch anything.” She gave me a questioning look and I told her that I knew that she was concerned and that Rugby wouldn’t hurt her children in any way, quite the contrary.
She released her hold on the children as if to tell them that they could pet him. I explained that Rugby had been in an accident and that he needed the wheelchair because of his paralysis.
As the children and Rugby interacted happily, she and I talked. When we were ready to say good bye, she told her children something that I will never forget.
What a lesson those children learned on that day. What lessons are you teaching your children?
We were in the store and saw a child having a meltdown. We felt bad for the child but we felt even worse for the mom who was trying to handle the situation. Not even 10 feet away from them stood a couple who started talking to each other in loud voices about how spoiled the child was.
It got even worse when they began to criticize the mother for not being strict enough with the child. Then they talked about how they would never have tolerated that kind of behavior with their own children. Everyone heard them and then the mother began to sob. It was time to step in and help. After all, that’s what we do!
Meltdown or Tantrum?
GUESS WHAT? We found out that the mom was dealing with her daughter who has Sensory Processing Disorder. She was exhausted and couldn’t handle the constant criticisms anymore. We asked the onlookers if they had raised kids with special needs? They said that their children were very normal and that using special needs as an excuse wasn’t the way to raise a child.
Have you ever been critical of a parent who was dealing with a child’s meltdown in a public place?
Think about a few things and maybe… just maybe you will be more understanding. A tantrum and a sensory meltdown are two totally different things. A tantrum happens when a child doesn’t get something he or she wants or needs.
A sensory meltdown happens when the child feels overwhelmed!
Meltdown or Tantrum?
Maybe the noises in the store or too many things to focus on send a child with SPD into a meltdown. For onlookers, a tantrum and a sensory meltdown appear to be the same but they far from being the same. For the child with SPD, too many sensory inputs flood the brain and a meltdown is a way to release the pressure.
Have you ever tried to use a funnel to fill a bottle with some liquid only to see that too much liquid causes the bottle to spill over? Have you ever turned on a hose to fill a bucket only to see that the pressure of the water in the hose causes the bucket to spill over? Both of these situations are only mild examples of what a child with SPD is feeling. Do you feel less critical? We hope so!!