Sensory issues – they’re not just for Maura!

Being Maura’s mom has meant a lot of self-discovery for me. Like, oh wow, I can totally be confrontational when someone’s giving Maura the short end of the stick. Or how hey, I can be quite good in a stressful situation, despite my anxiety.

Or – hey! Maybe I wasn’t a magnificently picky eater…tell me more about sensory issues!

Now Maura tends to be a sensory seeker – as in, she loves to touch stuff. As a preschooler, she enjoyed going to the fabric store because she could pet all the different fabrics. And I realized…I do that too.  Of course, she was also the only kid her one therapist ever saw physically recoil from Play-doh. Seriously. The therapist placed the brightly colored non-toxic ball of doh on the tray, and Maura leaned so far back away from it she nearly toppled the chair over.

It was a bit ridiculous, and we laughed. Because what kid hates Play-doh?

My kid.

Then I noticed something else – while Maura would eat just about any kind of food out there, including dog food, she refused to eat kiwi. She wouldn’t touch it after the first time going to pick it up.

“I wonder if it’s because it’s a little slimy?” I asked the therapist.

That’s when I started learning about textures and sensory seekers versus sensory avoiders.

It seems the common sensory issue are those of avoidance – the kid who won’t eat food that touches other food, the kid who feels like a clothing tag is akin to a razor blade, the kid who has to have socks on just right or else you might as well chop off his feet because it’s less torture than a misaligned sock.

These are things I was only vaguely familiar with. Mainly because I always made sure my socks were put on perfectly aligned, and I never could manage turtlenecks. Actually, most people in my family hate turtlenecks. I also can’t wear chokers, or necklaces that end at the edge of my neck, because otherwise, well, it’s all I can feel, slowly choking the life out of me while cutting off my jugular.

Not that I have an overactive imagination or anything.

I also hate heavy blankets, have to have my feet covered at night, can’t wear anything too snug without going crazy, and so on and so forth.

We won’t discuss my hatred of oatmeal, even though I like the smell of it and love oatmeal cookies. Or creamy dressings. Forget mushrooms.

No, none of that meant anything to me except I was weird and a picky eater.

Then Maura recoiled at Play-doh and refused kiwi.

And I learned more about sensory issues.

And I realized that maybe…maybe I had some too.

I still tried to write it off as my own quirkiness. That my food aversions were due to picky eating. Then one day, Josh and I went to a sushi place, and they had those little blobs of chocolate things. I wasn’t sure what they were, except they were chocolate and last time I got sushi, my daughter Miriam got the little chocolate blob things and proclaimed them the best thing she’d ever eaten while humming a happy tune.

Surely they were delightful!

Surely they were actually a form of hell that I placed inside my mouth. Gooey slimy hell disguised as chocolate.

Satan's dessert
Satan’s dessert

“OMG it’s awful!” I cried while making a ridiculous “EW!” face. I know it was ridiculous because my dear husband started laughing at me.

“Oh God!” I cried some more, trying to chew the gelatinous blob of badly textured chocolate quickly. “It’s like snot! I’m eating chocolate snot!”

What I really wanted to do was spit it out and rub my tongue with a napkin while making icky noises…but I also like to pretend I’m good at being an adult. So I found a way to swallow the offensive chocolate thing, and then gulped water down as my husband kept laughing.

And that’s when I embraced the fact that I have texture issues when it comes to food. Because I love chocolate. I love chocolate in any form, or so I thought. But not in soft gelatinous mochi snot form.

Maura did overcome her fear of Play-doh. But she also still won’t touch kiwi. I’m okay with that. And when she wants to pet all the fabrics, I’m right there behind her, petting the fabrics as well, with our socks aligned just right, and our shoes tied not too tightly.