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Let’s revisit Thanksgiving Day, 2013. To me, the very idea of shopping on Thanksgiving Day is sacrilegious. How can you justify shopping for more stuff on the very day you're proclaiming you're thankful for all you have in life? I believe they started opening stores on Thanksgiving Day several years ago and for the last few years, I've campaigned against shopping on the very day we're is supposed to find contentment in all our blessings. Each year prior, my social media outlets boasted raging memes against Thanksgiving Day shopping. Imagine my dismay though, when, for the previous months, I planned to purchase one item on Black Friday and learned that the ONLY day the deal was offered was ON Thanksgiving Day at six p.m.! I had to ask myself if I was willing to shop on Thanksgiving for one item. The item was to be purchased for quality of life, but it really was more about the money saved versus the principles broken and in this case there was a two hundred dollar difference.
However, one of my children has been diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder. The other twin exhibits many of the same symptoms but we have not taken her to be diagnosed since her symptoms are minimal compared to his. And both are kinesthetic learners.
SPD can look a lot like ADHD because there's a lot of motion happening ALL the time. But there are several differences to distinguish the diagnosis. When I first took my son in to the doctor, I was actually concerned he had juvenile diabetes because he drank about a gallon of water a day and still complained of thirst. My son also complained of always feeling hungry. Fortunately, he did not have diabetes, but we still needed answers. Then, I googled, "my child is always thirsty" and lo and behold “Sensory Processing Disorder” came up through the search. After reading the extensive list of symptoms, I realized my son had 98% of them--yes, that many described my child perfectly. Finding this information was like finding the missing piece to the puzzle we'd been trying to solve for years. I brought the information to our Pediatrician who agreed that there was a strong case building for this diagnosis. She referred us to a specialist who would do the testing for him. He was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder in November of 2010. While this disorder falls on the autism spectrum, he falls on the exact opposite end of the bell curve. He is amazingly bright and had no learning disabilities usually associated with SPDs or Autism. The O.T. said we would have two real options for schooling, he would either need to be homeschooled or we would need to find a private school to work with him. His exceptionality is that he is intellectually gifted but unable to sit quietly to do work, therefore; school would become a source of frustration, punishment and humiliation for him.
Unlike ADHD, where there can be learning disabilities from being unable to concentrate, he can concentrate on what interests him for as long as he wants; however, he might do it while humming and bouncing on a yoga ball. When he had just turned five-years-old, I videoed him reading a chapter of a Magic Tree House book out loud while spinning in a tight circle. It was then I knew something was a little off. I was getting dizzy videotaping him. While most kids his age were still learning to read, he was reading books recommended for fifth graders while in motion.
SPDs have two general paths of symptom manifestation. Some manifest as hypersensitive senses (slightest touch irritates or hurts, slightest smell bothers them, prefer bland food, etc...); others manifest as hyposensitive (don't register light physical touch, only observe strong smells, prefers extremely spicy, salty or sweet food, etc...). When my son was two-years-old, he used to say I didn't hug him even though I just had and wouldn't let me leave until I bear-hugged him with all my might. I always brushed the behavior off as him just being a rough boy, until I understood that he really didn't feel me hug him. Because he is hyposensitive, it takes a lot of everything to make him "feel" anything. Life for him is lived in the extreme: extreme crashing, moving, jumping, spinning, swinging and more, all this just for him to “feel” alive. Since he was a toddler he'd drink Red Wine Vinegar and politely ask for more just to “taste” something strong. Long before one could consider his behavior as just attention seeking, we could tell he liked foods most adults couldn't tolerate. While it's great that he would eat anything, there are still many problems with this disorder—two of the major ones are that he doesn't function well in school room settings and has a difficult time self-regulating emotions.
After trying public, charter and private school, we opted to homeschool. He has an architect's desk so he can stand when he needs. He uses a yoga ball instead of a stool if he wants or he can lay upside down with his back on the couch and his feet on the wall while reading. Success lies in giving him an environment rich in sensory items or, in terms of the O.T.s, enhancing his sensory diet. My son needs outlets to expend the energy or to engage any of his senses while he's learning. We've had an indoor mini trampoline since he was two-years-old as our yard doesn’t even have a tree for him to climb. But in 2013, we finally decided we could no longer function without a large trampoline (and when I say we, I mean me, since I'm homeschooling him).
All year long I waited to purchase this large trampoline in order to complete the largest part of his sensory diet--and it came down to ethics. Would I sacrifice my son's sensory diet to avoid shopping on Thanksgiving? I went through the mental list of pros and cons. I hemmed and hawed for weeks. I sought counsel from friends I knew shared my disdain for shops being open on Thanksgiving and even they agreed that $200 price difference was worth it. I even consulted an employee of the store having the sale the day before Thanksgiving and asked her if she was working on Thanksgiving. She said she was and shared her view on the day. In the end, I decided that I would have to compromise my ethics in my moral dilemma. First, I couldn't be a good steward of God's money by waiting until the sale was over. Second, this purchase would help him physically and emotionally. Third, the woman I talked to at the store said she didn't mind taking the shift because she was making time and a half. Finally, I wasn't ruining the Holiday because we had planned Thanksgiving dinner for 1 p.m. with friends. I snuck out after dinner while everyone was playing board games and none of the kids even noticed that I’d left or returned.
I'm happy to report that the trampoline was a great success! Both of my children, the neighbor’s children, and adult guests who occasionally try to bounce each other off, all enjoy it immensely. Now when my kids need to expend energy, they take a trampoline break and come back ready to finish their work.
Thankfully, we don’t need anything this year and I won’t sacrifice my beliefs to purchase anything on Thanksgiving. However, that experience gave me a different perspective. I stood in line with regular people trying to save their hard earned money, wishing to buy their loved ones special gifts. Maybe each of them went through the same agony before deciding to abbreviate the Holiday, maybe not? The line had always been black and white for me, there was no gray until the welfare of my child was put to the test.
What about you, will you be shopping on Thanksgiving Day this year?
Ariele O’Brien considers herself a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. She was born and raised in south Florida and received her Master’s in Clinical Social Work from the University of South Florida. Upon graduation, she fulfilled her desire to serve in the military and joined the Army. Shortly after arriving at her first duty station, she met and married her husband. A few years later, health complications and the decision to start raising children led to her decision to finish one tour of duty alone. She now proudly supports her husband’s continuing Army career. Currently, Ariele teachers her ten-year-old twins at home. Her limited free time includes volunteering, writing, photography, reading and music. Throughout the years, Ariele has published various articles, poetry and has written for her personal blogs.