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From Hand to Mouth

R.C. Steif

Once we get a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder, the real work can begin.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Photo: Shutterstock

Something is off about Shaindy. Her peculiar symptoms are alienating her friends and irritating her mother. Once she’s finally diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, the real work begins — and change becomes possible.

You know how crawling babies “vacuum” floors, exploring the world, putting everything that fits directly into their mouths? My daughter is like that. Only, she’s not crawling — she’s been doing this for years. 

When Shaindy is three, her playgroup teacher alerts me to this worrying phenomenon after finding a safety pin in Shaindy’s mouth. 

“Oh?” I’m not a panicky mother. 

“Toys are one thing; safety pins are another,” the morah explains. “They’re really dangerous. Perhaps Shaindy has a sensory issue.” 

Sensory, huh? Isn’t that when kids dislike textures and things like that? I’m not concerned, but I don’t want to be neglectful. I call my sister, whose son struggles with sensory issues. 

“What can you tell me about sensory issues? Shaindy’s teacher told me that she keeps putting things in her mouth.” 

“How is that related to sensory issues?” 

“I can’t figure it out either. What does ‘sensory issues’ mean, anyway?” 

“As far as I know, sensory issues are about extra sensitivity to specific textures. Yitzi has clothes that he doesn’t like wearing, and he complains about tags being scratchy and elastic belts being too tight. And on Shabbos, he gets all nervous if his kugel comes in contact with chicken—” 

Photo: Shutterstock

“At our Shabbos seudah, Shaindy can’t sit still. As soon as she comes in for Kiddush, she grabs everyone’s cups and cutlery… My husband says I should stop setting the table.” 

“I give my kids a stack of plastic cups to play with at the Shabbos table,” says my sister. “They’re not in prison! Going back to Yitzi, there’s a lot more, but I really don’t see any connection between putting things into the mouth and his issues.” 

My concerns are laid to rest, yet toys and small household items continue appearing in Shaindy’s mouth. I remind her several times each day to empty her mouth. Still, I’m not worried. Kids will be kids — and they’re entitled to their shenanigans. She’ll outgrow this. Eventually.

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