Personal Story

Recognizing I Had Sensory Sensitivities Made Me a Better Mom—Here’s Why

sensory sensitivities"
sensory sensitivities
Source: ColorJoy Stock
Source: ColorJoy Stock

Raising one neurotypical and one neurodiverse child has illuminated a lot for me regarding mental health. Notably, it made me aware of my own sensory sensitivities that I once dismissed as my weird quirks.

I remember sensory sensitivity starting in middle school when I refused to wear any jeans because the feeling of denim made my skin irritated and almost felt like pressure. It got worse in college when my boyfriend would try to blast music in our apartment and my head would pound. I couldn’t focus and felt lost, angry, and even afraid at times. I didn’t understand why the world seemed full of things that would hurt me, and I eventually started isolating myself. 

But it wasn’t until my son was diagnosed with Autism that I realized we shared a lot of the same symptoms. I could relate to his meltdowns more than my husband could. I understood how upsetting it was to get sticky syrup on his hand. I understood why he couldn’t deal with his brother’s screaming or couldn’t wear sweatshirts over long-sleeve shirts. 

For years, I had thought I was just weird, that the quirks were part of growing up in a strict household and being sick as a kid. But it turned out that sensory processing disorder appears in many ways.


For years, I had thought I was just weird, that the quirks were part of growing up in a strict household and being sick as a kid. But it turned out that sensory processing disorder appears in many ways.


When my children would laugh or play the TV above a certain level, my day would become very off. After talking to my therapist, she suggested that I displayed some symptoms of sensory processing disorder (SPD). Put simply, SPD makes it difficult to interact with your daily environment. It changes how the brain organizes, takes in, and uses the messages that are received by our body’s receptors. 

At first, I worried that having another label would make me a worse mom. But when I realized SPD helped me empathize with my children more, it actually helped me become a better mom. Here are just a few ways having sensory sensitivities help me become a better parent.



I can easily figure out what will be a trigger for my son with Autism/ADHD.

ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder have a lot of symptoms that are similar to sensory processing disorder. Because of this, I’m able to more easily recognize possible triggers for my child than my husband can. This allows me a little extra time to prepare for situations and either work around triggers—like hair brushing or sticky fingers—or plan to avoid them entirely.

By having similar reactions to slime and bright lights, I can quickly figure out what may help my children be more comfortable in their environments, like suggesting coping strategies that work for me. For example, we might use playdough instead of slime, since my issue is with the sticky texture and not the squishiness of it. This helps me make sure my husband and I are prepared to offer different options for our children in advance. Of course, other parents can learn these skills, but the innate nature of sharing similar symptoms helps me react quicker than a parent without SPD. 


I can help my husband understand how our children think, and our teamwork makes us better parents.

My husband is a very proactive parent and tries to understand our children’s needs. But sometimes when our kids have a meltdown, he is left confused and frustrated. This is when I come in and explain what the kids cannot—like maybe he needed to dim the lights or turn down the music. This allows him to empathize with their needs and learn how to react appropriately with validation. 

Just this past week, my husband and sons were playing tag, but there was a lot of squealing and screeching. My oldest son started crying and screaming that they were too loud. Instead of telling our son it was OK and to stop crying, my husband realized that it wasn’t OK for him and understood the noise hurt his ears. He suggested my son go get his soundproof headphones. 

This moment made me so proud because my child felt empowered to say what was wrong and embraced the solution my husband offered. It made him more comfortable and also allowed our youngest to still have fun.

I hope that by working together to notice situations that may trigger each child, we can focus on positive coping skills to help foster their independence.


I am less irritable now that SPD taught me to prioritize self-care.

Prioritizing self-care benefits the whole family. Many times, having a reaction to certain sounds or triggers is my body telling me something is wrong; it’s an alert that I need to focus on creating a solution for before I have a meltdown.

Before, I used to just deal with the effects of my SPD: the heart palpitations when my children screamed or the discomfort—bordering on panic—when they tried to clench me in a group hug when I wasn’t ready. I never wanted to make my children feel like they were causing me pain, but now I realize that if I don’t address my needs, it all builds up until I break down. It can take me a whole day to recover, which puts a lot on my husband. Now, I’m better able to identify when I need to step away or take time to unwind.



It taught me to validate my child’s feelings at all times.

Toddlers can be very emotional tiny humans and are often prone to tantrums that adults don’t understand. But after understanding my SPD, I’ve learned that even when we don’t quite understand why someone is upset, it doesn’t mean their reaction isn’t valid.


I’ve learned that even when we don’t quite understand why someone is upset, it doesn’t mean their reaction isn’t valid.


To an adult, a cookie breaking in half is no big deal, but a child may become very distraught. I find it easier to relate to my kids in this way. My friends may think it’s weird that I can’t eat oatmeal or dislike being hugged, but I now know that it’s OK not to like those things and am able to understand and validate my children’s feelings, even when what is bothering them may seem silly. To them, it is real.


The world now feels a lot safer.

When I was a first-time mom, I felt so isolated and feared going out by myself. “What ifs” and worries about meltdowns made me hide out at home most of the time. But just knowing about why I am the way I am has empowered me to do a lot more and utilize coping skills that help me be a better mom. Here are just a few tools that have helped me along the way.

  • Never missing therapy
  • Utilizing tools like noise-canceling headphones and weighted blankets when I feel overwhelmed
  • Buying sensory toys for my children (and for me) that help all of us focus and relax
  • Doing repeated immersion into triggers, like slime, in controlled settings over short bursts of time
  • Having open discussions with friends and family
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