My Shift from Therapist to Mom of a Child with SPD

I am a Therapist Mother of a Child with SPD Having a child with sensory processing disorder can be a struggle. Being on the opposite end of services was too.

They never taught me about Sensory Processing Disorder in graduate school. I learned about sensory processing in the worst way possible. I was in a training for toddler mental health.


The professor was covering the topic of sensory integration. As the professor was talking, a check list started forming in my head:


They can have a hard time with mixed textures. Well my daughter can’t even eat solids and she is past a year old now.


They can have a hard time with clothes. My daughter won’t wear anything on her feet – but kids are like that, right?


They can be sensitive to noise and light. My baby has to wear sunglasses. She has since she was an infant. That happens.


They may have issues with the bath. My daughter refuses to go into the tub. We battle ever night. normal battle, right?


I left the class in complete denial. I thought – I don’t know about this toddler mental health thing – they think all toddler behavior is abnormal!   It took some time, but the realization started to sink in – my child, my only child, has SPD.


Ironically my new job was as a Toddler Mental Health Specialist with Early Intervention. I was like a double-agent. Therapist to parents of SPD children by day – mom to child of SPD by night. It was hard.


My child wouldn’t eat. She was starving to death – literally. She was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive. I felt like a failure. The Pediatrician assured me no child had ever starved to death. But, I watched her growth chart invert, as she refused to eat. She WAS starving.   I needed help.


Ten years ago, SPD was much less understood and I needed to get extra help and fast! Luckily, I had the knowledge and resources right at work. I reluctantly arranged for my own daughter to be assessed by the Early Intervention Team.   I worked for a large non-profit agency, so the people that showed up at my door didn’t know me and didn’t know what I did for a living. I was just a mom, like any other mom seeking services for her child.


There was the Speech Therapist, the Occupational Therapist, the Physical Therapist and the Early Interventionist all huddled in my small living room. I felt uncomfortable and self-conscious.   My daughter qualified for services. No surprise there. And an Occupational Therapist and Feeding Therapist started coming to my home once a week.


It was interesting to be on the other end of services.   The Occupational Therapist that came to my house worked for a different agency than myself and didn’t know my profession. She frequently criticized my lack of boundaries as my sensory seeking daughter climbed all over the couch or stood on the coffee table.


I always felt like a bad mom when she left.  


I never wanted any of the families I worked with to ever feel the way I felt. I made a concerted effort to be supportive and understanding when I was on the other side of services.  


As the years went on my professional and personal knowledge grew and expanded – and so did the struggles…  


She survived on four foods for many years.

She wore only cotton shirts and leggings.

I spent hundreds of dollars on clothing that was never worn.

I returned more shoes than I bought.

We never went to fireworks.

Baths were given standing up for over a year.

I had to give up on the idea of having a girly girl and keep her hair short.

I paid double the amount on haircuts to go to a kids hair salon with TVs for distraction.

I tolerated the judgmental looks from hair stylists as they combed through my daughter’s knotty hair.

I gave up on cute clothes and sometimes even matching clothes.


And then over time… things got a little better.


She no longer threw clothes at me.

I would find a pile left in her closet.

When clothes felt good – we bought them in every color they came in.

I bought packs and packs of the exact same brand of socks and underwear.

Her food list started to grow.

Her tolerance for baths and swimming grew.

She wore JEANS (stretchy ones), but they count!


Fast forward ten years and you would hardly know my daughter once had any struggles.  


When my second child refused any food except banana yogurt for six months – I was much calmer. When he had a hard time transitioning from shorts to pants – I got it. When he needed to change his underwear a bazillion times a day because he thought they were wet – I understood.


When my third child came onto the scene and started licking everything in sight – it didn’t freak me out…as much. When she refuses to wear shirts at home – I allow it.  


I am not that same young mom and therapist I was eleven years ago. I eat, live and breathe anxiety and sensory issues. I am okay with being a double agent now. Sometimes the best helpers are those that are in the trenches right next to you.  

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15 responses to “My Shift from Therapist to Mom of a Child with SPD”

  1. WOW! I LOVE this post! I appreciate your honesty here about the feeling of being on the receiving end of the services. I felt very much the same as I transitioned from Special Education (Early Intervention) teacher to full time parent of a child with sensory differences. I was so glad to read that you took your not-so-wonderful experiences you had while receiving services, and made sure to be extra sensitive to those YOU serve. What a great asset you must be to that population of people you serve! This is beautiful! I look forward to sharing it with my readers!

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thanks Wendy. It so different when you are the one receiving services – right? It definitely makes me more understanding and empathetic to those I work with!

  2. I so wish I knew more about child development when my first son was a baby. He wasn’t diagnosed with SPD until he was nearly five, but I knew something was off for a long, long time…I just didn’t know what it was. I, too, was much easier going with my second child, who also has some sensory issues. Having a child (or children) with SPD will never be easy, but having knowledge can make the journey so much more manageable. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thanks for stopping by Jennifer. I agree – the more you know the easier SPD is to handle. It seems to get easier with each child I have.

  3. Erin says:

    How horrible that professionals made you feel like a bad mom, but so glad that it was able to help you assist other families. Such a comfort to hear you say that you would hardly know your daughter had any sensory issues. It’s amazing how we grow as well with our children. My son hardly ever wears underwear when we are sitting at home (and sometimes when we go out).

  4. Jackie says:

    Did you ever tell them you’re a therapist?!?! I’d love to know if that changes their perspective. I findit so interesting that you have experienced SPD as a mom and therapist and can’t wait to keep reading your multilayered experience. So glad your daughter is doing well, my son too. We def grow with them. All my best, Jackie
    Jackie recently posted…Disneyland As Sensory TherapyMy Profile

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thanks for reading Jackie! I never told the OT, but I did tell the feeding therapist – as we started to work with the same families. Talk about uncomfortable! Eventually I just learned how to do everything myself and ended services. I am glad to hear your son is doing better!

  5. Jessica says:

    I can relate so much to feeling like the “double agent”. As an educator, I felt a lot of guilt at first that I didn’t notice the signs in my son earlier. When he received his diagnosis, I realized that I knew very little about the world of sensory processing, autism, OT, etc. However, it has made me much more compassionate towards the other parents who I meet with as an educator, because now I know how it feels to sit at the “other side of the table”. Sounds like you’re doing a great job as a mom! 🙂

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thanks Jessica! It can definitely help to know what it feels like on a personal level. No textbook can teach that.

  6. We need more people like you in “the system”!!!!
    I know my education and experiences make me much better able to advocate for my children, along with being, as several have mentioned, more empathetic. Direct experience is a deep teacher, and almost impossible to get in a clinical setting…
    Full Spectrum Mama recently posted…MORE OR LESSMy Profile

  7. I can’t imagine being the one in the classroom hearing their child being described! But thank goodness you also figured out how to help your daughter!

    Thanks for being a part of The Sensory Spectrum’s blog hop!

    Jennifer @ The Jenny Evolution, The Sensory Spectrum

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Yes, at first it was very disheartening – but good in the end. Thanks for hosting the sensory blog hop Jennifer 🙂

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