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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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Sensory Issues, Panic Attacks, and the Lack of Hugs

Written by Melissa Robertson
sensory disorder

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…unless your daughter has sensory issues. Then it’s such a hard time of the year.

Not only does Hannah have to deal with the regular anticipation, sugar highs and lows of the holidays, but she also has to deal with facing all of her challenges head on.

When Hannah is having a hard time, the last thing she wants to do is leave the house. Unfortunately for her, the holidays are a prime time for parties. Upon leaving the house for the first of many family get-togethers she had a panic attack. I’m sure many adults can relate to how absolutely debilitating they can be, but for a five-year-old they are especially traumatic.

Hannah hates crowds, she gets incredibly anxious in them. To make matters worse, she has many well-meaning relatives who can’t understand why she doesn’t want to be hugged or kissed or even talked to. Instead she needs a safe place to gather her courage to join the party.

In addition to parties, family dinners were also a challenge. The noise, crowds and food were all too much for Hannah. By Christmas night Hannah was done. We arrived at my aunt’s house and she was asking to go within 20 minutes. Luckily, my aunt just happened to purchase two of Hannah’s favourite things in the world for her Christmas present:  Lego and Superheroes. Hannah was able to play quietly in the hall and although she barely ate her meal and refused to allow anyone to play with her; it was the gift that saved Christmas.

Once all the hustle and bustle was finished and put away we had another challenge to overcome.

Hannah happily sat in a quiet corner while everyone played. I could not put into words what it feels like to see your child’s classmates greet each other and go play and realize your kid emotionally can not do that.

Hannah’s birthday party.

Now before I sound like the most clueless parent in the world let me explain. We have had a party for Hannah for the last two years. Each of the parties were at a loud play place full of kids and each time she was perfectly fine with it.

This year I wrestled with the idea of skipping the party in favour of a family getaway but changed my mind once school started. I realized that because Hannah takes the bus to school I don’t know any of the parents of her friends. From time to time she will ask for a play date and I realized I wouldn’t feel comfortable dropping her off with a stranger and neither would many parents feel comfortable dropping off their children not knowing me.

I decided the best thing to do would be to have a big party and invite her whole class to a play place. She got to bring the invitations to school before Christmas vacation.

As excited as she was to give out the invitations, Hannah did show some anxiety about the party. She insisted she wanted to have the party at home instead and invite friends here. Although that would have been a much cheaper option, the thought of 30 kids running around my house in January was enough to make me more than willing to shell out the money to move the mess out of my house.

The big day came and Hannah was a bundle of nerves. Despite the fact that we visit this play place regularly, she refused to move from my side to play with her friends. She actually wanted to be carried around. Hannah is a tall 40 plus pound five-year-old. I was greeting parents looking like the psycho mom who carries her five-year old on her hip. But what could I do? Hannah happily sat in a quiet corner while everyone played. I could not put into words what it feels like to see your child’s classmates greet each other and go play and realize your kid emotionally can not do that.

Not only was I dealing with Hannah’s meltdown, I was also trying to deal with my husband. He spent the two hours running around, counting kids, getting and dispersing tokens, anything to avoid small talk with the new parents. I don’t know which one was more work honestly.

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Sensory Issues


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