I heard my name being shouted from across the park. It was a frantic call for help, one I was surprised to hear. As I walked closer, I realized what was happening. We were at a park for a superhero-themed fundraising event. Because sounds often trigger anxiety for our son Blake, I was prepared and had brought earplugs for him. What I had not anticipated—nor had Blake ever experienced—was his absolute terror from seeing people dressed in costumes.
Blake is a beautiful boy with big brown eyes. From all outward appearances Blake is a typical kindergarten boy. However, Blake has a sensory processing disorder. Almost daily Blake fights battles that are invisible to others. As his mother, sometimes I am the only one who can anticipate or explain that he is not always typical. His special needs are invisible to others—until they are very obviously not, and Blake is covering his ears and crying and asking me to help him make it stop. The only thing that can help is removing him from the situation affecting him.
It is difficult to describe, especially as a five-year-old boy, what is being felt physically and mentally when Blake’s senses are taken over, and he is so overwhelmed that he experiences fight-or-flight. What would be simple for most people—deciphering a make-believe scenario or filtering extra sights, sounds, and smells—is beyond difficult for Blake. If broccoli is on the menu for dinner at our house, it is not just an unpleasant odor for him; it is gag-inducing.
He attends a wonderful school that frequently holds chapel in the gym. When school began, he could not convince himself that the sound in chapel was survivable. If he could, he would run as fast and far as possible in the opposite direction. When there is a situation we know might have a risk of being too loud and overwhelming, we use earplugs and make sure that either he, his teacher, or I can place them in his ears so that they block out as much sound as possible.
We are still figuring out what Blake’s triggers are. We are getting better at anticipating his needs. And we are thankful for a community of believers that tries to do the same for him.