FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

McDonald’s (again)

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jan• 20•13

mcd cool (2)I should have known this wasn’t a good day to go to McDonald’s. The lack of an empty seat in the Play Place area. The high-pitched squeals and screams were louder than usual. Both of these should have been clear warning signs.

I thought about making up some phony excuse to tell D why we had to leave, but when he disappeared into the play structure, I ignored the voice inside me saying, “this is not a good day to come to McDonald’s.”

I knew the increased noise might tip his hypersensitive senses overboard, and I would be culpable for whatever might happen because I knew he has difficulty regulating his body whenever his sensory system is overly stimulated.

And then I heard it. A long wailing cry coming from inside a yellow octagon. I followed the sound of the crying to the octagon, but a mother had beat me there and was holding her daughter.

The blond-hair girl was small and frail. Probably three years old. I asked the mom if she knew what happened, and the few details she gave me confirmed my suspicion that D was the culprit.

“It was a boy.”

“Do you know which one?”

“The one with the hood.”

My son. She said he had been on top of her daughter, and when I found D in a nearby tunnel, he verified the mom’s account. So we left and I pondered this question, “Should I keep bringing my son to McDonald’s?”

There was an incident at an indoor playground when D pushed a boy into a wall, leaving a huge bump on his forehead and two pissed off parents, when he was on sensory overload.

There have been a few other “close calls,” and many good days. This means, I am realizing, that my discretion is critical to determine when is a good or bad time for us to come to McDonald’s.

Thus, when I saw double the usual number of kids and heard the ear-piercing shrieks, I should have listened to my inner voice saying, “this is not a good day to come to McDonald’s.”

My gut feeling said, leave right now, and I should have recognized the noise was more than he could handle. It was more sensory input than his sensory system could handle.

And so I was responsible–just as much as D, if not more, for his behavior–because I knew the noise level would wreak havoc on his sensory system, leaving him unable to control his body.

At the moment of decision, I rationalized to myself, D needs practice regulating his body in chaotic environments, so he will be able to handle a noisy classroom or playground in a school setting.

So this is what I concluded: D deserves to keep coming to McDonald’s, just as every other kid does. He is learning to regulate his sensory body, just as all kids are learning different things.

And I am learning to understand my son’s body, to know the difference between a good and bad time to come to McDonald’s, and to explain to D why it’s not a good time to be here.

To the mother of the three-year-old blond hair girl in the yellow octagon, I wish I could explain to her how D’s sensory system is different than a neuro-typical kid.

But how do you explain this to a parent of a neuro-typical kid, who probably doesn’t understand there is such a thing as a kid with a neuro-atypical sensory system?

I never knew there was such a thing as a neoro-atypical kid, or knew of the vestibular system–tiny canals in our ears responsible for integrating external information from our senses–until D’s occupational therapist told me about it.

His OT said if D’s vestibular system is out of whack he may have difficulty feeling the weight of his own body. This would explain his trouble regulating his body in stimulating environments.

See what I mean? It seems impossible to explain to an angry parent how your child may not able to feel his own body when he is in a over stimulated state. It’s much easier for a mom to be critical for his behavior.

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