I am a mother of three amazing, talented, strong, self-assured, and couragous young women who between the three of them have a million stuffed animals! Some still have the honor of sleeping on their beds, some live in rubber maid containers in our basement, and one or two even have a spot on the shelf in my office.
I won’t lie, I bought most of them. I am a sucker for a stuffed animal of any shape or size! I myself even have a few in my room and one I still sleep with every night. We all have something that brings us comfort. During periods of stress and upheavel it is a natural response to seek out things that bring us comfort. Some people run or exercise, for others it can be a food or warm drink. A routine, a place, or even a favorite book can help bring comfort.
It took me awhile to figure out that for Nora it was not just one thing that brought Nora comfort but what we liked to call her entourage. From the time she was very small Nora would carry multipy things around. Usually it was a blanket and a couple stuffies but sometimes it included a couple books, a pillow, and her hat. When I look back it was during times of stress or upheavel that the entourage would get bigger. As she got older our patience became thinner. We would often end up in a battle with her about not bringing the entourage places like a fair, the church, or the mall. The more our frustration increased the more her need for the entourage would increase. Shortly before she was diagnosed with SPD one of these battles encured in which I would not let her bring her stuffies in the van. She had, what we like to call a category 5 meltdown that lasted hours. Now I had two other children so I knew what a temper tantrum looked like. I also knew that as quickely as they came once the kids knew I was not giving in the temper tantrum would end and they would carry on. This meltdown was not a temper tantrum but so much more. Of course, as every parent knows once you have said no you can’t go back (well at least you shouldn’t but lets face it we all have).
Then one day it hit me, the entourage was her need to find comfort in a world that overstimulated her. She had such little controll over the way her body percieved sensory input that the entourage was her coping stratagy. It also hit me that what did it matter if she brought her entourage wit her. Sure it was often a huge inconvenience for me because lets face it we all know who was holding the entourage when she was climbing a slide or swing on a swing. However, if it meant that she could cope better in the world then I would take the inconvenience any day. So after that day we found away to bring her entourage with us in a more convenient way for us both. I purchased a small backpack that was only used for her special things. We set a limit that only what could fit in the backpack could come plus one blanket. The backpack went everywhere and as she grew it often only went from the house to the van and back. During more stressful times, like our military moves, she was allowed two bags which I promise you where filled to the rim. As her needs changed so did the contents of her backpack.
Today Nora no longer needs her entourage unless we are overnighting. She has three faithful friends who she has slept with since she was 4. Over the years there have been other stuffies, a weighted starfish for her lap, books that were torn and ragged, and the same green blanket my mom made for her when she was a baby. There also was the bunny hat. For a few years Nora wore the same wool hat regardless of the tempature or season. I can’t tell you how many times I had to bit my tongue in the middle of summer when she would be wearing it. Or the times I would sneak into her room after she fell asleep to take it off and kiss her forehead. The hat sits beside her bed on a shelf still today…..just in case she needs it. Today this amazing young lady can use her words to articlutate what she feels and knows how to cope in a world that overwhelmes her so her need for the entourage is gone.
We all love the things that bring us comfort and ground us in a world that is often chaos. For children with SPD and honestly I believe all children that need for comfort is greater. They don’t have the language yet to explain their feels and they have such little control over their lives so these objects give them a small bit of comfort. So for as long as Nora will let me I am happy to tuck lamby, bunny, jagzy, and her in at night. It brings me comfort to know that she has these creatures of comfort to help her in this world.