{Sometimes} My S.P.D. Makes Me YELL at My Kids

Below is an excerpt from my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” I post it here because it is an important story to share and not just because sharing it gives me more strength to cope, but also and more so because sharing it will hopefully help you gain insight into some of your kid’s (and maybe your) behaviors. My hope is that said insight will help you gain empathy for your child’s sensory-related behavior and therefore help you “Yell Less, Love More.” My other hope is that if you comment, you comment with kindness and not judgement.


I am going to let you in on a very personal struggle, one that I have only shared with a handful of people in my life because it is so embarrassing and frustrating that I have just hid it and ignored it for years. Oh, how I hoped that it would just magically disappear and that I would finally be free of the pain and shame I feel whenever the struggle rears its wicked ugly head, which is at least three or four times a day. But it never disappeared and once I started the Orange Rhino Challenge, I could no longer hide from it, or run from it. When I started tracking my triggers and gaining deeper awareness as to what made me explode, I discovered—or rather, was finally forced to admit—that this little struggle of mine wasn’t just real, but it was also a really big (like gargantuan) trigger. Yes, there was no ignoring the fact that if I wanted to stop yelling, I needed to start managing this struggle of mine STAT no matter how hard it was.

Ya’ ready for my struggle?

I have Sensory Processing Disorder, also know as S.P.D.

Um, what the heck does that mean, you ask?

Block out NoiseIt means that I have “sensory attacks,” brought on by any, or all, of my five senses being overloaded to the point where I can’t keep myself together and I go from calm(ish) to anything-but in a split second. It might come on from too much noise or too much chaos, or maybe I feel too hot or my clothes feel too tight or itchy, or maybe I taste a mushy food or smell a disgusting odor, or maybe it is a combination of all of the above that sends my body “under attack.” Sometimes the attacks come completely out of the blue; sometimes I sense they are coming. Either way, I respond in what feels to be a very irrational, very over-the-top way. It can take thirty minutes to an entire day to feel calm again and in control of my body (and it takes a lot longer to forget the embarrassment and disgrace I feel for losing it).

During a “sensory attack,” I literally feel the physical desire to lose it in a rather aggressive manner. I feel like the inside of my body is on fire, that my body is trying to burn my skin so that it can get out and escape. I feel like I want to run away at full speed and keep running until I cool down, until my heart stops beating so hard my chest hurts, until my skin stops itching so much that I want to tear it off, until the intensity that overwhelmed me stops. My body, my mind, and my soul want to flee the intense physical response and displeasure they feel from the sensory attack, but they can’t.

I feel trapped and that’s because I am trapped, trapped at the mercy of the “sensory attack,” and all I can do once an attack has hit is to wait it out. And since I can’t flee the pain or the frustration, I fight. I fight my body by throwing things. I fight my body by crying. I have even fought my body by pulling my hair, by hitting my head. And I fight by yelling.

a text block-19I would love to write that my children have never witnessed one of my attacks, that they never saw me shove my dinner plate across the table and then refuse to eat because my Italian sausage was just the wrong texture at the wrong time. I would love to write that my boys never saw me tear a brand-new (and very fashionable and cool!) scarf off from around my neck and throw it in the garbage while yelling, “I hate clothes. Hate them, hate them, hate them! Nothing every feels right!” I would love to write that they never watched me go berserk when my husband turned on a sports radio show to catch “the big game” and all the scratchy noise of the poor reception made me start screaming at him uncontrollably to turn it off before I exploded. Yeah, I would love to say they have never witnessed any of the above, but that would be a lie.

And I would love, even more so, to write that my children were never the targets of one of my sensory attacks, but that would also be a lie. The bad news is that they have indeed been on the receiving end of one of my sensory moments, but the good news (okay, better than bad news) is that at least it was yelling and not worse. Oh, oh, how I have screamed bloody murder at them when my body just couldn’t handle another noise, no matter how discreet or unintentional.

I have yelled, “Back up now, or else!” when my kids innocently chewed popcorn near me, not next to me, but just near me, and with their mouths open so that I could hear every crunch.

I have yelled, “Be quiet NOW, it is just too much! I can’t stand it. I am going to leave!” when all my boys are talking at once and getting louder and louder so that they can each be heard over each other.

I have yelled, “Okay, enough of the hugging! I don’t want to be touched anymore! Get off of me!” Yeah, that was an awful thing to say, and worse, I have said it a lot.

And I have yelled at myself after the fact, “Get a grip! All you want is for your kids to be quiet and not overly playful because you can’t handle noise and chaos. Then why did you have kids?! And four of them?! All you do is constantly squash their joy and enthusiasm just because mommy can’t handle it. Seriously?” I have tried so hard my entire life to keep my S.P.D. under control and hidden. And when I became a mom, I did learn to control it better because there is nothing I wanted more than to love my kids and not unleash my wrath on them. And I did keep it under control many moments. But yes, there were moments that I didn’t, and those left me beyond humiliated, beyond discouraged, beyond heartbroken. What kind of example was I setting?!

But the good news, yes, the really good news, is that the Orange Rhino Challenge forced me to finally manage my S.P.D. My S.P.D. no longer causes me to Y.E.L.L.—yell exceptionally long and loud—because tracking my triggers increased my awareness and forced me to figure out how to manage this really big trigger.And luckily for me, at the same time that I became aware of and accepted my S.P.D. as a trigger, one of my sons started some occupational therapy for his own struggles with S.P.D. Everything he learned, everything he told me, and every exercise we did together to “help him” actually helped me learn how to manage my own S.P.D.

Tip #2I learned to do push-ups when I felt an attack coming on.

I learned to put earmuffs on when the noise overwhelmed me.

I learned to pull my fingers gently to calm down.

I learned to eat crunchy foods like apples to organize my mind when it felt fried.

I learned to take deep breaths, even though I hated to, big-time.

I learned to prioritize sleep because it is key to regulating my mood.

In fact, all these little tricks worked so well to help me cool down and prevent and put out sensory attacks that I decided to try them to help me cool down and prevent and put out yelling attacks as well. Well, wouldn’t you know … my S.P.D. tricks work great on Y.E.L.L. attacks too!

Looking back, learning to manage my S.P.D. has been a heck of a lot easier than I expected. Have I been able to make it completely disappear, as I have dreamed of for years? No, I am just the Orange Rhino, not a fairy godmother! But, but, in finally having a more complete awareness of the depth of the problem, I was able to start actually managing it to the point where it is no longer as major an issue, which let me tell you, is nothing short of awesome.Not only am I not yelling at my kids unnecessarily, but also I am much more able to model how to control emotions and calm down. This helps me sleep way better at night.


 YLLMcrop2“Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” is a 30-Day Guide complete with 100 Alternatives to Yelling, Simple Steps to Follow, and Honest Stories to Inspire you on your own journey. It is available for sale now at all favorite on-line retailers and in select stores. Click here to order from your favorite site.

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15 thoughts on “{Sometimes} My S.P.D. Makes Me YELL at My Kids

  1. Oh, man, I could have written this post about the SPD (not ever officially diagnosed, but as the years go by and I’ve traveled this road with my oldest I’m seeing how much I am affected by the sensory issues). I’ve never really thought about the triggers for me (for my oldest as a child he could handle chaos only if it built up around him, drop him in it once it was started and he’d fall apart, let it build up around him and he flowed with it). We learned what some of his triggers were and either made sure to avoid them or come up with work-arounds if it was something that was unavoidable. I’ve just never stopped and thought that some of MY issues were really the SPD compounding things. You’ve given me something to consider and start watching. Thanks!

  2. Thank you so much for your story. I have just this year become aware of S.P.D. I am learning that several of my loved ones have it and you have no idea how grateful I am to read things from your perspective. From the outside, if you don’t know what you are dealing with, it can look like the person is just incredibly rude, or spoiled, especially if you are dealing with a child. I am so glad a friend pointed out your blog to me. Today, especially because of this post, I am starting my no yell challenge. And it is so much easier knowing that the little one that can make me so frustrated, is probably even more frustrated and having a hard time dealing iwth it. Love that you shared some of your tips for dealing with it. You can bet we will be trying some of them out as well as looking for the right therapy for us now. Thank you. This is huge for me.

  3. Were you formally diagnosed? I really feel this is my problem as well! I can so relate and it makes me sad but also gives me relief in knowing that maybe it really is an issue! Any input would be greatly appreciated!

  4. THank you so much for this!!! It brought me to tears! I have often wondered to my self why I act the way I do! I hate hate hate it!!! It seems to hit me worst when I get hot, or the kids argue with me, or someone is tapping their foot, or bouncing the couch next to me ( or just in my vision!) but mostly it’s the noise! Lol ok so it’s like all the time I guess! I can not even believe that i get so mad over nothing but when it hits I just lose it! I get sick to my stomach and so mad at my self! My husband gets so mad and can’t understand why I can’t control myself! I also have 4 kids 8, 4,3 and 9 months! I know that they need to just be kids! I love my babies more than anything and I always thought I’d be a super fun mon! My oldest one gets so upset and I can definitely see the same tendencies in her!
    We have an adopted nephew that suffers from sensory issues but I had no idea that they were anything other than food and touch! I always assumed I was just mad, Irish temper or like my father ( alcoholic with a bad temper)! Thank you!

  5. Thank you for sharing this – I too experience this. My anxiety levels rises if I can hear people eating, repetitive noises, too much noise for too long. Not coterminous with having children playing in a small house! My husband wants us to move.. again… and live in a city, in a small apartment. I could NOT manage.. I am trying so hard not to shout. I read an article last night, and will keep rereading until I set that bar higher http://www.peacefulparent.com/when-it-comes-to-discipline-where-do-you-draw-the-line/

  6. YES YES YES YESSSSS!!!!! I have SPD too, and the attacks happen so suddenly that whoever is in my path at the moment gets screamed, like……SCUH-REEEEEEEAAAAAAMED at. I have told my kids not to climb on me, hug me, breathe near me. I JUST found out about the SPD about 9 months ago, and I am amazed at all the things that are connected to it. And why I’m so out of control with the yelling.
    Full disclosure: I had been reading your posts for a little while recently, and I stopped, because I thought to myself, “Well, yeah, of course SHE can get a grip. She doesn’t have SPD. She has no idea what that feels like, and how out of my control this all is most of the time.” I had NO IDEA!!! FINALLY! Someone who GETS IT!!!!
    This is truly a life changing moment for me. Thank you for putting yourself and your journey out there so that we see that we are NOT alone in this. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  7. Oh wow. I have “attacks” like these, too, since early adulthood. I’ve called them all kinds of things and have suspected limbic seizures as the cause, but I wonder if there’s some mild SPD going on. I’ve known I’m overly sensitive to sounds and touch, which makes a crying baby/toddler who wants to be held very difficult for me at the end of the day, especially when evenings are filled with a chatty kindergartener and music on all through dinner. Thanks for sharing this and the management tips.

  8. I don’t have SPD, but I am a highly sensitive person and can relate to some of the same feelings. Elaine Aron’s research and books on the topic have been life changing for me. Especially in helping to peel away shame for being different than the norm in a culture where being highly sensitive isn’t always valued. Check out the test and find out more at hsperson.com.

  9. Wow. I teared up reading through that …
    I would bet that my (abusive) father had SPD. And I would bet that I do too. I’ve discovered some of your SPD solutions/coping by accident, specifically in determination to change the yelling and outbursts now that I have children who would inevitably be on the receiving end.

    That was AMAZING to read. Thank you for sharing your journey!

    <3
    Taura

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this. My son has recently started getting OT for SPD and dyspraxia, which has helped me a lot with dealing with him, but it never occurred to me to use the same techniques I use on him to help myself cope. I don’t think I have SPD, but I do have times when I’m out-of-sync and I just can’t stand to be touched. And I too have told my kids to stay away from me and stop touching me, many, many times. I will keep these ideas in mind next time I’m feeling uncomfortable in my own skin and getting close to yelling.

  11. I have Asperger’s and as part of that have similar sensory processing issues to what you describe here. The sensory overload is a huge (perhaps biggest) trigger for me. It can be really hard for my son to understand sometimes and hard to get the break I need. I hope you’ll post more tips about how you have learned to deal with it “in the moment” to avoid yelling/overreacting, as that’s one of my biggest challenges… it takes so long to calm down and it’s not always possible to remove/block out everything.

  12. Another reader thanking you for sharing this! I’ve also come to realize this is a huge trigger for me. And I run into conflict with my preschooler all the time because he LOVES loud noise and I can’t bear it. Several people have suggested evaluating him for SPD, but every time I read the checklists of symptoms, I would think, “wait, that’s not him, that’s ME!” My two year old has already started parroting me saying “I need a break, please leave me alone!” which makes me cringe SO hard because I never wanted to be that mom trying to get away from her kids. But I’ve had to realize getting away is better than yelling at them.

  13. I couldn’t have read this at a better time. It’s like in my mind I’ll will think,” I can handle this, I can handle this, I CAN’T HANDLE THIS!” I never knew what to call it. In fact, I was coming back to your site specifically to look at your worksheet for triggers, hoping I could figure something out. Thank you for sharing this, you have probably helped a lot of moms out there by describing this feeling. I feel so ashamed and worry about how I’ve impacted my kids by having these snaps. I also kept thinking I could never succeed at the Orange Rhino Challenge because of this. But if you are describing how I feel then maybe I can. Thank you for doing what you do.

  14. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been haunting for a little while, made a few changes during the past year. But the area I still struggle so much with is noise. (I occasionally have the touched out issue.) 75% of my blowups are straight up because I cannot handle the noise level in my house. We have 3 kids 5 and under, and would like to have one or two more, but I have talked with my hubby about not having any more, simply because I can’t handle the noise now. I want to really get a handle on this this year.

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