July 23, 2017
advice articles
RJ’s Sensory Processing Disorder

RJ’s Sensory Processing Disorder

Dear R.J. 

 I am a huge fan and long time watcher of your you tube channel.   I was interested by the web-site and curious about S.P.D.  What kind of help did you get and are you better to handle the sensory problems that you had. Hope that you are a lot better now.  Did not know if it is a life long problem or a strictly childhood problem. 

Much love,

-Matt 

Well, first off, thanks a lot for your long-time support. It’s always nice to hear that people enjoy what we’re doing here.

As for the Sensory Processing Disorder, first let me clarify a few things. The term “Sensory Processing Disorder” is a bit of a blanket term. That is, it’s a single name that covers a pretty wide array of problems. All of these problems, in some way, have to do with the brain and its ability to make sense of the information that it gets from your senses (of which there are more than five, by the way). I can’t give you a better overall definition, since I’m not really an expert in the subject matter. I can say, though, that in my case, I suffer from hypersensitivity to stimuli. To put it simply, everything in my head sort of has the volume turned up. I’m still getting the same information as any other average person, just more intensely. Exactly how much more intense is beyond me, since I have no way to really judge my experience versus someone else’s. But I’ve had it pretty much my entire life. You could say I was “born this way”…

While I’m certain that I’ve had this disorder for my entire life, we didn’t know about it until I was in my mid teens. It’s not that we didn’t think something was wrong, it’s just that no one really knew much about SPDs until then. Looking back, I showed plenty of symptoms as a kid. I would tie my shoes so tight that my feet would bleed. I would freak out any time there was a loud noise or someone touched me too roughly. We just had no idea what might be the underlying cause. I was just odd and overly-sensitive. There really weren’t a whole lot of options available for treatment or therapy, so instead, my parents put me into martial arts for several years. Their rationale was that, if I didn’t want people to hit me, then I had better learn how to defend  myself. If they couldn’t address the problem directly, then I should be put in an environment where I’d be forced to adapt.

And so I did. My drive to overachieve and my competitive and stubborn nature won out. I began to excel. I even got so far as to become the second best Tae Kwon Do fighter in the country at one point. So before you feel tempted to criticize my folks for using what some might consider a rather Draconian approach to my situation, know that it worked. Furthermore, I don’t regret a single second I spent there, even if there were many moments of pain and discomfort. Not to mention the fact that a martial arts studio is still a fairly controlled environment. School bullies, on the other hand, exercise little to no restraint).

It wasn’t until later that my mom, who works with young children, was reading a book about SPDs (I think it was called The Out-of-Sync Child). She called me in from the next room and made me read a passage about one particular case study. I can’t remember exactly what it described, but I do remember what I said before I even finished reading that page: “Oh my God, that was me…” By that point, though, there was not a whole lot for us to do. I had come out of my shell, learned to function on a somewhat normal level, and started developing something that resembled a social life. Sure, I still had a few issues, but we’ll get into those in later posts. Point is, by the time we had an idea what was wrong, there really wasn’t much to do about it.

So, to answer your question, the bulk of my problems with SPD affected me during my childhood and are over now. For the most part, I’m able to function normally. I do have the occasional issue with say, an unexpected loud noise. On very rare and scattered occasions I do experience issues with sensory overload. When that happens I sort of shut down and have difficulty doing anything. I’m told, though, that I manage to cope with it well enough that people don’t notice. Hell, I have to remind Will sometimes that I have it. Nothing’s changed in my head, mind you, I’ve just learned to cope.

I attribute my success to a simple revelation that occurred to me at some point during my martial arts career and that I’ve done my best to live by since then: no one ever became a stronger person by staying inside of their comfort zone. It was only through pushing my boundaries, both physically and mentally, that I managed to accomplish virtually everything that I have done thus far. What started as a basis for survival has since become a mantra that has pushed me to do extraordinary things. I take great pride in the fact that I’ve been able to show my old doctor footage of my old aerial acrobatics routine, and have him say, “Is that you? That can’t be you. You’re not supposed to be able to do that…” Also, since SPD diagnoses are a relatively new occurrence, I think it’s my responsibility to serve as an example to the awkward little kids who follow in my timid, shuffled footsteps. I feel like I almost owe it to these kids to be the most extraordinary individual I can be. That way, in the future, someone like my mom can look a parent in the eyes and say, “I think your child has X type of sensory processing disorder. Don’t worry, though, because look at what someone like R.J. Aguiar was able to accomplish, and he had the same problems as a child.”

So, yeah, let’s hope I can pull that off. In the meantime, I hope that I adequately answered your question.

-RJ

About RJ

RJ is a blogger/vlogger/writer and the other half of the NotAdamandSteve duo. When he's not making videos or writing stuff online he's usually working out, traveling, telling you factoids you never asked for, working out, or spending quality time with his new husband and German Shepherd.

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