2023 – Kezia Holt – HWRA – Bountiful HS
Embracing my Challenges
I pulled on my jeans and yelled, “bugs are crawling on my legs!” I was two years old and trying to get dressed for the day. Bugs were not literally crawling on me, but that is what it felt like. Exasperated, my mom encouraged me to touch every article of clothing before I put it on. As a child, I was diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Sights, sounds, smells, and textures affect me more intensely than the average person, causing overstimulation by my environment. This makes completing schoolwork in class difficult. It takes me longer to process information and make decisions.
There are different kinds of Sensory Processing Disorders. Some people are hyposensitive and do not receive enough feedback from their environment, so they search for excessive stimulation. Others, like myself, are hypersensitive, and are prone to becoming stressed or overwhelmed by their environment. I experience the world differently than most people, which can be a detriment, but also carries advantages. I am aware of subtleties and process information deeply. I like to create and love smelling the mixtures of aromas on a hike or while cooking. I am empathetic and can detect someone’s emotions through their body language and social cues. Although difficult, there are interventions I’ve obtained from individuals along my path to live a resilient life with SPD. Specifically through therapy, hard work, and perseverance.
In sixth grade, I participated in six months of Occupational Therapy to find coping strategies for my SPD. My therapist taught me that everyone has a sensory cup. Mine was the size of a tea cup. I explored ways to both enlarge the cup and empty it often. I uncovered meditation and exercise were the best ways to relieve my triggers. I spend ten minutes daily breathing and relaxing in a quiet, dark space. This soothes my buzzing senses. I also perform rigorous exercise such as hiking, running and horseback riding which releases the tension and stress from the day.
Second, I learned to work hard for success. Since elementary school, math was my hardest subject. Starting in eighth grade, I regularly woke up early to get help from my math teacher. We went over my homework together and she showed me how to solve the problems I had questions on. This math teacher later nominated me for the Student of the Month because of my tenacity and desire to succeed. Through her patience, and many supportive teachers since, I now thrive in my Statistics math class.
Unfortunately, even now there are times that my SPD interferes with my educational and social interactions. Tap, tap, tap went a pencil against the edge of my desk. I was supposed to be taking a writing test, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything except the persistent tapping that grew louder and louder. For forty five minutes I could not focus on anything else. People touching my personal property, crowded birthday parties, and loud noises send me into a tailspin. Yet, I persevere through these challenges. It would be much easier to sit alone in class, stop attending social events, or not go to amusement parks. However, I don’t want to limit my experiences due to my SPD, so I carry on. I use creative strategies to interact with my environment. I calmly tell others not to touch my things. I socialize with small groups of peers and I wear earplugs to amusement parks and concerts. I don’t have it all figured out, but I try to live each day to the best of my abilities.
Living with SPD is not easy, like so many other obstacles people face. Despite the hardships, I’m blessed by it. Managing my SPD taught me that I get out the effort I put in. Each day everyone has choices. They can choose to let life’s hurdles tear them down or discover the invaluable contributions that their unique personalities and experiences make. I choose to embrace my challenges. They drive me to become better, ultimately encouraging those around me to do the same.
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