Saturday, February 13, 2010
Sense and Sensibility
Though he hasn't been evaluated or diagnosed yet, my son's teacher at preschool recently suggested that he exhibits behaviors that may be consistent with a sensory processing disorder. I wasn't alarmed by this, since he is a bit quirky, and since I know several children who have received this diagnosis and received treatment for it. When I plunged into the waters of the primary source of all knowledge -- Google -- and found this checklist, however, I wondered if I didn't have it, too, especially in the area of hypersensitivity to sound.
As a child, I couldn't stand to watch t.v., a habit that's stuck with me, because I found the low-pitched buzz that the television made acutely disturbing. As a parent, I physically cringe and do cartoon-like double-takes at every normal-household-decibel-level whine and shout, and even at the ringing of the telephone, until, by the end of some days, I am in the blackest of noise-induced moods. When I met my husband, I was intensely drawn to him, among other reasons, for the beauty of his speaking voice, and rejected another suitor around the same time because (among other reasons) there was something about his voice that bothered me (based on his later denunciation of me, this seems not to have been a bad decision). In spite of the fact that I'm a professional musician, I often find it difficult and unpleasant to listen to music, because it absorbs my attention so completely that I feel as if I become the slave of what I'm hearing, right down to my very cells. And music of all kinds makes me weep (interestingly, my sister, the only one of us four siblings who did not become a professional musician, exhibited this same propensity as a baby). And don't get me started on the sense of smell.
My son has been telling me lately, "Mommy, we are twins," which I chalked up to your common house-and-garden Oedipal complex, but perhaps he's more right than he realizes. My friend H., disability activist and author of the now-defunct blog Retired Waif (as well as one of the most brilliant and fascinating people I know), once guffawed loudly when I referred to myself as "neurotypical," and replied, in a voice dripping with sarcasm, "Oh right, Pentimento, you are the poster girl for neurotypicality." I wonder now if I would have made entirely different choices in my life if I had been the kind of person who was not wholly unsettled by the hum of a television.
And, come to think of it, when M. gave me a copy of Remembrance of Things Past years ago, and told me that Proust had lived in a cork-lined room on coffee brewed with milk, I found myself nodding my head in total sympathy with the neurasthenic author; it sounded like a good kind of life to me.