Take a look at this photo of me, my sister, and my cousins from 1989. I'm the bangs and bow in the front row, in case you weren't sure. How could you know? Well, for one, I'm the only one making that face on what other (read: neurotypical) kiddos would call a fun ride. My cousin, waving carelessly into the summer air, is holding the wheel, as am I, but where his arm is slack, my arm is taught. I am clearly hanging on tightly while the car spins round and round, my smile stretched thin. It's a strange feeling seeing this photo 24 years after it was taken. I have always been a camera hog, seizing any moment to purposefully pose in full, gleaming grin. But here, this little girl, she's unaware of the camera and the photographer. She's so clearly scared and uncertain.
Where am I looking? Out somewhere, into the distance - maybe even lost inside, reeling from the input. I've made this face before. My husband points it out to me when I've hit my sensory limit. "That's your sensory face," he emails me matter-of-factly from work, after seeing the photo, "it's how I can tell you're having sensory issues when I'm not near you."
Sometimes I forget that I'm not just an adult with SPD. I was a kid with SPD too . . . just no one had heard of it back in the 80s.
I find myself whispering at the photo, comforting her - me - as she - we - prepares for another pass around the circumference of the ride. "It's going to be okay," I plead softly with the face of my past, "this will ultimately make you stronger. This will be given a name. This will make you an advocate, compassionate, a cheerleader and champion of those in need of support."
"It's going to be okay. This will make you - us - me."