Thanksgiving Dinner with Sensory Processing Disorder


Thanksgiving. A time with family and friends, good food, good times and good memories. I think it’s ingrained into the brain of a mom to imagine a picture perfect Thanksgiving dinner. A beautiful table setup with all the food coming out hot, on time and cooked to perfection. The family sitting nicely together, getting along and praising the kids for eating such a wide variety of foods.

But then there’s reality. While we all struggle trying to make the holidays as awesome as we can, it’s a bit much to handle when you’ve got an unwelcome guest. In my family, its name is Sensory Processing Disorder.

Sensory processing disorder is a condition where the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. There are triggers everywhere that I can’t even begin to comprehend. And since my son had a speech delay, he communicated solely through meltdowns for a long time.

So imagine Thanksgiving. Being in someone elses home is a trigger. So is the noise of conversation. The weird smells of foods he never eats. Strange rooms, a different color carpet, a pet that he’s never encountered, family he doesn’t see often, I could go on and on. Instead of the joy we used to experience, holidays started feeling like strenuous obligations instead of happy occasions.



In years past, we had no clue what we were dealing with. We were as confused as anyone as to why he acted the way he did. We didn’t know how to deal with it, and it showed. Things were tough. I wasn’t. Not anymore. Now that we can put a name to my sons behavior, things are going to change. Now we know there’s a reason he acts the way he does, even if we don’t understand it. Now we can show up for holidays armed with distractions, foods that he will eat, and a bit more grace for his meltdowns. Maybe even a bit more grace for ourselves.

So to our families…

You may find us hiding in the kitchen with a glass of wine, hiding in the bathroom, or roaming the house looking for our boy. We may run off mid-sentence to prevent trouble, or cut you off to yell at him to stop touching something. We will not both be able to sit down and actually eat, and some food may end up on the floor. Ears may be pierced with screams and you might even get kicked if you happen to be standing near him when he throws himself on the ground. By the end of the night, both of us will look even more tired and frustrated than the kids. But it’s okay. Because that means we survived another family holiday. Eventually it will get easier, and holidays will be less hectic. But in the meantime, thank you for having us. Thank you for inviting us over and over again, no matter how many times we’ve had to leave early or run around like maniacs. Thank you for not offering advice when we just needed peace. Thank you for not judging. Thank you for loving our boy even when he’s difficult to handle. Because he loves you all too, and despite how he acts, he’s been very excited to see you. And despite how tired we look, we are always happy we came.


You can also find this story on theMighty.

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