I wake to another day. A new, yet familiar set of challenges run through my mind. I dread waking up and dealing with the struggles that are so real to me but overlooked by many.
What to wear? Will I end up wearing the shirt with holes where I ripped out the tags again? Will I have to cut another shirt underneath my arms because I feel suffocated? Will the seam in my sock allow me to wear tennis shoes today? Will my pants feel uneven? Should I wear shorts? Then I would have to wear the most uncomfortable clothing of all – underwear.
My mom and I are both crying in rage. I am going to be late for school again. Why am I like this? Why can’t I be normal? Why do I feel crazy? I can’t do anything right. My face is blotchy so everyone will know I have been crying but the tears flow more. I can’t get myself together, I can’t stop, and now we are going to be late.
“Come on, we got to go ... where are you?” my mother says with frustration in her voice.
I am in the bathroom hysterical, throwing up. I let everyone down. The pressure of being on time has passed so I can (try to) focus on getting myself together. I can pull each pant leg down until they are even and away from my thighs. Forget the socks. I can twiddle with my shoelaces until there is the perfect amount of space between my foot and the tongue of the shoe. Finally, we are on the way to school. I look up and realize my mom is trying to drive through the closest entrance.
“Mom, turn around! You went in the wrong way! You know we have to go in the first entrance and go out the second,” I said, kicking the back of her seat.
It is only 9:30 a.m.
I am now sitting anxiously in my second period. When will I be able to finish my test? When will I be able to rip these clothes off? When
will I be able to go to the bathroom and fix my pants? When will ANYBODY understand?
All I can hear is the plop coming from the tip of my classmate’s pencil clinging to her desk over and over again. When will she stop making that unbearable noise?
“You have five minutes left, class.”
I am only on question three of twenty. I spent more time worrying if each of the letters in my name were the same size. I will never finish. My test was collected after the sixth question but I am relieved. I can finally go fix my pants.
The tears start again because of all of the stress on my nine-year-old body. I run out of the bathroom for fear of the automatic flush that sounds like thunder in my head.
Who can help me? Who can I go to? Nobody even thinks it’s real. I want to go home but I’ve gone home early every day this week.
It is only 11:15 a.m.
Sensory Processing Disorder is only one of the hundreds of mental health issues that take a toll on kids’ everyday lives, including school. It can cause kids to feel so uncomfortable they cannot function, let alone learn properly. No one grows out of this type of disorder, but with help, we can succeed. Most schools have counselors, but as I did, many kids hide their problems. And what if there is a wait to see one? This is why we need more mental health awareness and curriculum.
Over the years, South Carolina has implemented many positive changes that support students’ special needs to help us succeed. Despite this, as the world changes so do the programs that should be supported in our schools. IEP and 504 plans (individual accommodation plans) provide some very effective tools that are indeed needed, but I feel South Carolina needs to implement more evidence-based social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum and programs.
According to Positive Action’s research, schools that have implemented Positive Action’s SEL programs have seen a significant reduction in violence, bullying incidents, absenteeism, suspensions, and disciplinary referrals. It has been proven to heighten students’ confidence, emotional intelligence, and social skills. These improvements could only lead to benefits like fewer dropouts, higher motivation, and success. Our schools are making this state’s future managers, supervisors, and employees. Increased mental health awareness and curriculum can only improve South Carolina and its future workforce.