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Stadium Seating and SPD

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SPD and Stadium Seating

Do your kids act out in stadium seating? Or have a meltdown? Could it be a physical reaction instead of behavioral? I know I couldn’t articulate how I was feeling until recently, and I’m a mom!

I’ve always had issues with heights, elevators, floor-to-ceiling windows in skyscrapers, but I’ve dealt by staying clear of danger spots for me and I’m able to keep myself feeling grounded. It’s amazing how we adapt. But lately, it seems everywhere I turn I’m trapped in some awful, steep, stadium and I feel horrible.

Is your kiddo a prime candidate for Stadium Seating and SPD issues?

Quite possibly if they have any of the issues below:

  • Get carsick.
  • Can’t watch shows like Modern Family with jerky camera movements.
  • Rides similar to California Adventure’s Soaring are torturous
  • Hard time feeling grounded on escalators and elevators.
  • Crossing bridges is challenging (at park or on a hike).
  • Heights in general are an issues for them. They keep their swinging low.

My own personal “Don’t Look Down” moments triggered this SPD and stadium seating connection.

First, we went to a movie theater and the room was tiny and cram packed with chairs, practically on top of each other. We climbed the stairs to our seats that were in the center, middle isle. The stairs were particularly steep and I felt woozy on the way up, maybe because the commercials were already playing on the big screen. My neck became hot, my vision fuzzy, and I felt like I was on a roller coaster. I sat down and braced myself and put my feet up on the chair in front of me. No matter how hard I tried to self-regulate, I was dizzy and discombobulated.  And worse, I could barely speak.

With my heart racing, my date was absolutely flabbergasted that I had such a strong reaction, but helped me down to the bottom row of seats where I was able to watch the movie without my heart pumping into my ears.

I thought this may have been an isolated event, but I thought back to when my son was in kindergarten and had a field trip at a local theater. I was put in charge of five kids and they told us to find our seats. Of course they ended up being in the front of the top tier, looking out over the stage. While I wrangled the little ones into their seats I found myself teetering and having to sit down. I proceeded to be ill for the duration of the play while I stared at the ceiling and tried to calm myself down. If I even looked over the balcony I would have fallen over, it was that bad. And I was in charge of children!

So I started to access my current SPD and stadium seating situation and wrote a list of all the places that give me that carsick feeling.

  1. Music Concerts
  2. Movie Theaters
  3. Baseball Stadiums
  4. Sea World Shows

And I began observing kids in these situations.

As a sensory detective, I took notes on my iPhone and witnessed that some kids had that same fearful look of panic that I did.

Instead of saying, “My sensory system is out of wack,” they had behavioral meltdowns.

Think about it. There is no way a 4 year old is going to know their vestibular system is wonky. They just feel awful and dizzy and so they whine, complain, become aggressive, can’t sit still, put their heads between their legs. Anything to try to feel better, but they don’t know they’re just trying to feel better. It’s a natural reaction when you have sensory dysfunction.

Stadium Seating and SPD

Things You Can Do To Help Your Kiddo

If you’ve shelled out some serious cash for a Taylor Swift concert or a Padres game and your kiddo is having a meltdown or feels ill, here are some tips for before you leave home and during any sensory crises.  

Get the inner ear fluids moving. It’s best to start BEFORE you leave the house, but continue when you park the car. Try bear walks. Swinging (if close to a park). Hopping, skipping and jumping jacks are good. A few yoga poses if you know any. Any movement that your child prefers.

Purchase tickets in a good spot. Either down close to the floor or at the end of a row so they can exit quickly if needed. Avoid balconys or areas that are overlooking a ledge. Try to find an area that has a secure backing, such a some of the areas by doorways have a wall behind them.

Use The Railing. When going up or down the stairs, encourage your child to hold on to the railing. This helps regulate as they’re moving and will help keep them steady. You may need to hold their stuff!

Snacks and water! Bring your child’s preferred foods or purchase something they will eat. Often if they’re full and hydrated then their sensory system feels better. But not stuffed, don’t let them gorge on junk food and then feel worse.

Technology. Sometimes if my kiddos feels awful, he can watch his tablet or play a game on it and it centers him. If this is something your child responds well to, bring it. Even if he’s listening to his headphones and ignoring the game. Let her self regulate.

Be patient and kind. There’s nothing worse than feeling sick and your mom is yelling at you because she’s missing a baseball game or the much anticipated belting of “We’re Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Your child is not having a reaction on purpose, it’s out of their control. Take a breath and center yourself.

Do you have any other ideas or tips that work for you or your child with SPD? Do they feel like they’re on a tightrope when walking on the bleachers? We’d love to hear from you.

Does your child pull out her ponytails? Do they have to be just right on her head? Read our SPD and Ponytail article here.  

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