Editor’s note: Woody Sims is an18 year-old with SPD. He is about to graduate from high school and will be attending Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Woody is a remarkable young man who became a part of the SPD Foundation and STAR Center family many years ago when he came for occupational therapy. Over the years, Woody has volunteered his time to help in any way he could. His parents, who own a few local restaurants, have also been incredibly supportive of the Foundation by catering numerous events over the years at no charge. We wanted to share Woody’s success story, which just so happens to be his entrance essay for college. Thank you, Sims family, for your devoted support.
By Woody Sims
I was never what you could consider a “normal” boy. Sure I was in boy scouts for a year or so, I enjoyed cartoons, and I played imaginary future army games with my friends from time to time. However, most of the time I spent my days pretending a picnic table on the playground was a computer, my friends were vampires, and my basement was a haunted mansion. While that could be chalked up to good old-fashioned imagination, my deep fears of loud noises, cooked carrots, and handwriting, however, were something else entirely.
After much research and many consultations, it became clear I had a condition called Sensory Processing Disorder, SPD for short. Basically, those with SPD can’t process stimuli correctly. Either they get overloaded with stimuli and can’t handle it, or they end up with too little stimuli and actively crave more. I was over-stimulated, which meant I couldn’t handle certain textures, and freaked out at loud noises. I also had problems managing tasks with multi-sensory inputs, like handwriting and catching a ball. These sensory problems meant that sports, driving, and concerts would all be things I couldn’t ever do or see without a great deal of difficulty.
Despite the multiple negatives, there was still a positive twist. SPD wasn’t, and still isn’t, recognized as a condition. Not enough research had been done on it in time for the psychiatric handbook refresh. One of the biggest arguments against SPD as a diagnosis was that these complications, over- and under-stimulation, could easily be ADD or even Autism. Lucky for me, they needed someone with signs of SPD and without ADD or Autism for their research, and I fit the bill perfectly. I would be able to get treatment as part of the study, and the usually expensive therapy would be free.
The best treatment for SPD was Occupational Therapy, which in essence had me moving between different styles of platforms suspended from the ceiling over a floor covered in gym mats. My therapist, a nice British woman named Andrea, told me which platform to move to, and I would try to get there. At first, I struggled. Some platforms were easy enough to get on, and would only take a couple of tries. There was one, though, that was evil. It was basically a gymnastic vault horse, covered in padding, and suspended from the air without any handles. It was nearly impossible to grip, since it hung higher than most of the other platforms, and it was always just a little bit out of reach. Sometimes I would spend an entire hour trying to get on that annoying horse, and still never get it. Weeks passed, and I managed to squirm onto it if my therapist held the platform closer. Then one day, without any help, I reached for the horse, pulled it closer, got my leg over, and it was over. I had conquered the horse. In my moment of glory, I heard Andrea say, “Good, Woody. Now, move that one.” The phrase “get back on the horse” never had more meaning.
In the end, I’m still not a normal kid. I often prefer the company of myself to the company of friends, I listen to dance music, even when I’m not dancing, and my current dream careers consist of Imagineer at Disney or CEO of Disney. The only difference is that now I play varsity basketball, sit in the front row at concerts, and hate cooked carrots because of their flavor, not their texture. As for the other stuff, I think why be normal? Being different is way more fun.