At 19 months of age, Daniel became Hat Hunter. Anything was fair game, starting with cereal bowls. The fact they were filled with cereal and milk wasn’t a hindrance to his head-covering quest. Tupperware, circular wooden bird toys, and sand buckets followed.

He added a sibling rivalry twist – sneaking into his sister’s room, tiptoeing back out adorned in her “Heidi braids”, his favorite booty. Although loud, sudden noises were often an issue for him, his sister’s shrill shriek didn’t send him scurrying to a hiding place. Instead, he’d observe with cool detachment, never showing any sign of fear or joy. It seemed when her shrieks diminished to a bored, “Oh, you, put that back in my room, please”, the braid-headband became less attractive to him.

Later, he developed a sense of style, collecting a wide variety of baseball caps from kindly grandfather-types we met while camping. He learned quickly, offer a manly handshake while hyper-focusing on their baseball cap, 9 times out of 10 they’ll move the cap from their head to his. I believe he considered himself to have remote-control powers over other humans.

When his language development improved to the point he’d respond to my questions, I asked him why he liked wearing hats. Why, what, where, who, when were always the most difficult, intangibles for him, sending him into deep-thought mode. Using his pointer-finger, drawing large concentric circles on his head, he finally matter-of-factly answered, “it helps to keep my brains in my head, Mommy, or they will fall out”.

It was doubtless as honest a description as anyone will ever get as to what Sensory Integration Dysfunction and Autism feels like inside his head.

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