Most Popular Post of 2017: Why Are Many Adoptees and Foster Kids Clumsy?

Run into walls? Drop dishes way too often? Feel like the sound of the vacuum is a screaming siren in your head? Do people laugh at you because you’re so clumsy?

How many adoptees would identify with these words describing clumsiness in Merriam-Webster Thesaurus?

  • lacking or showing a lack of nimbleness in using one’s hands
  • awkward
  • butterfingered 
  •  uncoordinated
  • bungling
  • inept

When on vacation last summer, while carrying a bowl of ice cream to the porch, it dropped from my hands, like it had been coated with Crisco.

My face flushed as our friends retrieved it.

Was it my age, or something else that made me so clumsy?

Curious, I took my question to the secret FB adoptee group. Did anything I said about being clumsy resonate with them?

We had such a great time discussing it. It was a brand new topic for all of us.

As I listened to my fellow adoptee friends share their hearts with humor, I asked them if it was possible that we don’t feel at home in our own skin–kind of like a suit of clothes that doesn’t fit.

Then, I put “clumsy” and “adoptee” into Google.

Three words stared me in the face–sensory processing disorder.

Sensory Processing Disorder

Here is what WebMD says about Sensory Processing Disorder: (

Sensory processing disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.

Formerly referred to as sensory integration dysfunction, it is not currently recognized a a distinct medical diagnosis.

Some people with sensory processing disorder are oversensitive to things in their environment. Common sounds may be painful or overwhelming. The light touch of a shirt may chafe the skin.

Others with sensory processing disorder may:

  • Be uncoordinated
  • Bump into things
  • Be unable to tell where their limbs are in space
  • Be hard to engage in conversation or play

Sensory processing problems are usually identified in children. But they can also affect adults. Sensory processing problems are commonly seen in developmental conditions like autism spectrum disorder. (WebMD)

Dan Travis writes at a comprehensive list of symptoms. His list is far too extensive to put here, but here are just a few:

Sensory Modulation

  • bothered by clothes; certain materials, tags, seams, pantyhose, ties, belts, turtlenecks, have to wear shorts, skirts, or pants exclusively, etc.
  • will often rock or sway body back and forth while seated or standing still
  • constantly chews on ends of pens and pencils
  • over-react to loud noises, like sirens

After learning about this, a certain sadness came over me–both for me and for fellow adoptees and foster children…and all kids from hard places.

Another “diagnosis” of trauma.

For many, we have coped with it for years, believing secretly that something was inherently wrong with us. We have tried so hard to be normal.  We have worn the suit of clothes that doesn’t fit us. We suffer in many unknown ways because of brain trauma.

How to Help

Please don’t make fun of us because we drop things or have to plug our ears when you are vacuuming near us. Please don’t be surprised that we have a huge startle response whenever you touch us. In fact, please don’t touch us. Please don’t call us “Klutz” and laugh. Please don’t give us the “evil eye” that says, “There she goes again.”

Fellow adoptees, I love each of you with all my heart and am so grateful that we are on this journey together, discovering new things about ourselves. Sometimes, new painful things, but at least we have one another, right?