Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘sensory integration

Wordless Wednesday 04 Apr 12

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Blowing out candles is harder than you think with low muscle tone.

Good job he only had three this year!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm

SPD Awareness

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Today is the last day of October, which means Halloween the last day of Sensory Awareness Month.  Hopefully you’ve been enjoying the month of posts by The SPD Blogger Network to celebrate.

I’m rounding off the month, with a brand new post listing everything I’m aware of, thanks to Sensory Processing Dysfunction, our constant companion in this household.

To celebrate SPD Awareness Month, here are a few things that I’m now aware of, thanks to my children and their sensory issues.

My entire education was a complete waste of time.  Because if the teachers taught me that there were only five senses, who knows what other lies they slipped in there?

A mess is to me is tactile heaven to my girl.  Sometimes the carpet just has to be a casualty of war in the battle of the senses.  And be assured- it is a battle- I have the scars to prove it.

The bed has a different bounce to the trampoline and the bouncy castle, and that is why the kids just won’t stop bouncing on it. Ever.

I speak an entirely different language these days.  Sometimes I’m fluent, but most of the time I’m gesturing wildly and gibbering nonsense.  Nobody seems to mind.

The reason I don’t like being hugged by strangers is not because “I’m English”, though voicing that together with an outstretched hand wards off the huggy bears.

Cereal is okay, and yoghurt is okay.  Cereal and yoghurt together is really, really NOT OKAY.

Being able to button up their clothes or tie their shoelaces does not make your kids better than mine.  But you bet I’m going to brag about it the day they can do it too!

Blowing your nose is not an instinctive action.  Playing with what comes out of the nose kind of is.

Because I don’t punish sensory-driven behavior, I’m often taken for a permissive parent.  Anyone who wants to try their hand at disciplining The Determinators is more than welcome.  Just give me a whimper when you’re done exhausting yourself, myah?

Those same ears that can’t detect me calling her name, are the very same ones tortured by any kind of mechanical device, even at very low volume.  On the same note, just because you’ve worked at tolerating the vacuum cleaner to the point where she can operate it herself, doesn’t mean you won’t be back at square one if you get a new one.  Living with dirt is easier.

I have parent friends, and I have SPD parent friends.  And they get completely different responses when they ask how we’re doing.

There are some days when you can spin, climb, and hang upside down all you want, and it will never be enough.  There are also days when slightly tipping to the side will be overwhelming.  There is no way to detect which of these days it is going to be until your living it.  Finding the balance is as tough for us as it is our kids.  I prescribe chocolate and wine in large quantities until the world seems to right itself again.

Waiting is really, really, really hard.  Even for Especially for parents.

I celebrate the milestones like every other mother.  But I have different ones, like “first time she smelled something” or “walked around her baby brother instead of straight over him.”

My children don’t know what an object is until they’ve put it in their mouths.  Even if they do know what it is, they’d better keep mouthing it to make sure it doesn’t change.  Or in the hope that it will change.  Either way, they are going to reject any product that was actually intended for oral motor purposes.

The kids will beg and plead to go to the park, and then for you to push them on the swings for upwards of 30 minutes.  When you finally buy an indoor swing, they will only want to use it if the other sibling has expressed an interest.  At this point I hand them each a pillow and consider it part of the sensory diet.

I spend so much time living and breathing SPD, and seeing it in everyone and everything.  On the odd occasion I encounter a kid without quirks, I’m a little freaked out, and want to prod them with a large stick to see if they’re actually breathing.

Expensive make-up makes far prettier wall murals than washable paint.

There are people on this planet who don’t have a special interest.  They’re actually kind of boring, our way is better.

Fine motor delays are somehow miraculously overcome in the presence of child-proof medicines.  For that matter, there are no motor-planning issues involved when a certain someone moves a chair to a different room to climb up to out-of-reach cupboards.  With locks.  I’m on first name terms with the Poison Control ladies.

The more I crave sleep, the less she needs.

That raindrop running down the window really is the most magical and absorbing thing in the world, and well worth staring at for a considerable amount of time.  Shame my kid only notices it when I’m running late.

Finally, I’m aware that while You Can’t Always Get What You Want, With A Little Help From My Friends- We Can Work It Out.  I’d have more up-to-date music references, but only Pudding-sanctioned music is tolerated in our house.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 31, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Scent of a Pudding

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As far as we know, Pudding wasn’t able to smell things for a long time.  As with many of her senses, she was hypo-reactive to smell.  I didn’t know this for a long time, because how do you know if a small child can smell or not if they aren’t able to tell you?  Also, Pudding would frequently call things “stinky”, so I assumed, as I was wont to do back then, that there was no problem with her olfactory sense.

Mr. Hindsight (that smug old detective who goes around solving problems too late to be of use to anyone ) informed me that Pudding was using visual or auditory clues to identify when to use the term stinky, it had nothing to do with actually smelling anything bad.  For instance, a foul diaper (nappy) hidden away in a trash can would go unnoticed by Pudding, but if she saw her brother being changed, she would correctly identify it as a stinky one.

When a child is hyper or overreacts to smell, it is pretty obvious.  They’ll be disturbed by strong odours, and can even become physically sick when in the presence of an odour that is too strong.  When the child’s sensory perception presents like Pudding’s, it is harder to tell.  Kids who are unable to smell may lick or taste objects, but then they could be doing that for other reasons too.  Sometimes those who are under-responsive to smell go around sniffing objects and people.  That wasn’t our girl, so we figured we’d got away with one of her senses behaving reasonably normally.

I got some flowers for Mother’s Day, and Pudding asked to smell them.  She pressed her nose deep into the petals and inhaled for several seconds.  She was starting to smell.  Every time I cooked I’d offer her a sniff of a fruit or vegetable.  She likes to smell hot drinks, maybe because the steam adds an extra sensation for our girl.  She has slowly begun to identify scents without visual cues, like stating that a restaurant smells like pizza.  Now she gives her own descriptions, like a product smells “like babies.”

I can only imagine how those flowers in the garden must smell to her!

She still isn’t able to identify many precise smells, even strong ones like lemon, but she is getting there.  For me it is almost tangible proof that connections are being made in her brain.  To simplify things to a point that I can understand them, it feels like her sense of smell has been turned on, and is slowly working its way up to full power.  I’m curious as to what will happen next.  Will her sense of smell begin to function properly, or will we see more problems with modulation: sometimes seeking smells, sometimes being overwhelmed by them?

Right now, of all her senses, this is the least problematic.  She asks to smell food items, and if she likes it, she’ll have a taste.  So far, so typical.  She isn’t going around smelling people (yet) and is able to go to places with strong odours.  When I was pregnant with her, I went through the classic phase of overreacting to certain smells.  I couldn’t go down the coffee aisle in a supermarket, and I’d feel sick at the burger smell as I walked past fast food restaurants.  So far, we aren’t seeing anything like that in Pudding.

But I would still say there is something out of the ordinary about her sense of smell.  One morning last week I woke up to Pudding….how shall I put this?  Making her own fragrant sounds and smells.  I asked her if she wanted to go to the bathroom, but she declined with a giggle.  She continued with her funky music-making.

Me: Please go to the bathroom, it is stinky.

Pudding: No Mummy, it’s not stinky.  My trumps smell like flowers!

Sometimes I’m envious of her sensory dysfunction.  No matter how much I breathed in the odor, my nose never could detect those floral notes that are the signature scent of a Pudding!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 6, 2011 at 3:16 am

Sensory Integration and the Autism Spectrum: One Woman’s Experience

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Regular readers know that I tend to stick to telling stories about my kids, and my experience raising them.  Our situation differs greatly to those of other families touched by autism, though of course, there are some strong similarities too.  One thing I’m always conscious of is that these are my own words, and not Pudding’s.  She may interpret this whole experience quite differently as she grows.  And sweet little kids with autism spectrum disorders grow up to be adults with autism spectrum disorders.  It is the lifelong part that we sometimes forget in our rush for early intervention.  I don’t want this month of Autism Awareness to pass without acknowledging that fact.

I can’t predict how she’ll be as an adult, but I do know that I’m incredibly fortunate in knowing some remarkable women on the spectrum, like Lisa and Laura.  When Pudding can’t tell me how strange and uncomfortable the world seems to her, I have the benefit of listening to their voices.  It is a gift.  One I’d like to share with you today as I invite Laura to take the stage to talk about sensory integration.  It is an honour to have her here today.  Please give her a warm welcome.
4 Aspies, 1 house, that's...Life in the house that Asperger built

Sensory Integration and the Autism Spectrum: One Woman’s Experience

:walks up to the lectern…shuffles papers…taps microphone:

“Is this thing on?  Oh it is! Ok…ahem… Hello, my name is Laura, and I have Asperger Syndrome.”

:audience responds:

“Hi, Laura.”

“There are a lot of things I could tell you about what it’s like to be an Aspie, the difficulty navigating social interactions, the communication struggles, and the intense focus on special interests.  Today, however, I’m going to talk about the problems with sensory integration.  Scientists are just now coming to understand, and measure the extent to which people with Autism Spectrum Disorders have difficulty properly processing sensory information.  We complain about things that most others don’t even notice.  For many, these things will just be bothersome, or uncomfortable.  For others, however, they can even be painful.  Each of us is affected differently by this.  My problem areas are primarily sound and touch.

I am extremely sensitive to the way things feel on my skin.  I don’t like the feel of flannel for example.  Believe it or not, it feels rough and gritty.  I can sleep on flannel sheets, but only in long sleeved pajamas with pants (made of either cotton jersey or fleece), and the pillow case has to be regular cotton.  I cannot put my face on a flannel pillow case.   Not only is it rough, but it’s too hot.  Also, regardless of the time of year, I must have a heavy blanket or comforter.  I need the pressure in order to get to sleep.  Otherwise, the sheets feel wispy and light.  They brush lightly on my skin, and that gives me the willies.

Light touch on my skin, generates in me the same reaction others have to hearing nails on a chalkboard.  And while we’re discussing chalkboards, I really can’t stand the feel of chalk.  It makes all of the hair on my body stand straight on end, just thinking about it.  My list of tactilely disturbing things is actually somewhat long.  In addition to what I’ve already mentioned there is:

  • The feel of someone softly stroking my hair, arms or back
  • Anything, except for shoes and the ground, touching the soles of my feet
  • Crisp, tight cotton blouses, specifically the sleeves
  • Limp handshakes
  • Someone resting their hand or arm on my shoulder
  • A light breeze against my skin.  On this one, I will actually put on a sweater even if it’s a hot, light breeze just because I don’t like the feel of the air moving across my skin.

There’s more but I think you get the idea.  Essentially, I’m super sensitive to light touch, and things that are tight or rough.

Sound is another area of sensitivity for me, but it is harder to quantify.  I definitely have a problem with things that are too loud, except sometimes “too loud” varies.  I’m always upset by sudden loud noises, and for some reason all of my sound sensitivities are magnified 10 times or more when I’m inside a car.  I can sometimes be affected by pitches that are too high, but I am more frequently disturbed by pitches that are too low.  Some men speak in very baritone, gravelly voices, and it just sends me through the roof!  Just like with touch, my reaction to these is just like that “nails on the chalkboard” feeling.  But that’s not really so bad, is it?  It’s just a momentary flash of the willies, after all, right?  No.  The real problems start after that.

All of my sensitivities, once triggered, lead directly to incredible feelings of physical discomfort, and increased stress and anxiety.  In some cases, this can be resolved as easily as taking off the offending article of clothing, or leaving the room.  Other times, however, it begins a cycle that can be difficult to stop.  Once my anxiety starts to rise, I become more sensitive.  That leads to more reactions, which is followed by more stress and anxiety.  As this continues, I get increasingly cranky, which then leads to increased difficulties in some of those areas I’m not talking about today, navigating social interactions, and communication struggles.  It’s this spiral, caused by my hypersensitivities, that causes me the most trouble.

Not all sensory integration problems involve hypersensitivity, however.  Some involve being less sensitive than average.  In my case, I’m hyposensitive to taste.  It’s not that I can’t taste, it’s just that I don’t taste as well as everyone else.  For example, it’s been determined that I can’t taste bitter at all.  This actually proved to be a good thing for my mother who had her hands full with everything else going on with me.  Unlike, many on the Spectrum, my lack of tasting ability meant that I wasn’t ever a picky eater.  My mom put the food in front of me, and I ate it.  Not all hyposensitivities however, work toward the greater good.  There are some, like my daughter, who don’t feel pain as acutely as they should.  This can lead to dangerous consequences that require an incredible level of diligence on the part of caregivers and loved ones to prevent.

Issues like these are dealt with daily by people on the Spectrum, and those who love and care for them.  It is my sincerest hope that sharing this with you here today might help someone better understand a loved one, or feel less isolated in their own experience.  Thank you.”

:takes papers…leaves stage:

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 14, 2011 at 6:55 am

Wordless Wednesday 16 Mar 11

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Sensory Integration- my girl can never get too much at once. Right after this she went for a swing.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

March 16, 2011 at 7:40 am

Flying

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Two kids, one mummy and a swimming pool. Pudding has always loved the water, but has no fear of it. Cubby is brave enough in a kiddie pool where he can stand up, but terrified in the big pool. Usually he won’t allow any part of his head to touch the water, and makes a sorry sobbing sound if I so much as transfer him to my other hip.

So going to the pool without Spectrummy Daddy in tow is a bold move. This is DC in August. It has been a scorcher, and the humidity factor can be unbearable. When we do brave the playground, the mosquitoes ravish my exotic English suck-me skin, the resulting wounds last for weeks.  Yuck.  Stuck indoors all the time, Pudding can’t help but find trouble.  At times I feel like I say nothing but “no” to her.  I’m weighed down from being so negative.  We’d been inside too long, it was time.

We’d had some problems before in getting her to wear her swim vest, but if she put it on back to front, she was fine. It kind of looked like I’d put my special needs child in a straight jacket, but she was happy, safe, and unable to reach the zipper to take it off.  I’m getting used to odd glances coming our way.  Luckily people tend to keep their small thoughts to themselves, which is just as it should be.

Cubby clung on to me the whole time, but there was no crying or screaming. At a few points, when he was splashing around and soaking his mama (which he says properly now!) quite thoroughly, he squealed with delight. Pudding just looked calm and serene, feeling all the lovely sensation of the water.  The pair of them, who have stretched my heart in ways I could never have imagined, were at peace getting what they needed.  I wanted to cherish the time.  I didn’t feel like the mother taking care of her high-needs children.  I was the special guest at this party.  I felt honoured to be in attendance.

After a while, she took to climbing out and jumping back in again, over and over. There didn’t seem to be much purpose to it, but she had the most beatific smile on her face, it must just feel right to her. So often I’ve taken for granted that my senses and my body work just as they should, I’m so fortunate.  I wish she could have that feeling more often.  I wish everybody could.  I’m just glad she gets to have her moments of it, and I get to share them with her.

One time as she took off, she looked at me and gleefully said, “I’m flying!”. My heart soars along with her.  For that one sweltering afternoon, my love, we both were.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 24, 2010 at 7:30 am