Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘sensory overload

Man in comfy shoes disturbs mama bear

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Out to dinner the other night with my mother, we had a conversation where I claimed that the general public crticizes my parenting on occasion, and she refuted this, saying it was mainly in my mind.  She does make a valid point, for the most part other people have more to concern themselves with than how I raise my children.  Also, for the most part, my kids reserve their most challenging behaviors for at home, and are generally well-behaved while outdoors.  Very occasionally though, we have an almighty meltdown with gawping witnesses, and I maintain that their snide looks and hushed comments are not imaginary on my part.  Sadly, I only had to wait until the next day to be proven correct.

On Friday we went to the Magic Kingdom.  Some of you may gasp in horror at the thought of taking spectrummy children there, but it provides just the right level of stimulation for my sensory-seeking girl.  Throw in princesses galore, and no fewer than eight places where she can eat, and I declare it Pudding Heaven.  On a good day.  She started out fine, but as the day wore on, it became too much for her.  She is in a strange environment, with unfamiliar social demands, and a ruptured schedule.  Throw in constipation, and all the fronts converge.

At Disney they have a playground which I hoped might offer a little respite from potential sensory overload. It looked just like one of those soft play areas at the mall, so Pudding dutifully took her shoes off.  I made her put them back on, because the outdoor surface would have hurt her feet, and the crying began.  She ran away (my major don’t at a theme park) and began kicking at me when I tried to get near the shoes.  Daddy had no luck either, and she began screaming and spitting in protest.   By this point she was beyond words, and beyond reason.  We took her to the safety of the stroller to get calmed down.

I sat down in front of her, meeting her flying fists and kicking legs with soothing words.  It takes all I have to remain calm in such situations, but past experience dictates it is the only way to deal with these outbursts when she gets too far.  She eventually stopped, and began asking to go back to the play area again.  I whispered that she would have to wear her shoes, and she began screaming.  When Pudding was first born, the midwife at the hospital in Luxembourg told me she had never in her 32 years as a midwife heard a child scream as loud as Pudding.  She continues to get louder with age.  Perhaps she has a future as a warbler of the Mariah Carey/Celine Dion variety, but right now it is just ear-piercing shrieks.  It is unpleasant, painful even for those with sound sensitivities (sorry Cubby) and I never feel more conspicuous than at such times.

I sat on the kerb in front of her, waiting for the storm to pass.  Next to me was a girl, with her father on the other side.  He gave a sideways look, and then told his daughter that this was not how she was to behave on time out, and she would be punished for behaving like this, with another glance at me.  Now, I’m okay with you using my kid as a cautionary tale, but he wasn’t saying it to educate his daughter, he was talking deliberately loud enough to let me know what he thought of my techniques.  He was talking loud enough for others to hear several feet away.  He was challenging me, and like most animals under assault, I was primed to fight back.

Had there not been my ever-observant daughter and this man’s own child to watch, I might have unleashed my fury at the man.  But I can’t require my overwhelmed child to gather herself together, and then display the same reaction myself.  And I’m not going to criticize somebody else’s parenting in front of their child, unless that child is being threatened or hurt.

Man in the street: I’m not asking for your compassion, I’m not even asking you to stop judging, I’m just asking that you keep it to yourself when I’m in the middle of dealing with something.  Even if you think I’m dealing with it very badly.  It is my kid, my parenting, my problem.    She needs my focus, you don’t deserve it.

As it was, I concentrated on what my kid needed, and a couple of minutes later she felt better.  We had a fantastic time the rest of the day.  It probably deserves a whole other post.

You don’t have to walk in my shoes.  I’m very glad about that, you aren’t cut out for it.  The compassion, understanding and sensitivity would be beyond you.  Besides, your feet wouldn’t look as pretty as mine in sandals.

But man, you disturbed a mama bear.  Your lucky I was in cub protection mode, because if you’d got me on attack, there wouldn’t be anything left of you now.  Or your comfortable shoes that you are so fortunate to be wearing, but aren’t half as awesome as mine.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 5, 2010 at 9:14 am

An Ongoing Dialogue

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I struggled to keep up with the flow of conversation.  Everything was moving too fast for me to understand.  I longed for those nonverbal cues I instinctively pick up on.  When is it my turn to say something?  Do I introduce myself, or should someone else do that?  Do I direct my conversation at one person, or talk to the whole room, at anyone who will listen?  The buzz of conversation was going on around me, and I needed to take part in it, but I was thrown by how alien it seemed to me.  Too frenzied, with constant repetitions, butting in where I thought I would interject.  A whole new way of framing questions.  Some people were conversing before I got there, was it acceptable to put my words across?  What do I even talk about?  When I figured out something too say, it was too long, and the words could not come out.  Symbols to decipher that everyone else had already figured out.  I was confused.  I didn’t know the rules.   Where are the rules written down that everyone else seems to get?  It was too hard, on top of a long day.  My brain is just not wired for this, I thought.

Despite my utter conviction to shout out, my first few minutes co-moderating for The Coffee Klatch‘s 24 hour event were all too silent.  I’d meant to go to a “Tweet Room” before the event, but life just got too busy.  I tried several times during the day to show my support, but with Pudding home from school, and Cubby ill, there was just no time yesterday.  Finally in frustration I tweeted that my autism parenting was getting in the way of my Autism Shout Out.  There was no let up for the rest of the day, finally Spectrummy Daddy came home, we ate, and it was time.  No preparation, no time to figure things out.

Then I thought about my Pudding, how she must feel like this all the time.  How she keeps struggling in the face of all her challenges, but she does it anyway.  I took a deep breath, expressed some not-so-meaningful thoughts, and tried to include people in the conversation.  Or conversations.  I don’t know, like I said, I was confused.  I’m not cut out to be a Twitter chat room moderator, that is for sure.  But then again, a few months I didn’t think I was cut out to be a blogger.  And just over a year ago, I really didn’t think I was cut out to be an autism mother.  Sometimes you just have to do things anyway.  Kudos to the gang at The Coffee Klatch who make this look so easy.  I have a deep appreciation for all who brought about yesterday’s amazing event, it was incredible.  Well done everybody!

I’m still in awe of the incredible feeling of support and solidarity amongst strangers.  You can never underestimate the feeling of being amongst those who get it.  I’m humbled by the efforts of adults on the spectrum to ensure that my children have an easier passage through life.  I’m inspired by parents who encourage me to keep going through the difficult times.  When our community comes together, it is worth shouting about.  I lost my voice for a while after Pudding’s diagnosis.  At times I was silent when I should have spoken out.  I’ll make every effort to be part of this ongoing dialogue, even if I can’t always figure out how best to do that.  Though the day is over, some people are just starting to talk, others only beginning to listen.  We’ll have to keep talking until we have understanding and acceptance, and those who need to break the silence know who they can talk to.

Enough of the silence of shame and stigma.  I’m talking about my children, and this wonderful community we all belong to.  I just feel honored to be part of this conversation.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 2, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Great Expectations

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You know it wasn't a good day when this is the best photo I took of the whole experience.

Friday was Pudding’s school field trip to the pumpkin patch.  For those who aren’t familiar, a pumpkin patch is where a farm dedicates itself to Halloween and becomes a huge playground with hay rides (being pulled on a tractor), corn mazes, pony rides etc.  For me, a big way of alleviating homesickness is by indulging in experiences that are unique to  the place I’m living in.  We went to one last year, and she had a great time.  It was sensory heaven for my little seeker, and she got to ride a pony for the first time.  Back then we were still learning a lot about her needs and the way she reacted to certain experiences, so it was nice to put a tick in the “likes pumpkin patches” box.

Sadly, the field trip went less well.  Right before we set off, Cubby fell down the steps outside our house and cut his face.  We arrived before the school bus got there, and she skipped about in delight from attraction to attraction.  Of course, Cubby wanted to do the same, and without a second adult, it became a not-so-fun game of kid-herding.  We had the first meltdown when she didn’t want to leave something to find her classmates.  I think the real problem was that she was perplexed by the mix of people from school and home.  As soon as she saw the aides, she hid behind me and refused to speak.  Her teacher took her away, spent some time calming her down, and then had one-on-one time with her.  Unfortunately, this was a small pumpkin patch, so when I took Cubby to see the animals, she saw us and got upset all over again.  We joined back up, but she continued to be miserable unless left to do her own thing.  Her own thing was to wander to the exit, so that became the end of doing her own thing for that day.

Lesson learned- I won’t attend any more field trips for the time being.  She would have had a much better time without me there, much as I don’t like to admit it.  I really don’t like to admit it.


At least we got stickers!

__________

I did keep expectations low in the afternoon.  We had a play date with her friend E., and hearing that the Disney Store was having a Halloween dress rehearsal, we decided to let the girls dress up in their princess dresses.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, so really I should have anticipated an overwhelming and unstructured frenzy of sensory overload.  Pudding couldn’t do any of the games, and kept pulling out of the throng of kids to touch all the shiny things that Disney has to offer a princess-obsessed girl.  I think we can safely say we won’t be trying that again, although I did get the phone number to see if they’d consider doing a sensory-friendly or special needs event some time.

_________

I had great expectations for Friday, and they weren’t met, but I’m okay with that.  There are some things she just isn’t ready for yet, but I wouldn’t have known that without trying.  I continue to set my expectations higher for tomorrow than yesterday.  If we don’t get there today, we adapt, we accommodate, but we keep trying.  One day it will happen.  Something else happened in between these two events on Friday which reminded me that Pudding has a confidence in herself that I can only aspire to, and whatever she expects for herself, she’ll get.

I’d tell you about it now, but I’d rather leave you with great expectations for tomorrow.

 

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 26, 2010 at 9:19 am

Bashful

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Bashful

Bashful is back.  I don’t know if he just came for the evening, or if he is planning on staying for a while.  Yes, Bashful of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs fame.  He is a presence in our household.  He is sort of like Pudding’s imaginary friend.  When we went to Disney last year, we bought some Snow White little toy figurines.  We’d shipped them off to Bolivia as a surprise for when we arrived, but when they got returned to us, we just gave them to her while we unpacked.  Immediately, and without ever seeing the movie, she decided Bashful was her favourite.  Pudding would carry him around like a protective talisman.  Then one day she lost the figurine, but that didn’t change her attachment.

If I were a psychologist, I might delve into the Asperger child forming a connection with the socially awkward one, but I’m not.  I also won’t try to figure out why my blonde blue-eyed princess favours Sleeping Beauty, who also likes to sing and is dangerously attracted to spinning things.  I’m yet to read ‘The Princess and the Pea’ to her, which is a tale of sensory integration dysfunction if ever I heard one, but I’m sure she’d relate to her too.

Pudding loves art, but she has fine motor skill problems, and often the end result doesn’t appear like she wants it to in her mind.  She decided her favourite dwarf needed to be honoured in picture form.  Every time she drew Bashful, he wasn’t quite right, and she scribbled him out in anger.  Soon I was called on to capture his likeness, but I’m no artist, and he just looked like a skinny Santa.  Those got scribbled out too.  She would request other people to draw them too, but I never saw a Bashful that met with the approval of her discriminating eye.

She would give food to Bashful at mealtimes, and sometimes seemed to reply to something he said, “Ooh, Bashful!“, like a ‘Carry On’ character.  Most notable, though, were the appearances of Bashful when she got mad or upset.  If a noise was too loud, if she was disciplined, if she didn’t like the way something was going, she’d snarl “Bashful!” in an aggressive manner.  We knew that if Bashful appeared, we had to stop whatever was going on, and calm her down.  He was a useful warning system for meltdowns, but his very presence meant that Pudding was unhappy, so I never liked him being around.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Bashful hadn’t been mentioned in a while.  She was happier in her new school, we’d removed several allergic foods from her diet, and life was pretty settled.  I even found the missing figurine, and she was pleased to see it, but no overreaction.  Then yesterday was a bad day.

I decided to go to Target (a retail store something like a Tesco superstore, English readers) for some back-to-school supplies.  Pudding quite likes Target, as long as we aren’t in there for too long.  We were in there quite a while looking for certain things, and Pudding got restless.  We went to check out, looked outside and saw how ominously dark it had become.  There was a huge storm.  Luckily there was a Starbucks inside the Target (yes, that is why I shop there) where we could retreat and wait it out, with the aid of bribes in candy form.  Apart from sudden urges to show other patrons her Hello Kitty underwear, it worked.  It was stressful for her though, we’d been in there for over 90 minutes.

Driving home I saw lots of the traffic lights were out, and sure enough, when we got home our power was out too.  It continued to thunder, the noise bothered Pudding, but less than it used to thanks to The Listening Program.  She really didn’t like the dark, or the lightning, so we waited out our time singing songs until it was time to collect spectrummy daddy from the metro.  We went to a restaurant where Pudding can actually eat the food.  She is normally very well-behaved in restaurants, dare I say even better than her neurotypical peers, but not yesterday evening.

I want mummy to draw Bashful.

I tried.  It wasn’t good enough.  She requested him over and over.  No distractions helped, she barely touched her food.  Yes, Bashful was back.

Strangely enough, this was the first night this week she slept through the night.  I needed it- without enough sleep I turn into Grumpy.  Much as I don’t like that little dwarf dude, how he always signals Pudding’s pain, he appears to comfort my girl.  And on the occasions when we can’t do the same, we should be glad to have him around.  Next time she is hurting, little man, come back- don’t be bashful.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 6, 2010 at 8:40 am

The Mall

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This was a weekend where we didn’t have any plans, we were at a loss as to what to do.  If this ever happens, the best way to deal with it is to ask the most decisive member of the household (Pudding) what to do:

I want to go to the mall, please.

The mall.  Giant behemoth of over-stimulation.  Too big, too loud, too bright, too many people…that place.  Sensory processing dysfunction and autism go hand in hand.  Often malls  are the worst place to take a person who senses the world differently, it is just too much.  For Pudding though, most of the time she is under-stimulated.  She is constantly seeking new information, wanting to take in more and more.  She is a delight to be out and about with- it is when we are at home and she gets bored that the trouble begins.  Still, as a person whose senses function normally, but still finds malls a little much, I’m surprised that is her new go-to place.  I checked again to be sure:

Yes.  May I go to the mall?  Let’s go to the mall!

So we did.  When a child is as powerless as the typical 3 year-old, and as power-hungry as our atypical girl, it is wise to let her set the course.  The whole day will go more smoothly as a result. You might call this spoiling her, if so, I politely request that you go read someone else’s blog.  You will never understand, there is nothing for you here.  Got it?  Good.  The more we expose Pudding to different places, the more ready she’ll be when we make our next big move.  The fact that she wants to do all these things allows us to hope for a world of possibility.

This particular mall is huge, but that doesn’t matter- Pudding knows her way around it.  Not long after she had turned 2, my parents came to visit and she took them a 10 minute walk to the playground.  They didn’t know where it was.  She did.  My brain just doesn’t work like hers.  I’m lost all the time.  I need a GPS system to take me places, and she just knows.  It is incredible.  At the mall she only wants to go to a few places: the kids playground, ‘Mermaid Cafe’ where we get overpriced coffee and she has juice, The Disney Store (aka Princess shop) and shops that sell ‘pretty dresses’ for her.  Not for me.  I tried to on dresses, to be met with “Shall we leave?” and it being the first time we’ve heard ‘shall’ escape from her lips, we do.

The trip to the mall was successful.  We didn’t buy anything, and we even took our own lunch for the kids.  Pudding was just happy people-watching.  We must, as a species, be fascinating to her.

So the next day, when we again solicited suggestions on what to do from the children, Cubby volunteered “car” and Pudding stuck to the mall.  But rather than go the mall, we decided to go to The Mall.  As in The National Mall, home to the famous Smithsonian museums.  Our plan was to take her to see the ‘pretty dresses’ as worn by the First Ladies at their respective Inaugural Balls.  We hadn’t considered that every female tourist wanted to see the same thing, and it was packed.  Pudding started running around, getting flappy, so we leave.  Who would have thought it was the museum that would cause sensory overload, and not the mall?

We moved on.  She really likes all the boats in the American History Museum, but by far her favourite thing was this train, with all the incredible details.  Trainspotting and Asperger’s seem to go together, and our girl is no exception.

Trainspotter in the making

We had a picnic lunch on The Mall, and then hot-footed it out while the kids were still smiling.  We’re pretty adept at that by now.  It went so well that I won’t even cringe next time Pudding asks to go to the mall, or The Mall.


Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 4, 2010 at 9:15 am