Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sensory Stew

Picture this:

You’re locked in a speeding car at night, racing down the highway at breakneck speed. It’s the middle of summer; you’re hot, uncomfortable and sweaty. There are sirens wailing outside, and there’s a baby with a stinky diaper next to you, screaming. The interior car lights flash on and off, blinding your senses. The radio is turned up full blast to heavy metal music. Nobody is driving; you have no control.

Now you might have an idea of what it’s like to be autistic on any given day.

You are expected to deal with this, and get through your normal daily routine without exploding. You are expected to listen and follow directions; you are expected to thrive. One after the other, sensory arrows are being shot at you, only your mind is unable to process them in any meaningful way. All noises are translated at the same level, none being relegated to background noise.

Every sense is heightened, over-stimulated.

What must it feel like for them, all of these bothersome things festering in the mind of the autistic child, clouding anything brighter from shining through? Jake, my 13 year old, can’t stand the way paper feels and at school this just has to be nerve-racking. Book pages turning, graded papers being passed out, notes shuffling between hands at every desk; the sensory minefield he has to wade through daily is something most people can’t even remotely relate to. Jaxson, my 9 year old, doesn’t like loud noises or clothing. Yeah, I said clothing. As soon as his feet hit the front doormat, he’s pulling off his clothes. He’ll wear them when we go out and all day at school, but at home he’s a little guy runnin’ around in his skivvies. I have no idea what it is about them that bothers him, but he just doesn’t like being dressed. I buy all cotton, everything loose and breathable, cut out all the tags—still, he prefers life sans clothing. Who am I to begrudge him?

His home is his castle just as it is mine and I want him to be comfy there.

Children with sensory issues must do what other children do throughout their day at school and in daily life, but they’ve got the added burden of wading through an often debilitating sensory assault as they do it.

In my opinion, that’s what makes them a little stronger than you and I.

Below is an example of a Sensory Stew and how Jaxson dealt with it. (READ: His 2007 School Christmas Pageant. Damn my kid is cute! )

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