Have you ever found that something caused you such annoyance that the stressfulness of the situation forces you to stay away, avoiding the source of stress at all cost?
What about if something caused you pain and discomfort would you avoid the source inorder to gain control, be free from the pain, living your life in the most prosperous way you could?
Imagine if the most common stimuli… sounds, smells etc… caused you the above on a daily basis! Everyday tasks being a protentral hazard causing you high levels of anxiety… But even worse you are unable to escape the trigger but instead expected to tolorate it!
imagine if you hated spiders, feared them more then anything else but u were forced to let one crawl all over your body… How would that make you feel?
Think of a situation, a fear or phobia that causes you high levels of distress, imagine having to deal with it every single day! Yet no one “gets it” your totally isolated and alone… Being seen as a drama queen, attention seeker or labelled as a trouble maker.
So many children & adults on the autism spectrum have difficulties with their sensory processing, some more then others, however when it’s a problem it’s likely to be a significant one! School, home, shopping centre where-ever the trigger lie, problems with sensory processing can be experienced just about anywhere. School is an obvious culprit for children given the amount of time they spend there. School can present huge problem, unstructured time is normally always a trigger for the child on the spectrum and you may find as a parent that your child is being labelled as challenging as a result of this.
There are seven senses that make up our sensory system… These are Vestibular (movement-balance), proprioceptive (body awareness), tactile (touch), auditory (hearing), visual (seeing), gustatory (taste) and olfactory (smell) Some may have problems with all the above, a few or non at all! It just depends on the individual.
The example of the spider was given to me by my very clever little man, who was trying to explain to me how he felt when forced to tuck his shirt into his school trousers (school uniform was a huge problem when in mainstream)
Little man has a range of sensory processing problems some worse then others. I would definitely say that he has the most difficulties with his tactile sense but auditory, visual and olfactory come pretty close. These have become more obvious with age.
It is said that people who are tactile devensive will likely have problems with fine motor skills that are related to academics and self-care skill which is very true for little man.
Lights tend to upset him too. While at the library with his tutor he was finding it hard to engage due to the lighting. This was because the lights were all different which meant they all let of a different degree of light, some brighter then others. When he first started he came home and asked, “Mum, why can’t the library stick to the one type of lighting instead of having all different types” he then went on to say… “Some flicker and buzz which is so… annoying!” He would also come home with a pounding headache. This was due to both the lighting and the fact he had actually engaged in work alday something he hadn’t done for the whole of 2010 while in mainstream. His now managing to cope reasonable well with the lighting and if anything his becoming quite good at blocking it out. As long as he isn’t sat in the brightest spot or beneath a buzzing bulb his OK.
His tutor is excellent and has worked out that by letting little man listen to music through his headphones (oh yes Bruno Mars is repeatedly played) while working he can engage better. Many don’t get this but his a bit like me there! I will blast music through my earphones while tackling important work as it means I am able to block out the world and completely get into my own zone resulting in getting important work finished ontime and to a high standard.
Every single day I learn something new about little man and how AS affects him. It was only the other day that I discovered the reason for little man wanting his trainers done up so tightly that it almost stops the blood flow! It’s actually a sensory related issue! It seems logical now and I can’t understand why I hadn’t realised it before. He says they need to be tight in order for him to remain in control of his feet. Shoes that move around freely give no control he told me. I completely get it now!
Little man can also be a little bit of a sensory seeker. He likes rough and tumble (play fighting) sadly due to the lack of understanding from school little man was all to often excluded for such behaviours. He also likes memory foam pillows, trackpants (he wants to wear the same ones everyday no matter how dirty they have become) and certain textures that he just has to touch.
The above are all fine but he does have a liking for fizzy drinks. This isn’t just a suger thing but definitely a sensory one too… How do I know? Well he cried the other day due to my refusal for him to have a can of fuzzy orangeade. I offered juice and he states “it’s not the same” He then goes on to inform me that it doesn’t feel the same in his mouth or going down his throat.
So there’s a bad habit need fixing.
So… My over all point to this post is for some awareness to come out of it, example… When a parent tells you that, “My child really can’t tuck his shirt in as this causes him physical discomfort that is one step away from what we describe as pain” We don’t really mean… “My child can’t be arsed to tuck his shirt into his trousers” or “My child can tuck in his shirt in but chooses not to as a deliberate attempt to piss you off” We really did actually mean It when we told you he can’t!!! For you to state, “Really I’m sure he can if he wanted to” is really offensive and like asking someone in a wheelchair to walk upstairs!
The child or Adult on the autistic spectrum has an array of difficulties aswell as qualities! Next time you sport a child throwing a “wobbler” in the supermarket, street, school gates or wherever else it may be. Stop and ask yourself is it sensory, is it autism or another difficulty, hidden disability you will never know so therefore should remain openminded before pointing, commenting or passing judgement.
After all how would you deal with fear, phobia, pain and discomfort if those around you had no understanding of it?
Sensory processing problems are very real, just as autism is! And for that reason it should not be looked upon as anything else!