Tag Archives: Sensory Seeking

The Big Fat Autism Myths

10 Oct

Still today we are surrounded by countless myths concerning Autism and Aspergers Syndrome. Yes, we’ve come far to raise awareness for autism and the fact its a spectrum condition but still many struggle to except that some things are myth as opposed to fact.

Here’s some great examples…

Those on the autism spectrum have late language development!

Now although to some extent this is true, its not always the case especially in those at the higher end of the spectrum (Aspergers). Little man actually said his first word at 5 months and was able to speak very well by the age of 12 months.

Children on the autism spectrum make low academic progress because of learning difficulties.

Again this maybe the case for some children, mainly those at the lower end of the spectrum. However, some children on the spectrum have no learning difficulties whatsoever with some actually having higher IQ levels than those of their peers.

All children on the autism spectrum cannot attend mainstream schooling.

Admittedly mainstream school admitted that they could no longer meet little man’s needs and he eventually gained a place at an autism special school. This was despite him being on the higher end of the autism spectrum with an Aspergers diagnosis and a high IQ. Like many children with Aspergers he struggled with the more social side of school and suffered terrible anxiety. The truth is children with autism can receive a mainstream education… It just depends on the child and school in questions.

People on the autism spectrum don’t have feelings.

This is a big fat myth! If anything Little man feels to much and its these feelings of love and worry that cause him to become anxious. For little man its just harder for him to express those feelings… I know they are there and that’s a huge difference.

People on the autism spectrum don’t have an imagination.

Again this is a big fat fib. Little man finds it difficult to play imaginary games as he likes to base things on fact. He also likes to have a visual reference. However little man uses his imagination in other ways and is extremely clever at creating ideas when relating to something of interest.

All people with autism hate loud noise.

This is all down to the senses and regardless of autism we all have our own level of tolerance. Yes, many people with autism have heighten senses and this can make loud noise very uncomfortable (often to the point it becomes physically painful). However as well as children with autism experiencing sensory sensitivity, some are actually sensory seekers and will therefore seek out some type of loud noise.

All children who like Thomas the tank engine are autistic!

What can I say… Total Bull S#%# Yes little man liked Thomas the tank engine and statistics indicate that many children on the autism spectrum have a liking for Thomas at some point, however lots of children love Thomas and not all are autistic… That’s just crap.

All people with Autism are the same. If one person with autism experiences a certain difficulty then so will another.

Rubbish! This is why we call it a spectrum. Plus no two people are the same, we all have our own traits with and without autism. Yes there are a certain collection of traits that make up an autism diagnosis but this is a limited number.

All people with autism are Savants.

As lovely a myth as this is, it is just that… A myth! We all have things we are good at but only some of us have what it takes to be considered as Gifted which is the same for those on the autism spectrum. Many people with autism have things they are extremely good at (like little mans ability to memorise travel information) but rainman he isn’t and this is often the case for many.

Autism can be cured!

Most know how I feel about this myth. Autism is a life long diagnosis… There isn’t a cure. However, with the right education and learnt social skills things can be made less difficult for those on the spectrum.

Autism is caused by the MMR

Many will argue with me that this is not a myth. However I do believe it to be just that. You are born with autism, you do not develop it at some stage of your life. You don’t suddenly become autistic. And you don’t become autistic because of a childhood immunisation!

People with Autism are good a math.

Admittedly, little man is excellent at Math, but I do know other children on the autism spectrum who struggle with math and therefore find it their most difficult subject at school.

Children with autism can’t grow up to lead independent adult lives.

Many people on the autism spectrum, especially those on the higher end of the spectrum go on to have fully independent adult lives. This includes having a job, home and family of their own!

20121010-215514.jpg

When special interest turn deadly

29 Jul

I like blogging, you like reading!

I’m a bit obsessed with twitter, shopping and art! You really love football and Facebook!

Admittedly some of us over indulge our sense with our interest, we spend a little to much time tweeting or playing a computer game when we could actually be doing something much more practical. However, we are fully aware of this naughty bit of pleasure seeking and therefore find ourselves eventually applying some self discipline. A good example of this would be a person needing to go to work, they may want to stay home engaging in whatever it is they love doing but they understand that this won’t pay the bills (that is unless the work is their interest)!

As some may already know, little man has very intense interests and these are what one would refer to as a “Special Interest” when I write about little mans interest I struggle to find the right words, especially ones powerful enough to create a visual picture in the readers mine. For these reason I often worry that those who have such little understanding of Aspergers Syndrome and special interest, may only ever really compare this to that of the above.

20120729-212516.jpg

Today I’m going to try and change this by telling the story of my sons special interest! The intensity and love he holds for such a subject. The high intellectual knowledge which he has gained from self educating himself on every aspect this subject has to offer. The smiles & laughter it has created as well as the comfort and sanctuary it has given him.

Yet as great as the above may seem like everything there is a downside, and like most things associated with Aspergers Syndrome there is no in between!

The Little man happily unrolled the toilet roll around the entire house, he was making tracks for his invisible bus to drive along. Little man was that invisible bus. He could visualise this as long as he had one or two props to create a front and back to his bus. He would use a spoon held in one hand for the front, and a pencil in the other hand to create the back! Let’s not forget the sunglasses he would use to recreate the motion of the doors a long with the continuous beeping sound he would make. He would walk around and around for hours, speaking in a monotone voice as he recreated the destination announcements heard on both trains and buses.

I would feel a degree of anger when people stated a child like mine lacked imagination skills. This needed expanding on so those who had no idea began to gain a better understanding. Yes, little man played the same game over and over again. He was mimicking something based on fact not fiction, yet his creativity was seen when he used imagination to think outside the box. Rather than play with a toy bus, he was the bus! How many children would think to use a spoon, sunglasses and pencil in such a way?

From the age of around 2 Little man started to show an interest in transport. This started with Thomas the tank engine, but having quickly discovered the fiction that surrounds Thomas he turned his attention to the real deal. As he grew he would try to suppress his interest within the school setting making them much more intense once home. His great love for the subject meant it was hard to engage him in anything else. There were many sleepless nights, it’s easy to turn of your child’s computer and demand they go to bed, but I was unable to demand little man switched of his mind. He would go to bed and just lay in the darkness randomly running through bus and train timetables and destinations, often beeping and recreating the motion of the doors with his hands.

Despite the late nights, constant transport chat I embraced little mans interest! When he wasn’t allowed on school trips we had our own at the London transport museum. We took random bus rides around the city and went to toy fairs in search of old rare models. But when things become very bad at mainstream school I noticed Little man becoming completely lost in his world of transport, the only place he felt safe! When excluded from school he would sit studying the various routes of trains, tubes and buses, he would not answer when called totally ignoring request whenever I made them.

Bus trips were no longer fun, he’ll police the bus, demanding passengers picked up any rubbish they dropped or removed their feet from the seat in front of them. On trains he would jump from his seat every time the train came to a stop, pressing the button to open the doors for those passengers getting off and on.

I also noticed that he would continuously slide open and shut his wardrobe door that featured a sliding door. The banging was hard to cope with especially come 3am when siblings were sleeping.

What worried me more, was the more emotionally stressed things became, especially within school, the more he would confine himself to the bedroom where the slamming would commence.

We eventually had an appointment with his paediatrician, we were currently in the middle of a discrimination battle with school. I had now removed Little man from the mainstream setting but was still looking for a special school willing to take him. The stress upon the family was apparent. It was during this appointment that little man discovered that the windows within the paediatricians office were of the sliding type. Of course he couldn’t resist to play with them and for this reason the paediatrician was able to see just how obsessive his interest had become. She wisely informed me that this was not only due to his very intense special interest but also a stress reliever, coping mechanism. We also elstablised that to a certain degree the repetitive sliding motion of doors or hand mimicking was a sensory seeking behaviour too.

It was only on this appointment did we discover how serious this was. A practice fire drill went off, little man is very bad with the high pitched noise one makes. He panics and becomes very unpredictable so when he didnt even look up, just carried on with the window I knew Little mans special interest was now deadly!

A plan was put together and I was given the hardest task of my life, to reduce and limit the amount of time little man spends on his interest. OK, I couldn’t switch of his brain but I would need to limit the other activities, especially the sliding of the doors. It was hard to be consistent! In many ways I felt half to blame. I had encouraged his interest but this is what I was always expected to do, it was always said to be a good thing! I don’t feel guilty anymore. I now understand that it’s important to support and encourage your child’s interest, what happen to little man was not my fault.

As the stress faded, once he found his perfect school, things did start to return to a more acceptable level. Now he likes Lego too and even stranger WWE wrestling has actually become his interest of choice. Yes he still likes transport but WWE is his special interest and in my opinion it’s a welcome change after 10 years.

20120729-212618.jpg

Why your child with Aspergers Syndrome May need an OT Assessment

24 May

Does your child with Aspergers Syndrome have difficulties with their fine and gross motor skills as well as that of their sensory processing.

If the answer is yes, you should consider getting an assessment from an occupational therapist (OT).

In Little mans case, this was highly recommended by an independent educational psychologist during an assessment in preparation for our pending tribunal hearing early last year. I’d always had concerns regarding some of his motor skills especially that of fine motor skills, handwriting mainly. I guess i wasn’t fully prepared for the final report, which admittedly came as somewhat of a shock!

However, knowing the true extent of these difficulties has allowed me understand why little man struggles within certain areas, plus since getting the statement amended he now has regular OT sessions within his special school.

The final report which was written by an independent OT based in Harley street London was a real eye opener, not only highlighting his motor difficulties but that of his poor sensory processing too.

It’s extremely important to think along the lines of OT when applying for a statuary assessment and beginning the process of requesting a statement of SEN. Once you have that statement and it’s all agreed, it will be a good year before the annual review, your next opportunity to request amendments!

Below I’m sharing some of the findings from Little mans OT report.

The report is sadly far to large to include everything so I’ve chosen some important factors that may affect others like little man.

Many see Aspergers as just a social communication and behavioural condition. This is simply not always the case!

Note I have Removed my sons real name and replaced this with the name you all know… Little man.

Behaviour during Testing
Little Man presented as a friendly young boy and was generally co-operative whilst completing table top activities during the first half of the assessment was and able to complete the assessment tasks with prompting and encouragement. However, Little man found the gross motor tasks during the second part of the assessment more challenging and needed constant prompting to complete the assessment.

Strength
Little man showed some difficulty with completing the given tasks of maintaining postures against gravity and practicing push-ups and sit ups. While practicing push-ups, shoulder abduction and pelvic tilt were noticed. It has to be noted that such activities apart from the strength, require a good level of motor planning sequencing of movements, and overall body awareness. Little man’s performance points to a mild difficulty in this area that is related to sensory input processing from joints and muscles.

Running Speed and Agility
Little Man scored below the average expected for his age group when tested on the subtest for Running Speed and Agility, showing some difficulty in this area. Items included a shuttle run and hopping activities. Little man managed appropriately with the shuttle run but showed some difficulty with hopping on one leg whilst stationary. He also struggled with items such as stepping sideways over a balance beam, and doing a two-legged side hop, which requires a high level of motor planning.

Results following a number of different tests

Little man presents with difficulty coordinating complex motor movements and higher level motor planning due to reduced vestibular-proprioceptive processing. These systems work closely together to give us a sense of where we are in space and of how our body works (strength, muscles, balance). He does not always rely on autonomic control and this means it will take him longer to complete tasks and need additional time to acquire new skills. His movements are not always refined and timed.This will directly impact upon his ability to produce handwriting at an age appropriate speed and develop more complex gross and fine motor skills that involve higher level motor planning and overall body configuration.

HANDWRITING

Little man held the pencil in his right hand with his thumb overlapping his index finger. He applied increased grip and writing pressure. He needed prompting to use his left hand as a stabilizer whilst writing. Little man sat on the edge of his seat with his trunk in flexion, leaning forward a lot.
Little man presented with some difficulty with handwriting, in particular letter formation and the spacing of his letters. His handwriting speed was also slow and appeared laborious. His increased writing pressure, poor knowledge of mechanical elements of handwriting and decreased planning suggests Little man must work extra hard to complete handwriting tasks, which involve fine motor control. It also indicates difficulties with sequencing and planning.This will impact significantly on Little man’s ability to complete written work in an expected time frame and to complete written tests on time.

Results of Little Mans sensory profile indicated difficulties with sensory processing and sensory modulation.
In addition the factor summary of the questionnaire indicated that Little man shows a Definite Difference with sensory seeking, emotional reactivity, low endurance/tone, oral sensitivity, inattention/distractibility, poor registration and sensory sensitivity.

Sensory Processing
Sensory processing refers to how we process sensory information from our environment and our bodies. We receive information from the following senses: touch (tactile); hearing (auditory); taste (gustatory); smell (olfactory); sight (visual); proprioception and vestibular. Little man has difficulty with sensory processing in all the above areas.

The auditory processing differences for Little man are apparent in the fact that he is distracted or has trouble functioning if there is a lot of noise around. It is reported that Little man appears to not hear what people say at times and that he enjoys strange noises.

The visual processing differences for Little man are apparent in the fact that he occasionally expresses discomfort with or avoids bright lights and becomes frustrated when trying to find objects in competing backgrounds. It is reported that he frequently has a hard time finding objects in competing backgrounds.

The vestibular sense allows a person to sense body movement, direction, and acceleration, and to attain and maintain postural equilibrium and balance. This then impacts on all areas of the person’s development and in particular, motor-co ordination. Little man’s difficulties in this area of processing are apparent in that he constantly seeks movement to the point where this interferes with his daily routine. It is reported that he spins or twirls himself occasionally throughout the day.

The touch processing differences for Little man are apparent in that he is sensitive to certain fabrics. It is reported that he expresses distress during grooming. Little man also has difficulty with standing in line or standing close to other people.

The multisensory processing differences for Little man are apparent in that he has difficulty paying attention and looks away from tasks to notice all actions in the room.

The oral sensory processing differences for Little man are apparent and that he will only eat certain tastes and prefers sweet food. It is reported that he is a picky eater and that he craves certain foods such as sugar drinks and coffee.

Sensory Modulation
Modulation is the ability to regulate/maintain arousal so that you can orient, focus attention on meaningful sensory events, and maintain an alert but relaxed state. It is this optimum level of arousal which allows us to function meaningfully within our environment. Some people have difficulty modulating sensory information. This can result in being over or under stimulated. We all have thresholds that need to be met by incoming sensory input. Without adequate sensory input we are unable to maintain an organised calm state. If an individual’s thresholds are too high they will need more intense input to meet their needs. If their thresholds are too low they will be easily overwhelmed. Little man is easily overwhelmed and becomes emotionally over reactive. It is reported that he easily becomes distressed at home and school when he finds situations difficult and overwhelming.

Conclusion
These clinical observations as well as the standardised assessments indicate that reduced sensory processing and modulation, and low muscle tone may be impacting on Little man’s ability to perform gross and fine motor tasks successfully.

Vestibular processing is our sense of movement and is closely related to the proprioceptive system. It tells us what direction we are moving, where we are in space and what speed we are moving at. Vestibular input can help to organise and refocus the body. Little man has some difficulty with registering and processing vestibular information, which is impacting on his co-ordination skills and ability to sit still for extended periods of time.

Proprioception is the understanding of where our limbs are in relation to ourselves. This information is provided by the stimulation of receptors in our muscles and joints. Proprioceptive feedback informs us where our arms and legs are without looking (e.g. being able to unfasten an apron that ties at the back).

When our proprioceptive sense works well, we make continual and automatic adjustments in our position. This sense helps us to stay in an optimal position in a chair; to hold utensils such as a pencil or fork in the right way; to judge how to manoeuvre through space so that we do not bump into things; to know how far to stand away from people so we are not too close or too far; to plan how much pressure to exert so we do not break a pencil lead or a toy; and to change actions that we are not successful with, such as the throwing of a ball that was off target.

Since proprioception helps us with such basic functions, difficulties in this system can cause many challenges for a child. Little man has difficulty with this and this is impacting on gross motor and fine motor tasks in all areas of daily living such as school work and play.

Low muscle tone relates to the tension of the muscles. A certain amount of tension is required to maintain positions and to allow co-ordinated controlled movements. For some children, the level of tension in the muscles is lower than other children of the same age, and so they require more effort to maintain the same positions/postures. Little man’s low muscle tone means that he would find it difficult to maintain a good seated posture for lengthy periods in the classroom setting.

#HAWMC DAY 16 – The brilliance of Pinterest

16 Apr

I have to admit that when reading today’s #HAWMC writing prompt, I smiled a big fat cheesy grin.

The prompt was to create a pinterest board surrounding your health focus and then pin three things and share them here within this post.

There was no need for me to run off and try to open a pinterest account, I already have one and yes… Like many I’m already a bit of a “Pin Head”

Of course, having been actively using and engaging in Pinterest related activities, I had already created such a board (one surrounding my heath focus).

The board is titled, “Autism and Sen” its one of a hand full of boards I have surrounding autism and sen related issues.

This actual board focus a lot around creativity, supplying its followers with ideas that could help make life a tad simpler (visual prompts) as well as lots of ideas for sensory play, ones designed to help your child’s senses develop or give them that sensory seeking pleasure they crave!

Unsurprisingly, I also didn’t feel the need to zoom of and start pinning, the boards adequately filled and continues to grow most days. I did however actually find it quite difficult to decide which three pins I wanted to share, so of course I broke the rules a little and have shared a few more for good measure (sometimes rules are there to be broken)!

My first pin I’d like to share is this awesome visual chore chart which I thought would be a great resource for parents trying to encourage children on the autism spectrum engage in household chores or even as a prop to help teach independence skills. The original content came via the blog moneysavingmom.com.

I love this next pin that links to the blog growingajeweledrose.blogspot.com where some fabulous ideas can be found for sensory fun. This particular image is home-made glowing bath paint. I have tried this and it works 🙂 If your child, like mine is tactile defensive and isn’t to keen on the bath tub, this could be the thing to help.

Staying on the issue of sensory processing and that of tactile defensiveness, this next pin demonstrates a great way to encourage your child to experience and recognise different textures therefore learning to tolerate them. The home-made tactile board below is also great for the sensory seek who just has to seek out different textures. The pin shows a really effect and cheap way to combat such issues (tactile boards that of shop brought are often very expensive products). The pins original content is from the awesome blog makeadoandfriend.blogspot.com.

As mentioned I couldn’t stop at just three, so, here’s a few more…

This pin is from handsonaswegrow.com and demonstrates the beauty in sensory play. Dish or shaving foam is both a cheap and effective play idea for the child who sensory seeks.

Lastly I had to share this pin that displays a badge displaying a quote many of us can relate too…

Pin from hugsnstitches4u.com

You can find my Autism and Sen board along with some other fab boards, over on my Pinterest  just click HEREFollow Me on Pinterest

This is post 16/30  of the Wego Health #HAWMC

When Special Interest become obsessive in children with Aspergers Syndrome

28 Feb

Special interests are great but sometimes pose a problem!

Its fantastic when your child diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome has a special interest, one he/she can focus positive attention, gain enjoyment from and importantly, learn from. 

Little man, has always had a special interest in transport and although this often skips between trains, buses and the London underground, it always remains within this area. 

Little man also enjoys Lego since discovering how much fun it can be, this has become an additional interest of his. Though it should be noted that he does incorporate his special interest of the above, within his Lego play. He spends lots of time creating new models of transport, whether it’s a bus or a train, he could be there for hours. 

This however isn’t a problem, though his special interest in transport did reach the point of extremely excessive a year or so ago when he was back in mainstream school.

 I found Little man was constantly mimicking the transport announcements that he had studied and memorised to a perfection! He was also intensely interested in the mechanisms of transport, especially that of the bus doors. He would use his hands to act out the opening and closing motion and spent hours beeping, so much so that I could hear it in my sleep! No matter where we were, if little man saw sliding windows or doors, he would head straight for them, sliding them open and closed as to recreate the same motion of the doors on the bus. I remember visiting his doctor at CAMHS for an emergency appointment which had been organised because of the trouble he was having in school, his low self-esteem, the anger it was creating, along with a whole host of other issues which resulted from such difficulties. He spent the whole appointment sliding the windows of her office open, before bashing them back together in a loud distracting manner. His doctor could hear the beeping sounds he was making as-well as the monotone voice he put on as he mimicked the announcements normally heard when on a bus! Right there and then she drew the conclusion that his special interest had become somewhat extreme, and if such behaviour was getting in the way of life, it was time to limit it. 

This may seem, to some, an extreme thing to do! Why stop him from doing something that clearly makes him happy (after all, he was having the most horrid time in school). The thing with Aspergers Syndrome and special interest, is that these interest can actually restrict interest and focus in all other areas in life. Basically, his interest in transport had reached a point where he could no longer focus his attention on anything else! It was clear to see that this had become much worse since things had could hugely down hill at school, that lead his doctor to believe that as-well as engaging in his obsessions because he enjoyed them, he had also started using them as a coping mechanism. Not only this, we also established that the opening and closing of doors and windows, or just the hand mimicking actions he was displaying literally all of the time was also providing him with some degree of sensory stimulation, he was sensory seeking! 

 I found that during the course of that year, we spent more time riding on buses than I likely had in my 20 odd years off living! To some degree this had its  advantages, not only did the bus drivers know us by name, often allowing us to indulge his love for free (I’m guessing they guessed this activity was costing me a small fortune, plus it wasn’t hard to work out, that Little man, wasn’t your “Typical child”) but I also found this to be a good reward system, no good behaviour, no riding the buses! Of course when this happened, a meltdown on a huge scale would follow,and although I admittedly caved on a few occasions, I largely remained consistent, which is obviously that best way to be

 Little man did some amazing talented things during the course of that year, he could basically tell you where any bus was heading in London, doing so with such acuity. Although he had always been pretty good at this, it was now on a whole new level! My son was able to tell us what bus was destining for where, despite never having been on some of these bus before!

 It was incredibly hard to take the doctor’s advice and over time, limit the time he spent on this interest. This itself took strength a whole bucket load of the stuff. I used to find him wandering around the house at 4 am beeping away, worse he would be unravelling the toilet tissue around the house as to create a route for his imaginary buses to follow. I could lead him back to bed, but I couldn’t always keep him there, I couldn’t switch his mind off his interest, he’ll just lay there in the dead of night, recalling hundreds of buses and destinations from memory.

 It was only after he started his new special school for children with autism and aspergers and his discovery of the Lego brick, that I finally saw a dramatic decrease in these behaviours! OK, despite Melatonin of a night, his still up till the early hours, and of course he still beeps and has a run through of bus numbers, but it’s nowhere near on the same level it once was.

 The Lego gave him a distraction and another form of sensory play, while his growing confidence in himself as a result of his new-found happiness at school, are the reasons behind this reduction. 

 Little man’s interest in transport will likely always be his special interest, and probably that bit more obsessive than most people’s interest. However, now it is manageable and I couldn’t be happier with this!

  I even got asked by the bus driver last week, if all was OK because he hadn’t seen us for a while… Result! 

 
%d bloggers like this: