I remember first learning about sensory perception/processing disorder. My adorbs friend, Shelly, told me about it - two of her kiddos have it. It's really hard to describe; this is a spectacular article that really explains it in easy-to-understand terms.
Little did I know, when I learned about it, that I would have a child who would struggle with it. Lots of autistic kids deal with sensory perception issues; Gage is hypersensitive in some ways and hyposensitive in some ways. His hypersensitivities:
Exhibit A - Fourth of July Fireworks
Exhibit B - at Tumalo Falls. He might as well have been staring straight at the sun. He will only wear sunglasses for a few minutes, and refuses to wear a brimmed hat. Which leads us to....
Exhibit C - at Richardson's Ranch near Madras, Oregon, in front of an enormous pile of lavender quartz - I die! I am OBSESSED with rocks. Anywho, notice the pants that Gage and Micah are wearing. They refer to them as "soft pants." Neither of them will wear jeans.
Certain Kinds of Touch
A light, tickling touch is unbearable to Gage, and sometimes he jerks his hand away from mine, or will arch backward when I try to bring him in for a hug. But other times, he comes to me for a hug (he usually likes to back up into my legs to receive a hug. Like a beeping, reversing FedEx truck. Haha!) or slips his hand in mine.
His spirit animal is a cat, I think. Only wants lovies when he initiates. :) I'm not offended. It's what he needs.
Now for Gage's hyposensitivities (a.k.a. He needs more input from his senses in the following ways - regular, day-to-day input isn't enough for him, and he seeks more):
Spatial Relationships and Moving the Body
Gage loves jumping, bumping and crashing activities... (bumper cars are a fave):
And deep pressure, like tight bear hugs. I worked a lot in special ed this past spring when I was subbing, and we had an autistic kid who craved deep pressure. There was a gymnastics mat - you know the kinds that fold up like an accordion, and then can be laid out flat? And his favorite thing was being squished between two layers of those gymnastics mats. His classroom aid would gently push on him from the top. He was like the patty in a hamburger.
Spatial Relationships and Head Position
Gage is in constant motion. He loves spinning around, rocking back and forth on the exercise ball, being tossed in the air (he loooves Ben tossing him high and onto our bed), and jumping on furniture and trampolines. One of his first phrases when he finally started speaking was "Jump jumping!" which, in Gage Speak, was "I want to jump on the trampoline!" We once had a trampoline. And a yard in which to put that trampoline. And a house which had a yard. We had a lot of things. Sigh.
Sometimes I get sad about that.
So, as far as sensory perception disorder, there are kids who, when overstimulated, will cry, scream, get whiney, etc. And then there are those who will avoid the thing which is causing distress, running away from the noise, hiding in a quiet room... Gage is part of the first camp. We find that, when he's getting overstimulated, the best way for him to "reset" is to do anything involving vestibular motion - the spatial relationships and head position thing I just talked about. (And, BTDubs, my sister, Lexi, is the one who taught us ALLLLL of this stuff. She works in pediatric physical therapy, dealing with lots of kiddos who have sensory issues. She is amazing.) He'll ask for "head squishes" - gentle squeezing pressure on his skull with the palms of our hands. He'll start spinning around and around. He'll run back and forth between our front door and our back door, pausing at each door to jump up and down and flap his hands frantically. He looooves rocking back and forth on the exercise ball, forward and backward. Or he'll come for a hug and push to have both he and I rock dramatically left to right or front to back. Or he'll jump on the furniture.
My favorite. :)
I think all of us have a little bit of sensory stuff going on. I find, as I get older, that I am more and more sensitive. Something that has been off the charts sensitive for me, ever since chemo, is loud noises. Gage's occupational therapist says it's very common for people who have had chemo, which I found fascinating. I've done a little research on it, and it sounds like chemo will sometimes affect peoples' hearing. A lot of people who have undergone chemo start to have hearing loss, but I haven't really read anything that definitively talks about hearing sensitivity and chemo. But I believe the OT. She is sooooo wise, and has helped us so much.
For me, all of the small, background noises are the same as the important noises. For example, my fabulous friend, Sara, took me out to dinner for my birthday back in April. We were in a restaurant, and talking about this very topic, and to demonstrate, I said, "So that lady talking over there with her friend, the music over the speakers, the boy busing tables behind us, the cook frying things in the kitchen, and you and I talking, are all equally loud in my ears. It's like the volume for all of them is turned way, way up."
I've read some things that say that the extreme stress that cancer treatment causes can make you more sensitive to noise, which I also find interesting. That would describe the onset, but I'm trying to figure out why it's still hanging on.
Whatever the cause, it's obnoxious as heck. I've kept earplugs in my purse for Gage when we're in loud restaurants, etc. (He has a hard time keeping them in. I need to just buy a pair of those noise-canceling headphones for him.) But I find that I've started keeping a pair of earplugs for myself in my purse, as well. And then I added a pair to my catch-all area in the kitchen. Being Mom, I spend a LOT of time in the kitchen. And our living room is right next to the kitchen, great-room style. (Can a room that's, like, 30 feet by 15 feet be called a "great room"?) Ben seems to enjoy watching TV at eardrum-bursting decibel level in the living room. He also seems to enjoy tickling his children, which leads to them screaming either in glee (Gage) or dismay (Sadie). Ben also gets hyper sometimes and loves to sing in a falsetto opera - one of these days, I seriously think he's going to shatter the glass of his big, honking aquarium which sits in our living room. (I wonder if Ben is understimulated in his nice, quiet office all day and needs stimulation when he gets home...) Sometimes the kids will be yelling at each other in the living room. Or I'll have to put the fan on while I'm cooking on the stove top (which is as loud as a passing tornado, in my opinion). And it's all I can do to keep from running from the house, screaming and tearing my hair out. I'm a sensory avoider, as you can tell.
I use earplugs quite often in the car. Because of the whole falsetto operatic singing thing. And because Ben loves him some buttrock. Or the kids will be yelling at each other in the back of the car. (They are particularly adept at yelling at each other.) So I pop my earplugs in and slip off into oblivion.
I mean, I can still communicate with everyone while my plugs are in. I just feel like they put the noises back in the priority they should be - I can hear my kids when they're talking to me, and it drowns out the TV/the kids fighting while they do dishes/microwave fan crap that should stay in the background.
Before it dawned on me to use the earplugs, I had to take little sensory breaks in my bedroom, covers over my head, door locked, hands squeezed over my ears. I'm doing much better now that I've gots my beautiful little squishy, neon orange cylinders.
I also do yoga in my bedroom when things get a little too much. It really helps. My favorite is Yoga with Adriane on youtube. She's fantastic. I do yoga almost more for the mental side than the physical, I swear. I just crave that peaceful, quiet place that it takes me. All is right with the world when you've gotten your sweat on and are at the end of your workout, in savasana.
(How did they find this picture of me? As you can see, I've lost 40 pounds and grown boobs! You didn't know? Weird!)
Actually, it's time for me to do some yoga for spinal health, so I will sign off for now.