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Sense This

All my sensory issues stem from Vodka. 

Running out of vodka, 
having to wait in line
to buy vodka,
and dealing with stupid
people without vodka.
The Baltimore chapter of the Autism Society of America, ASA, recently hosted a speaker to come  and talk about Sensory Processing. Sensory Processing is how your brain via the central nervous system processes all stimuli from the environment. The disorder is when the brain misreads or over-reacts to the external stimulus and it could cause issues among all the senses or just one. It can cause a myriad of reactions, like: when a child freaks out because the florescent lights are flickering or humming even though no one else in the room seems to be affected. It also causes people to cover their ears due to sounds, voices,or excitement. It is why some people can't eat certain tastes or textures. It is why some people freak out going to IKEA.  It is why some kids spin in circles, unaffected and why some kids are afraid of falling. It is about hyper and hypo sensitivities within the senses which means that their brain is unable to regulate them properly.

Most people have some type of processing disorder, be it large or small. After all, we can't expect perfection from our bodies. They are very complex and since so many parts rely on each other, it is easy for something to ago awry. We all know people who can't stand certain voices, and it just may be a coincidence that it is their mother-in-law who triggers the "fight or flight" response. I feel so overwhelmed when I walk into Bed Bath and Beyond, that I have to leave, and it is not because I forgot my 20% off coupon.  Some people love roller coasters and some people can't tolerate them. And some people gag at certain sights or smells.

Our guest speaker brought in different types of materials that are used to help people with Sensory Processing issues. Since they affect all the senses, she had many to appeal to every one, which ranged from squishy balls to snacks. And we were allowed to try them all, which may have not been the best idea for a very giddy, happy to be out of the house, ADHD person like myself.

Because, then she brought out the Body-Sox. It is a stretchy bag with a Velcro closure that you can completely fit into and close. When it got to me, I had to give that baby a whirl. After all, I had several children with sensory issues and #1 would LOVE it, so it was research. I had to do the mommy investigating. In the middle of her presentation, I stepped into the bag, closed the Velcro half way and did my best "here's Johnny"'(my favorite scene from the movie, The shining), causing the speaker to pause while everyone else who knew me, cracked up.  I have to admit, it did feel pretty good in there. If I had on the noise canceling headphones that were playing classical music while in the Body-Sox, it would've been that much better. 

Sensory integration issues are really quite subtle. People react to external stimulation in a number of ways and sometimes, it is often mistaken as bad behavior.  I am sure many people have lost their shit because they heard one too many Barney songs, their in-law's voice, an alarm that won't shut off, or the flickering of a fluorescent light bulb.These things trigger the "fight or flight" instinct which is so overwhelming that it can cause aggressive behavior,  While I was at #3's field day, which had to be inside because of the rain, one child in particular was misbehaving. It wasn't mine, Yippee! He was sent to he office and brought back a bit later. I knew he had some special needs so I walked over to him and asked him if it was too loud for him. He looked at me and smiled, it seemed he was relieved that I understood the issue. He was so overstimulated by all the kids and noise that he couldn't help but bother other kids by touching them and swinging his body around. When I offered him a quiet spot which became sitting in front of me on the floor while I gave him some deep pressure, he relaxed and smiled. And in that smile was his message, "thank you for getting it."

For many of us, it is hard to stop and redirect ourselves or others while we are being sucked into the the "fight or flight" vortex. Many times, people in the midst of a sensory meltdown can't tell you what will make it better, so you have to know how to respond.  In my years of dealing with my kids and learning about all things Autism, I have learned that there are so many subtitles that exist within the diagnosis. I find that if you just sit back and observe the environment and the child's reaction, you can get a general baseline of how they will react to certain stimuli in the environment. But as much as you think you are ready for everything, there will always be something that causes the child to react in a way that screams, "I am having a sensory reaction"  but  you can't pinpoint the cause and it can be very frustrating for all parties involved.

That may be your cue to grab the vodka, headphones, walk into the closet and crawl into the Body-Sox.


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