Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew- Part 2; My Sensory Perceptions Are Disordered

12 01 2008

Here is part two of a ten part series from the new book I’m reading: Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm. The following is an excerpt from the article by the same name:

My sensory perceptions are disordered.  This means that the ordinary sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of everyday that you may not even notice can be downright painful for me.  The very environment in which I have to live often seems hostile.  I may appear withdrawn or belligerent to you but I am really just trying to defend myself.  Here is why a “simple” trip to the grocery store may be hell for me:

My hearing may be hyper-acute.  Dozens of people are talking at once.  The loud speaker booms today’s special.  Muzak whines from the sound system.  Cash registers beep and cough, a coffee grinder is chugging.  The meat cutter screeches, babies wail, carts creak, the fluorescent lighting hums.  My brain can’t filter all the input and I’m in overload!

My sense of smell may be highly sensitive.  The fish at the meat counter isn’t quite fresh, the guy standing next to us hasn’t showered today, the deli is handing out sausage samples, the baby in line ahead of us has a poopy diaper, they’re mopping up pickles on aisle 3 with ammonia….I can’t sort it all out; I’m too nauseous.

 Because I am visually oriented (see more on this below), this may be my first sense to become overstimulated.  The fluorescent light is too bright; it makes the room pulsate and hurts my eyes. Sometimes the pulsating light bounces off everything and distorts what I am seeing — the space seems to be constantly changing.  There’s glare from windows, too many items for me to be able to focus (I may compensate with “tunnel vision”), moving fans on the ceiling, so many bodies in constant motion.  All this affects my vestibular sense, and now I can’t even tell where my body is in space. In the book she talks about feeling like you’re always on a roller coaster– fun for three minutes but can you imagine going through your daily routine on a roller coaster? Making coffee alone would be enough to ruin your day…

In light of Sensory Disintegration– I am so proud of my J! He handles the off-kilter-ness of his world so well!  I’d be hideous!!  (And, my husband who moans for hours over a hangnail… yikes! What would he be like?) So, J’s outbursts aren’t rebellion, manipulation or bratty-ness– they are genuine cries for help– “Get me out of here”, “End my suffering!”

There are lots of different manifestations– Hyper-sensitive (Clothes hurt, the washing machine is too loud, the light is too bright…) and Hypo-sensitive (Yearns for deep pressure, louder, brighter, harder). J is Hypo-sensitive. He likes walking barefoot in gravel and loves to wrestle. He also is a recovering headbanger.  Identify what your child is– and work with it…

I believe that J will be a productive part of society and this book– the information in it– is a stepping stone. I highly recommend it to all who live with Autism– parents, teachers, grandparents, ministers, Sunday school teachers, lifeguards at the Y… It is up to us– the guardian’s of these kids to provide the people in their lives with this information.

An article by the same name is available on-line.

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