It’s a Saturday afternoon, myself and the children are sat in our local cafe where I’m treating them to lunch and their favourite milkshake. Sat across from us, there are workmen sipping their tea as they delve into a spot of all day breakie. It’s a little noisy but that’s just what you expect from a cafe, isn’t it!
Suddenly I hear the sound of scraping metal, it seems drawn out, lasting forever. I look round to spot one of the builders doing a grand old job of ensuring he gets his full five quid’s worth, as he fights to scrape the remaining 4 or so baked beans onto his fork, before finally shoving them in his mouth and down his throat. I turn my head in the direction of Little Man (aka a boy with Aspergers) who now has his hands firmly placed over his face, shaking his head, he mumbling words I cannot understand, yet I know what he’s saying, his saying, “Mum, let’s get the hell out off here!”
Sensory Overload is powerful, so much so, it can make a person actually vomit. So, if my Little Man is so sensitive to such sounds, why take him to a place they are bound to be found? Little man loves the cafe and I want him to experience such small pleasures such as eating in one! Some days can be worse than others, his done well at trying to take in these sounds that cause him so much distress, finding other methods of dealing with it! Yet, this is all dependent on his current state of mind and how he feels physically at the time (I guess it’s like anyone and anything, example being how things are much harder without sleep)!
Such simple things interfere with Little man’s senses and I feel as his mother, it’s my duty to help him find ways to regulate them best he can! He has to live with many sensory triggers, some that will never be fully avoidable, I want to be sure that he can cope both physically and mentally. Given Little man faces many of these sensory triggers on a daily basis, myself and his OT based within his school, are trying our hardest to help him to process these things better as to not let it take over completely making him stressed upset or simply meltdown! The sound of scraping metal is just one in a long list of sensory processing difficulties the Little man experiences with each day, and was actually one of the first indications that Little man had such difficulties within this area! This was when he was not much older than 2-years-old.
Certain tactile experiences are yet another sensory trigger for Little man, he will refuse to wear certain clothing garments dependent on their material, he refuses to drink from plastic beakers or eat from plastic plates, stating it leaves him feeling fuzzy. It’s taken a long time to work out what does and what doesn’t upset him, I can safely say, that in many respects, especially in regard to the clothing issues, I have it nailed now! Then again given he refuses to wear anything other than joggers, it isn’t hard to establish what it is I should be offering him to wear every day. We are so lucky that his special school for children on the autism spectrum actually allows joggers as part of its uniform! Mainstream school and its uniform policy caused little man great distress, he was even excluded from school on a number of occasions for sensory outburst when demands were made to tuck his shirt in! For the average person, that’s like requesting they stick their head in a hot oven!
The good news was “Bob the builder” (aka workman opposite) had managed to capture all of his baked beans so had finally stopped chasing them around the plate! The bad news was, Bob’s crew also liked to engage in some good old grub chasing and soon enough Little man let rip!
Raising to his feet he turned in the direction of the workmen and with great volume stated, “Id much rather you licked your plate please” Now, a little shocked I’m sure they were, after all, it’s not every lunch break you get told to lick your plate by a small child (well, this was a good 3 years back, before his massive spurt in growth)! However, what they did next I didn’t expect! One goes for it… literally licking his plate while laughing and stating in between licks, “like that son, is it?” Little man had meant it all right, they may have thought my Little man was some little sarcastic wise arse, but I knew he meant it and was rather pleased at the fact this builder had taken his meaningful advice and got stuck in, licking like a dog.
Regardless of the fact I did laugh inside, (quite some amount in fact) I didn’t want little man thinking his chosen technique had won him silence, he would only be ordering the licking of plates every single time we ran into these problems, and let’s be honest, you always get one person who fails to see any funny side of anything whatsoever! This could therefore result in Little man getting hurt, maybe even being beating up as he grows older, and what mother ever wants to think about such a horrible thing happening to her child!
I’ve defiantly decided to start the Little man on a sensory diet, which before you ask, doesn’t have anything to do with food! Basically, this is a programme you can do at home which is made up of a series of activities and exercises, designed to help with sensory integration.
Here are some great ideas to introduce a child with Autism, Aspergers or just SPD to a series of Sensory-based activities things they may normally find difficult to process.
Introducing a range of textures as part of a tactile board, some children with autism like Little man, are incredibly sensitive to touch, others pose no issues at all. Hanging a tactile board in a bedroom, children can be encouraged to touch the board regularly, offering rewards for achievements.
Sensory messy box
This is great for both the sensory seeker and the child who is said to be tactile defensive. In terms of the sensory seeking behaviour displayed by some, the Sensory Messy Box offers children a safe activity (reduces sensory seeking behaviours, such as rocking spinning, clapping and more). For the child who is defensive, lots of encouragement and continued reassurance is the overall key. I’m planning to use incentives like mini Lego figures, to get the Little man wanting to put his hands in good fun messy coloured shaving foam, to hopefully dish about and retrieve them.
Dressing up box
It’s always best to fill a dressing up the trunk with both the materials your child does and doesn’t tolerate, as having them with him, (especially if he likes the look of the costumes) may just help him feel more motivated to make contact with the different textures on offer!
The creation of a sensory pad (aka Little man’s bedroom)!
Something I’ve felt the desire to create for, so… long! First I was put of the idea, having viewed some top sensory products, that included, lights, beds, toys and more at an autism exhibition. These items were innovative, top of the range, extremely clever, providing clam and tranquility, but sadly I found them to be priced outrageously high. As time passed, with much googling, window shopping etc, it became clear that this can be done on a smaller budget! High street stores do many sensory items, there just not labelled that way! Imagination and creative thinking are also the inexpensive tool needed for creating such a space. I’ve been using Pinterest and have been designing the board “the sensory room” as to collect inspiration and share it with others also wanting to create a place to help their child destress. I will update some more later in regard to my progress in building a Sensory pad, though do feel free to follow me on Pinterest where you will find this board, amongst other boards boasting lots of ideas for parents of children with special needs.