Welcome to part 4 in our series about two children on the autism spectrum. If you’ve missed the previous posts in the series, you can get caught up here:
This week Jen, from Anybody Want a Peanut, and I will be talking about sensory issues that our boys have had.
Moe is a sensory seeker. Even as a baby, he would stare at ceiling fans and would be calmed with white noise or even a loud hairdryer. (Of course, many babies are.) Around the time he was diagnosed at age 2, Moe would spin a lot and stare at lights. We had a toy, the Incrediblock, where the top would spin when he pressed a button. He would play with that for 45 minutes at a time. He would stim on any toy with sounds and lights for a long time. Of course at the time, we didn’t call it “stimming.” We just thought we were lucky to have such a focused kid! And we were, but we also didn’t recognize that this was something that could have bigger implications.
Today, Moe swings, jumps and climbs constantly, craving whatever sensory input he can find. He will literally bounce off the walls running from one end of the hall to the other, crashing at each end. He loves water, which can be both calming or stimulating depending on his mood. Moe is pretty good about requesting sensory input, but the line between “want” and “need” can be blurry. Moe loves the iPad and TV (two of the only activities he’ll do independently), and he’d have those, plus a noisy toy all going at once if I let him. But he can also get overstimulated (and drive the rest of us mad) so it is a fine balance.
Moe almost always has a chewy around his neck, usually a bandana with a knot in the middle—a great suggestion from Moe’s first, and still our favorite, Occupational Therapist. I’d suggest it for any kid who chews on his clothes. Everything goes in his mouth, from paper to dirt, and as we’ve already discussed, great food! I think the fact that he likes strong flavors has to do with his sensory processing (though I suppose that’s probably true of everyone).
The plus side of having a sensory seeker is that he is also a kid who likes to snuggle and hold hands. Some of my favorite times are when we are on the couch, watching TV, and he’ll lace his fingers between mine. He likes his feet, knees and head squeezed, wiggles into tight spaces, and although we’ve never done a strict brushing protocol, he does enjoy that kind of input.
Connor is interesting when it comes to sensory issues. When he was smaller, he screamed at the sound of the lawnmower or hairdryer. He would often become overwhelmed in crowded situations where there were too many people and too much sound. He also hated, and still hates. to get his hands dirty.
With time and maturity, he’s much less sensitive to crowds and noises, and I can dry my hair without a screaming fit from the next room. He is still a sensory seeker though, when it comes to physical input. He is always on the go, and frequently spins, climbs, and tumbles to get the input he needs.
His physical sensory issues are most noticeable when he’s sitting still to do his daily reading. He’ll frequently ask me to rub his leg while he reads because it give him the pressure he needs to keep from squirming around constantly. Electronics tend to be a calming focal point for him. He can watch TV, play on the iPad, or play Minecraft on the computer and lose himself for hours.
On Thursday, December 11th, we’ll be back with the next topic in the series: behavior. Feel free to write about your child and link up in the comments.