Sensational Successes

Sensational SuccessesThis past month has been an attention grabber. It seems every time I turn around, there is another great improvement my son has made staring me in the face.  Both my boys with autism have changed remarkably since they were toddlers.  So for this post, I want to focus on all the improvements—things I never thought I’d see—to offer some encouragement and hope to those of you who are in the trenches wondering if it will always be as hard as it is right now.

Here are a few highlights of the great gains Stevie has made:

* Stevie used to refuse to walk under a ceiling fan or hanging lights.  They terrified him!  He wouldn't even walk under a hanging light or fan to get to me if I was on the other side.  He'd start to walk, then stare at the fan dangling down as if it were just floating in air ready to crash upon his fragile frame at any minute. For the longest time, I had to pick him up to carry him past the Terminator-fans (and lights).

And here he is today:

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*  Stevie has always been very tactile defensive. He didn’t like soft touches—or if he did, it ticked him..a lot!  Because of his defensiveness, he would NEVER pick blueberries with us. He would come, and he would play in the nice, neat rows the orchard provided but he would not pick the blueberries. Reaching in to the bushes, past all those branches that scrape across his sensitive arms…it was just too much. And for what? He wouldn’t touch a blueberry with a 10 foot pole! It’s food. It’s a food he doesn’t eat.

Yet last weekend he did this:11855733_10206384260780417_1338278855031120380_n

*Stevie had gravitational insecurity when he was a preschooler. He was afraid to move. He wanted to be carried everywhere.  He would scream on a swing. He would not climb stairs to go on a slide.  If he were in a sand box, he would not step out of it. He would wait for someone to pick him up. He took forever to walk down stairs on his own. He always wanted to be carried.

And here is him last week:

(Click the picture to watch him in action!)

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*Stevie is very sensitive to sounds, and would benefit from noise reducing headphones, but he won’t tolerate wearing them. Sometimes this leads to him becoming overstimulated and overwhelmed, often ending in meltdowns.  This week we went to an amusement park. We didn’t know how Stevie would handle it. Last time we went (which was several years ago) he had a hard time coping with all the sudden sounds, clunks and bangs and screeching children.  He was too little to ride any of the "real" roller coasters, but this year he is tall enough for most things. For his first roller coaster experience, he wanted to try  the biggest roller coaster in the park!  All the while I was thinking, "What if he decides half way through it that he wants out?" Bad scenes played out in my mind, but... he loved it! He wanted to ride it over and over. Who knew?

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Stevie is in the first car, back seat with the hat!

Never say never, that is my motto.  Sometimes I am tempted to think some of the other sensory issues are not going to change, like his self-imposed severe food restrictions, for example.  Although he is severely restrictive, he is making progress… from slapping food out of my hand if he didn’t like the look or smell of it, to being able to let us eat what we want, and sometimes, he even peers over the table to look at it!  One time, he want to play at the table but it hadn’t been cleared yet. He actually touched Joy’s food in order to push it away from his space.  This, for him, is huge. And when I start to worry too much about it, I just look back and remember the things above—the amazing changes and progress my sweet boy has made.

Your child may be overwhelmed by the sensory world around him too, but from my experience, they do learn how to manage. They adapt to some extent. It won’t be this hard for them always. Especially if you have an OT that specializes in Sensory Processing.  They do amazing things!

There is hope.

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Spectacular Visuals: The Founders Fair Fireworks

Spectacular Visuals

"Mommy, Daddy, can we go?" They beg us, excitement bursting like the fireworks they dream will fancy their eyes on this (past) summer night.

Last time we went to see fireworks, it was sensory overload for three out of our four kids. Sage (autism) held a finger tight in one ear and pulled his shoulder up to muffle the other ear.  Hope enjoyed all the show had to offer, and Joy (then, just one year old) cried as if it were sudden rapid gunshots, not incredible beauty. Stevie (autism) held fingers in his ears and giggled... a lot. He couldn't tell us why then, but now 2 years later, I have a good guess as to why it ticked his fancy so much.

Fast forward to this past July. We went to our town's Founders Fair to see the fire works. We were hesitant because of the varying sensory needs and consequential behavior problems, so we took 2 cars. Escape plans make everything seem like a better idea!

We lugged our blankets and drinks up to the playground area of the local elementary school where the fair was taking place.  Knowing that last time we were too close to the fireworks for Sage's comfort, we spoke to one of the officers who was on safety duty, explained our situation and asked for advice on a good location to see everything, but not too close, and with a good exit.

The perfect spot was found, and we settled down.

And then magic began. But the magic of the fireworks didn't compare to the magic bursting forth in my kids.

Stevie, who is our most sensory averse child, watched with wonder-filled eyes as the fireworks unfolded in the standard circular pattern with multiple colors. Sometimes the larger outer ring would burst first, followed by the inner colors, and sometimes it was reversed. Sometimes they appeared all at once with an awesome crackily sound.

"It's like a peacock!" Stevie declares.

And we all laugh because it was like a peacock fanning it's feathers! Who better to notice the likeness than our boy who knows all things peacock and even speaks "peacock" (or so it seems)!

Joy, (she'd just turned 3) was seemingly oblivious to the booming this time, and followed suit with her brother declaring, "It's like a farm!"

And we all laughed even harder...because peacocks were at the farm we'd gone too but the fireworks really had no resemblance of a farm, believe it or not.

With each explosion and following display of peacock feathers over the sky, came more "It's like a (fill in the blank) with pure silliness and laughter.

No one complained this time about the thunder-like bursts preceding the beauty. It's like it wasn't that loud while anticipating spectacular beauty to come. 

Maybe, when we behold beauty that is so amazing it captures our gaze completely, all other sensory information fades away.  

I imagine that once we are in the presence of the ultimate beauty of God, that we will not be aware of much else around us, no matter how loud.

What About You?

Have you ever noticed when one sense is completely engaged, that another is dampened?

How do you imagine you will respond when you stand before Jesus in all His glory?

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