This 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:
* 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.
*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!)
*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?
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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