One of the more commonly defined links to autism is the many differences in sensitivity to stimuli. There are some of us who experience extreme sensitivity to many things where other’s may experience varying levels of sensitivity to certain things like light, sound, temperature, textures, smells, movement and the like.
There are those who have heightened awareness of their surroundings, not notably uncomfortable for some, but may be over stimulating and even painful for others. I imagine for the NT brain the receiving of information is much less noticeable with little to no thought or even recognition of the process. But for those who are on the spectrum it is quite different. Information flows into the brain and is systematically compartmentalized into varying categories and subcategories. This can be felt. It’s like having a bunch of feelers with sensors shooting out from your body and the sensors are touching, feeling and absorbing information from everything, event the particles in the air. This is a constant sensation and can be quite distracting. It makes it difficult to focus, sleep or even be still.
Image what it feels like to receive input from everything around you at all times. Some of the input can come across as light and benign or disturbing, disruptive and even jagged like broken glass.
Humming or some other form of stemming behavior helps with the effects of overstimulation. It counteracts the discomforts of being overstimulated lending itself as a way to control informational flow. That way we are able to receive the flow of information and still be able to focus on an object, task or the sorting and purging of thoughts at the same time. When this happens it is as if the flow splits into conscious and unconscious. The unconscious flow is the constant and the conscious flow is merged into the constant, so one can put more focus on whatever one is consciously doing or experiencing with less distraction from the unconscious informational flow.
No matter what our cognitive ability or what level of functioning we are labled, our minds and bodies are always receiving information.
There are some of us who need physical help to calm from over stimulation like pressure applied to different areas of the body such as the arms, back, shoulders, base of neck and head. There are assistive technologies that can help with this such as weighted blankets, vests and bands. Bands are versatile because they can be placed on different body parts such as ankles, wrists or even worn as a headband. Some autistics may respond well to massage or brushing of the body or limbs. It all depends on the individuals need and what is most comfortable for them. Physical activity is another possible way to help like walking, stretching, jumping, running or carrying heavy items for short periods of time. All of these thing help to calm and center.
Lighting is also very important. It is crucial for me to be able to control lighting in my home because my sensitivity to light varies. I have also given this option to my son so he is able to control the lighting and light source in his room. He changes the lighting in his room several times a day depending on his need. He may start the day with curtains open. Natural light seem to help him be more alert. When he is settling into stemming mode he like a lessor light which he gets from a clip-on desk lamp. The lamp has an adjustable neck so he can angle it in any direction to get the desired amount of light. When we return from outings or when guests leave, my son likes to use either of his lava lamps which gives his room a worm amber or deep pink glow.
Sound is also something that can be soothing or excruciating. If silence does not seem to be calming and too many noises over stimulating you may want to experiment with other sounds such as a low snowy sound (like the sound made by old analog TVs when the station goes off) or perhaps the sound of slow flowing water. Music may be a little soothing. For some the sound of instrument and voice may be a bit much, so you may want to separate the two and try either all instrumental (one or more instruments) or a calm soft A Capella (one or more people singing).
I cannot speak for all of us. Each person is different and their experience is their own. I am one small voice on the spectrum.
Partial Repost from http://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/the-thing-about-autism/
Originally posted by Kyra Anderson 5.0 http://kyraanderson.wordpress.com/
The Thing about Autism – Exert
“You find yourself at the center of a huge debate. You’re the new black, the hot topic, part of a growing epidemic, an oft-cited statistic that grows at alarming rates or not at all, depending on who is doing the reporting. You’re living the thing most families fear. You’re the brave one, the resilient one, the courageous one, the one doing something she or he (but mostly she) says she can’t imagine herself doing, performing some super feat of parenting, loving with super patience or super understanding or super tolerance while she races home to a child that skips up the path of maturation and competence and independence and connection with nary a nudge from anyone.”
My comment to your post 🙂
Kyra 5.0, your words are a beautiful homage to parenting a child on the autism spectrum or having other special needs.
I re-read your post several times and had a little difficulty processing it. At first I thought how bold to brag on one’s self… Truth of the matter, parents need to be able to toot their own horns sometimes.
I work diligently with my son, but only see it as a labor of love. I don’t think of myself as a hero or supermom or feel that I am particularly brave or resilient. I am who I am and I do what I do because I love who I love with all that I have. And that’s it.
There are many of us who go through life not giving any thought to what we do everyday. It takes wonderful people like you, who bring us back to the level and make us feel like we are doing something right. Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute to all of us who spend our days and night loving and raising our precious autist/aspie kids.
Greetings fellow writers and readers! It’s so nice to meet you. I can’t tell you how encouraged I feel just knowing that you are out there. Thanks you very much for liking my posts and following my blog. I look forward to many wonderful exchanges with you in the future. My hope is that we grow together, learn from each other and support each other on our journeys.
Please post comments as they are the fuel that feed my fire. I am often inspired by the gems of wisdom, encouragement, questions and sharing that only you can give. Your comments are most precious to me because they allow me to see your point of view, to know how my words affect you and to experience you through your words. It is indeed a union most welcomed.
If you are not sure where to leave a comment, there is a box on the left side of the post that is black with white writing. In that box you will see the date of the post, categories and at the bottom a place to click to leave your comment.
I hope to get to know you all a little bit better as I take you with me on my journey. Thank you for joining me.
I had a lovely time on the phone with my cousin this morning. We joked about the little things couples do to feel connected…things that add interest and spice to a relationship. She and her husband certainly know what works for them, after all, they are happily married and have been for almost 30 years. They’re the poster child for the quintessential partnership that I think most couples intend to have but seldom achieve.
So how do I explain to her what relationships are really like for me?
How do I convey the level of discomfort I feel when having to share my space for long periods of time. I can hardly adapt to having overnight guests let alone sharing my space with someone for the rest of my life. Okay…perhaps not the rest of my life, but not even for the next couple years. It’s not the same as living with your children. They are a part of you and innately have the ability to understand you, to learn your likes and dislikes as they develop their own. There is a bond between mother and child that space and time cannot touch. It’s totally different when taking on an outsider, your partner, who is not as connected and has no clue about your needs or you not knowing how to convey those needs. How would I have explained to my husband that I needed to have a separate bedroom or my real desire was to have him as a neighbor? I did not realize these things until after marriage.
Should I be completely honest and say how much I hated being married, not just to my husband, but in general? How I hated almost every aspect of marriage, pretending to be happy while cohabitating with someone else, always being around people at work and at home. It would have been so much better if I had my own space. It was very stressful trying to cope with endless social events between both families which were excruciating at best. Those who knew me well noted the number of gatherings we hosted and realized it was highly unusual for me. They’d often point out my obvious discomfort. I was exhausted and there was no refuge outside of sleep which was often interrupted by husband’s carnal needs. I eventually retreated from husband and friends. I know they felt abandoned and I am sorry for that, but I had nothing left to give. I needed solitude.
As for something special, I pretended to love the flowers that he bought because it made him feel like he was doing something special. He could not understand that I hated cut flowers. They’d just die and stink and I ended up with a surplus of vases stuffed into a back cabinet. I guess he thought I liked flowers because other women like them. That’s as silly as thinking all females like pink. Why? Is it because someone out there made pink the universal color for femininity? Just for the record…I hate pink too.
I’m not sure what to do to appease my distain for romantic relationships and doing the little things to spice them up. I cannot explain how agonizingly awkward it is to hold hands or to snuggle which I had never done prior to marriage and had no clue how to do. This was never a suggestion of mine. But I would try to appease my husband when he requested snuggle time. Do I put my head on his shoulder or his chest or perhaps on his arm? Where do I put my arms? Should my arm go under me or in between us? The other arm feels weird. I don’t like the feel of his arm around my shoulder or the sound of our clothes rubbing together. Physical romance is far from my mind. There is nothing comforting about this exchange. I am frustrated and my hands are balling into fists. I can’t breathe…we’re too close. I excused myself and went into the living room. He follows me and wants to sit next to me and watch TV. There’s no escape. I just want to be alone and to read my book.
What do you need to be your best in a relationship?
There are many books, magazine, movies, blogs and the like addressing this subject. I’m not sure if these things are a help or a hindrance. My idea of the perfect relationship is based on having a cohesive cerebral existence with my partner and a willingness to listen to each other’s needs. It is finding a way to communicate those needs effectively and respectively in a language that each partner can understand. Our love, communication, commitment and even sex should extend beyond the boundaries of flesh. Perhaps that is why so many of us need other things to make our relationships feel special. We do not understand the deeper levels of connection. Perhaps we are merely filling a void with ritualized practices deemed necessary because they can creating finely woven threads of purposeful colonization between partners, but on the other hand, can imploding into an emotional vortex contingent upon one’s perception and reception of such carefully orchestrated events.
Obviously I don’t have the answers to many of these questions, but I do have a better understanding of my needs and what I have to give. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be willing to try it again. But don’t get your hopes up dear cousin. I suspect you may already have some prospects in mind. Just know that I am not ready, but the possibilities are there.
I will no longer give into the occasional 10 minutes of awkward. Instead I will continue to improve my ability to communicate my needs and an ability to listen to the needs of others. And hopefully I can have that special relationship where we both find it important enough to develop creative ways to fulfill those needs.
Looking at your child’s life in the long term; wouldn’t it be better for them to know how to cope with change, rather than having to endure countless meltdowns?
Our children need to be able to find an emotionally comfortable place in a world that is not going to cater to them or their unique needs all the time. Starting to work with your child, as early as possible, on flex routines will make transitioning into holiday and other special events much easier over time. Don’t let your precious ones diffuse holiday spirits. Give them the skills they need to enjoy and even anticipate joyful occurrences in their routines. Our children have the ability to anticipate the good things in life. Let’s make it a little easier for them. All they need from us is our patience, lots of repetition and a little ingenuity to smooth out the rough spots.
As you are setting goals for your child, anticipate needs as they grow older and how they will have to navigate themselves in the world, as it presents itself to them.
I am grateful for the medical staff that took such good care of my child during his early years. Even though, admittedly I’ve taken their advice with a grain of salt. There are those occasions when you voice a concern and in return you are offered a textbook remedy that just won’t work in the long term. What appears to be just right for the moment ends up causing other developments later, leaving you in a lurch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to listen to the advice of your child’s medical staff and therapists, but add your own knowledge of your child and a dash of common since into the equation.
It troubles me to see children having difficulties adjusting during the holidays, but who can blame them.
After all, lights are twinkling, music’s playing; people running in and out of the house; pretty things you can’t touch; loads of sugary goodies to munch and then…Santa Clause falls into your house.
My family celebrates the Christmas holiday a little different. Our efforts are not so much to give and receive gifts, but being a gift to others as Jesus is certainly the greatest gift to us. And then, there are some that like to celebrate Christmas focusing more on family traditions, whatever those traditions may be. In any case, there are ways to help our children cope with changes in their routine during the holiday season.
As a general rule, we have routines that are what I call, “flex routines.”
A flex routine is pretty simple. Have your routines in place, but make changes starting off with 1 or 2 small things and slowly increasing frequency and variety of changes over a period of time. Whatever is comfortable for your child. This will help them develop the skills to find comfort in their structure set while anticipating possible change and adjusting to change more readily.
Allow your child to have a sense of involvement in your day to day and special plans.
My son and I enjoy going out with friends and family; this was something he was accustomed to. But, when it came to having guests over for dinner or just to hangout for awhile; my son was much less receptive. We rarely had company unless it was therapists, friends for play dates or something having to do with my son’s needs. Sometimes friends would stop by unexpectedly for a visit; they were often greeted with a barrage of grunts and little things done to draw all attention to my son. This would sometimes make me and my guests feel uncomfortable. You don’t want to find yourself trapped in a world without social outlets for yourself as well as your child.
I honestly did not consider how my son would feel about my having unexpected guests, knowing that he was used to being center of attention. I had to come up with a way to flex our social routine. How did I do that? Well, I started by making a simple story board that had a picture of our home and pictures of some of the rooms in our home. We cut out pictures of people that we knew and people in general; together we placed the pictures on the story board. It was like a game at first, which was great, it kept him engaged. We would then make up stories about people coming to visit us, with and without children and things that we’d like to do. This practice made the difference in his transition to our new flex routine, enjoying guests in our home; even his ability to share our guest’s attention with me became easier.
Also, with a few simple tweaks, you can modify this practice to include events planning, such as parties or outings. Simply place pictures of people in general, yourselves or your guests, if available, on a wall calendar. Create a dialog about the event and when it will happen. Your child will be able to relate to the visuals which make the event more tangible for them. Now, there are no more surprises. Your child will know what to expect and may look forward to planning future events with you; especially for this up and coming holiday season.
You now have a creative tool to make transitioning from regular routines to the planning of events and the inevitable unplanned events, go a little more smoothly for both you and your child.
Take your time, be creative, enjoy your child and allow your child to enjoy you.
I am diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, which is considered to be a form of high functioning Autism. Psychologists say my Asperger’s is mild due to skill set and coping abilities. One of the things that made me aware of differences early on is an ability to recall unusually early childhood memories and an ability to communicate these memories in rich detail later on.
Research: I find after years of personal research the average person’s early memories “typically” start between the ages of 2-5 years. In some cases, memories may start even later if there is early childhood trauma. There have been subjects claiming to have little or no recollection of their youth before the ages of 9-11 years. This being said, those same subjects report having some scarce recollections of shadowy events, but do not seek clarity of memory, understandably so.
Since receiving my diagnosis, I began seeking out individuals on the spectrum (Autism, PDD-NOS, Asperger’s Disorder and High Functioning Autism) to pose my conundrum. So far, it has been a mixture of the “typical” response of 2-5 years alongside a small grouping of individuals who are noted for having early childhood memories that span as far back as 9–18 months of age. This is the first time, outside of a closely related family member that I have spoken with individuals having childhood memories before the age of 2.
In my case, it was during my pre-adolescent years when I first recalled memories going back as far as 6 months old (approximately). Those memories are as vivid today as they were when I first recalled them. My earliest memory is of my mother changing my diaper. She held my feet up to remove the diaper, cringing a little; she quickly removed it and began wiping me clean. I cannot recall an offensive odor. Perhaps I could smell the odor, but did not find it offensive at the time. My mother’s reaction is the only indication that there might have been an odor associated with my diaper.
Observation: When my son was an infant, I made a mental note of his reaction or should I say lack of reaction when changing a heavily soiled diaper and/or emptying his colostomy bag. He did much the same as I did…cooing, grinning and waving his arms which I gladly reciprocated. He did not react to the odor. And when I’d crinkle my nose and sing the “stinky dink” song, my son would simply grin and drool even more.
An infant’s lack of response to his/her own bodily smells appears to be a typical occurrence as observed with my son and other infants.
My diapers were white and made out of cloth. Mom folded the cloth into a triangle and then placed it under me. She used pink bunny diaper pins. I recall her using yellow duck pins as well. I found those diaper pins, many years later, in a little gold colored box, neatly tucked in a drawer. I can also recall my right arm resting on a white container that felt very cool and had a smooth yet soft granular feel to its surface. The tactile feel of the soft granular particles on that smooth cool surface were euphoric. Mom took the item from me and I could see something written on it…Johnson and Johnson’s. Of course, at that time I did not know what the words said, but knew exactly what the words were when I recalled the memory.
What is your earliest childhood memory?