Sunday, November 20, 2011

Making Sense-ory

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
Sensory Integration Disorder (SID)
Sensory Issues
Sensory Avoidance
Sensory Defensiveness

When you hear about Sensory Processing Disorder (the new buzzword, aka SPD), usually people are familiar with sensory avoidance.  We've all known adults and children who are persnickety about certain textures, sounds, tastes, scents, etc.  SPD is that magnified 1000%, to the point of being disabling, isolating, physically and mentally painful.  No amount of logic or thinking will get the sufferer through.  It is truly a fight or flight situation.  

What most people aren't familiar with is it's lesser known sibling Sensory Seeking Behavior.  Everyone has known someone who's always on the go, is curious about everything, and seeks out action and thrills.  The Sensory Seeker is that on steroids, plus much more.  Never in one place, these kids seek loud noises, strong tastes or smells, fast action, power and often danger.  

G's both, which is fairly common in autism.  Usually the scale tips towards sensory avoidance with autism, but with G's ADHD added to the mix, he's primarily sensory seeking with a few avoidance issues.  For years, I've seen G's life flash by; sure he'd be lost or taken, run over, maimed or killed by a dangerous act.  My fears have lightened as his meds have helped - at least with his tempo - not driven by a motor at 100 MPH.  He has slowed down enough so that we may teach him danger.  He may not understand the logic.  I still can't tell if he understands our reasoning; or whether it is repetition and memory from visuals/PECS/social stories.  In any case, he's improving.  Drastically.  Thanks be to God, karma, Buddha, the stars, the moon, the greek and roman gods/goddesses, feng shui, chakra; all of it.  :)

But G's physical senses are also neurological affected.  He's under-responsive, proprioception (balance/body awareness issues), poor motor planning (clumsiness and delayed processing), high tolerance for pain.  Talk about the worst possible combination!  A clumsy danger seeker without a sense of pain.  He's constantly assuring us, "I'm ok," if he falls or hurts himself.  He's finally at least aware that he's done something to cause us worry - a good sign.  

But once the painful event is over, it's often difficult to get a straight story.  "How did you get that bump, G?"  is mostly met with, "I dunno."  At least he's past the stage where he was creating elaborate stories, making up people, scenarios.  What a terrifying, frustrating trip that was.

Here's an chilling example of his lack of sensory response to pain.  G is not fond of shoes or socks (sensory avoidance).  We have improved enough that he keeps them on in socially appropriate situations, but it all comes off when we walk through our door.  In the winter, I must fight him to keep his hat and gloves on.  He often takes of his boots, socks, gloves and hat to walk through the snow, making snow angels and snowballs (sensory seeking).  He's completely oblivious to cold and pain.  There are days when the struggle with him to keep his warm items on is more exhausting than shoveling the driveway...with mental weariness topping it off.  

I've been ill and it's been a busy week.  Tonight I noticed G's hands - from across the room.  I asked him over to see his totally red, chapped, raw little hands. Yikes, does that make me feel lax.  How long have they been this way?  1,2,3 days?  UGH.  Not a word, not a hint of discomfort.  Treating them is tricky, as are most things out of the ordinary for him.  I pulled out the big kahuna - no ordinary hand cream for these poor hands.  I opened a tub o'Vaseline and gently patted his parched hands that still have enough dimples and baby pudge to be adorable.  I explained how he needed the magic V lotion potion to help his hands heal and make the red go away.  Of course he immediately rubbed them on this shirt, probably further irritating them.  Later, I tried applying it while he slept, only to have him shift around, put his hands behind his head, likely smearing his pillow more than his hands. 

I feel his pain.  Every near miss, every moment of disappearance, every icy cold finger and toe, every scrape, bruise, bump.  I'm his eyes, ears, nose, etc.  The Sensory Police.  Here to protect and serve.  

I will not give up.  I have much big kahuna magic in my bag of tricks.  

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