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Sensory Experiences -- A personal story

By Stacie:

I'm going to begin this with talking about "frustrations" and the physical bombardment which can manifest them. I know that you know about different senstivities, but I'm going to try and explain how this sensitivies effect the body and the mind.

Let pretend you are in a kitchen. You probably have a window, lighter colored walls and floors and a white fridge. All these lightly colored things reflect light. They create a beautiful array of colors as they "dance" off of your walls. Since most children with autism have dialated pupils, which means they gather more light than what is considered "normal". Frustrations #1 "Don't you see the prism of colors and aren't you blinded?"

Now, you may have a dishwasher, microwave and a fridge. Did you know that standing beside a fridge is like being really close to a freight train? Microwaves are worse. And dishwashers sound like your in a war zone! Frustration #2: "Why doesn't all that noise bother you, it hurts me?"

Tactile: Did you know synthetic fibrac burns the skin? Did you relize that seems feel like razors? Frustration #3: "Get these closthes of me, I'm on fire!"

Internal: Can you hear the blood whooshing thru your head? Do your ears always ring? Can you feel your heart beat? Does everything you eat feel like a brick? Does milk make you feel drunk or goofy? Does your stomach itch and burn? Can you hear gunshots in your head? Do your arms and legs feel like jello?

Sometimes, you can block all of this out. By "stimming". I dislike that term. It is NOT a stimulatory activity but a very, very, very calming one on nerves that are totally frazled all of the time. "Please let me swing, or rock back and forth, flap my arms". "I can 'feel' my arms then." Please let me spin plates and car tires" Please let me line up my cars. There is no sensible order out there. I can't control anything. Please give me this". "Join me in this. I can see that I don't belong. Make me feel as if I do."

I really do not beleive "SIB's" are that at all. We don't want to hurt ourselves. "BUT DAMMIT-MY BODY HURTS". "CAN'T YOU MAKE THE LIGHTS NOT FLASH". "I'M TOTALLY CONFUSED BY ALL THE SWIRLS OF COLOR!" "WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME NO WHEN I HIT MY HEAD ON THE WALL, THE F...ING PAIN MOVES". You think you have a "temper tantrum". With the screaming and yelling , but you don't. You have a plea in the only way I can tell you. Please put me somewhere quiet, and somewhat dark!" "I CAN'T TAKE ANY MORE OF THIS CRAP! WHY DOESN'T THIS BOTHER YOU?" I wanna tell you what's going on with me, but somewhere between my brain and mouth it gets lost in the noise and color. "DAMMIT, I HATE THIS!"

Picture this bombardment constantly on your body and in it. It never stops, even at night when sleep is susposed to bring a peace to the body. What is peace?

Coping... This a hard one. This is a continual coping process. At 38, I reckon I have found a few ways. As, a teenager, once the initial surge of puberty hormones was over, I discovered that I had a bit more freedom to eat what I could handle. By this I mean no one would force me to eat fruit, fruit pulp gags me. I also learned that milk set in my stomach as a ton of bricks. So, I didn't eat those.

I learned as an adult to scatter brightly colored rugs around a light room. It really helps in obsorbing some of the brightness and reflections from the lighter walls and such.

I have discovered that my stomach/intestines feels better if I take a small amount of Vitamin A dialy. Along with my vitamins. I also have a lot less bowell trouble.

I have a great Psychiatrist who I have been going to since 1985! Sometimes I go more than at other times. He has helped me to learn about emotions other than happy/sad/angry sort of thing.

I also take St. Johns Wort herbal blend with Kava Kava, Gotu Kola, Ginsing, Ginger, Kelp. This helps me to remain more relaxed. If things get really bad, I keep a supply of Inderal (beta blocker) for heart palpitations and panic attacks. Which I do have on a regular basis.

I am also hypo-glycemic. And crave sugar to keep my blood sugars up. But, I do have a yeast problem with frequent yeast infections. Did you know that yeast infections burn in your entire gut? And make you silly?

As for the "SIB's" I still feel the need to sometimes just bang my head...but I don't. So I do allow myself to put on steel toed shoes and go outside and kick a tree. Other times I just jump up down or swing...

With my son if he stimms. That's ok. If he head bangs. That is ok too. I look at it as something the body needs to do. I just provide a way in which he will not injure himself. For example - if he does head bang I put a large over stuffed pillow between him and floor. He head will get the sensations of jarring but it won't get bruised. Sometimes, he used to poke his fingers into his eyes. I would give him a hand towell and show him how to put an even pressure on the eyes. Beleive this or not, it callms the eyes. I will also put him in a darker area.

He does from time to time throw raging fits. OK. these are fine too. I pick him and put him in his room. I turn of light. Put on some low "relaxation" cd's. He likes the ocean sounding one. I close his windows and curtains. He usually will not allow me comfort him. So, I allow him time to begin calming down. Once they begin to callm down from the bombardments they are more able to handle intervention by comforting, holding etc.

I hope some of this helps.

[My thanks to Stacie for allowing me to use this experience on my site.]

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