asd

That’d be great

The following post has very little words and is mostly comprised of stupid illustrations. I’m living in the fog of depression today… for numerous reasons. In honor of these negative sensations, I’ve decided to sit down and make a post of things that’d be great to have right now. I’ve comprised a list of things that this world – my world – needs more of.  In no particular order:

1. an abundance of therapy dogs

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Therapy dog uses nerf gun power to mercilessly destroy dementors:

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Yes, I am under there somewhere.

 

2. unexpected hot beverages and baked foods

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OH GLOB. IT’S RAINING HOT COCOA AND MUFFINS. YES. YES.

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MMMOOOORRRRRRRRREEEE

3. a better way to warm my ice-cold feet

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Mini jacuzzi for each foot – yes please!

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4. befriending dangerous wild animals, and just hanging out with them

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5. better news – both in print and on television

What the news is today:

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What the news should be:

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And there you have it. I’m too depressed to write anything else. More importantly, where THE HECK is my herd of therapy dogs?

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Important final note:

I was featured last month on the awesome SPD blog of Rachel S. Schneider, Coming to My Senses. I now command you all to go visit her blog! She also runs the facebook page, Sensory Processing Disorder Adult Support. She’s also super freaking amazing, and I drew her in my special way:

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My post on her page, Warehouse Of Chaos , is about my trip to Best Buy with my mom.

Also, October is Sensory Processing Disorder awareness month. Rachel and I collaborated on a banner that looks a little something like this:

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It’s beautiful, we know.

If we worked on it in real life, we’d probably look like this:

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xo kelly

 

 

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Food Shopping Part 2: Big Decisions

I recently had another ridiculous food shopping experience. Afterward, I realized it would make an absolutely marvelous blog post. So ladies and gents, here we go:

After shopping with momsy for what seemed like several hours in preparation for a BBQ, we finally reach the frozen food aisle in the grocery store. We decided to pick a frozen meal to have for lunch because:

a. We never have frozen meals, therefor it would be different and exciting

b. We were tired and hungry and the frozen food is for the lazy.

Momsy quickly selects her frozen lunch. Some chicken pot pie thinger-whatever. Good for her, I thought to myself. Now it was my turn.

Let me remind everyone that again, this was the END of long day of shopping all over town, and if you have read my first post about food shopping (click here to read it) you will remember that food shopping can be a somewhat very extreme sensory nightmare.

So there I was, surrounded by freezers with dozens, if not HUNDREDS of options for what to have for lunch. I was overstimulated, COLD, tired, and very hungry.

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I had to make a decision.

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The task at hand was not really complicated: Choose a frozen meal to have for lunch. But it felt so much more intense:

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(If you’re interested, the choices on the wheel are: lava, darkness, sword, chocolate, sharks, ice, puppies, poo, spider, knife, water, snow, fire, bugs, snakes, and bieber…whose name I spelled incorrectly. Go me).

Neurotypical people, like momsy, for instance, make decisions based on the fact that their brain does not struggle to process sensory information. All that comes naturally, so when they are in an overstimulating environment, their brain can focus on important decisions….like what to have for lunch.

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Then there are people like me, whose SPD brain – when pushed to the brink – experiences difficulty when having to process anything other than sensory info because it’s so darn busy trying to process basic sensory info that it LITERALLY doesn’t have time for anything else. My brain was like:

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When deciding on what frozen thing I wanted, my brain would only respond by stating what it could process at the time:

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GENIUS. UGHHHH

I remember standing in the aisle, pacing back and forth in front of the freezers and nothing was making sense. It felt like forever.

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I couldn’t stand myself! How could I have possible graduated with honors from my university just months ago, yet I couldn’t pick a frozen lunch from a freezer? WTF, you guys. To hell with my SPD brain, I was hungry and incapable!

Luckily, my lady in waiting, momsy, was there and she recognized that I was overstimulated.

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(Note: someone please make this frozen meal a reality. I don’t know about you, but I would buy Mr. Miyagi’s Kung Pow In Your Face Super Asian Noodles with SAUCE.)

And with that, all was ok. My brain accepted this box of asian cuisine and I was thankful that my decision making nightmare was over. I realized I had pushed myself too much all day, and my frozen meal meltdown – a seemingly random event –  was actually the product of too much overstimulation. I WAS SO OVERSTIMULATED THAT I COULDN’T RECOGNIZE THAT I WAS OVERSTIMULATED. Oh the irony!

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xo kelly

What School Is Like For The Sensory Sensitive

It’s that time of year again, SCHOOL’S STARTING, and for the sensory sensitive, you know what that means…

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That’s right. Time to scream and run for the hills.

I thought I’d make a blog post about school, because for me and many of you reading this blog, school was an awful time. This post will be about my personal experience with school, but please realize that – like most things – our disabilities and experiences run on a spectrum. This means that my experience may be vastly different from yours, even if we have the same set of problems. Still, I’m sure everyone will relate to what I’m about to say.

Now that the mumbo jumbo is over, let’s take a trip down memory lane:

Preschool was a fun and exciting adventure for me. I got to leave my mom, and go to a land of noisy, confusing, miniature idiots. Preschool went like this:

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Ma left me with the idiots, but only for a short while until she figured out that preschool just wasn’t for me. So I stayed home and focused on more important things:

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Soon enough, kindergarten arrived. Ready or not, I had to go. Well, I didn’t always go. Guess who had the award for most school absences ever? Yea, it was me. You guessed correctly, good job.

This pattern continued for like, ever.

I had my reasons….

Meanwhile on the school bus:

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The students had faded to loud, swirly blobs that encompassed all my hatred of school bus traveling.

Meanwhile, in the classroom:

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Sometimes, I became desperate and mentally deranged. Things got violent, sort of:

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(Ok so, that last bit never happened. But you get the point… no pun intended).

Meanwhile, in the cafeteria:

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Then middle school rolled along, and hey, it sucked too! Especially in 7th/8th grade, where my sensory sensitivities escalated for some reason. I still don’t know why that happened, I can only speculate what happened in my brain:

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In middle school, I was diagnosed with Hyperacusis, which is the inability to tolerate normal sounds. When I say “normal,” I’m referring to the sound of someone’s voice, or the sound of a car/bus passing, or the sound of a chair being pushed under a desk.

My other senses were heightened as well – just as they always were – but my noise intolerance dominated my life. It was around this time that I turned to drawing as a source of coping.

In high school, life suckage reached an all time high. The expectation of me getting through the day was flawed and destined for failure.

The idiots from preschool were basically the same:

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I began to think things:

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There was forced learning collaboration with students I’d wish to avoid at all costs:

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There was also lockers slamming, constant switching of classes, 7+ hours of constant sensory bombardment, and the expectation to perform academically, socially, etc.  Also…FIRE DRILLS. I’m lucky to have survived, honestly.

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Looking back at my time in school, I see a blurry mess of anxiety, stress, homework, noise, and tiny moments of joy. I know the same can be said for everyone living with sensory sensitivities or full-blown SPD. Luckily, times are changing and society is becoming more aware and more tolerant of our unique set of circumstances and needs. Who knows, maybe one day I will start the first SPD Academy, and school will be a freakin’ great time for everyone.

xo kelly

Highly Sensitive Person vs Sensory Processing Disorder

I’ve been basically dying to make this post for a long time:Picture 34

See, I told ya.

The more I read online about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and the somewhat related, Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) concept, the more I needed to explain the distinction between the two. I’m finding that people are diagnosed with (or more frequently, diagnosing themselves) with SPD, when really, they are more HSP.

So let’s begin by identifying what these two things are:

1. SPD, aka Sensory Processing Disorder (which I write about for pretty much every post) is a neurological problem where the brain’s sensory system does not function correctly. Meaning, when you perceive something in the form of sensory info, the brain is all “WTF.”

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SPD involves your SENSES, your vestibular system, proprioception, motor control, balance, and spatial awareness. There is a dysfunction in the actual processing of sensory information.

 

2. HSP, aka Highly Sensitive Person, is a “character trait” created by Dr. Elaine Aron. As much as 20% of the population, she believes, has this trait which makes them a highly sensitive type of person. What does this mean though?

HSP’s are very in-tune with their environment. They are overwhelmed by the world in general, specifically emotional situations, and they often struggle to watch or read violent/upsetting things. They are considered shy, quiet, introverted, and anti-social. They are deeply moved by music, art, nature, and all things beautiful.

Here’s the important part: HSP’s also have a problem with sensory info, as it can overwhelm them. They can be sensitive to noise, light, touch, taste, etc. They can become overstimulated and need to withdraw from the world to recoup.

This trait for sensitivity is so closely related to Sensory Processing Disorder, that Dr. Aron also refers to HSP as SENSORY PROCESSING SENSITIVITY. 

Good grief! Now you can see why Sensory Processing Disorder and Highly Sensitive Person are often confused.

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Here is – what I believe to be – the difference:

I think Highly Sensitive People DO NOT have issues with balance, motor control, or body-spatial awareness. Their sensitivities are usually less, but more specific, meaning, they might be sensitive to a certain type of food, or a certain texture of clothes. The bulk of their sensitivities are more abstract, emotional sensitivities.

Their sensory system is probably not dysfunctional, rather, their brains are in a constant state of hyper-awareness and the world can become all too much…all the time. They are sensitive.

If a person is deeply disturbed by emotionally charged situations, or too much socializing, or being in a crowded room, I do not believe they have SPD. They are a HSP.

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To make things more confusing, people can be BOTH SPD and HSP. I know this because I am both.

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Now you’re thinking “Kelly, you’re crazy. You’re a crazy girl.”

And I’m like: “yea. YEA I AM.”

It’s ok to be both. I have both, and I’m decently ok.

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I have learned to separate  what I’m feeling and experiencing with SPD and HSP. I know the bulk of my overstimulation is SPD, and I know the sensations I feel that are a result of too much sensory junk because I feel spacey and unbalanced. I need to do my sensory exercises and sleep it off. This is SPD.

I also know when I am overwhelmed and upset by other things, like being around an angry person. I am overwhelmed by their intensity and I cannot separate myself from them emotionally. I need to get away from them and distract myself, or their emotions will make me ill. This is HSP.

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What bothers me, and what I feel is not ok, is to assume a diagnosis of SPD when really, you’re just:

“I’m don’t like arguing or the smell of mustard. Country music makes me angry. I am introverted. I have SPD.” No, bro. You are probably a highly sensitive person.

“Loud noises make me cry, as do sudden bright lights, and I can’t spend more than an hour in the supermarket because I feel spacey and floaty. I don’t like to wear any clothes because they all make me want to crawl out of my skin, and I’m always bumping into things like a drunk weirdo. I have SPD.” Yes, bro. YOU PROBABLY DO.

Moral of the post: If you feel like you have Sensory Processing Disorder, GO TO AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST. Get yourself a proper diagnosis. BUT, before you do so, look into Highly Sensitive Person traits, and perhaps you will find that you are more of an HSP and not SPD. It will save you a lot of trouble (and money). SPD is a disorder, HSP is a sensitivity/trait.

Here is the website for Highly Sensitive Person info: hsperson.com

As usual, feel free to post comments/discussion/ sappy love messages in a reply to this post.

Peace Out homies xoxo

kelly

 

 

 

 

World’s Best Coper

To cope.

According to the dictionary, the word cope generally means to successfully deal with or handle something that is difficult. Another dictionary refers to it as overcoming problems and difficulties.

While I’m not sure how successful I am, I’ve developed decent ways of coping with my severe sensory problems. I am a good coper…sometimes.

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People cope in their own way. People with sensory problems like myself have to resort to coping in strange ways. Let’s explore some of those ways in which people with sensory problems cope:

1. DEEP PRESSURE

Those of us with wacky sensory junk have a strange affliction for the sensation of touch. We hate it. We love it. If you’re like me, you can’t stand light touches, but love deep pressure. To fulfill my need for sensory stability, I need a buddy. Usually my sister, the helpless victim to my needs:

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Ahh, sisterly bonding at its finest.

2. WALKING/RUNNING

Another great way to soothe sensory-related anxiety is to go for a walk or run. The feeling of your feet on the ground can be very stabilizing. But be careful, sometimes walking when overstimulated can leave you dizzy and freaky-looking (see my post about turning into a T-REX).

As I was saying, walking and running can be great.

Unless you are a weirdo like me, and since toddlerhood have been pacing for hours in confined spaces, like a bathroom.

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INITIATE LAUNCH SEQUENCE. TURBO ENGINES….GOOO!

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Fun Fact: I still do this all the time. Also, I’m still single. AMAZING, I know.

3. ROCKING CHAIR-ING

On the 8th day, God made the rocking chair, so people with sensory problems can experience its glory and power. That day, praises for the chair were sung by all the angels…..all five of them. They sang really loud to compensate for the lack of angels:

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The rocking chair and I fell in deep, disgusting love. Cheesy one-liners starting appearing:

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The movement of being in a rocking chair is so wonderful – so calming to my sensory system – I feel as if I’m being transported through space, through time even! It’s like the twilight zone, except, it’s not. It’s just me in a chair.

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Then something like this happens:

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4. BICYCLE RIDING

So this one may not be for everyone. But this works for me….and this is my blog. So there.

I very much enjoy bike riding. The combo of using my legs to push the pedals and using my arms to hold and steer myself provides great relief when I’m overstimulated. I would ride my bike more often, except I live in a fairly rural area of New York. I can’t ride without fear of this happening:

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5. BRUSHING

I’ve mentioned brushing in a previous post (Occupational Therapy Adventure). Sensory brushes are great as they provide deep pressure to numerous parts of the body. I like the consistency that brushing provides, and I also like that I can control it myself. What person with SPD doesn’t love control, AM I RIGHT?

The only strange part about using brushing to cope with sensory issues is that it can be rather odd to tell someone about. For instance:

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And that’s how the cookie crumbles. I have many other less boring but still strange ways of coping with my SPD, as I’m sure many of you do as well, but I’m going to end it here. Moral of today’s post: if a Hollister model dressed in a fancy suit wants to take you out for a nice dinner date, don’t tell him you have to brush yourself for 40 minutes (even if you DO). This has never happened to me, but when it does, I will be ready. I will be PRE-BRUSHED.

xo kelly

SPD vs just being sensitive

I have found that there appears to be a bit of confusion as to what it means to be sensory sensitive.

This confusion comes in many forms.

One area of confusion is often with children. I have read about and seen several instances where children display very poor behavior and their parent(s) explains that they have a sensory processing disorder (or something of that nature). While I don’t doubt that children with sensory sensitivities are prone to tantrums, meltdowns, and strange behavior or movements, SPD is becoming the name given to out-of-control children as an excuse for their behavior.

For example, I was in a bookstore and there was a young boy running around, making too much noise, taking things off the shelves, and generally causing mayhem and not caring what his mother had to say about it. I overheard his mother tell someone, “Well, he has the sensory processing thing, so…”

ok.

Who knows. Maybe this four year old boy did have sensory issues, but that shouldn’t be the excuse for his unruly behavior. Unfortunately, I see this a lot. It is becoming a default diagnosis for badly behaved children who don’t fit into other categories. It sounds like this:

“Your child likes to throw and break stuff? SPD.”

“Your child doesn’t listen to you at all? SPD.”

“Your child screams and punches you? SPD.”

This is very scary, considering the fact that I know how real SPD is, and that there are many children and adults with it, yet, it is becoming very much like ADHD in that it is being overly-used to compensate for lack of decent parenting or other issues in children. Then what happens is that people who DO have sensory issues are not taken seriously by the medical community.

 

The second area of confusion I’ve noticed is that there are people who don’t understand the concept of SPD and claim that every little thing that bothers or annoys them is because of a sensory processing issue. This is not true.

So let me give you a little demonstration:

Person WITHOUT SPD (a generally sensitive person):

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TWO SECONDS LATER….

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Person WITH SPD (a person with a sensory disorder):

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TWO SECONDS LATER….

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Can you see the difference?

A person who is generally sensitive to things may be bothered by something, but they have the ability  to push that sensitivity into the back of their mind. It no longer bothers them, and maybe they notice it….but they have the ability to remain calm and focus on other things despite this sensory annoyance.

A person who has SPD cannot stop perceiving sensory input (unless you are a hypo-sensitive person who needs MORE sensory input, than this little bit doesn’t apply to you, but you get the gist). The jeans are more than uncomfortable – they are disturbing and nothing else matters (NOT EVEN CUPCAKES) because my brain cannot stop being upset with the sensation of denim jeans on my legs. I cannot focus on anything else, and I definitely do not feel calm.

The latter story ends something like this:

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I hope this post has helped clarify the difference between being annoyed by a sensation, and having a sensory problem. As usual, comments or discussion is welcome!

Also, here’s me and a giant cupcake:

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-xoxo kelly

Occupational Therapy Adventure (for SPD)

Back in the glorious and confusing days of my childhood, I went to see an occupational therapist once a week to help with my sensory integration/processing disorder. His name was Frank, and he was a young guy who was extremely good looking (and now I CURSE myself because I never appreciated his attractiveness). I was obviously too distracted by the fact that I was 9 years old and more interested in the candy I received at the end of the session. Here’s a picture of Frank:

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Alright, so that’s not exactly him.  It’s just a picture of a hot, shirtless guy I found on google, but let’s all pretend this is Frank.

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Frank and I did LOTS of things in our short time together each week. He made me walk across a balance beam. This was to re-orient my vestibular system. I hated that. Frank would counter with some sort of ‘comforting statement’ like, “You’re only 2 inches off the ground.”

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Not very comforting Frank. Your charm and wit didn’t amuse me.

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Then he made me stick my hands in some glue and junk. We turned it green using dye, because why the heck not? It is very hard to describe to people who don’t have a sensory problem how it feels to do something that bothers your sensory problem, like sticking your hand in an icky substance. All I knew was that it was more than uncomfortable, and it created ugly signals in my brain. Therefore, I hated that too.

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Sometimes he would suggest that I take a trip through the rainbow tunnel. You know the kind – a small, plastic tunnel that most children enjoying crawling through.

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Not me though. My sensory system interpreted small, unfamiliar spaces as threatening:

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Then we played a stupid game, Connect Four. (Though not as stupid as the game I wrote about in my last post, Operation). I hated this the most because the sounds of the game were sudden and unpleasant. “This game is the pits,” I casually mentioned to Frank.

Frank chuckled at my statement, rested his perfectly featured face upon his hand, and encouraged me to finish the game. I couldn’t wait to tell my mom that she was paying a man to watch me play games that I didn’t even like. UNBELIEVABLE!

At this point of my OT session, I was slightly irritated with Frank. His smiley-ness and optimism was all too much for one girl to take.

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But it was not over yet. Before my OT session with Frank ended, he would spend the last several minutes doing joint compressions (pressing my joints in gently) and brushing. The brush looks like this:

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It’s kind of FANTASTIC. (Although, those without sensory deep-pressure needs may find the brush against their skin to be unpleasant or just weird).

But who cares about those people, this brush is wonderful. After some deep pressure exercises, brushing, and joint compressions, I felt like a new girl. My hatred for Frank and his gorgeous smiling face seemed to vanish. Things got a little freaky:

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Finally at the end of the session, I received my candy of choice and went on my merry way. This lasted for a few weeks or so, possibly longer, I don’t actually remember.

What I do remember is the absurdity of it all, and yet, my strange willingness to comply. I continued the compressions and brushing at home, but I don’t think that alone was enough to counteract the intense over-stimulation I was experiencing daily at school. Still, it was something, and definitely an experience I will never forget.

-xo Kelly

The Forgotten Component of Autism

There is something about autism that I’ve been going over and over in my head for many years now. I consider it the forgotten aspect of autism, or should I say, the ignored aspect of autism.

I am referring to sensory dysfunction, or sensory processing/integration disorder. Whatever you want to call it, the bottom line is that the sensory problems that are very much present in people across the autistic spectrum are not being recognized by professionals who are treating autism. Actually, they aren’t really recognized by anybody. This frightens me.

I recently graduated with my degree in psychology. During my education, autism was brought up frequently in many of my classes. What was alarming though, was that the information being taught about autism neglected to mention sensory features. In my textbooks and during lectures, I would learn about general autism. You know what I’m talking about: little verbal abilities, communication problems, social deficits, and learning impairment. I would raise my hand and mention the importance of sensory dysfunction in autistic people. The professor would either shoot me down or brush off my comment as not important to the field of autism. My peers never knew what I was talking about.

I began to panic, thinking that this must be a mistake, and that sensory problems were definitely a well known part of autism. I was so wrong.

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As I began to research on my own, I discovered that many websites that had information about ASD neglected to include the significance of sensory problems. If you think about it, this is mostly true across the board of autism research. Ask someone what autism is, and they are likely to respond with: communication problems, tantrums, social impairment, nonverbal, etc. (Side note: I am aware that not all people with ASD have sensory problems, and that not all people with sensory problems have ASD, but the link between the two is too obvious to ignore.)

What the heck is going on you guys? I’m seriously concerned here.

The most common problem with autism IS sensory dysfunction, yet, this is rarely mentioned by the medical community and basically unknown to the general public. (Making Sense of Senses by Virginia Hughes, 2009. Link to the article at the bottom of my post).

I’ve heard things like:

“My child hates having things on his hands, like glue.” 

“My sister squints when she is in a bright room and she covers her ears in the mall.”

“This boy doesn’t like to be touched, but he wants to touch everything!”

My argument is that sensory problems are the basis for many of the more well-known aspects of autism, like communication and social impairments, verbal difficulties, learning problems, and most importantly, behavioral problems.

(By the way, a few months ago I read Temple Grandin’s book, The Autistic Brain, and was amazed to see that she basically said everything this post is about: the lack of research on the importance of sensory features. Temple stole my original idea but I’m going to let that slide even though I totally thought of it first). Ok, where was I….

I believe that sensory problems – which are being completely neglected in the field of autism – are responsible for the many problems that are commonly seen in people on the spectrum.

This idea makes so much sense to me because I live it. I KNOW that when my senses are overloaded, the rest of me (my ability to communicate, perform a task, regulate my emotions) is screwed. It is not until my sensory problems calm down that I am able to reorient myself to function.

If we look at the common behavioral features of people on the spectrum, it is clear (at least to me) that the behavior is a direct response to the lack of sensory processing ability. Basically, many autistic behaviors exist because the person is trying to sort out their sensory environment. For instance, the need for routine and consistency is highly valued by autistic people. I think this is because routine equates to predictable sensory environment. There will be no surprises, and we generally hate surprising things.

Self-soothing techniques is another example. To combat the disarray of sensory environment, people on the spectrum employ multiple self-soothing, or self-calming behaviors such as pacing, rocking, hand flapping, verbal repetition, etc.

Looking at autism, I feel it is crucial to focus on the internal processing that is causing the behaviors that are observable. Right now, information about autism and research about autism is so heavily concentrated on changing maladaptive behavior (tantrums, screaming, hand flapping, hyperactivity, etc). Are we forgetting to look at the causes of these behaviors? The fact that these behaviors are occurring because the person with autism is trying to make sense of their dysfunctional sensory processing and their overstimulating environment. It’s time to focus on altering the environment to suit the needs of the person, rather than trying to force the person to adapt to an unsuitable environment. The latter is absurd and is happening all the time. It’s time to focus on treatment for sensory problems, like a sensory diet, which allows the person to know their sensory limits and what to do to alleviate sensory overload.

And that’s my rant. I will most likely write more about this in the future, but I wanted to get this out of my system while I had the free time to do so. Thanks for reading….sorry for the lack of humorous illustrations like in my other posts.

Here is the link to the article, Making Sense of Senses, which I referred to in this post: https://sfari.org/news-and-opinion/blog/2009/making-sense-of-senses

Feel free to comment and share
xoxo
~Kelly~

Horse Therapy Adventure

Back in high school, when my dear mother was desperate to help me with the never-ending stream of problems that I faced, she opted to try healing with horses. Specifically horse back riding, or hippotherapy, which by the way, has nothing to do with hippos.

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This is the part where I should explain my feelings regarding hippotherapy. However, you should know that I have great talent at blocking out huge chunks of time that may or may not have been traumatic. What you are about to read is my fuzzy recollection of my first day of horseback riding therapy. What is clear, however, is the fact that that day will never be forgotten.

I remember my mom and I walking into the place. The first thing that hit us was the smell. It was hard for me to get past. Everyone else seemed immune, or at least, mostly unaffected by the stench.

We were greeted by a cheery lady (her real name I can’t remember, so I will call her Susan) who gave me a helmet to wear. I think it was blue. But who cares what color it was.  Bottom line: I was HOT. See for yourself:

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We went and sat with her in a tiny room with appalling lighting. My mom explained why I was here and how sensitive I was to, well, everything. She explained my severe sensory issues and my recent diagnosis of ASD. Susan said she understood my situation. That was too easy, I thought.

Susan walked my mom and I through a short hallway that led to a door. “This is the barn,” she said. The door opened up to a massive open space covered with hay.

Then she walked us to another door that opened up to stables. We opened the door and I nearly lost bladder control because this was the first thing I saw:

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“She’s the largest breed of horse in the world,” said Susan. Also, the most insane-looking.

The next thing I knew, the horses all started smashing their hooves into their stable doors. BANG BANG BANG BANG!

Well, that was all I needed. Now that I was reduced to a pathetic crying blob in a helmet, Susan began to understand the seriousness of my situation.Picture 42

I was ushered quickly into the large barn where I waited for my horse.

My horse, I thought. I imagined something regal, majestic, and strong. Something along the lines of this:

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Heck, I’d even settle for this:

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However, when my horse came into the barn, it looked more like this:

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Ok. So it wasn’t what I had pictured in my mind….at all. Still, I would not give up hope. His name was Neil, I was told. “He’s very relaxed and he just loves everyone!” said Susan with delight.

Neil was a nearly as round as he was high. A blue blanket with yellow stars covered his back. I am unable to comment about Neil’s intelligence level at this time, but I’m certain it wasn’t too high. Still, there was an strong air of calm about him that I definitely appreciated.

I walked up a set of stairs and was placed onto Neil’s back. Although he could’ve passed for a miniature pony, I still felt disoriented and high-up off the ground. My grip tightened on his reins as we slowly started to walk out the barn and to the trails. The cheery lady guided Neil and another older woman walked next to me as I rode.

We barely walked three feet though when Neil stopped abruptly and I heard plopping sounds somewhere behind me. “Oh, he’s very relaxed,” Susan said, “he must like you!”

I was all like:

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To my horror, I quickly realized that Neil was a popping-machine. It was practically his favorite activity. Outside the barn, the two women guided Neil down a short dirt path. “We’re going to try this hill now, ok?”

She made that sound like a question, but I knew she wasn’t really asking me. It was more of a command: WE ARE GOING OVER THE HILL KID.

With my already over-stimulated state from the stable trauma, and my terrible body-spatial awareness, going over the hill wasn’t going to be pretty.

I basically thought I was going to die. Neil probably thought so too, although he never said anything. He just kept pooping.

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When I thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse, Susan said “Let’s walk Neil through this stream up here. Maybe he could stop and have a drink too.” Susan’s joyous spirit was making me nauseous. Maybe Neil could poop on her.

After several upsetting, sensory-crushing experiences, all sense of perspective was lost. Everything seemed bigger, more horrible and dangerous. This was no stream we were crossing…

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Nobody cared though, so I buried my face into Neil’s mane and placed a death grip on his face. He probably disliked that, but again, he didn’t say anything to me. He pooped though.

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Finally sensing my distress, Susan told me that we were going to walk around the ring. The ring was a dirt oval surrounded by a wooden fence. When we got there, another teen girl was riding a muscular black horse. I entered the ring, and the difference between the two of us and our horses was striking, if not, hilariously noticeable.

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I sensed a air of superiority from her. Neil stopped pooping, so something was definitely going on. She was a professional rider on a champion horse. I knew she thought of me as one of “those kids” on “that horse.” And actually, I was. YEA. I WAS ONE OF THOSE KIDS ON THAT HORSE. So as she left the ring, I said out loud:

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I’m not sure she heard me, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Neil and I survived steep mountains and the raging river. We braved the dirt paths and Susan’s annoyingly sunny demeanor.We were a united force. We were one.

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And so my day of therapeutic horseback riding came to an end. I rode around the ring endlessly, somewhat enjoying the consistency of the circle. No hills, or waterways. Just dirt. It was all so…. unsurprising. Just how I like it.

And I learned that Neil may not have been the most impressive-looking creature, but he certainly had the confidence to carry me – having meltdown while clawing at his eyeballs – without flinching. I guess that’s why he’s a top-notch therapy horse. I’d bet ya that that other horse couldn’t do HALF of what Neil does.

-xoxo Kelly

By the way, here is a picture of the type of horse that Neil is. This isn’t him, but it looks just like him.

Good boy, Neil. Poop your way to victory.

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