Reading a post from CaffeinatedAutismMom on the SPDNetwork.com called ‘Meltdowns Happen’, brought back memories of just a few lovely Lily freak outs, most of them because she was unable to control her emotional response to sensory overload. Didn’t realize that until later, but looking back, it’s obvious.
Of course, as an infant, I remember her crying and crying at the slightest noise, or, as a toddler, crying when the trash truck honked its horn, running away from her Daisy Scouts meeting in Kindergarten because it was too chaotic and loud, holding her hands over her ears and shaking during school events in the gymnasium, hating the school bus because it was so loud, getting out of the pool and refusing to participate during swim team tryouts because, again, too loud and chaotic.
We figured out pretty early that Lily was sensitive to noise. But, it wasn’t until 2nd grade or so that we realized she liked soft clothing. In 4th grade, she refused to wear jeans anymore and I had to search out soft pants with an adjustable waist. She had one shirt she loved to wear and I figured out that it was Modal fiber, which IS very soft. In 5th grade, when I asked her why she always pulled a hoodie up over her head, Lily told me that it blocked the bright overhead lights at school, muffled loud sounds and made her feel good. Now that she’s in 6th grade, Lily has become the Queen of Jeggings. They’re perfect for her sensory needs. Soft, skinny, tight and of course, stylish.
Now that she’s 11, Lily’s meltdowns (in public anyway) are few and far between. Occupational Therapy has helped and so has daily movement. Lily’s learned coping skills. She’s learned to advocate for herself and she regulates her emotions better now. Sometimes she’ll remove herself from a situation when she realizes it’s making her uncomfortable. We’re still always on the lookout for triggers though and so are her teachers and the friends and family who know her. Sometimes just warning her that an event might be loud is enough. Now, if she does end up in a loud and chaotic situation, her discomfort usually shows up as irritability or agitation.
This topic of sensory sensitivities also made me think of an interview I did with Jeffrey Freed. He’s an educational therapist and the co-author of the book, ‘Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World.’ He’s also what you would call Twice Exceptional. He talks about his sensory issues as an adult and a child.