School has been out for a week and 11-year old Lily is in creative heaven. It’s like she’s been set free. She always seems to be in the middle of some ‘project’. She says she’s writing a book and working on song lyrics. Yesterday, she spent hours on this collage. She called it a ‘collage […]
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.
Because both of my 2E girls have sensory issues, their OT suggests that it would be a good idea for them to do some sort of movement before school in the morning. The benefits of just a few minutes of activity are supposed to last for hours, helping them to be organized, calm and focused at school.
It’s been hard in the winter just getting them out of the house in the dark and cold, so I thought that the Xbox Kinect might be a good way to tempt them into moving in the mornings.
We purposely never had any kind of gaming device, because we knew that our girls would get hooked. But when we thought about the sensory benefits and the fact that I could use it to workout in the mornings at home, we decided to buy one. So far, it’s been a great success.
There seem to be lots of games that require left/right coordination which will be great for Zoolander’s bi-lateral confusion. Seems to be a good workout for all of us too… and the best part is that Zoolander, at least, has been rushing to get ready for school in the morning so she’ll have free-time to play. Sweet.
I passed Zoolander’s Sensory Eval on to her school and to our private Occupational Therapist. Zoolander began seeing our OT once a week and our OT began working directly with the school district’s OT to implement some of the suggestions from the report.
Zoolander loves her time with our OT. They usually start the session with some kind of swinging activity, followed by work on cursive handwriting. Our OT noticed that Zoolander had a difficult time, even with cursive, because her letter formation is far from automatic. Sometimes cursive is supposed to be better for visual-spatial kids because it’s more fluid and artistic.
The beauty of visiting this OT is that she’s wonderful and really gets my twice exceptional kids, plus she’s close to our house, but… insurance won’t pay for her services. Insurance insists that we can drive 20 miles to the nearest OT who specializes in grannies with arthritis and who have no training in working with kids who have difficulty with Sensory Processing. So, there you go.
It’s also very helpful that our OT works quite often with the school district’s OT. That takes me out of the middle of things. They talk. The school’s OT observes and then makes adjustments and provides any sensory tools that they might need in the classroom.
Zoolander now has a special balancing chair, which she says helps her concentrate because she can move around more. She is also allowed to use a laptop for written work, which she says makes writing much easier.
I know the team at school takes care with Zoolander’s placement in the classroom, making sure distractions are minimized. They are also conscious of the fact that if Zoolander is fidgety, she may need a Sensory Break, which could just be running an errand to the office or erasing the white board.
Zoolander has shown improvement since these sensory accommodations were made, but I still felt that there was something else that was getting in the way of her learning. So, I put her on the waiting list for a Learning Evaluation.