Category Archives: Sensory & Stimming

Interpretation of the senses…

How often do you overthink things? Do you find it exhausting or empowering? I am not sure if “overthink” is even the right word to explain what I mean…

Having a relationship with someone who experiences the five senses much differently can be tricky, but also such a learning experience. The older Jasan gets, the more I can pinpoint where his focus is. When we spend time together, there is something to be observed in each interaction. I like to think of this process as diving deep into my connection with him and this foundation will benefit him greatly in his adult relationships.

Sound. He is a big fan of playing iPad games together. I have noticed that he pays so much attention to the audio of the game, almost more than following the rules. He repeats the sounds perfectly (it’s INCREDIBLE!) I have also noticed that his absorption of sound is stored in his CRAZY AMAZING memory. He remembers tones of specific things from so long ago; it’s mind-blowing!

Sometimes I tune him out (which I hate to admit.) It would be impossible to pay attention 100% (like with anything) because the majority of what he spends his time doing is scripting things he has memorized.

Definition: Scripting is the repetition of words, phrases, intonation, or sounds of the speech of others, sometimes taken from movies, but also sometimes taken from other sources such as favorite YouTube videos or something someone else has said.

Because I spend so much time with him, I usually know what he is scripting. If I don’t recognize it, I sometimes ask so that I can get into his world and try to keep him somewhat in mine. I feel like this is another part of deepening the connection. I want him to realize that a fun part of life is interacting with others. I know he loves to be in his own head and he finds comfort in that, but he also needs to tune in to what’s happening around him.

Wash vibrations and sound

Another side to this is that he has shown to be afraid of loud sound. Sometimes he can handle it, sometimes he can’t. Is he expecting the sound or did the sound occur unexpected? How loud does the blender sound to him? If someone raises their voice, does he feel agitated because of what they are saying or how loud the words are being said? What is he focusing on when he listens to a movie or video? When walking into a large crowd of people, what stands out to him? Does he zone in on one sound or are all sounds too much and are overwhelming?

This is where the parental “overthinking” occurs for me. I like to consider all things when determining how to respond to a certain behavior. I don’t see this as a bad thing, I see this as a “mom strength.” I feel having an autistic son has forced me to explore as many possible perspectives because of his different way of seeing the world.

Touch. Don’t even get me started. 🙂 No jeans, no scratchy tags. Only ankle socks. No tie shoes, only shoes that can slip on and off, like crocs or sandals. He loves cuddling. People that he is very comfortable with he has his own way of being touchy feely. I know physical touch is very important to him. But, when he has had enough, he will let you know. ha. He loves water, swimming pools, sand and sunshine. He HATES getting his hair cut and going to the dentist. (Like H A T E S with a passion.) He sleeps completely underneath his blanket, all cozy like a snug bug in a rug.

 

Taste. Oh my. Well, as of now he has a palate for about four things and two drinks. Chicken nuggets, French fries, Home Run Inn cheese pizza with thin crust, and kettle potato chips. Water and unsweetened iced tea, NO LEMON. I have told him time and time again that he is missing out on so many amazing flavors! This subject is a big one for me because I want to feed my child healthy food!! As you can see, his diet is horrible. I am sure that certain textures have to do with the behavior that he has now concretely developed for not even being willing to try new foods. If it looks different, he knows the brand is not the same, pizza slices are cut the wrong way, it’s too well done or not done enough, the list goes on…he won’t eat it. I say a little prayer for the experimental food vibes to hit him at some point. 🙂

I buy them ALL! Always clearing them out. Pizza jackpot!

Sight. His eyes always zoom right to the objects he is interested in. I see in the photos he takes. It’s so interesting what he concentrates on! It is so different from me. This is another aspect of the senses that has surprised me with Jasan. He is so eclectic. I love it! He knows what he likes, ever since baby age. I remember his crawling towards a computer versus a toy on the ground. Not. Even. Kidding. I have it on video!

Below are some of Jasan’s photographs. This is what he sees and thinks is picture worthy.

Smell. I haven’t noticed him to be super sensitive to smell, which surprises me. I mean, on occasion, yes, but on a regular basis he doesn’t mention any aversions or talk about scents he likes. Lately, he has been asking to smell what other family members are eating. I hope this helps him turn a corner with his eating habits! We’ll see.

It’s a complicated life, but hey. We are all complicated! I am having fun figuring him out.

 

I’ll leave you all with this. If you have an autistic child, you know this is true!

?

 

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Crash!

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The crashing. His body needs it at certain parts of the day. His sensory system craves pressure to regulate. I realize this about him, and I get it. But I have to admit there are times when it drives me crazy. For example…

In stores or shopping areas.

When we are around people we don’t know.

When we are around people that don’t have any patience.

When we are at a restaurant.

Or…

When I am just NOT IN THE MOOD to be ran in to. 🙂

I could keep going, but you get the idea, I’m sure.

So, with that being said, I try my best to keep my thoughts on the positive and to work with him instead of against him. Instead of getting annoyed and telling him, “No!” (which just fuels the fire anyway,) I assimilate. If we are out and about, then I pick him up. Swing him around. Get goofy with him for a bit. Make a game out of it as much as I can. Go for a walk. Chase each other. Whatever I can do depending on the situation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I know it’s the way he is wired. I want to love him and help him be who he is.

This summer, we did a lot of “crashing” in our gazebo.

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Do you have ideas for your child(ren) when they need to sensory regulate and it’s inconvenient in the current momentary situation?

Please share. (I could always use more!)

<3

Sounds.

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We have now entered a new level of sensory awareness. Both of us.

In the past month or so, Jasan has been having a really hard time with sounds. (Hence the noise reducing headphones.) It doesn’t even matter if they are loud…or if he has heard them before and knows what to expect.

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At first I was confused. Why, all of the sudden, was he having a hard time flushing the toilet in our house? He has heard that sound a million times. At my friend’s home where the beloved washer & dryer Whirlpool Duet lives (see this past post) the sounds are now a startling issue. He has literally spent hours in that room watching the cycles and has every sound perfectly memorized and can mimic the machine flawlessly. What’s going on with my little man?

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Well, he’s growing up. His awareness of the world is heightening. And so is mine. This is something that all parents of children with special needs can relate to. I need to overthink life when we are together. While he is at this young age, I am his protector. I am his hand to hold when things get too loud or surprisingly startling or too bright or too dark or too wet or too smelly…should I keep going?

Things that neurotypical kids regulate without even knowing, our “sensory sensitive” kids don’t. There is a lot going on that I don’t understand, but you know what? I KNOW MY SON. I can learn his patterns and his fears, I can look ahead to foresee possible issues and help avoid or lessen them. This is part of my passion as his mom. His life can be just as comfortable as mine, it will just look a bit different.

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Through this journey with Jasan I have become more patient. More kind. More understanding. More compassionate.

You never know what another person’s reality is.

 

 

His way.

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Now that it’s summer, outside is the place to be. There is a small group of kids that all live on our street. The girl in the group named them the “Cherry Street kids.” LOVE THAT.

In this photo are all of the boys. On occasion, most likely when they need a bike break, they ask to play with Jasan’s iPad. To my surprise, Jasan was completely unaffected. He didn’t want to play with the iPad at all. He was totally vibing to pacing behind them as they played, with his straw (of course,) and would react to all of the sounds in the different games they were playing.

What I loved about witnessing this is that first of all, he literally has every sound memorized. He knows exactly what is happening in each game without even needing to look. And secondly, he is unaware and unfazed by anyone’s reaction to the fact that he isn’t being “typical.” I think this is completely fantastic. I just said to my mom yesterday that one mantra that I want us to place into his mind is that, “What I choose to do is what makes me feel good. What I choose is wonderful. It is okay and I am glad it’s my choice.”

Jasan is definitely a scripter. He repeats a lot. Here is a definition of Scripting that I pulled off of the Autism Speaks website:

Echolalia, sometimes referred to as “scripting”, is the repetition of words, phrases, intonation, or sounds of the speech of others, sometimes taken from movies, but also sometimes taken from other sources such as favorite books or something someone else has said. Children with ASD often display “scripting” in the process of learning to talk.

As Jasan gets older, his scripting becomes less about “movie lines” and more useful speak. For example, at one point while I was instructing him how to ride his bike, I said, “You can do it! You can do it! Use your leg muscles!” Yesterday, when he felt stuck on his bike, he said that very phrase. It REALLY hit me how important my words are, and how I can use this to COMPLETELY BENEFIT my son. Wouldn’t it be great if our kids had positive beliefs about themselves and had a plethora of uplifting mantras floating through their minds? This is so useful for all children, but I feel that because of Jasan’s autism I can use this to my advantage.

Script away my love! <3 I vow to fill his mind full of positive affirmations, self-confidence, and beautiful beliefs about WHO HE IS. I am so proud to be his mama…

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He LOVES his bike!

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The Cherry Street kids. PRECIOUS. <3

 

Water, Waves & Chasing Birds.

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Jasan has always loved water. This makes me very happy because I too, have always been a big fan of the water. The pool, the beach, all of it. The first experience Jasan had with waves was at the age of 2 when we took a quick trip to Michigan with my father. It was a 3-day stay right on Lake Michigan at this cute little cottage. Day one was spectacular… perfect temperature and calm waters. Jasan was having a blast in the water! Day two and three the waves were up and about, and he was quite frightened to go near the water. This was the first beach experience for him and he didn’t want much to do with sand toys and such.
Fast forward 2 years and our experience at the beach was much different! He found the sand to be of some interest, not necessarily to use buckets and shovels to play with, but definitely to kick in the air. Ha! (Not so funny though, when you get sand in your eyes…good thing that didn’t occur.) The waves were a huge hit! We developed a routine. I would walk in the water behind him as he held my hands. He would lead, and we inched our way deeper into the water and CRASHED into the waves with our bodies. I would pull him up a bit with his arms so that salt water would not get in his eyes as the waves came up on us. Of course I added the “WEEEEEE!!!” sound effect with each crash. (It’s a Heidi mama thing…)
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Jasan being a sensory seeker, crashing into waves makes total sense. I love how as he is becoming more aware of his surroundings he is being brave! He wasn’t afraid at all. AWESOME.
 
The pool is always fun. He LOVES the pool and always has. (Who wouldn’t love a HUGE bathtub?) My little dude will NOT wear floaties. He will not allow me to even get them near him. As much as the floaties would be much more convenient for me (they are so well made now that kids could literally be in the pool without you…) my thought process is, he will not have a false sense of safety in the pool. I need to be with him at all times, but I would want to be anyway. This way we stay connected and he learns how the water REALLY feels. I’m guessing this will speed up his learning curve when it comes time to actually swim.
The lovely Far Horizons, where we stayed in Redington Beach, has a pool for guest use, and is situated right on the beach. Pretty dreamy. This was great for us to have both (pool/ocean) literally steps from our hotel room.
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Since it had been almost a year since last when we had been swimming, it took a day for him to get really warmed up to the idea of going “under.” It was almost like he forgot that he had done it before. We had a little oops where he went under, and then it was ON. We would go under together, one at a time, hold our breath for as long as we could, float, “swim” 4 year old style…it was fabulous.
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Jasan was big on GPS during this trip. It was a continuing theme the whole time we were there. It started in the shuttle from the airport. He requested my iPhone, which he does often during car trips, to load Maps and start the GPS. Then seeing the shuttle driver with his devices, his brain went into GPS & Garmin overload. (And remember, Jasan, being in our friend’s Piper Cherokee airplane, has been obsessed with Garmin ever since he first sat in the cockpit. Garmin, in any case, is always a BIG DEAL to him. It all goes back to the airplane…definitely in his “most awesome experiences” brain file.)
While we were in the pool, I would sometimes lay on a raft. He would push me out into the deep end, and would make up his own directions as I floated away. He remembered that we were staying on Gulf Boulevard, so when I would return to the shallow end and float under the railing (a.k.a. “the bridge,”) I was returning to Gulf Boulevard. Hilarious. I loved it.
 
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Not a new concept for all kids, but it was new one for Jasan. Chasing birds. He had never seen birds of this size before, so the fact that they were just hanging out all over the place was the coolest. And why not try to touch one? Again, awesome that he wasn’t afraid. The game became to make them fly. Most of the time, he was too quick for me to get a great shot!
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So close…
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If only he could reach! He wanted me to pick him up. That made me giggle.
Unfortunately, there were a couple of cloudy days during our Florida stay. So on a day with a high chance of rain, we returned to this cute shopping area. The birds must like this spot, because they were still there.
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I was totally loving how happy this made him!
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And, anytime I get eye contact when taking a photo… BONUS!
The last evening we were in Florida, the three of us (Grammie, Jasan & me) took a walk on the beach. (Note the pinwheel: if it spins, Jasan loves it. That was the purchase he wanted to make during our cloudy weather shopping spree.)
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And then… THIS HAPPENED.
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YES!!!
I was ready to shoot this time.
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The chasing birds theme has continued even now that we are home in Illinois. It isn’t quite the same, but it makes us both smile… that’s what counts.

The Airport, Part 1.

Ok… I have to admit. I have stressed about taking Jasan on a major airline flight for a LONG time. My only sibling, Todd, moved to Arizona right before Jasan’s first birthday and we have never been there to visit him. Jasan will be 5 this year! So, this airport thing was a big deal.

There are many factors that I was worried about. He was one of those babies that had ear infection after ear infection and two ear tube placement surgeries. Would his ears adjust alright? The length of time that we would have to stay seated once in the air was another concern. Waiting in lines at the airport… security, getting distracted by machines and having a meltdown if he couldn’t examine them…new sounds, lots of people, and on and on and on.

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This gift of a trip to Florida for Mother’s Day from my stepdad, Matt (aka “Grampie”) was the perfect occasion to give this all a try. Now that Jasan is a bit older, my level of concern had lessened, but they were all in the back of my mind nonetheless.

We prepared the week ahead of time by reading social stories multiple times a day written specifically about our upcoming trip and the airport routine. This was a tremendous help. A couple of days prior to leaving, we found this video which was fantastic! Jasan watched this over and over. All of these tools combined helped him know what to expect.

Here are a couple of pages from his airport story so you can get an idea of what a social story looks like.

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The other component to this was how prepared my Mom and I were with our mindset. We knew we had prepared Jasan very well for this experience by talking it through with Jasan ahead of time. We gave ourselves MORE than enough time to get to the airport and go through security so that we could feel completely relaxed, and our mental pictures and attitudes towards our adventure were POSITIVE. That was KEY. We knew that we would be able to deal with whatever may happen and that we would be a team together.

He needed to be able to take the time to explore and check things out if he wanted to. If we had been planning on rushing through the airport, we would have been destined to fail. He needed to be able to just be himself. His mind would be absorbing tons of new information. I think that to make sure that he would be storing these memories as a positive experience, it was vital to make sure he would be able to soak it all in the way HE wanted to.

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Jasan did beyond fantastic! What a fun experience! He handled transitions and all of the newness like a champ! He was fascinated by all of the computers and the metal detectors. The huge O’Hare terminal was pretty awesome in all of it’s vastness. He was such a great helper by pushing our small carry-on suitcase. It had wheels, so he wouldn’t have had it any other way.  (I was too busy making sure he wasn’t going to crash into anyone to capture a shot. Lol!) When it was time for a bit of relaxation, the carry-on suitcase then doubled as fun seat to ride on. (And an arm workout for Mama. haha.)

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Then… time to board. So exciting! Another important piece to this experience was informing the airline that Jasan was a special needs kid. We boarded first, so this way their wasn’t tons of confusion with the large masses of people getting on with us. We were able to get nice and comfy in our seats while things were still quiet. We had recently purchased a weighted blanket for Jasan; being the sensory seeker kid that he is. In times of possible stress, this could act as a calming tool for his system. Since that little sucker weighs 7 lbs, I had put it into the roller carry-on suitcase and we just grabbed it out after we found out seats. It worked out perfectly. He was all cozy and content with his special blankie, iPad, mini pillow, snacks, Mama & Grammie. Life at that moment was GREAT.

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Then of course, because I’m me, we had to do the obligatory selfie or two. (ha!)

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I crack up when we do photos together now. He is soooooo my son. My friends know my habit of the open mouth, “Ah!” whenever a photo is shot of me… Check Jasan. Totally adorable. We both “Ah!” together. <3

It was take off time! As the plane started to speed up, he requested my hand right before the plane’s wheels left the ground. Prior to that he had his speedometers going OF COURSE.

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I had just enough “stuff” to keep Jasan occupied. Our flight was at 12:30, so time of day was also on our side. He did just fine sitting in his seat and only getting up twice to go to the neat little bathroom. He was quite interested in how everything worked in there. Swallowing water through a straw as we were descending helped his ears normalize with no problems. And the super cool awesome surprise once we landed…

GETTING TO VISIT THE PILOT IN THE FLIGHT DECK!

Can you even imagine how cool this was for him? All of the gauges and switches!!! COOLNESS OVERLOAD. Along with being a photo fanatic, I took a video so Jasan could watch it over and over after the experience. We lucked out by getting a pilot who was TOTALLY into showing Jasan what was up in there. He was FANTASTIC. What a gift… more than he will ever know!

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He was talking about this all day.

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After grabbing our luggage from the baggage claim, which was also a point of interest for the little dude, we headed on over to the shuttle area and hopped in a van to take us to Redington Beach. After all the excitement, he passed on into snooze land.

I didn’t do the best of capturing it, but he fell asleep with my phone in his hand, GPS talking to us all the way. The shuttle also had a computer and Garmin GPS in clear view, so he was quite content with our ride…

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More to come!

<3

 

 

Numbers + Clocks = So very interesting.

Jasan has been drawn to numbers ever since he has been on this planet. In fact, he has quite an obsession with them. He has been known to just carry around an arithmetic flash card just because of the numbers. They make him happy. I don’t think Jasan stands alone with his attraction for numbers in the world of autism. I am 99.9% sure that many in the autistic community have a love affair with them.

Once he started noticing clocks, the hoarding began. (ha!) Every visit to a store that sold clocks of some sort, he REALLY wanted one. His room has a mighty fine collection. When you just sit there in silence the “tick tocks” are in surround sound.

I love this kid.

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