Tag Archives: sensory overload

Closing out another school year makes me realize just how far munchkin has come—especially over the past year.  At times it may not seem like we’re making progress (or not as fast as I’d like, might be a more accurate statement), however, when I take a step back and really think of those early days and the warning signs I saw, Jackson has progressed light years from where he started.

The other day I was compiling a mental list of the red flags that initially tugged at my heart years ago.  The list filled my head so quickly that I thought I should write it down, if not for any other reason than to remind myself of Jackson’s progress.  The following is a cursory list of things that used to send Jackson into a complete and total sensory meltdown.  The majority of these things have become non sequiturs, or bother him only minimally and only on rare occasions.

  • Hairdryer
  • Leaf blower
  • Hand dryers in public restrooms/being IN a restroom with hand dryers
  • Being in our swimming pool
  • Open car windows and/or sunroofs
  • Coffee grinder
  • Blender/juicer
  • Teakettle
  • Loud noises
  • Unfamiliar situations
  • Beach/sand
  • Standing in grass while barefoot
  • Having his photograph taken

It’s not a brief list.  Admittedly, I’ve taken his progress for granted and had forgotten most of these things.  It’s only when I really give pause to life’s day-to-day activities that I’m taken aback by all he has overcome.

The past few weekends have been busy for us.  We’ve had opportunity to participate in a couple of terrific autism-related events. Mother’s Day weekend Jackson participated in the local Surfer’s For Autism (http://www.surfersforautism.org/) event.  This is the second year we’ve been involved with this fabulous organization/event.  Last year, Jackson was terrified.  Although he had taken swimming lessons, he hadn’t yet learned to swim.   I understand how this would be overwhelming in and of itself.  Additionally, the prospect of getting water in his face was terrifying to Jackson.  This year, the event was a huge coup for munchkin.  Initially he was determined he was NOT going to surf.  He had convinced himself a tidal wave was going to sweep him out to sea.  But with much coaxing from me, my husband and the organization’s amazing volunteers Jackson gave surfing try.  With a death grip on the board he made multiple attempts to ride the waves to shore on his tummy.  That was all I asked for—that he give it a try.  I couldn’t have been more proud of my little bug.

An SFA wristband. A year ago Jackson wouldn’t even consider wearing it. This year he wore his band for the entire event. Small victories.

 

 

SFA Surf

 

 

 

 

 

 

This past weekend we participated in a 5K fun run/walk and kids’ walk for Florida Atlantic University’s (“FAU”) Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (“CARD”) (http://www.coe.fau.edu/centersandprograms/card/default.aspx).  My race took place at 7:30 AM and Jackson was excited to cheer me on.  The kids’ race was slated to take place immediately following the 5K.  Prior to Saturday morning Jackson had been excited at the prospect of running a race.   Once we arrived at the race, however, he stated he didn’t want to run.  I wasn’t going to push the issue.  I ran my 5K and while walking for my cool down I asked Jackson if he would run if I ran with him.  He said, “Sure!  Let’s go!”  We returned to the starting line and Jackson ran his first race.  He loved it!  Not only did he run, he was the first to cross the finish line.  He has already asked me when he can race again.  I’m so proud of Jackson for stepping out of his comfort zone.  That’s not an easy task for anyone, let alone someone with sensory processing issues.  And it’s not something he would’ve dared do just one short year ago.

CARD Race BibsJax Race

We also attended a birthday party for one of Jackson’s friends yesterday.  There have been many birthday parties we’ve attended where Jackson adamantly refused to participate in the activities and simply wandered off to lay on the floor, alone.  He had no interest in the excitement of the parties or the children.  Watching Jackson withdraw into himself at these parties was very difficult for me to observe as a parent.  On those occasions I honestly didn’t know what the future held for Jackson or for us as a family.  But watching him fully engaged, running and playing with his friend and the other children yesterday filled my heart with joy.

The past few years may not have always been easy and required much therapy and work, but it is so heartening to see the fruits of Jackson’s labor.   Of course, his progress makes this mama happy, but more importantly I’m thrilled to see Jackson overcoming, accomplishing and participating in things that were but a dream just a few short years ago.  I’m proud of you, Jackson.  You have worked so hard for these victories.  Savor them, my sweet boy.  Savor every minute of them.  You’ve earned it!

(If you’re interested, Jackson also participated in a Mother’s Day video at our church, Palm Beach Community Church (http://pbcc.cc).  Again, this is something he would absolutely NOT have considered doing a year ago.  Anytime the children’s ministry performed during a service, Jackson would bolt from the stage to the safety of his Sunday school teacher’s arms.   My husband and I both had tears in our eyes as we watched this video.  Perhaps you’ll get a chuckle out of it. Jackson appears at approximately minute 2:12 and at the end.  I hope you’ll take a look.  Enjoy!)

Mother’s Day at Palm Beach Community Church

The Family that Skates & Scoots Together…

Jackson and mom--skating and scootingFor the past few weeks, I’ve been mulling over a post about our family’s newest hobby.  At the tender young ages of 45 and 49 respectively, my husband and I have taken up skateboarding.  I don’t mean tooling around, meandering the neighborhood, while taking in the sights.  We’re hanging with the big dogs at our local skate parks.  No.  We’re not crazy.  This came about because of the importance we place on family time.  Jackson loves to ride his scooter, and he’s very good at it.  He’s agile.  He’s graceful. And he’s FAST.  When Jackson scoots around the neighborhood, safety dictates that I run in tandem with him so I can monitor driveway traffic.  This means I’m sprinting for one to three miles at a given time.    One recent Sunday afternoon, we took Jackson to the skate park simply as an outlet for him.   My husband and I decided to give it a try too, so we could make the outings truly about family.  We’ve been hooked ever since.

 

Jackson and dad, learning the ropes.

Jackson and dad, learning the ropes.

I had so many amusing things to say in my originally intended post.  I was going to speak about the fact that I skate with orthotics in my Vans and use an SPF of 50 religiously.  I was going to talk about the fact that it takes a good 15 minutes to get the joints, tendons and bones adequately lubed in my feet and ankles.  And I was also going to mention how tolerant and even accepting most of the young whippersnappers are.  Aside from a few occasionally potty-mouthed teens (which are dutifully kept in check by fearless skate park manager Michelle), we’ve not had a bad experience.  Until today, that is.

Going down (and stimming all the way).

Going down (and stimming all the way).

As is with most Sunday afternoons as of late, we went to our local skate park following church.  Our friend, Paul, joined us.   The four of us were having a great time.  We skated and scooted hard, working up a sweat.  We were all attempting new things and chatting up the really young kids who are beyond encouraging.  Jackson was doing his thing, going up and down hills and riding his scooter around the park.  I was standing on top of a hill with my new “friend,” Sam, when a young boy ascended the ramp and stopped in front me.  The boy was around eight or so.  He mumbled something to me but I didn’t understand what he said.  I asked him to repeat himself, which he did.  He said, “Make him stop.”  I asked, “Make him stop what?”  He said, “Skating.  He’s creeping me out.”  I was utterly taken aback, but replied, “No.  He’s just scooting.”  He said, “No.  He’s not,” and skated away.  I knew exactly what he was referring to.

Sam, also around 8, overheard the conversation and asked me what the boy was talking about.  I simply explained that Jackson sometimes makes noises.  I loved Sam’s muttered reply to the already-gone boy, “Get over it.”  I wasn’t completely surprised this happened.  I expected it.  Someday.  Nonetheless, I wasn’t prepared for it.

You see, Jackson verbally self stimulates.  [http://www.autism.com/index.php/symptoms_self-stim]  He makes sounds.  All.  Day.  Long.  Seriously.  He’s done it for years and rarely stops, if ever.  I took Jackson to the skate park on a school holiday this past week.  I chose not to skate with him, as we were running some errands afterward.  As I watched Jackson from the observation deck, I heard him clearly.  He was uttering endless variations of completely nonsensical words and sounds.  I could see some of the older children looking at him with curiosity.  It was in watching the kids’ reactions that I knew someone someday would say something.  I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.  He’s only five.  Five!  For Pete’s sake, Jackson’s only five.

My initial gut reaction (which I DID NOT act upon) was to say, YOU creep ME out, you little brat.”  THANK YOU, LORD, for reigning in my tongue.   You can come at me all day long; just don’t you dare come at those I love.  I will defend my brood to the end.  I promise you that.

I’m profoundly sad about today’s event.  I get a lump in my throat every time I call it to memory.  I’m not sad for myself, mind you.  I’m sad for Jackson and the unkind people he will encounter throughout his life.  He has such tenderness about him.  Heck.  This is the boy that asks every single person who falls at the skate park (and there are many), “Are you okay?”  He’s kind.  He’s considerate.  He’s loving.  He’s trusting.  And people are going to break his heart and crush his spirit.  That’s the nature of us human beings.  As a whole, we don’t tolerate different no matter the age.  The mere thought of this shatters my heart.

Playground Stress

During the seemingly unending period of waiting for a referral during our adoption, one of the things I dreamed of doing was spending time on the playground in the South Florida sun with our munchkin.  Four plus years into parenting, however, I almost always find playground outings to be stressful.  I tend to avoid them altogether unless Jackson absolutely presses me for a visit.  Such was the case with a recent school holiday.  Jackson had a lot of energy to burn and really wanted to go to a nearby playground with “the dark slide.”  He really did need to get out beyond the confines of our backyard, so I acquiesced.

As soon as we arrived at the playground, Jackson made a beeline to “the dark slide.”  He’s unable to climb the ladder himself and requires my assistance in placing his feet on each rung while I tell him where to place his hands.  This also requires me to physically support his bottom.  As is usually the case, and was on this day too, the other children literally climb over Jackson, pushing both of us aside.   Jackson never, ever says a word.  Upon reaching the top Jackson had no intention of going down the slide.  He was content with the view and told me the slide was spooky, which didn’t surprise me in the least.  He would enter the opening of the slide and then come back out when a child wanted to come down.  At one point a little girl ascended the ladder to the platform.  She was slightly younger then Jackson and rather intrigued by him.  He crossed his arms and loudly instructed her to leave him alone and told her emphatically he didn’t want to be her friend, something he had been doing continually to children during our playground visit.  This little girl, however, didn’t move on as the other children had done.  She reacted by roaring at Jackson—loudly.  Very loudly.  It was sensory overload.  He jabbed his fingers behind his ears, his typical coping mechanism, and became completely paralyzed.  He began to scream shrilly and shout, “Stop roaring!”   Of course the more he did this the more the little girl roared.  Her mother, who spoke very limited English, couldn’t stop chuckling over her little girl as she caused Jackson to scream and shout.  Try as I might I couldn’t get him to descend the ladder or go down the slide.  After what seemed like an eternity (but in realty was only a few minutes) I finally coaxed him down the slide.  Blessedly he was ready to go home.

Jackson was no worse for the wear.  In fact, he never made mention of the incident again.  I’m the one with the lasting emotional scars.  I’m the one who bears the heartbreak of the day—of seeing the little boy who’s afraid of slides, who doesn’t want to play with other children, who spends an inordinate amount of time with his little fingers pressed behind his ears and is pushed aside like he’s insignificant. They say ignorance is bliss, and for all intents and purposes, Jackson is blissfully unaware—for now. I don’t know if that makes me happy or sad.   What I do know is that I simply want Jackson to have a great childhood—the childhood I dreamed of giving him during those years of waiting.