Friday, January 25, 2013

Sensory Issues

  As we made our way through this new adventure called autism, we discovered little differences about our son. We had already known about the communication issues, but we were know entering another unknown
territory....that of sensory issues.
    Mikey had started to play with his hands a lot. He would clench them together, rub them into one another,and pull them closely to his face. He was doing this so often that his knuckles had become swollen and the skin on them chafed. Of course, I asked the doctor if he could permanently damage his hands,but he didn't believe that would happen.

   We also noticed that Mikey would jump up and down frequently, and his arms would go up and down whenever he did this. I later discovered, through my constant reading on the subject, that this was known as arm-flapping, and was very common in children with autism. These were the only two noticeable behaviors in the early days of Mikey's journey. Many other children exhibit other signs such as walking on their tip-toes,lining up toys, repeating actions over and over again,playing next to other children,but never interacting with them(parallel play), and rocking back and forth frequently or consistently.
  While these behaviors never bothered us at home, the teachers at school had always tried to replace them with other more appropriate behaviors. You see, these odd movements, or frequent body motions are known as self-stimulatory behaviors, or "stimming." When I first heard the term, I thought it was x-rated!!! I later discovered that such behaviors occur because they give the child some level of euphoria, or comfort that they crave.Knowing this , it seemed odd to me that we should try to take these comforting behaviors from him, and replace them with other behaviors that might not provide him with the same feelings. I understood that the therapists wanted to do this in order to help a child "fit in", so to speak, but it kind of reminded me of taking a child's favorite toy, or blanket from him before he was ready to give it up.
  Of course, we wanted to help him in any way we could, and would have been happy if these "odd behaviors" didn't exist, but they did. I couldn't help but think about how I would feel if someone worked with me everyday to change so many things about myself. Imagine just being you , and doing what comes naturally for you...then a group of therapists and teachers step in each day to change all of those things. Trying to replace things that comfort you with new things that you might not crave. Trying to get you to change so many things about yourself. Basically, sending a message to you that you are not quite right or good enough the way you are,and all the while, you cannot speak or express your unhappiness or desire to resist it all. Welcome to the world of autism.

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