It is interesting for me to consider H’s sensory needs and how these seem to have shifted and changed over time. In many ways his sensory processing differences are not as obvious in terms of needing accommodation as they once were, but they are still there and I expect they always will be – and that is just fine.
I sometimes wonder if the supports he needs have actually lessened as much as I think they have – or if we (H included) have just become adept at accommodating these needs more seamlessly and without much deliberate thought.
When we go to the theatre – H and I have a certain spot we like to sit – so that there is a metal bar in front of us. This suits me – as I have some knee trouble and am (like H) also quite notoriously wiggly – and it works for H as it is nearly impossible for him to keep his legs still.
He can put his legs up on the bars and since there is no one in front of us, we don’t have to worry about anyone having their seat kicked… repeatedly. We can also lean back in the reclining chairs more easily.
It is lovely.
Sitting at the front of the theatre also allows H to quietly whisper his oft needed shared communication of observations and queries during the film without bothering others in front of us. Of course – we still try to keep this to a minimum – and H is working to understand that the theatre is different from the living room at home. He gets that we are expected to be quiet… but it is still not easy to do. (Ya… I understand that part too. H and I are rather alike in many ways)
Sitting at the front makes it easier for H, but it is better for me as well. H seems to pick up on others’ emotions with keen sensitivity… so if I am more relaxed and don’t have to keep an eye on his kickity legs… that helps him too.
At home H’s sensory needs are pretty much taken care of as well. He has a favourite chair in the living room – on which he likes to perch – rather like a bird. It is an old glider rocker that used to be my grandma’s. We were going to get rid of it earlier in the spring, but H made clear his dissent.
H has a collection of things upon which to chew in a little cup on the small table behind the couch. He likes toothpicks, and Trident Splash Gum, and straws and even dental floss. But… straws are the best.
We have a nubbly exercise ball – like a yoga ball – only with way more sensory input. It is always in the hall or the living room, and frankly, I can’t quite decide if I am ever so slightly embarrassed or proud to admit that it rather suits our decor, or that I don’t even notice it anymore.
H often has his feet on this ball and rolls it around while the rest of him is (relatively) still.
H also has a fabulous body-sock, which he has had since he was 4-years-old. (Yes – we have had it for 10 years.) I have to share about this body sock, as it cost us next to nothing and has proved wonderfully durable and useful over the years.
I did not purchase it from fancy or pricey website: it is simply made from the ribbing used at the bottom of sweatshirts. I purchased 2+ meters of this from the fabric store, which was amusing to explain, especially 10 years ago. I don’t think people usually buy more than a about 15 centimetres at a time, and in 2003 not many people were aware of sensory processing challenges and needs.
He used to play games crawling through it, roll about, ask me to tie knots in each end and pretend to be a monster – or move to music – or – just relish the calming comfort of perfect sensory input which he was (and still is) able to control and regulate for himself.
So tonight – I snapped a few photos of H watching a movie.. perched on his chair, wrapped in his beautifully twisty body-sock, and chewing a straw.
It is just so great to sit back and relax! Yay!
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
©Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2013)