Tag Archive | Sensory Processing

Sky-high holiday anxieties

As you read this weeks’ #WASO post you may be thinking, depending on your own personal opinion or experience, “Is she absolutely mad?” or “How exciting”, or you may have mixed feeling as I do.

Let me explain before you all begin to think I have completely lost the plot – not that there was much plot left for me too loose. Last year Beeswax’s school announced that they would be taking a handful of students skiing for a week in March and Waxy was one of the boys selected to go. We thought ‘fabulous’, ‘what a great experience for Waxy’, who incidentally was standing right beside me when the assistant principal told me about it.

And, then he told us the date… The week of Waxy’s birthday! Waxy would be spending his 14th birthday on the slopes in the French Alps with his teachers and peers instead of his family.

The dilemma then became whether we agree to Waxy going away that week or become selfish, mean parents who say “No, you always spend your birthday with us”. Okay we were never going to say that and to be honest, there was a part of us which felt quite melancholy about the idea of not getting to see him on his birthday, as I have already mentioned Beeswax was with me when his teacher told me about the trip and him being one of only a handful of boys chosen to go. We really couldn’t say know without it causing all sorts of meltdowns and putting added strain on an already fragile relationship with him. In reality we wouldn’t have said no anyway, because it is a wonderful opportunity for Waxy. Being chosen is an incredible boost for his self-esteem, and, from a parents’ point of view there is the added bonus that School were paying for the trip and equipment hire. We only have to provide spending money and his clothes.

ski

However, Buzzbee was less than happy with Waxy’s news when he discovered that Waxy would be away on his birthday. Buzzbee couldn’t at first get his head around Waxy wanting to go on holiday with his friends and teachers and spend his birthday with them and not with Buzzbee as he has always done since Buzzbee was born. But, with a little reassurance that Waxy wouldn’t miss out on celebrating his birthday with us and that on Waxy’s birthday we will arrange with school staff, a time for Buzz and Waxy to Skype each other. Oh and the fact that the assistant head who is going on the trip has agreed to take a surprise present with him from Buzzbee for Waxy to open on the morning of his birthday. Result one little brother almost as pleased for his brother as everyone else.

Now for the mad woman part!!!!!!

With Buzzbee still anxious about missing his big brother’s birthday, Bumble and I started to think about maybe taking Buzzbee away for a few days ourselves while Waxy was on his school trip. So, we suggested this to the boys as an idea and asked Buzz if he had any ideas what he would like to do, thinking he would suggest what he always does and say “go to Centre Parcs”, but Waxy piped up first and said “why don’t you take him to Disneyland Paris”?

Do I really need to tell you Buzzbee’s reaction?

Waxy has openly stated before that if he is going to ‘do Disney’, he is going to go big and that means he only wants to go to Disney World in Florida, so in his mind us taking Buzzbee to Paris would be the best plan for everyone, because Buzzbee would get a big exciting holiday, while he is off with school having an amazing time skiing – Waxy has never actually said anything but we have known for a while that he is worried about Buzz missing him.

So after an awful lot of ‘umming and erring’, this week Bumble and I have bitten the bullet and booked flights and 4 nights stay in Disneyland Paris for Buzzbee, Bumble and myself.

So at the beginning I said you will either think I am a mad woman, or that it is exciting news or, you have similar mixed feelings to myself. What must I be thinking? Buzzbee lives on the ‘dysregulated Express’ almost minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, and here we are, not only thinking of taking him to the French capital of sensory overload, but we are also adding extra lunacy to the mix by booking a flight to travel over to there, so that Buzzbee can finally get to experience something he has been talking about wanting to do for a couple of years.   I have to also confess that I am more than a little excited by our holiday because “I absolutely love anything Disney” myself and I get to go into Paris for one of the days – all of course dependant on how Buzzbee is fairing.

OK I am not really worried about taking Buzzbee into the Disney resort because we have taken him to theme parks before and over the time we have managed to identify most of his trigger points and adjust our plans to best accommodate his needs as they arise, if we haven’t in fact already identified a potential ‘hot spot’ and made sure we have the right tools to hand so he can experience as much as he feels comfortable with each day. It also helps that the ratio of adults to child (2:1) means if (or should I say when) he begins to get a little more intense, we can tag-team, which means when one of us can feel ourselves beginning to unravel, the other can take over for a short time.

And… Peace and Harmony will follow us all day long. Well, I can dream but at least we will have a better chance of supporting Buzzbee without our own self-regulation skills flying out of the resort and back over the English Channel.

Now the flight. I am not going to lie, I have written about it before. The idea of Buzzbee in an airport, let alone sat on an aeroplane scares me to death. Everything that Buzzbee struggles with all in one place and, unlike the Disney resort, I have absolutely no idea how he is going to react to it all.

But, we are not going to let that stop us. We know our son best and with a little (OK a lot of) planning and preparation, and probably a sizable amount of helpful advice from people who have been there and lived to tell the tale, we will help him cope with this new experience.

I have already started gathering information and ideas of how best to prepare him for his holiday, one of which we have tested out this week in a local café with great success and a noticeable change in his emotional regulation, leaving me to wonder why I had not thought about trying noise cancelling headphones before. I knew he wouldn’t wear ear defenders because he thought people would laugh at him, but wearing headphones, well that is completely different! Nobody would ever laugh at a boy wearing cool headphones, would they?

headphone

So this week we have told Buzzbee that the holiday is booked and answered his questions about when, where and how we would get there and left it at that, with the intention of a little closer to the time beginning to prepare him little by little about what to expect and talk with him about situations where he may need extra support from his dad and I.

Buzzbee (and Beeswax too in all honesty) obviously have different ideas of when to start beginning to discuss the ‘nitty, gritty’ of what to expect from their holidays, and while there is a limit to the information I can give Waxy at this time because, well… school haven’t told us yet and I can’t talk to him about plans that I don’t know about, whereas with Buzzbee I can answer most of his questions and the ones I cannot answer straight away I can find out for him (any tips gratefully received).

But, it is clear that while I thought I may have a couple of more weeks to go to prepare, I actually need to come up with a plan now and begin preparing them both for what to expect.

So, ‘Next week’

  • We will start our countdown to our holiday (Ok this afternoon I have found a nice bit of cardboard and called on my trusty ruler to make a countdown time board ready to stick up on the wall ‘Next week’).
  • I will need to start gathering information from school.
  • Researching information about the workings of Heathrow airport as well as finding information out about expectations for the flight.
  • Gather maps of the Disney resort, information about the hotel, facts about Paris itself etc. etc. etc.
  • Put all the facts together neatly into an age appropriate scrapbook/social story for each of them to look at, when they feel the need for it.

Oh and I not forgetting ‘Next week’ I need to get Buzzbee to flutter his eyelids at his nanny and granddad and ask them to look after Beedog while we are away.

countdown

 

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Sense and Sensitivity

Q: How long does it take to get an NHS Occupational Therapy appointment for Sensory difficulties assessment?

A: I’ll tell you when we finally get one. After more than 18 months of chasing, both school and we are still waiting for one for Buzzbee.

Ok before I carry on. For the benefit of this post I am focusing on our concerns about possible sensory processing difficulties for Buzzbee, but we are asking for an assessment because we know there is a lot of cross over with attachment difficulties and we simply want to know if there is anything significant and if so how to help my ‘out of sync child’ (although I have now ordered ‘The Out of Sync child’ by Carol Stock Kranowitz)

On the whole, school and I do not agree on very much when it comes to Buzzbee, but there is no question in either their minds or mine that he has at the least, significant difficulties with sound, up to the point where he frequently combusts in noisy environments or becomes over stimulated by background noise. School once come to the conclusion that because he (and a couple of his classmates) would come in ‘highly strung’ at the beginning of the day, they would start the school day off with a spot of calming yoga. Great idea in theory, but I carefully warned them that it had the potential to have the opposite effect. Guess what? “Mother knows best”. Yoga/wake ‘n’ shake lasted the grand total of 3 days before they threw in the towel as it would take till lunchtime to calm him down afterwards!

Describing what it is about sound and how Buzzbee struggles with it, is difficult. Although there is always a degree of fear and anxiety attached to why he struggles with sound/noise, it is his reaction to the auditory stimulation surrounding him that makes it difficult for him and all around him.  Yes he finds noisy classrooms very distressing and has spent no more than an hour a week in class or assembly in the entirety of year 2 (there are of course other factors at play there also).

If we forget about school for a minute and focus on his everyday life.  Imagine the following scenario (Beeswax free. Whole different ball game with him too):

Buzzbee and I pop into a supermarket for a couple of essentials.  Buzzbee is happy and chatty, he is cool as a cucumber (well as cool as a hyper-aroused boy can be). Fast forward 2 minutes: Ears have switched off, focus has gone. Buzz has taken hold of the trolley and is swinging off it while propelling himself across the aisle, he has then abandoned the trolley and is running and skidding through the aisle (shoe surfing he calls it), he then goes on to start break-dancing in the middle of the nearest aisle completely oblivious of anyone around him, he is talking/singing at a rapid rate. He has lost control and is in orbit on ‘planet fun but noisy’. To onlookers he simply looks like a badly behaved child. And, this is on a good day. On a bad day he will completely fall apart and ask to leave the moment he arrives.

It is incredible how rapidly he can become over-stimulated and manic. Some days even my bag of tricks are no match for his sensory seeking/sound avoidance need.

"Baby, you're a firework"

“Baby, you’re a firework”

Another area that Buzz really seems to struggle with is change in light. There have been incidents when we have been driving home from my parents’ and it has gone from daytime to twilight and Buzz has suddenly gone beyond manic and the situation in the car becomes, well quite frankly really dangerous!  We couldn’t understand what was happening – one minute he was calm, happily watching a DVD or listening to his music and then WOOSH.  One psychotherapist who was supporting our local attachment group suggested it may have something to do with the change in light and suggested we try giving him a torch. Which worked wonderfully for a short while but as he has got older he has resisted this more and more. I know part of it is because he is afraid of the dark and we have often wondered whether it is more about him going into a ‘fight, flight, freeze’ state but, being overly self-reliant as he is, he cannot bring himself to let us help him (he is getting better at letting us help him at home)

Beeswax doesn’t really demonstrate any sensory processing issues and as the years have gone by I have become quite skilled at finding ways to support/manage Buzz’s sensitivity to sound and most of the sensory seeking behaviours that follow with it. Bar one! This is the only one that is noticeable for both boys and it drives me CRAZY! TODDLER TOUCH!

Why do they have to touch everything?

I understand why!

But, WHY!!!!!!!

A simple 5 minute walk to school or the park can mean two dozen leaves will have been plucked from their nice cosy branches. Flower stems will be stripped naked of their petals (if they are lucky). Bugs, bottles, stones, twigs will be picked up and fiddled with. BOTH hands will be ran across every car, window, wall, fence, bush irrespective of the damage it does to their hands or property. And don’t even get me started on supermarkets, shops or peoples’ homes. That is on a whole other level. Nothing in our home is safe either. I have joked with them that one night when they are asleep I am going to superglue dusters to their hands and feet. (Hey the amount of time they spend fiddling or sweeping their hands over everything. I would never need to polish or clean anything).

We have had to try and explain to family and friends why the boys feel the need to do this and the only way we have been able to explain it is to tell them that we believe that they cannot believe it is real unless they have physically inspected it. If we ask them to look at their behaviour as they would with a toddler, they look at us as if we have 2 heads.

As for ‘taste and smell’. Well other than Buzz being really funny about textures of some food, taste and smell tend to work to our favour and are generally a wonderful tool for recentering them.

Both boys love their food and like most children are very fond of comfort food and sometimes just the smell of their favourite meal or hot drink is enough to settle them back down. Imagine the old Bisto advert – well, that is my boys

For all my concerns it isn’t all that bad.  Although Buzz will try his hardest to avoid loud noisy environments (except discos) and despite the sensory overload that can sometime occur; the boys’ curiosity for the world and their need to use as many of their senses as they can mean we have been able to create some wonderful memories.

  • Buzzbee loves nothing more than playing with sand, be it on a beach or in a sandpit and although Beeswax would vehemently deny it, he is as fond of it as much as his baby brother.
  • Buzz’s love of music and dancing means that when we go to family parties or school discos he is probably the best behaved child there and will entertain everyone with his ‘cool’ moves. No anxiety about people in his personal space. No multiple voices/noises to try and filter out (music all the way).
  • Both Boys absolutely adore barefoot walks. Listening to their squeals is absolutely hysterical. They love doing them and know what to expect, but you can guarantee at least one of them will let out a very high-pitched squeal or walk the entire course in a fit of giggles.

 

              barefoot   mud

When it comes to sensory seeking behaviour Buzzbee is our main concern, and as he gets older his ‘quirks’ are becoming more noticeable and rather than ‘label hunting’ as some think, we want to be able to know how to best support our son.

This post is part of the Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out