Sunday, October 24, 2010

Seek and Ye Shall Find More, and More, and More

Yesterday, a friend of mine, Ellen Seidman, posted a piece from NBC on her Twitter feed about how to help kids with sensory issues have a better Halloween. Some of the advice was to get them get used to wearing their costumes before the big day, avoid making them stick their hands in squishy pumpkins (which can make some kids with sensory issues feel nauseous), and for God's sake, cut the tags out of the costumes. I would also add that it might be helpful to find a quieter trick or trick stomping ground than the loudest one in your neighborhood, which in my case is the symbol of chaos itself, the Annual Halloween Parade which rolls through the West Village every year.

This piece was sensitive and helpful, but I'm always left scratching my head after reading advice regarding sensory issues. They always, nearly 100% of the time, fail to mention the other type of child with sensory issues, the one who literally needs more to feel; the "sensory seeker." My 7-year-old son has struggled with this going back to nursery school (which he was booted from for being the Hitter, though the professionals failed to note that he was also the Hugger). He struggles with boundary issues to this day, though he's becoming less impulsive by leaps and bounds. I remember him screaming as a baby whenever we'd unroll packing tape, because the loud noise frightened him, but for the most part his responses have beckoned more input. This is a kid who needs tight, tight bear hugs, and stomps his way through life asking for more hot peppers at our local Ramen house. The technical function of the stomping and squeezing is that it gives him the necessary joint compression he needs; the social result is that when he's not getting the input, he drifts when he's not finding his sensorial equilibrium. For these children, there's a fine line between finding this balance and becoming over-stimulated. In the classroom this means he needs to sit up front and be called on often. Weighted vests have, on occasion, given him extra input so he can feel good in his skin and focus on the task at hand. Squeeze balls, sugar free gum, and a whole host of sensory toys have allowed him to do everything from walk in a straight line down the street to endure a long car ride.

We're fortunate to live in a place and time where Early Intervention has given him a hand up in educational settings. He now understands, thanks to untolled hours of sessions with patient Occupational Therapists, when he needs sensory breaks, and he'll ask for them. Stomping up a staircase or two before settling into his arithmetic seems to do the trick. We're finding our way through these challenges, yet reading articles like the one my friend posted make me wonder how many other parents of kids with sensory issues feel that they're not reading tips that are applicable to them?


  1. Honestly, very few articles ever help. I can sometimes take a nugget or two, but most helpful of all has been getting tips from other moms and Max's therapists, who know EXACTLY what I am dealing with.

    And, also, just figuring stuff out on your own. Far messier than getting tips from an article, but, sometimes that's the only thing that works. :)

  2. Thanks for your comment. I agree that the best info comes from fellow parents and therapists rather than articles, but I think a lot of people don't have therapists-- we're the lucky ones, in that regard. If those parents are wading out there alone with the sensory challenges that I was writing about, and that I didn't understand before we got help, rather than the common ones that you always read about, they're on their own. I don't know about you, but even after being in magazines for nearly 20 years I still value them for the self-reflective recognition they sometimes offer to me.