Posts tagged ‘overstimulation’
When C was 18 months old and still not walking, I remember people actually saying to me, “Be thankful! You don’t have to chase him around.” That irritated me to no end, but in such a weird way they were right. A new kind of tired came along to replace the “tired with baby” phase. Then came the “must follow the child around” phase. That was replaced by another, and another and another.
I am happy to be beyond some phases. I remember the one where C was too easily overstimulated to go into a store of any kind. We were living in a weird little town that happened to have a huge and wonderful grocery store. C was just shy of 3, and I decided the time had come to figure out how to get this child in a public place. “He just needs exposure,” my Mom, the power-shopper, said. “He can’t handle malls because he doesn’t go to them!” Ah, so clueless were we before the word “autism” entered our lives.
Off I went, not to the mall, because we didn’t have one, but to Fred Meyer, the equivalent of Target with groceries. The store was only a few moments away by car, which turned out to be rather fortunate. We made it to the outside line of carts. Complete and utter freak-out. We went home. An hour later, we went back. We made it to the carts. I lifted C up to put him in the cart. His feet touched the cart. Complete and utter freak-out. We went home. This went on and on, getting a bit further each time. I finally gave up for the day when we had the success of C’s actually being in the cart, just inside the front door. The whoosh of the automatic doors opening behind us triggered yet another melt-down, so home we went for the final time.
The next day, I was at it again. We made it inside the doors, muzak playing on the speakers, random announcements being made, lots of things to look at and overwhelm. Eventually, after many trips back and forth between home and store over many days, C grew to tolerate it because of the numbered aisles and the lit exit signs everywhere. The problem then became that we had to go down each and every aisle, in order, every time. We could never just run in for just one thing.
Yet I was determined. Determined to teach C he could handle something he didn’t like, with gentle prodding and support from me. I simply refused to allow him to completely close himself off to something so basic for the way we live. There are still some things we don’t push; we know restaurants will never be a happy place for him, so we just don’t go. There are some “normal” things that will never be normal for him, and we accept that.
I am so glad to be beyond that particular challenge. There certainly are new challenges that come along to replace the old ones, but as I look back I’m glad the old ones are gone. It represents not only progress, but the reality that I’ll never allow myself to admit that I’m not up for this challenge while it’s happening, whatever it may be. No doubt it will be difficult as we go through it (contrariness is the latest), and there will be moments of utter despair, but it will be clearer in hindsight because only then will I allow myself to admit, “Whew, I wasn’t sure we were going to get through that one.”
Never during. Only after.
Today we participated in an ill-fated adventure. One that lasted too long and was too loud. We left, C in tears and me being frustrated that the world is so difficult on him. What were we doing, you ask? A Rolling Stones concert? A rocket blast-off? Times Square on New Year’s Eve? Nope. Nothing quite so dramatic. We just went to see a movie.
C isn’t into movies, although I thought we had found one that might change all that. The only movie he sits through is a feature-length Thomas the Train movie. Mom and I took him to Curious George several years ago, and even though we managed to get him to stay for the whole thing, he was far more interested in reading the credits at the end than watching the movie. Mom and I were completely exhausted from the constant re-directing and re-focusing we did. Silly us, that was back in the days where we thought if we just did typical things with C, he’d be interested in typical things. It wasn’t an effort to make C typical, but rather to show him that some things he might not expect to be interesting actually are. How mistaken we were, how naive; I look back at myself then and laugh much as I do at my high school hair-do pictures.
Yet Aunt J and Uncle T went to see Wall-E, and since C wants to do most anything they do, he wanted to go see this movie. So off we went. I had high hopes, as he has grown up so much since we saw Curious George, and I thought perhaps he was ready for a movie in a theater. Apparently, however, there is a weight requirement, given his inability to hold the seat bottom down with his weight alone. I settled in for a long 2 hours of holding the seat down for him, so ready was I for him to see a real movie.
Mistake number one was going early. By the time the previews started, he was pretty much done with the whole experience. When the lights went down and the previews began, he was completely done. I watched him watch, and it was like being in a 3-D movie – his head snapped back every time something blasted onto the screen, and while this probably had something to do with his vision issues, it probably had as much to do with the pure shock of such live, larger than life action.
He lasted about 10 minutes into Wall-E (which looks like a delightful little movie), before he decided it was time to go. An understanding manager refunded our money, and home we went to some in-house Thomas viewing, where we can control the volume and the light.
The highlight, however, much to my thrill and excitement (sarcasm intended), was the preview for Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Through covered ears, curled up into a ball so only his nose and eyes were sticking out, C laughed out loud at the preview for it. I see movie number three in our future, and I only hope Uncle T and Aunt J are in town to take him to that one.
When C was very little, he was extremely sensitive to noise. I used to take him out for a walk while Husband ran the vacuum. I’d take the mixer into the bathroom and close the door to use it, but C would still scream. The blender was out of the question and I’m pretty sure my hair looked bad most of the year because I tried not to blow dry.
These days we’re down to fewer things that bother him, although I’m not sure the problem has grown less as much as he’s learned not to show a response. The dog going nuts at the doorbell or the garage door still spins him into sensory overload orbit, the blender sends him skittering to his room, and he prefers to be far away when the mixer is in use.
It leads me to wonder whether he’s growing up or growing out. Is he dealing with these issues better or are they simply becoming more complex and less obvious? Are the gains in age and skills bringing the issues to new levels also? Is he internalizing more and is the outward response to sensory stimuli hidden away somewhere far more damaging than letting it out with a scream would be? Babies are so obvious about things; they don’t like it and they cry. Seven year olds are far more sophisticated with their emotions. I’ve seen C hide and squelch a sob when his feelings are hurt, so I wonder if he’s doing the same with sensory stimuli. Hiding and coping are not exactly the same thing. On one hand I know this will serve his outward appearance to the world, on the other hand I wonder what it will do to his inside self.