Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sensory Overload

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure to attend a fancy charity event that supports a list of childrens charities (two serve children on the autism spectrum) followed by a fancy dinner. This was our third time to enjoy dinner at this particular venue following the black-tie event.

We were assigned to the main dining room at dinner; probably some sort of honor to be there. The main dining room features a live band. The band is always loud and intrusive on our table conversations, but this year, the band was much louder than past years, so loud, in fact, that we were not able to talk to the person beside us unless we were well within the other's personal space and were yelling.

The music from the band turned to noise for me. I could not get away from the loudness of it. I sensed myself trying to withdraw, to disconnect, to somehow pull my mind out of the noise, while my body remained in the chair at the table, as the wait staff brought course after course. I couldn't wait for dessert so that we could finish and escape. The fancy dinner and all the courses should have been special, delightful, and instead, were miserable. (What if I'd been expected to learn something in that atmosphere?)

The loudness of the band and my reaction to it, to want to withdraw, reminds me of my daughter, when she was not quite two years old. She - how do I even describe this? - she had sort of a "force field" around her, where she kept everyone, everything at arm's length. She created a protective space about her; she noticed, she gave attention to only things that were right in front of her, and only things she chose (like her own fingers or a stray strand of my long hair that she found, that she would string between her fingers for long periods of time).

The everyday world that most of us navigate with ease was as overbearing to her as Friday night's band was to me. Interactions with others, relationships, should have been special, delightful, for her, and instead she was miserable and withdrew.

Taking those sensory sensitivities into consideration is so important when interacting with children on the autism spectrum. I have a refreshed perspective this morning.

4 comments:

Chef Penny said...

Don't you just love it when you get a glimpse into their world? Sorry your dinner was ruined.

themotherlode said...

Penny- Our culture's trend toward loud music is mind boggling to me. (Getting through a church "worship" service was TORTURE to my boy. We would have to hold our hands over his ears.)
So yeah...I hear ya!

Jenny said...

I agree, Penny. So good for us to stop and see things from our child's perspective. I find myself seeing many things differently now that my child is a sensory-overload kid.

Jenny said...

I agree, Penny. So good for us to stop and see things from our child's perspective. I find myself seeing many things differently now that my child is a sensory-overload kid.

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