I have a child with autism. It is a mild form of autism, but even so I found it necessary to remove her from school and home educate her. Academically, she was doing very well at school. However, emotionally she was really struggling. It wasn’t just emotionally either. However, I didn’t realise a lot of the problems at the time. I just knew that she was crying a lot, intolerant of her brother, very distressed. She used to begin worrying about Monday morning on Friday evening!
I have no doubt I did the right thing taking her out of school. She is a much happier person. She is also much more confident and (unexpectedly) far more sociable. However, now that I spend more time with her I am becoming more aware of the issues she has to contend with that are perhaps different to what most people experience. She is telling me things and also I am learning from other experts.
She is sensitive to sound. In a classroom of 30, the children may be split into groups to discuss a subject. Thirty people speaking at a normal volume in a room makes for a general background hubbub of sound. Most people seem able to automatically filter this background noise and focus on the discussion in their group. My child can’t easily filter the relevant sound from the non-relevant. In addition, the general hubbub gives her a headache as she finds it loud. Places with echo, such as sports halls, have the same effect.
She also hates being crowded, so I have to chose activities carefully. I once took her to some stables for an educational session on horses and how to keep them. She told me that although she would have enjoyed learning about grooming the ponies, she was quite distressed at being in the stable with six other kids. I realised on the horse occasion that she is also very sensitive to smell!
She seems to be in constant pain. She always has tummy aches, and frequently headaches. Her limbs often ache too. I have recently learnt more about hyper- and hyposensitivity. She can be hypERsensitive about her skin. A light touch such as a tap on the arm to get her attention can cause her pain. This may also mean that loose-fitting clothes that brush her skin unpredicatably may also cause her pain. What about her bed clothes? Would she be better with a weighted blanket that provides steady pressure? Apparently for hypersensitive people a steady deep pressure can be relaxing.
I went to the Autism Show a few weeks ago and came back with a bag full of goodies. There was a head massager that resembles a whisk. It provides a light pressure around the head that my husband and I found unexpectedly pleasurable and relaxing. She reported it as “weird”. Obviously not one for her. However, the massage frog (vibrating round feet) was more the ticket, and she found it relaxing. I’ve seen her holding it against her tummy. The big squashy spikey latex ball she said was very comforting to hug. That comment made me feel warm and fuzzy.
I am now on the internet looking to order some ear protectors. We’ll see how that helps with the sound. It’s awkward as my sound-sensitive daughter has an extremely loud brother! He literally gives her a headache. If the ear protectors can help with that then they’ll be worth their weight in gold.
So I will keep going, exploring her world and seeking to understand the world as she sees, hears, smells and feels it. She is a wonderful being, full of imagination and special insights. She’s worth every minute.