When your child has a brain that is wired differently, life is extremely challenging for them and for you. As they grow up, you learn different ways to understand each other. I have had to painstakingly explain to Michael how my brain works and he has done the same to me. Sometimes, it is done patiently and easily on both our parts. Sometimes, it has been more challenging. But one thing I can say is that the things that have helped me understand Michael better have had to do with looking at real articles, talking to or reading articles and books by real autistic people, and of course, touching base with my neuro diverse son and hearing from his mouth what works. So, through my own trial and error, here are ways I have managed to troubleshoot sensory and processing differences that Michael has and try and understand him better:
1) Observe my son in all his moments, happy and sad: Sometime we neuro typical parents will misunderstand a sensory issue that means our child is upset or excited. Once we start to watch our child more closely in all settings, we will begin to understand more why they do what they do and what the need serves. If not, we know we need to ask more questions.
2) Ask your child questions: Yes, some children are limited verbally, some are non-verbal, and some are so verbal they can’t stop talking. However, this does not mean that it will be easy or hard for them to answer how they feel and why. It may take many conversations, but really show your child you are meeting them where they are and respecting their personal ways of regulating with the world.
3) Try out a variety of sensory friendly toys and options: Don’t be afraid to try out different sensory friendly toys like hand fidgets, sand, bubbles, things like trampolines, swings, activities like swimming, dancing. You need to see if they are hypo or hyper sensitive to stimuli and if they need to move more or less. Does light or movement bother them? Do they seek it out? Understanding this means understanding how your child needs to be in the world to feel better in their body.
4) If they need to rock, flap or vocalize let them: Another way to help your child, within reason and within what the setting is too, of course, would be to let them do what they need to do to regulate. If rocking, jumping, flapping or vocalizing helps them find balance in themselves, we must understand that they need to do this. Of course there are settings where they need to learn to have quieter options or move to a place where they can make sounds or move. Again, this means your child will realize you understand them and what they need to do to handle outside and internal stimuli better.
5) Read articles, books, blogs or talk to other neuro diverse people: The best way to understand how your child’s sensory system works is to talk or read about other autistic, adhd or other types of different-brained people to get a glimpse at this mind from the inside out. I remember the first time I did this how insightful it was to me. I learned how to help my son find moments to release the pent up energy in a healthy way. I was humbled talking to this individual and I continue to be when reading articles or talking to other neuro diverse people in person.
Exceptional Parents, how do you support and help your Exceptional Child handle sensory issues or sensitivities? I think the first place to start is in thinking we need to fix our kids. That is not the case. They are not broken. They merely have a different way of seeing the world than we do and need our understanding, compassion and interest to help them see that they are fine the way they are. When we make the effort to support and love our child, they in turn learn to love and accept themselves and the wonderful gift they are to us and to the world. Until next time.