Jesse threw a fit this morning. Why? Because we asked him to put his clothes on. “I want to stay in my jammies!” he screamed. “I don’t want my clothes!!” The clothes were scratchy and cold; his pj’s were soft and room temperature. Later, at the breakfast table, he yelled at me when my dabbing with a napkin proved inadequate to remove the syrup from his jammies. “Get it off!” he howled. “It’s still sticky!” A light touch is like a thousand tiny feathers to Jesse; a warm room is an oven. He has been known to strip completely naked in the wee hours, only to greet our saucer eyes and gaping mouths the next morning with the explanation, “because I was hot!” He prefers dark rooms to light, spicy to bland, movement to stillness. As a child with ASD, Jesse’s world looks, feels, sounds, and smells differently from that of the neurotypical, and he therefore exhibits strong preferences for the things he likes or alternatively cannot tolerate. His brother, Noah for example still cannot eat a meal if there is a candle in eye range, because something about the consistency of the wax that sets him to vomiting.
In recognizing the differences between the sensory processing of ASD and non-ASD individuals, YouTube video footage proved illustrative recently. To the extent it could, it demonstrated what it’s like to walk in the shoes of someone who has a sensory processing disorder. And it gave me a near-instant injection of patience with Jesse. After a lunch consisting of a veggie wrap with hummus (the child can eat hummus by the spoonful, I believe somewhere he was tricked into believing it was peanut butter) I went to put my son in his pj’s (clean, of course – with no sticky residue). I did it slowly and quietly, rubbing his back as I did, bringing the stimulus in his world down to a manageable level. I buried him in his “stuffies” (his stuffed animals) as he requested, and lay with him until he got sleepy. And then I put his tiny shoes back under the bed – the ones that I found could also fit my grown-up feet.
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