What is Sensory Interference?
I have spoken about the complications associated with sensory processing issues before…several times actually. I wanted to take it a step further today, if you don’t mind.
I have recently been dubbing the sensory issues, Emmett in particular, has been experiencing lately, as sensory interference. I say sensory interference because these issues are, more often now, actually interfering with his life and preventing him doing things.
The other morning for example, Emmett was supposed to have speech therapy, which he desperately needs and wanted to go to. However, Emmett was unable to tolerate his clothes again. I tried everything I could think of to help him. I tried brushing and deep pressure but nothing helped. The really heart breaking part is that he wanted to go so badly that he was asking to get dressed. However, as soon as we would get his clothes (shoes and socks) on him though, he would scream and beg for help. I went a few rounds with him on this in an attempt to help him achieve what he wanted (which was to get dressed and go). However, once he was starting to “dry heave”, that was it. No more.
We decided it was clearly best if we canceled his appointment. Lizze spent the next hour or so calming him down and he finally fell asleep.. This is what I mean by sensory interference. His sensory related issues are interfering with his daily life. So much so, in fact, we have to cancel important therapies or call him off of school because we simply can’t get him dressed.
With sensory issues, sometimes, enough is just enough.
With things evolving into sensory interference, it’s more important then ever to work through these sensory processing issues That said, I literally feel like, at times, I’m torturing him, not that I know what that really feels like but… Anyway, I know we have to help him to work through it but when is enough…well….enough? I mean, how far are we supposed to push him?
I asked that very same question to the developmental neurologist at Akron Children’s hospital and she told me to “just push him through it, he’s just uncomfortable and he will eventually get used to it.” For the record, I’m pretty sure she has no soul…or at the very least….no children of her own.
It’s not like Emmett is trying to be difficult. Honestly, it appears as though he’s having a panic attack. I’m all for helping him to work through this, maybe even push him a little, at times. However, as his father, I just can’t justify pushing him to the point he has a panic attack or dry heaves. No pain, no gain….doesn’t always apply in the Lost and Tired household.
We have adopted more of a, try your best but live to fight another day kind of approach. This means that, while we may not accomplish our goal for that day, we tried our best. We recognized our limits and while we pushed those limits, we never pushed so far that our kids aren’t willing to try again later.
My fear is that if we push them to hard, to long or to fast, we will turn them off to the idea altogether and they’ll begin to associate working through these sensory processing issues with pain and misery. That would not be a good thing.
How are we helping with these sensory issues?
Well, for starters, we are doing our very best to identify as many of these sensory needs as possible. In my humble opinion, we can’t effectively address a problem until it’s identified. This of course, isn’t always possible but it’s important that we make the effort none-the-less.
We actually do the same for all our children. This is however, quite a struggle because of their very individualized, very unique and challenging sensory processing needs. In layman’s terms, they each have different and often times, conflicting sensory processing needs. This tends to make things…well……exceptionally challenging.
Everyone, with the exception of Elliott (at least for now) is in OT (occupational therapy). This is the biggest thing we can do right now to help for them as OT directly addresses the identified sensory processing issues, through various physical activities. Emmett and Gavin both LOVE their time at OT. Emmett goes twice a week and Gavin goes once. Gavin sooner than later, will likely be bumped to twice a week as well.
The other thing we try to do is limit the things we know to be triggers (bright lights, loud noises, textures, smells, situations ect) that will quickly overwhelm them. Many people don’t know this but the most common reason Autistic kids meltdown is because of sensory related overload. This means they have become so overwhelmed and overstimulated by their environment or the things going on around them that they simply can’t cope with it anymore and they have to purge.
While not easier, sometimes addressing the root of the problem gets you further then addressing only the symptoms.
Because we have been unable to identify some of these specific sensory processing issues, especially with Emmett, sensory interference has become more of a fact of life kind of thing…at least right now.
We will however, continue to push forward and do whatever we can in order to provide our kids with relief from these very challenging and sometimes even painful experiences. Our goal is to keep these sensory processing issues from turning into sensory interference.