*DISCLAIMER: The following post shares some information, videos, and pictures that are graphic in nature. We would never want our posts to be seen as voyeuristic or crass, and it should be understood that, in sharing our boy's story, we want to respect and honor them while educating and encouraging others. This is part of the story of Autism for our family and many others.
"Why does he do that?" This is one of those questions I hear often, and I wish the answer were simple. MANY children living with Autism have a disorder called Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Processing Dysfunction. It is a disorder not recognized by many doctors and not covered by most insurance companies, but, in the case of our boys, it is one of the most debilitating and hardest characteristics of their Autism.
|Jalen making another mud creation.|
|Josiah climbing high.|
|Josiah constantly trying to block out noise.|
- His sense of hearing is very sensitive. He covers his ears a lot of the time in order to block out all the background noise his hearing picks up. Josiah often looks like he is in pain from his surroundings being too overwhelming.
- Because Josiah is non-verbal, we can't know for sure how his senses process things, but I do believe his sense of seeing is probably hyper acute. He often squints or closes his eyes.
- Josiah has an extremely narrowed diet. Since the senses of smelling and tasting are linked, I believe both are affected by Josiah's SPD. He tends to eat mostly crunchy snack foods or things that are dry and sweet. He only eats a couple of fruits, and he completely rejects all vegetables and meats.
- Josiah's sense of touch is hyposensitive. He doesn't respond to pain as dramatically as typical children, and he seeks out very rough interactions with others. He likes his back to be pounded, his legs to be squeezed, his arms to be tickled, and he loves for his body to move in space. He loves to swing and spin, and he often requests to ride in the stroller or car when upset.
|Josiah loves the water, and both the boys eat the bubbles and lick the bar of soap.|
- Jalen is starting to speak more and more, but he mostly just names things right now. His communication deficits make it difficult to know what he is hearing and seeing. If anything, we believe Jalen hears and sees details in the world around us that most typical people do not. He doesn't seem overwhelmed very often by this, but it certainly causes him to be distracted. Often it is almost impossible to get his attention. He is in his own world checking out all the details we can't pick up on.
- Both of the boys have PICA, but Jalen's is VERY severe. His senses of smell and taste are like nothing I have ever seen. He eats everything outside, and I mean everything. Dirt, gravel, mud, stagnant water, mulch, wild onions and various weeds, flowers, and, if he could get to it, animal waste. This kid is a mess, but SPD is largely to blame.
- Jalen's sense of touch seems hyposensitive. He likes being ticked all over and he loves to be squeezed. SPD has affected Jalen's ability to predict how his body is moving in space in certain ways. He often gets terrified for someone else to control his body movements such as picking him up, twirling around with him in their arms, or lifting him in the air. But, as long as he can control his body, he is a daredevil. He loves climbing up high, and swinging, and jumping, and one of his favorite activities is balancing while walking across the half wall surrounding our carport. His calculated climbing reminds us of a cat.
|Jalen HAS to get into dirt.|
|Jalen using the Nestle Quick to make mud.|
The question many people have is how do you treat SPD. There really isn't a cure for Sensory Processing Disorder. The treatment is consistent therapy to desensitize the senses most greatly affected. The therapy can seem odd to many people. In order to get proper output, you have to provide proper input. If a child has oral aversions, you can stimulate the mouth by rubbing the gums or getting the child to eat pop rocks, just for one example. A surgical brush (used by doctors when scrubbing their hands before surgery) is used to stimulate the skin all over the body to help with organizing the nervous system and to help with skin sensitivities. To help children with vestibular and proprioceptive issues, therapists swing them in all different types of swings. They spin them and create obstacle courses that help with body awareness. There are also feeding therapies to help broaden children's diets. Our living room has a trampoline, slide, tents, tunnels, and even a swing hung from the rafters. All of these are tools we use to provide proper input to help calm Jalen and especially Josiah during times of sensory overload.
|More ear covering.|
*All quotes taken from Wikipedia.
The following are several videos of our boys, and some of the "joys" we experience due to SPD. Once again, watch them at your own discretion. One of the videos involves a bit of poo.
Jalen loves the mud. His SPD causes him to be drawn to textures that are messy. He often pulverizes his food into a mash, licking it to make it really slimy. After watching the video, you may be concerned that Jalen is wearing a girls bathing suit. He loves the silky texture of Olivia's bathing suit, and, to avoid him taking all of her suits, we have given him the blue one to wear at home. For Jalen it's all about how it feels, and not whether it is gender appropriate.
We were at the park with the kids in this video. Josiah is not only seeking input from swinging, but he is also licking the sand. His PICA is not as severe as Jalen's but he eats his fair share of sand, rocks, and dirt.
Jalen is making yet another one of his mud creations. I let him make this mess just so our blog readers can get a sense for what we are talking about.