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On the last track, we discussed Effective Parenting to Build Basic Social Skills regarding structuring family life. This included predictability, responsibility and flexibility.
Have you had a client with Asperger Syndrome who is hypersensitive in one or all of the five senses? Does he or she become overwhelmed by a sensory overload? How do you respond to him or her?
On this track, we will discuss Sensory Overload. This will include hearing, vision, smell and taste and touch. As you listen, think of your client with Asperger Syndrome. How is this information applicable to him or her?
René, age 36 and Roman, age 38, had a daughter named Sage, age 7, who had Asperger Syndrome. René stated, “Our little girl is extremely hypersensitive…not emotionally, but literally. Sage’s teachers have called me saying that she’s disruptive in class because she can’t bear even the slight hum of the air conditioner and she complains of her seat being uncomfortable. I’ve also been told that during fire drills she cries and covers her ears, which causes her classmates to tease her and her teachers to chastise her.”
Roman stated, “And thunderstorms! Sage becomes hysterical! Fireworks at the Fourth of July can prompt similar reactions, though she loves to watch them. Unfortunately, the noise of thunder is more difficult to shut out.”
I stated, “Sage seems to have sensory integration dysfunction. As you mentioned, this is hypersensitivity. Sage has difficulty modulating and regulating her sensory input. For example, in school, Sage probably can’t concentrate because it’s hard for her to ignore the discomfort of her chair and the hum of the air conditioner, which other children can shut out. It’s possible that she might even experience pain at some sounds, such as the fire alarm, which can be high-pitched. I’m sure the chaos of people scrambling to evacuate the classroom doesn’t help her confusion, either.”
Roman stated, “René and I can accommodate Sage at home, as difficult as it is sometimes…but she will have to learn to live with a lot of these discomforts, especially the ones at school. How do we help her to become acclimated to them?” How might you have answered this question?
4 Sensory Overload Areas
Roman stated, “We have an air conditioner at home that we could try the same experiment with.” I stated, “Even better.” René asked, “What about the fire drills?”
I stated, “Many of the sensory discomforts that children with Asperger Syndrome experience are because the discomforts are unpredictable. Sage can learn, for example, to know when a thunderstorm will happen because she will see the clouds gathering. A fire drill, of course, might be more tricky. Try calling the school’s main office and asking if they can tell you when scheduled fire drills might be. If you can prepare Sage for them in advance, it might cut down on her anxiety. Of course, this can’t prepare Sage for the real thing. However, if she can get through the drills without too much anxiety, chances are that she will be a little calmer for the real thing.”
In the same situation, what might you have suggested?
Area #2 - Vision
Roman stated, “I don’t know that Sage has ever been around fluorescent lights...if they do bother her, what would you suggest?” I stated, “This might be another sensory discomfort that Sage will need to be acclimated to. Some people with Asperger Syndrome experience fluorescent lights as brightly flashing, which, of course, could be a considerable distraction.”
Roman stated, “She doesn’t seem to like slimy foods either.”I stated, “Third, in addition to hearing and vision, let’s discuss smell and taste. When food is an issue because of flavor, aroma, or texture, it may be wise to accommodate up to appoint, but to introduce new foods gradually. Even when Sage retains her strong dislikes, she can learn to express them politely and refuse food graciously. Roman stated, “We’re still working on that. She’s a bit stuck on ‘Eeew, that’s yucky!’ like most 7-year-olds, but we’re making the transition to ‘No, thank you.’”
Area #4 - Touch
I stated, “Fourth, let’s discuss touch. Obviously you have tried to accommodate Sage’s discomfort in most situations. There are times, such as your sister’s wedding, when it is probably reasonable to seek compromise, however, to try and expand Sage’s tolerance. Perhaps you might want to invest in cotton jumpers and cotton tights or leggings. For a really formal occasion, such as the wedding, Sage might have to wear an uncomfortable dress for a while, but you might take along a change of clothing for her to slip into once the main event is over.” René asked, “So, you mean, I should ask her to try and compromise with me?” I stated, “Exactly.”
René stated, “Of course, I’d be able to prepare her for wearing something uncomfortable ahead of time…I didn’t do that last time at my sister’s wedding…I kind of just expected she’d wear the dress. What I should really do is ask Sage if she has any ideas.” I stated, “That’s a great idea. If Sage comes up with a solution to help her cope with a sensory issue, you can praise her for her creative and sensible approach toward coping with discomforts.”
Do you have a Roman or René trying to raise a child with hypersensitivity? Do you have a Sage who has heightened senses? Might playing this track be beneficial for him or her?
On this track, we discussed effective parenting regarding Sensory Overload. These included hearing, vision, smell and taste and touch.
On the next track, we will discuss Intense Interests. This will include controlling access to the interest and using the interest constructively.
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