Posts Tagged ‘sensory processing issues’

Creating a sensory-friendly Halloween: my own experience and tips

I’ve been reading comments from parents of children with sensory processing disorder and realizing that Halloween might be a challenging time for kids with SPD:  there’s the comfort of the costume, the high activity level of parties and trick or treating, dietary concerns, and so on.

I personally have never been into scary movies, ghost stories, or haunted houses.  My vivid imagination and tendency to startle easily make those kinds of activities less than enjoyable.  Also, I find bloody and gory costumes and scenery downright disgusting, and the more realistic those are, the more visceral my reaction tends to be.  I’ve always enjoyed the dressing up part of Halloween.  I have always been a huge fan of comfort and preferred homemade costumes – I didn’t the texture of many of the store-bought ones.

I had written most of the previous paragraph in the past tense before I realized that most things that were true for me as a child still apply.  I think Halloween might be challenging for many people – regardless of age – with SPD (although it might be different for sensory seekers).  Personally, I would much rather have a quiet evening than go to a crowded event or throw myself into an activity where something or someone might jump out at me.  This year, my Halloween plans are to dress up for my morning Nia class, and later in the morning, I’m going to a coffee shop where they’re offering free drinks for anyone in costume.

Trying on handmade parts of my bird costume!

Trying on handmade parts of my bird costume!

I’ve found several articles with tips geared towards parents of children with SPD, including this one from The Sensory Spectrum.  I thought I’d create a short list of Halloween tips for adults with sensory processing disorder.

1.  Costume:  Create a costume that is sensory-friendly, with fabrics you know you like.  Simply:  if it feels uncomfortable, don’t wear it!

2.  Don’t carve a pumpkin if the texture bothers you. Don’t get close to anything with textures meant to simulate brains or eyeballs.

3.  If you’re going to a party or event, make sure you know approximately how many people are going to be there and what the environment is going to be like.  Go with a buddy if possible.  In any case, give yourself permission to leave or step away if you feel overstimulated.  Bring ear plugs in case there’s loud music and any sensory fidgets that might help soothe you.

4.  Avoid – or minimize going to – places (like haunted houses) that involve people jumping out at you or sudden loud noises.

5.  Give yourself permission to go or stay home if that’s what you need.

Happy Halloween!

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On re-telling my story with sensory details

 I’ve felt overwhelmed this week because I got more information about my vision, which gave me a deeper piece to the puzzle of my sensory experiences – not only do I have poor binocular coordination, but also poor depth perception.  This leads to a number of things, but in short makes it very easy for me to get overstimulated visually.  I’m grateful for the information, and it’s also a lot to digest on top of everything else I’ve learned in the past few months.

Sometimes it seems like I am re-writing my own story, my own history
I know more of the hows and whys,
What I thought were tantrums were meltdowns
What I thought was shyness were often sensory shutdowns – like being put on the spot in a class and freezing and ending up saying nothing
Startling easily if someone came up unexpectedly or from loud noises,
Disconnection from my physical body related to feeling out of place in space, to not seeing distances accurately, to seeing much too much of everything;
and from tactile defensiveness, which came across as a traumatic reaction to touch.
When I experienced sensory overload often, it built up and led to breakdowns, which sometimes led to physical illnesses or depression.
Cringing at loud noises, gagging at strange smells
It all makes much more sense now.

I find this unsettling. I am aware that it also has the potential to be empowering.  I have information that has incredible explanatory power, a huge light bulb.  A huge light bulb that could lead to a key to discovering how to create a good quality of life for myself, on my own terms.

However, I also feel a deep sense of sadness, of grief
for all the years I tried to push these parts of me to the side
for realizing how hard I’ve been compensating – both consciously and unconsciously – and how exhausting that has been.

Now I feel like someone is squeezing my heart.  I am tired.  I feel discouraged.  I want to tap into the empowering pieces of these revelations, but they are not present for me right now.  There are no immediate answers. I am doing a lot to take care of myself. I need time with this.

Tactile toolkit

I remember an interaction with my then-girlfriend in high school. “I’m very textile.” “You mean tactile?”  She asked.

Yes, tactile. Whenever I’m in a fabric store, I spend more time touching than looking. I love the sleekness of silk, the fuzziness of fleece, the ridges on corduroy.

As someone with Sensory Processing Disorder and high tactile defensiveness, the materials I find irritating have the ability to set me on edge.
The materials I love have the potential to calm and soothe me.

I was talking to my occupational therapist about this recently, and she saw the look on my face and suggested that I include fabric scraps as part of my sensory toolkit.

So, while visiting my love, we went to a reclaimed art supply place and I found my first scraps of fabric and ribbon. He also gave me a wine gift bag he didn’t want anymore – with soft fabric and tassels!

I think the most soothing part of this bag for me are the tassels

I think the tassels are the most soothing part of this bag for me

fleece thingy

Soft fleece!

This yarn is so soft.  It feels softer when bunched up together like this.

yarn

I was just at a craft fair (as a vendor, and I browsed, too) and added this scrunchie – it’s a combination of chiffon and silk.

chiffon scrunchie

I’m hoping to gather more so I have a variety to choose from. I never know when I might need to take a time out to feel the soft textures of these pieces.

fabric assortment

It’s like my own portable fabric petting zoo!

Adult Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness – Share and spread the word!

Had to share this.  Credit goes to Rachel S. Schneider of Coming to My Senses and Kelly Dillon of Eating Off Plastic.  Spread awareness!

Sensory Processing Disorder Pride

New sensory accessory!

My newest sensory toy/accessory:  A felt cuff bracelet. The inside is incredibly soft.

felt bracelt on hand

I bought it from one of my crafty Nia White Belt classmates. I had initially selected one that was very unique with extra yarn and beads on it. However, after a few minutes, it started bothering me. It was challenging to think of anything else. Sometimes I think that my tactile defensiveness in terms of clothing texture has decreased significantly…and perhaps it has since childhood. But then something feels scratchy. Or I’m in a fitting room and everything starts to feel weird after enough time trying things on. In these cases, I remind myself that it’s definitely still a consideration in my day-to-day life.

So I chose this one.

From this angle, you can see the soft fleece-like fuzziness.

From this angle, you can see the soft blue fleece-like fuzziness.

When I put it on my wrist, I immediately feel a little calmer. It’s definitely comforting. It’s also fun to pet.

When I was talking to my Occupational Therapist last week about my new toy, I also mentioned that I enjoy going into fabric stores and touching the soft fabrics. She said, “I see how happy you look talking about it. Maybe you can go to a fabric store and buy samples of the fabrics you like and carry those around with you, too?” So, next sensory-related project: get fabric scraps.

In the meantime, I’ll keep petting my new bracelet.

Sensory notes from last week

My time at the Nia White Belt training involved more consistent stimulation and activity than I’ve experienced in over a year.  My schedule was generally 8 am-5:30 p.m., with an hour and a half break for lunch.

The week involved a lot of sensory stimuli, including movement, touch, and music.  And while I was definitely tired at the end, I definitely felt like it was mostly good stimulation.  I felt fed by the experience, what I was learning, my classmates.

I put in my earplugs twice – once when the music seemed too loud during class, and another time when I felt overstimulated.  I went outside for lunch, and then put in earplugs when I returned so the sounds would be a little quieter.  When we shared how we were after lunch, my three words were:  sleepy, overstimulated, and grounded. I know the last two seem like polar opposites, but it also felt true – and like a victory.   I wrapped a yoga blanket around myself and it helped me feel more contained during the afternoon session.

I felt most overstimulated at the celebration post-graduation at a local restaurant.  There were a lot of people talking and I had to focus to pay attention to one conversation.  I had a moment where I was like, “oh” and closed my eyes for a moment to take away one stimulus.  It was definitely a reminder that these kinds of situations can be challenging for me.

Now, I’m feeling wistful with missing my classmates and savoring the experience.  I’m eager to learn a new routine and cultivate my Nia practice on a deeper level.  I am also craving lots of quiet and alone time, to slow down, to keep stimulation low.  I recognize that it’s a balancing act – finding experiences that feed me, taking time for quiet, and acknowledging – not judging – when I feel overstimulated and drained.

Friday link roundup 7/24

bubble burst - watermark

I made this as a reminder for myself. It will also be useful the next time someone attempts to tell me (with authority) what my experience is.

17 Offbeat Ways People Relieve their Anxiety.  I’m not sure if I personally would use a Taylor Swift song to alleviate my anxiety, but I might use other music.  Coloring definitely helps me, although I tend to color my own doodles.

This is not a new piece, but I’d only heard of spoon theory in passing (enough to ask, “why is she talking about how many spoons she has?”).   I realize that I definitely plan and calculate my days and weeks based on how much energy an activity might take and how much that might cost me in the long run.

A similar analogy – but using banking as a metaphor – in terms of sensory processing disorder.

A floating library on a lake in Minnesota. Yes, you do need a boat to get there.

An Iraqi singer/performer uses her voice to speak (sing) against violence and terrorism.

I’m about to go to a weeklong intensive Nia training.  In honor of that, I’m posting one woman’s story about mental illness and how Nia helped her.  After today, I will not be posting for the next week or so, but should be back in early August.