Posts Tagged ‘sensory’

Friday link roundup 4/28

The complicated relationship between men and dancing. Discusses social stigma, cultural factors, and more.

Do you remember in 1997 when actress Rachel Leigh Cook did a “this is your brain on drugs” PSA? She’s back with an updated PSA about the implications of the war on drugs and race. This time, the PSA tells the story of the lives of two drug users: one who gets caught and one who doesn’t.

Musician Lorde opens up about her experience with synesthesia.

Reflections from Dr. Elaine Aron on neurodiversity and highly-sensitive people (HSPs).

NASA has made their media library more accessible to the public.

New evidence suggests that humans arrived in the Americas earlier than previously thought. 

The list of national monuments that are being reviewed (for potential reduction or elimination) by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Friday link roundup 12/9 ~ December Holiday edition

Here’s my first themed Friday link roundup! I’m also hoping to do a year-end/New Year’s one at the end of this month.

Music and Merriment: 

Looking for a theme to your party? Last year, wedding photographers and bloggers Becca and Chris created and hosted a Harry Potter Yule Ball party. I love how much detail they put into their invitations and creative decor.

Staying on the Harry Potter theme, a British fan created a Harry Potter-themed Christmas tree.

Oncreating a stress-free holiday party.

Looking to view Christmas lights displays in your area? This database allows people to list their displays so others can find them.

Looking for an alternative to a live Christmas tree? Here are some ideas on this Pinterest board.


From Billboard: the most downloaded holiday songs in recent years.

From Everyday Feminism: Christmas songs with feminist messages.

Season of Giving: Gift Guides

Gift ideas for the “grammar geek” in your life.

“Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.
And something to light up the world.”  Gift Guide by Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery.

Encouraging young feminists: Empowering gifts for girls.

Shop Blue: Maggie Mason of Mighty Girl created a compilation of items from shops run by women and minorities who are Democrats. On her regular blog, she also has suggestions for gifts for toddlers; gifts for babies; and gifts for the tea lover in your life.

Gift Guide for Highly Sensitive People & Introverts.

Donations + Supporting Causes and People You Love: I love how this gift guide from Design Sponge includes a variety of ideas, including: donations to causes, handmade gifts, subscriptions, and experiences.

Whether you’re donating in honor of someone for the holidays or doing your annual year-end giving, Charity Navigator has tips, ratings, and more.

Articles, tips, and more

This article is several years old, and still has relevant tips about how to minimize food waste during the holiday season.

A parent reflects on approaches to kids and gift-giving.

An article about being depressed and in mourning during the holidays.

Holiday tips for parents of kids with sensory processing disorder, from a blog and from an occupational therapist.  Several ideas for sensory activities for the holidays:

Rachel Schneider’s take on surviving the holidays (and holiday vacations) as an adult with sensory processing disorder.

Tips for Introverts during the Holiday Season:

6 steps introverts can take to lessen their stress during this busy season.

Tips for introverts on dealing with holiday parties.

An introverted parent’s guide to surviving the holidays.

Need a break from the hustle and bustle?

Wedding countdown: My bridal toolkit and self-reminders

As my wedding approaches – now a week away – I make plans. I make a list of things I might need with me on the day. I look at my schedule for the week, and each day gets busier. I write in breaks for myself. As my stress level goes up, I notice that I become more sensitive to tactile stimuli once again. I remind myself to breathe, drink water, eat, and to rest as much as I can. I start doing my sensory brushing routine more consistently, and I’ve been doing yoga daily. I’m storing and reserving energy for the upcoming event whenever I can.

My bridal toolkit, things to have with me or nearby in case of need:

  • Water
  • Straws
  • Weighted blanket
  • Weighted lap pad
  • Wrist weights
  • Fidgets (soft fabric, koosh ball, etc)
  • Wilbarger brush
  • Makeup wipes and cotton
  • Lipstick
  • Chapstick
  • Ibuprofen
  • Bandaids
  • Dental floss
  • Lint brush
  • Bobby pins
  • Pen and markers
  • Ginger chews
  • Ginger ale
  • Altoids
  • Extra pair of shoes for reception (just in case)
  • Pashmina (in case it’s cooler)
  • Peanut butter crackers (keep my blood sugar up)
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Toothpicks, Dental Floss
  • Emory board or manicure kit
  • Soothing supplements (as needed)
  • Rescue Remedy lozenges
  • Sunscreen

As the date gets closer, I realize I can plan and anticipate up to a certain point. I can cope ahead, and I also can’t anticipate everything that will unfold. I have self-soothing and sensory skills and tools. It’s comforting to know that I’ll have them, and that my mom will be there to provide direct support, and that I’ll have other support as well. If or when I get overstimulated, I can advocate for myself and I’ll also appoint others to check in with me and run interference when needed. I know it will be a lot, and it may be overwhelming at times, and I will likely need time to recover afterwards. And all of this is okay.

I also want to remind myself: I love ceremonies and rituals, and taking part in them. I enjoy standing in that kind of energy. I’ll be outside in nature, and I’ll be able to easily look up to the sky, out the mountains, down to the valley. I’ll be able to touch a tree and connect, visualizing myself feeling rooted. I can look into my love’s eyes, hold his hand, and take comfort in him, in us, as we deepen our commitment.

While the idea of a reception may be challenging for me with its consistent social aspects, I remind myself I will know almost everyone who is coming. There are coming to love and support us, to celebrate with us. I give myself permission to sit down, take breaks, to dance to move energy, to give myself what I need throughout the process. There may not be many events in my life where the spotlight will focus on me in quite this way. In the end, I want to be present, I want to take it all in. I want to give myself permission to allow myself to be with where I am and how I feel without judgment. I want to savor, enjoy, and experience it for what it is.

Wedding countdown: Hair and makeup trial

hair-flowers

Sample flowers for my wedding hair trial appointment: white roses, baby’s breath, and delphinium

My wedding hair trial involves a lot of pulling, pinning, some curling. My hair stylist tells me to wash my hair the day before my wedding, because second day hair holds styles better. My curls straighten out and she uses the iron to convince them back in. I giggle, quite a bit – I’ve never had this done before. I didn’t think I’d want my hair in an updo for my wedding until I tried on my dress; the dress, with its ornate embroidery along the neckline, dictated the hairstyle. My stylist parts my hair to the side, braids strands, and then adds the flowers,  creating something similar to an image I’d found on Pinterest. For awhile, it looks odd, and I have difficulty not pushing my hair back behind my ear, as it’s hanging down and tickling the side of my face. In the end, though, she pins that piece back, and the look falls into place. It’s asymmetrical, it’s beautiful, and it suits me.

She asks if she can clean up my eyebrows, just a little in the center and underneath. Although I rarely do this, and I agree. She waxes them; the process stings and I cringe and wince. I know my pain threshold is low, and that my reaction is strong.

We run out of time, and have to postpone the makeup part. I won’t have the full picture until my wedding day. I keep my hair up for the rest of the day, and run errands at Walgreen’s and a hardware store. There’s something exciting about doing daily activities with my hair in an updo with flowers.

My make-up trial is more touch-based than the hair; there’s so much direct contact with my skin.

“You have sensory issues, right?” she asks. I had mentioned that I was tactile defensive during my hair trial, but I hadn’t used those terms. It turns out her nephew has Sensory Processing Disorder and her eldest son has Asperger’s. She also has other clients (mostly children) with sensory issues. I’ve been going to her for haircuts for two years and didn’t know this, although I had the sense she was excellent at reading body language. Since my initial process of choosing her was based on the creative name of the salon and reading her short bio on a website, I’m so glad that I ended up with her.

She explains everything she’s doing, and tells me to give her feedback – if something feels uncomfortable, if I need a break. Firmer touches feel better than softer or lighter ones, I tell her. I’m grateful I don’t go through the hair and makeup process regularly, even if I like the end result. It is such a tactile experience. “I’m bringing my weighted lap pad next time,” I tell her. I might even bring my weighted blanket, just in case.

After the appointment, I look at myself in the mirror. I’m still in there, just more accented, styled, glamorous. I love how my eyes stand out. I play with toning some of it down until I find the right balance.

Now, I close my eyes and imagine everything together: my hair up, makeup done, wearing my dress, bouquet in hand. Ready for my entrance.

A retained reflex: working with fear

As part of my ongoing occupational therapy, I’ve been doing exercises on primitive (or neonatal) reflexes. I mentioned them briefly here. I was addressing the Moro, or startle reflex, and now I’m doing exercises related to the Fear Paralysis reflex…which is supposed to be integrated before birth but….didn’t with me. The Fear Paralysis reflex precedes the Moro reflex, and is defined by withdrawing and freezing in response to stress and stimulation.

I’ve been looking at the symptoms of a retained fear paralysis reflex and I identify with most of them. I took the list of symptoms from two pages: this one and this one.

  • Insecure, low self-esteem
    • Yes. I have definitely done a lot of work with this.
  • Depression/isolation/withdrawal
    • Yes.
  • Constant feelings of overwhelm
    • Yes, I do get overwhelmed easily.
  • Extreme shyness, fear in groups
    • I’ve always felt more at ease interacting one-on-one or in small groups. I’m more likely to freeze/shut down in larger groups.
  • Excessive fear of embarrassment
    • Yes.
  • Sleep & eating disorders
    • Sleep, yes. I’ve struggled with insomnia, especially when I was younger. Eating disorders, not so much.
  • Feeling stuck
    • Yes. I used to think this was primarily based on a belief I had, but perhaps it began with a feeling
  • Withdrawal from touch
    • I’m tactile defensive, so yes. I’ve definitely improved in this area, but if I’m overstimulated, my tolerance of touch is the first thing to go.
  • Extreme fear of failure, perfectionism
    • Oh yes, definitely. I’ve done a lot of work on this, too, and consider myself to be a “recovering perfectionist.” My healing/personal growth work has been helpful, and learning to teach Nia has been especially helpful in accepting imperfection and being softer with myself when I make mistakes.
  • Phobias
    • This is a very broad category. Which ones? What I can say is that I have a strong tendency towards being fearful, anxious, and hyper-vigilant.
  • Low tolerance to stress
    • Yes.
  • Constant state of anxiety
    • Part of me says that it’s been “consistent” but not constant. In any case, I would definitely say that anxiety has generally been a major factor for most of my life.
  • Tends to “freeze” when there is a threat, instead of fight or flee
    • Yes. And this also could happen in situations that weren’t exactly dangerous, like being called on in class (even if I often did know the answer).
  • Sensory processing issues
    • This goes without saying.
  • Hypersensitivity to light and sound
    • Definitely to sound, although that’s improved somewhat since beginning my iLS listening program. I’m not a fan of flashing lights, and my sensitivity to light skyrockets when I have a migraine.
  • Does not adapt to change well
    • Transitions are challenging for me. I can adapt, but it’s a slower process than I would have liked to admit in the past.
  • Overly clingy
    • My mom says that I was very attached to her, especially in my toddler years, to the point of clingyness.
  • Extreme fatigue
    • Yes. “I’m tired” has been one of my most common comments throughout my life. I tire easily, and I’ve also struggled several times with adrenal fatigue and precursors to chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Deer in the headlights response
    • See “freezing.” Wide eyes, go silent, shut down.
  • Selective mutism (not speaking in situations where talking is expected, especially if speaking is already an established ability)
    • Not sure on this one. I had thought it was a conscious choice to not to talk to certain (or most) people in middle school and other times in my life, but what if it wasn’t entirely a choice?
  • Holding breath when upset or angry
    • Wait, breathing is expected in those situations?
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) traits
  • Defiant or controlling behavior
    • On these last two, generally, no. I definitely have done things to control my environment and reduce stimulation, but I don’t think I exhibit OCD traits. Defiant behavior depends on the environment, but generally I made an effort to behave well and blend in.

When I started doing the integration exercises for the Moro reflex, I definitely experienced some tense moments. As I begin the exercises for the fear paralysis reflex, I’m definitely experiencing occasional moments of high anxiety. Integrating these reflexes requires activating my strong startle or fear responses and sometimes it feels akin to poking at a wound so I can heal it. Luckily, it also involves some soothing exercises as well. As usual, I don’t know what changes to expect as I do these exercises. My hope is that I’ll be able to return to – or reach – a state of calm more easily.

Vision therapy update: Welcoming depth

When I learned I had poor depth perception at my first binocular vision exam last year, I was surprised. “But I do see in 3-D!”

My developmental optometrist, who had gone through vision therapy herself, told me about her experience as she went through the program: “I knew that noses stuck out of faces. But one day, I was like, ‘Wow, noses really do stick out of faces!'”

While I’ve noticed quite a few changes, including feeling more at ease with driving in and greater awareness of objects in my peripheral vision, I hadn’t experienced something like that…until now.

I’m guessing that this has been happening gradually, that this change isn’t as sudden as it seems. But yesterday in my session, I was describing to my occupational therapist about an experience I had the night before, after doing my vision therapy homework: I was reading a book, and it was as if the page had depth, like the words lifted slightly away from the page. And I was a little unnerved, thinking, pages don’t have depth, they have spacing. After reviewing similar exercises during our appointment, I was looking at and out the window, and it was as if the windowsill were moving slightly toward me, and like everything else gained a little more definition, perspective, dimension. Foreground and background gained deeper meaning. I looked at my OT and noticed how the light hit the side of her head, defining the soft roundness there.

When I realized what was happening, my nervous system freaked out. I startled and  felt tears come to my eyes. This visual stimuli felt like so much, and so new.

Today, I’m continuing to notice the greater dimension of the world around me. I find it fascinating at moments, and unsettling at others. I thought I was seeing the world in a certain way, and perhaps to a certain extent, I was…but not like this. In drawing classes, I learned about shadows and perspective and how to create the impression of depth. Intellectually, I understood it. In reality, it looks like I was missing a vital part of the visual piece – I knew what I should see, but perhaps I didn’t actually see it that way.

I stop myself at moments, to close my eyes briefly or to do a quick grounding exercise. I want to savor my growing depth perception, and at the same time, I don’t want to overwhelm my system.

Now, I want to share my experience, to ask: Do you know how that shadow defines the side of your nose? Or how that round wire [for beading/wire wrapping] is actually really round? Have you noticed the intricacies of the weave of that pillow, without touching it? When you look at that cloud, do you see its depth, how the different shades of white and grey make it look like a fortress in the sky?

An ideal sensory-friendly community

Someone asked recently on the Facebook SPD Adult Support Group: What would be your ideal sensory-friendly community?

My response:

My sensory friendly community would be a quiet place in the mountains. There would be hammocks in the trees and several outdoor trampolines. There would be a sensory tools gym that includes trampolines, cushions, various toys, and also space to move. There would be private rooms in the gym for people who wanted space to move by themselves or in a small group. There would be a large pool and several hot tubs. There would be a community garden, set off to the side, that would have flowers, herbs, and vegetables, and next to it, a fruit tree orchard. Any requests for quiet would be honored, there would be specific spaces for music to be played or heard at a reasonable volume (and would be sound-proofed so the sound wouldn’t carry beyond the room), and otherwise people would wear headphones. There would be a quiet coffeehouse, too. And a grocery store nearby with decent, non-fluorescent lighting.

I could definitely continue to elaborate with this description. What would your ideal community be like, sensory-friendly or otherwise?