Sensory needs and a post about bullying

That title is a little wonky, and for that I apologize.

I have missed several days of writing in the #30daysofautismacceptance challenge, but I think no one is all that surprised.  Sticking to anything for more than 8 days is challenging for me.
But I just did a training at work on Understanding and Supporting Sensory Needs and I noticed that April 16th was meant to be a post on sensory issues.  Oddly, that’s the day I gave the training.  So here you go, my weird list of sensory issues, followed by my kids:

  1. Clothing- must typically be a natural fabric whenever possible, or at the very least a blend.  All man-made fabrics feel wretched against my arms.  Tags are a big no, and I prefer my pants to be tight but my shirts to be loose (I told you I am strange).
  2. I NEED human touch.  I am constantly holding my husband’s hand, whether we are walking somewhere or just sitting on the couch.  I can’t sit too far away from him either, as I need to feel the proprioceptive input (that’s pressure) against my arm, my leg, etc.  I share this trait with our youngest son.
  3. I have misophonia- hearing other people chewing sends my amygdala into overdrive and while I want to scream and rip my own ears off my head, the preferred response is for me to simply leave the room.  Conversation at the dinner table helps this, however if it is just myself and my husband eating together I often will either leave the room to eat alone or I will put on music.
  4. Cross-conversation is too overwhelming. I don’t mind quiet conversation or loud music, but if you put me at a table with six people and they’re all talking to each other, I can hear everything and nothing all at once.
  5. I have a super-sniffer and am a super-taster… it doesn’t matter how subtle a smell is, I can detect it and usually track it down. I’m known as the bloodhound in our house, particularly when something smells bad and needs finding before it smells worse.
  6. I am hyper-reactive to any and all changes happening in my body.  I shared a video during the training about interoception that really talks about level of awareness of what is going on in your body. This is sense is called interoception. This means that for me, I may go to the doctor for something that most people wouldn’t notice.  Often I am not clinically ill or injured, however I am fortunate in that my nurse practitioner and my rheumatologist agree that just because I don’t meet diagnostic criteria for something does not lessen my personal experience with it. They take it seriously, a fact for which I am eternally grateful.  Here is a short video on interoception:

 

I am sure that I have other sensory issues, however this is what I could think of today.

My kids are a little different.  My 17 year old loathes being touched or having anyone or anything touch him.  My 7 year old seeks touch to the degree that he is often found totally wrapped around me, my husband, or one of his brothers.  My 9 year old is somewhere in between, as is my 20 year old.  My husband doesn’t like hugs, except from me or the kids. But he also grew up in a household of non-huggers, so that may be more learned than anything else.
The younger two kids, particularly the youngest, have food sensitivities which I suspect are either related to texture, smell, or taste.  They can tell if I purchase a different brand of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, for example, and won’t eat them if they’re not from Aldi. They prefer things which crunch OR things which are plain white pasta.  In fact, they will eat little else, save pizza and peanut butter sandwiches.  It’s a very small repertoire of foods.

 

Okay, on to bullying.  I am going to make this a short one, mostly because I don’t have the physical or mental energy at the moment.  When I am feeling stronger I will write more.
For my entire life I have been bullied.  By friends, by peers, by colleagues, by strangers, by anyone.  In junior high and high school it mostly was physical- from getting punched in the back by a former friend every time she passed me in the crowded hallways to being dragged to the girls room for a very public fight (all the girls who were friends with the perpetrator crowded into the bathroom to bear witness).
As I got older it became less physical and more verbal.  People still will tease me for the “weird” things I say.  I’m sorry, but if I walk into your office and the air smells just like airplane air, I will say it out loud.  And then you’ll make me feel awful for doing so, and I’ll spend the next week hiding how odd I can be.

I’m finally at the point where I am learning how to own my weirdness.  Yes, I say strange things and I am impulsive yet well-rooted in routines and schedules.  Yes, I will stim in front of you IF you are a person who I know won’t tease me (or if I’m in a very crowded place and need to find my center).  I am learning how to talk openly in real life about all of these things without being scared that you’ll make fun of me.  And I am VERY slowly learning how to quickly stop the negative self-talk when you eventually do make fun of me.

 

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