The more educated I become about Autism and Sensory Integration Disorder, the more I wonder about myself. I understand my son’s needs easily because I, too, get overwhelmed. Sensory overload? Check that off. Sometimes mommy needs a sensory break too. I can recall trying to study in my dorm room and hearing music through the walls. Even vibrations coming through the wall would disturb my studying. To me, it sounded like nails on a chalkboard. I wanted to go next door and yell at them, but my rational mind knew better.
Feeling people touch me? Awkward. I tolerate it because I know hugging + the South = normal. You hug friends when you say goodbye. You get kisses on the cheek from grandma. Slobbery kisses from your children mean love. Kisses gross me out because spit grosses me out. I don’t like the feeling of wetness on my skin. I try to wipe it off discretely so I don’t offend people. I can handle hugs. Hugs from familiar people even feel good sometimes. Hugs from my children and my husband feel really good because I’m comfortable and because of the love.
The real sensory issue for me comes from noise. I just can’t stand noises. Put me in a room with a television on, children laughing/screaming/talking, and one other conflicting noise and I will probably start to unwind. If you add someone eating chips standing next to me, I will explode. Honestly, just the television plus the chips would probably send me over the edge. Since I’ve learned strategies to help Squeaker deal with his sensory issues, I’ve begun to cope a little more with mine. Sometimes I do plug my ears when I get overwhelmed. If he doesn’t need his headphones, I borrow them. Most of the time, I try my best to tune it out.
I’ve become more patient over the years, but having a child with Autism sometimes makes me break down by the end of the day. And yes, sometimes mommy does need a sensory break. He gets noisy. Sometimes, I turn on the radio in the car and he sings, at the top of his lungs, something completely different from what’s on the radio. Children with autism are repetitive, so it doesn’t stop, and we’re in a confined space, so take that noise and amplify it. Yep. I don’t hold any of that against him because he really doesn’t do it on purpose, but, remember? Conflicting noises? Nails on a chalkboard? My brain cannot process the sound of two songs sung at the same time at different volumes and my head spins.
All of these issues combined with the fact that I teach children who have attention problems and make noises all day make me wonder how I have patience left for anything. My reserves run dry by about 7 p.m. If things at school were difficult, it happens sooner. It takes lots of deep breathing and walking away to handle these feelings. I’m thankful that sometimes my husband takes over and I can go to the room and decompress. My hope for my son is that one day he can figure out how to take his own sensory breaks. My hope for myself is that one day I won’t feel so overwhelmed by my senses.
How do you handle things when you feel overwhelmed?