Saturday, January 05, 2008

Bored to tears - Q&A

There is an upside, for you guys, to this illness. I'm kind of relegated to this recliner with a computer. And, since one can only watch "How It's Made" so many times,... I shall post. BUT, should the need arise, I think I could carve a wooden bowl using a lathe or smoke some salmon. I'm just sayin'...

A while back, during my tirade on the Paranormal show, SWE asked the following...
Could you talk more about the various sensitivities to sound etc. you mentioned?
We have been looking for ways to make some similar sensitivities easier on our little one.

P1 is really, really sensitive to the environment. And, we're forever walking that line between respecting her sensitivity and being annoyed by it. It started when she was an infant. She was attuned to voices more so than other infants I've known. I know they say that newborns will instinctively turn toward the sound of their parents' voices, but...she took that to a whole new level. We could be in a room of ten people and if I whispered, she'd turn her head to look at me. As she got older, we started noticing that she was pickier, with textures, than other kids her age. She was like the Princess who could feel the pea buried beneath the mattresses. If her sheets were on the bed wrong, it drove her crazy. If we switched detergents, she would have a meltdown at bedtime. We had to use Dreft until she was old enough to talk to rationally about the expense of using the baby detergent. And, even then, she wasn't very happy about the change. I think she enjoyed the birth of her younger sibs because the Dreft came back in the house and she could sneak her bedding and clothes into the loads with their clothes. We used to conduct little experiments to see if she was really that sensitive. We'd try to trick her by washing a sheet in Tide and she'd always, always call us on it when she walked into the room. Same with foods....her palette is very detailed. This sensitive nature applied to her other senses, too.

For one, she was uncannily attuned to the emotional states of everyone around her. She displayed an unusual amount of empathy for a one year old. If someone was having a bad day, she seemed to sense that and would immediately go to them and pat their hands or snuggle with them. And, if she sensed anger, she'd avoid the person. Even to the point of not accepting food from wait staff that were in bad moods. The hum of a fluorescent light bulb drives her crazy. Exposed wiring that is putting out electromagnetic fields makes the hair on her neck stand up (literally). And, if you say something that she pictures, in her head, as being beautiful, she will shiver. So, she's just sensitive.

Second, to this day, we have trouble with her tendency to matrix and see things where there's nothing to see. If there's a shadow in her room, she'll see something in it. If there are random dots on a page, she'll connect them mentally and come up with some brilliant manifestation by connecting the dots. This came up in the discussion of the show (Paranormal States) because I know she's not seeing anything supernatural. She's just very, very attuned to her environment and any change to that environment seems harder for her to ignore. Her mind is always "on".

In some kids, this would lead to inflexibility. Strangely, she's very flexible. She's outgrown making demands on things like laundry soap and those things. Her room is a pig sty (normally). But, if you change one thing, she will notice. And, if she hears one noise outside that isn't the norm, she won't be able to sleep. She's the type who can't deal with thunderstorms or wind because it adds noises that she's not used to and, in her heightened state of perception, she weaves these intricate scenarios in her head. It becomes a vicious circle for her where she can't turn off her brain enough to sleep, but she can't sleep because her brain is always "on". Pair that with her visual matrixing and she can get herself paranoid in a heartbeat. She'll also hear things in white noise (words or recognizable sounds). It's almost like she has the hearing of a dog.

We deal with it by reinforcing what is real. If she hears a noise, it's pointless to try to get her to forget about it. We have to go find the cause of the noise and demonstrate how the noise is possible and normal. Same with visual impressions. Luckily, as she's aging, this is getting less difficult.


agnostic in a mini mini van said...

do you not have tide free and clear out there? i can't stand how the normal stuff smells - and what's up with the blue anyway? just because?

i had a professor with mcs - opened my eyes to the gratuitous fragrances added to just about everything and changed my whole attitude towards the goods i purchase. if it's not free and clear (excepting natural fragrances like dr. bronner's soaps) it doesn't come in the house.

Katie said...

I know exactly how P1 feels when it comes to not being able to turn off her mind at night and it is extremely difficult to describe for me what it has been like all these years. I've dealt with it by learning how to completely exhaust myself mentally and physically. Usually it takes 6 to 8 straight hours of work to get to that point but if I don't do it even know I can't fall asleep at night because it honestly feels like someone super glued the switch in my brain into the 'on' position.

Poodles said...

I can completely empathize with her about the sounds. I can hear a tv that is on upstairs if I am down stairs and the sound is muted. There is a hum that all electrical stuff puts off that hurts my ears sometimes. I've gotten pretty good at being able to tune it out over the years. It did pay off a few years back when in the early spring I could hear water running near my head board (I sleep in a basement and the main water system runs right by my head board). It was a distant water sound, not like the sound when someone turned on the water in the house. I had to convince everyone else I could hear it, and I am sure they thought I was crazy. But I got my husband and my neighbor to dig down to our main sprinkler line (about 6 feet down) and sure enough there was a small leak and the water was seeping into the ground. It could have been much worse. So, maybe P1 will come in handy with her hearing one day? :)

Stacey said...

That's a lot for a kid to go through. Last August I was in an auto accident, they tell me I was at fault. It was my second in just under a year. I have difficulty with the way I process what I see, and as I reviewed (obsessively) what happened in the accident I realized that I process differently than the average person. Currently, as I sit at my desk, I'm looking at the screen, the words I'm typing. I can see a matchbook on the corner of my desk, my cat on a piece of fabric under the window, there is a string loose on the fabric. There are cords for all of my gadgets, a little tiny dried spill from yesterday's latte, etc.

It all sounds pretty normal, until you add in the part that, as I see each of these things, my mind gives every detail the same importance, until the information has been sorted. Add to that the issue that if there is too much visual stimulus, sometimes I simply don't see something for a couple of seconds.

For example, if we are driving at night, in traffic, I will suddenly think (because I can "see" it,) that we are in immediate danger of hitting the cars in front of us. Then I will blink, and discover that the nearest car is still a block away. At other times, I will simply see nothing at all for a few seconds, not like blindness, more like my mind fills the scene in with less information.

(Needless to say, I quit driving.)

Anyways, long story to say: I did some research and found information on a disorder called sensory processing disorder. In my case, it turns out that it is not likely my "problem" since my signs seem to be mostly restricted to visual stimulus. Could it be similar to P1's signs though?

I know, internet diagnosis by blog readers is the worst form of armchair quarterbacking. I just like to know why. LOL.

Milo Johnson said...

Smoking salmon? How on earth do you keep it lit?

Poodles said...

Oh, and I hate that "How it's made" show. I will be flipping through the channels and suddenly I am beholden to how cheeze it's are made. Once I start looking at it, I can't look away. I must stay until then end, because it is IMPORTANT to know the Cheeze It process...

SWE said...

Thanks so much, Pmomma! It's nice to know we're not alone in this. :)

At our house, it's mostly about sound. When E was a baby we lived in Chicago, and an el train went behind our apartment. She slept through it just fine ~until~ the trains increased in frequency at around 5am. I did not sleep past 5 for over two years.

A lot of people tell me that I need to just "make" E put up with/stop freaking about noises, tastes, smells, strong emotions, but I generally have to beat those people off with a stick because they just ~know~ I'd be a better parent if I'd follow their advice. Grrrr. I hate competitive parenting.

Stacey,I don't know that much about sensory processing disorders. I'm hesitant to call any of that a disorder, because it seems just "different" rather than disorderly. And you never know when someone like Poodles is going to save the day with what seem like phenomenal cosmic powers to the rest of us. (My mom drives like you describe, Stacey, and you have just given me a whole new perspective on something that has driven me crazy for years.Thank you!)

The times we've had inflexibility have been during major changes like moving and starting preschool. Once E is settled and secure, she seems to have less distress from some of these stimuli, which comes as a relief to us lemmie tell you.

This past summer, we visited my parents in the wilds of small-town MT. I can only describe the experience as resetting E's filtering software. Overnight, she seemed less over-stimulated and was suddenly much better able to deal with things that appear to be constant stressors. It's very nice to have an additional excuse to visit my folks. :)

Have any of you with experience in this area read books by Elaine Aron? "The Highly Sensitive Child" helped me wrap my head around what E is up to and it's helped me be a better parent for her. (I like to think.) She's also got "The Highly Sensitive Person" for grown-ups but I haven't read it.

The main thing I'm getting from reading this post and the other comments is that when someone is sensitive to their environment, acknowledgment of that and then a systematic approach to interpreting what they're experiencing is a reasonable approach. I'm really excited about this conversation-thanks again Pmomma!

Stacey said...

I agree that insisting that a kid just "get over it" is just about the most useless advice to give to the parent of a stimulus sensitive child. (I also balk at using the word "disorder," although it does show up in a search engine. HA!)

I think it is what a parent makes of it. Getting all worked up just makes the kid more nervous and sensitive. But it's tough on the rest of the family, certainly, and seems beneficial to receive recognition for how difficult the situation can be at times.

Funny you should mention "resetting the filtering software." I can tell you from experience as an adult "sensitive" that it sometimes feels like that. I can also tell you that I wouldn't choose to be "normal" because I see so much that it seems like most people around me are missing out on. Different strokes. :)

overcaffein8d said...

Your daughter is going to be a genius. Like a Savant syndrome kid, but without the disabilities and with the extraordinary mind. i think your p1 is truly gifted and she is going to realize something that no one has realized before.

Anonymous said...

It's great the P1 has all those sensitivities but is still a genius and sweetheart to boot. A lot of the described characteristics also apply to autistic individuals, which is fine once the autist is old enough, or not severely autistic enough, to cope with it. Otherwise, it's no picnic in the park living with one...ds#2 is 10 and has mostly gotten over his, uh, interesting habits, shall we say, but there are still moments when I can just cry.