I’ve been told by some and wondered myself about getting tested for being on the Autistic spectrum. It would explain quite a lot but I’m torn as to whether there was any point in going through the stress.
Recently due to something at work (Educational Health Care Plans related) I had a sudden memory flash and realisation. Have you heard of “Sensory Seekers”? it’s a term that anyone who works with or knows someone on the spectrum may have heard but many won’t. It is what it says, someone who seeks out sensory experiences and goes hand in hand with “sensory avoidance” to culminate into a “Sensory Processing Disorder”.
“Isn’t that everyone? Everyone will avoid things they don’t like and do things that feel good” I hear you say, well yes we all look for sensations and avoid others, but it tends to refer to a certain way of going about it.
Autism.com along with the Autism Research Institute tells us
“In general, dysfunction within these [systems] manifests itself in many ways. A child may be over- or under-responsive to sensory input; activity level may be either unusually high or unusually low; a child may be in constant motion or fatigue easily. In addition, some children may fluctuate between these extremes. Gross and/or fine motor coordination problems are also common when these three systems are dysfunctional and may result in speech/language delays and in academic under-achievement. Behaviorally, the child may become impulsive, easily distractible, and show a general lack of planning. Some children may also have difficulty adjusting to new situations and may react with frustration, aggression, or withdrawal.”
Doesn’t sound like me? well this does tend to make us think of the most extreme versions of the spectrum. Children and adults who can’t communicate, sit rocking constantly, can’t cope with any changes at all….but this condition is a spectrum and after seeing many variations over the past few years I do wonder.
Anyway back to the memories that triggered this train of thought again. I have very patchy memories of childhood and they tend to only come to the front when triggered (rarely in a good way). Many of them were of playing alone in the back garden, it was large and with plenty for me to do but I admit I look back and I feel sorry for that little girl sometimes.
We had a climbing frame similar to this one in the garden and I was pretty good at the monkey bars back then😀 I would spend hours climbing around on it getting to the top and sitting, standing and swinging there before jumping from the top straight down onto the grass (about 2 metres or so). If someone was around I would shout to them to watch and laugh at their surprise that I hadn’t broken a bone.
I’d climb the willow tree in out back garden and do the same, jumping from one of the branches and moving higher each time to see how high I dared jump from. I was always up in trees, there was something so soothing about being up high and more than once I wished I could live in one.
Jumping wasn’t reserved for trees and I’d jump down the stairs trying to get as high as I could and still land. Slide down the rail at every opportunity and climb around the ledge that overhung the hallway. I’ll see if I can find/take a picture of it because it’s hard to understand just how high and dangerous this was until you see it.
I’d do front flips from the chairs in our front room onto a pile of cushions, over and over again. Once I landed badly, bending my neck forward and I couldn’t breathe. My mum rushed me to the doctors and they decided I had probably slipped a disc which had popped back in….lucky as I could have paralysed myself. That didn’t stop me, I just made the pile of cushions bigger.
I was obsessed with swinging whether on the swing, from the banister rails, on a metal pole like a gymnasts bar a friend of the family made us. To this day if I’m truly in pain, can’t sleep, or upset I rock myself backwards and forwards with my head in my hands. In the days when I was still flexible I could lie on my front and pull my legs over to hold them by my head, I’d rock like this watching tv.
The hall in our house was long, at least 8 metres and I would run or skate backwards and forwards until I was told to stop. The pathway in the back garden was good for running up and down too, counting the number of times I could do it and making sure I only stepped on each slab once with one foot. I was never fast, never very good at running though.
Dens were a big part of my time, a place to hide, a place to feel safe, blankets, cushions, tables I got very good at making them. Once when the Willow tree had been trimmed I even made one outside from the branches and I was sooo proud of it I wanted to try sleeping in it but it was too small.
Things like that never seemed weird, since I was the only child my age in my garden…who was I to compare it to?
As for hypersensitivity…the usual things of having my hair brushed, to the point where I actually cut it off myself with nail scissors to make it shorter thinking it would hurt less…I was right but not till my mum noticed and got the hairdresser to cut it short properly. Weirdly as I got older and it wasn’t so full of tugs I would seek out having my hair played with….still do when I can! I miss the boyfriend I had who was happy to brush and play with my hair when I was stressed. Recently I found out that that tingling feeling I get when I watch other people having their hair touched isn’t unusual and is classed as ASMR….youtube is full of videos for people who find it relaxing.
My sense of smell, I miss it now that medication has stolen it from me. As a child I could smell the change in seasons, I can’t explain it but there was a scent in the air when the world transferred from spring to summer to autumn to winter and the smell of snow in the air…I still occasionally get that. Any slight smell of “gone off” in food meant I couldn’t touch it and still can’t when I get a whiff of it.
Some perfumes, colognes etc actually physically hurt or like lavender give me headaches and nausea. That hasn’t waned, somehow they cut through the nasal problems I have and when they hit my sinuses wow it’s a shock
Food textures….I can’t stand the texture (or taste) of liver, kidney, cooked cauliflower, butterbeans, pears the list goes on.There’s something about the way they feel that make me gip, an almost gritty, clayish, texture I can’t quite describe. But I love raw vegetables the crunchier the better! I learnt as a child to force myself to eat things I hated because I wouldn’t get away with not…..make sure you swallow it as whole as possible and before the things you do like so it covers the taste😉
Weirdly when it came to flavours I hunted out the strong ones, drinking undiluted squash, lemon juice, vinegar, sucking on lemons, salad cream, mixing together weird flavours other people find repulsive.
Sound wise I can’t say I have “perfect pitch” but since I can remember the slightest discord and it causes an involuntary twitch, it makes me physically uncomfortable when things aren’t in tune. Frustrating now that I struggle to control my own voice, to the point where I won’t really sing even alone as it annoys me too much that I can’t keep in tune. Not good at work where the other people can’t sing in tune for the life of them even with nursery rhymes!
I struggle when there are too many noises going on that I can’t control, if I have my music turned up loud by choice then that’s fine, even gigs don’t bother me I enjoy the almost all encompassing feeling of it. But when it’s a crowd of people, or music playing in shops, it becomes too much and I panic, I have to get out of the situation. I used to use my headphones as a coping mechanism, sticking them in before leaving the house and only taking them out when really necessary. Busses, trains, walking in crowds, they were essential to my “armour” but when I was having therapy for anxiety I stopped using them because it was stopping me facing the anxiety and making it worse.
Loud noises and sometimes even just certain frequencies at low volume, make it feel like a shock running through me. The kettle clicking off, toaster popping, a doorbell, phone ringing can all make me jump out of my skin. Fireworks are terrible especially the ridiculously loud ones that go on now, randomly banging when you least expect it, leaving me and my dog both tense, shaking and turning up my music to block them out.
As for trying to sleep when I could still hear televisions, or conversations going on or noises outside…that was and still is an impossible task for me. I find it easier to sleep with music or in front of the telly with sounds I can recognise than to try and ignore those little noises that I can hear.
No idea what any of this means for me, except it’s difficult to cope with sometimes and I wonder if there’s anything to it. At least if I have it all written down and I want to go for assessment I can show them rather than trying to remember it off the top of my head.