I thought long and hard before deciding to share the photo in this post about whether M would be upset if she saw it. The aim of my blog when I’m talking about autism and sensory issues is to share our experiences and anything that might help other people in the same situation. I decided M would like to think that other people with extreme sensory difficulties would be pleased if they got some ideas from what helps her, so I have justified this post that way.
Anyway, this all happened a week ago. It was Monday and the school had their sponsored walk to raise money for the Parent Council. My heart sinks when I hear the word “sponsor” as for people like us with no family nearby it basically means “put your hand in your pocket” but in this case I was more concerned that M would refuse to do the walk – she’s fine and happy to run about for hours on the beach, or to bounce for ages on the trampoline, but getting her actually walk anyway can be fraught with stress. The plan for the Junior class was to walk just over 2.5 miles to the local lighthouse, have a picnic there and a play on the rocks (how do you risk assess that eh?) and then walk back to school.
Luckily it was a clear sunny day and I left her at school looking cheerful about the prospect of a day outside.
As it was the last Monday in the month it was also her monthly additional needs drama club in town 40 miles away so I needed to pick her up half an hour earlier than school ends, something that is written into her plan. She came out smiling but I could tell she was weary.
It was hot in the car and she took off her jumper after some persuasion. As I have a classic Land Rover there are no air bags in the front and as a treat I let her ride up front with me. She is just as safe there strapped in and with her booster seat than in the back, in fact possibly more so as she is always more relaxed and sits in her seat instead of trying constantly to lean forward to reach me.
I had to open the windows and the sunroof to let some air in, but it does make it noisier. She was struggling and I passed her the ear defenders. Then she put her fleece back on. She was desperately unsettled and asked for her blanket. This is not her weighted blanket (which I have taken on longer journeys) but rather a length of pink fleece that I keep in the car for occasions like this.
Even thought it was far too warm she draped the fleece around her and tucked herself in a cocoon. Then she tried to tip her head back. I shifted the seat but then her neck wasn’t comfortable, so my fleece got rolled up as a pillow.
Finally I thought she was getting somewhere but she was still quite frantic under all the covers. I tentatively brought out my last weapon, the dreaded dummy (soother if you’re American). She took it gratefully and sank into a sort of trance for about thirty minutes.
I know there is a lot of controversy about the use of dummies, and especially in a child of M’s age. All I can say is that her dentist thinks this is preferable to teeth-grinding so sometimes at night when M is particularly stressed, one of these is produced and she calms enough to sleep. I don’t use them often, and I’ve never used one in broad daylight before but it definitely did the trick.
By the time we arrived at the theatre, she was calm and rested enough to face an hour of drama with no fuss or anxiety. I am still astounded that she preferred to be bundled up on a hot day in several layers of fleece (although fleece is her very favourite texture) but I could see that if I had tried to dissuade her from any of the calming measures she needed, the drive would probably have been very different, and not in a good way. She was physically drained but she was able to recharge happily and enjoy her class.
However, I am seriously thinking about buying her some sensory chews from a website. A dummy is not a great look for an eight year old!