Asperger’s Syndrome and Sensory Over-Load

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This picture says so much. I want to smack it clear off the page and stomp on it.

I do find it cute and sweet that my child is mowing the yard, but I can’t stand that bright, blaring light. It’s frustrating that the picture is also so blurry. I can hear that loud-ass lawn mower right now.

I do not have Asperger’s, that I know of, but I do have sensory issues. Five out of the six of my family members have sensory sensitivities. It makes for an interesting household.

Everyone is familiar with the five senses of taste, smell, sight, sound, and touch. I believe that there is another, very intense sense that is labeled “empathy”. Those people are accused of being “too sensitive”, or in the shows and literature on the paranormal, they are labeled as “empaths”. These “empaths” soak in the moods and feelings of other persons nearby without being mindful of it. It is overwhelming at times, and can over-power the other five senses, ultimately affecting the mood of the empath herself. That topic is for another post.

Why am I bringing up the senses? Sensory sensitivities control our family’s environment and routine every single day. It makes life very tedious and difficult for my son, each and every day of his life. Having sensitivities and sensory over-load issues make learning such a struggle in even the most controlled of environments. Hunter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome six years ago. Along with having been bullied by both peers and by teachers alike, it is the main reason why he is unschooled and why we homeschool, or better yet, facilitate home-based learning for our other three children.

(Home-based learning can occur in every household. Each time an adult teaches, or facilitates learning opportunities for the child, even if the child attends a public school, it is home-based learning. Homeschooling can be any form of schooling done at home in place of sending a child to a brick and mortar school. It is debated whether or not online public school, such as k12, or an online charter school falls under the category of homeschooling. Unschooling is the newest, most radical idea of education as of late. Unschooling is child-led learning, rooted in the firm belief that a child will learn naturally from her surroundings, and will continue to hunger for knowledge and seek out knowledge in an independent, self-motivated manner. If there is a problem, they will dig in to find the solution. If there is a need to learn, they will find a way to gain the knowledge that they need.)

So what is sensory over-load? What does it feel like? Using the photo of my son, Parker, mowing the lawn, it is similar to walking through life as if every moment of each day is this bright, this blurry, this loud; all the while you are trying to process a conversation a parent is having with you, or a lesson that a teacher is trying to explain to you, in the midst of such a picture.

Have you ever been to a state fair, or an amusement park? Imagine being hot and sticky, sweating in the sun, as you walk through the crowd. The air is thick with humidity and of the smells of corndogs and garbage from the nearby bins. The sun is super bright and it is hard to see five feet in front of you, because you have forgotten your sunglasses. You are walking through a crowd of people, stomach to butt-cheek, hitting naked legs, with other sweaty naked legs, pushing through like cattle squeezing into the gates of the stockade. Meanwhile, the friends you came with are trying to tell you about last night’s party that you missed, yelling above the crowd so that you can get in on all of the details. You just want to know which ride you and your friends can hit next, but you have no idea where you are in the park now, and you can’t see above or through the crowd.

“Are you listening to me? Dude! I am trying to tell you about that jam you missed at last night’s crash session, and you can’t give me enough respect to at least let me know that you are listening? Hello!”

Eesh! This is every moment of every day in public school, in restaurants, in a shopping mall, in Target, in just a family’s living room, for persons with Asperger’s Syndrome. This is my son on sensory-overload. Let me not even attempt to explain how horrifying the Disney World experience was to him at the age of 9. It was right before we got him diagnosed. We had no idea what we were doing to the kid!

This year is going to be slightly different. He is 7 years older to the day. He knows exactly what he is getting into. So do we. We are better prepared and he is old enough to stay at the condo if so desired. We are armed with headphones, his own bedroom, and permission to exit situations when the need arises.

Check out future posts on how to help those with sensory over-load issues, cope with everyday life and vacations!

Are there any questions that you may have, or ideas to share with the Asperger’s Community? Please throw them at us in the comments section below. Your input is very much appreciated!

In-Laws Can Make or Break a Marriage

Today is my Father-In-Law, Gary’s, birthday.

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This birthday is extra special.  It is the second year that we have been given a chance to celebrate his birthday as a cancer survivor. Have we had huge, dynamic celebrations each year because of this? No, but this doesn’t mean that we are not sending THANKS to God for another year to enjoy having our perfect Papa around!

Our family, on my husband’s side, is very low-key.  We are a quiet family, not known for big, loud parties. Also, we live states apart. Rarely do the   Annans get to see each other. If it wasn’t for their willingness to drive 10-12 hours one-way, a few times each year, we would never see them. It is hard and expensive to travel with four kids.

I, personally, owe them my whole last 20 years of happiness. No, that is not an exaggeration; and no, I am not working up to an inheritance of some sort. I am just truly intelligent enough to know the importance of having stellar in-laws.

Yes, Chris and I have just celebrated our 18th. wedding anniversary and 20 years of living together in sin before marriage. Watch out! (No, this was not the way he was raised, but that is for another post.)

My in-laws have been supportive of not only our relationship, but of me, personally, every single year that we have been together. Never once, have they taken sides in situations, decisions, or disagreements. Never once, have they given advice not asked for. They have only led by example. These seem like mundane points to list, but these points, gone in another direction, could break up a marriage faster than a pit crew can change a tire and add gas.

Gary Annan is intelligent, supportive, fun, and has a great sense of humor. He, along with Shirley, have raised a stellar son. I have been blessed with the greatest gift a girl could ask for. They have given me their son, whom they have raised to be a perfect husband, father, and friend. I know that they miss him, as much as we miss them.

In two days, we will be having cake with Papa in Disney World. Not because of his birthday, but because they have decided to join us in Florida, to support our family on this once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Enough said. Wow!

Happy Birthday Dad, and THANK YOU!  We love you so very, very much!