Heightened senses are one of the prices – and sometimes gifts – endowed upon our loved ones with Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s not made up, I promise you. They really do experience things on a different – and often painful – level.
I was prepared for this. Ok, I thought I was prepared for this.
My son turned out to be very visually sensitive. He had trouble handling busy patterns. What does that even mean? Well, it meant that he couldn’t find a particular object in a full drawer. Or pick out a certain book from a full bookshelf. He just got lost in the visual noise. He eventually stopped even trying and shut everything out.
It was frustrating, and upsetting. Everyone takes it for granted that a child can pick out the cereal he loves on the cereal aisle.
Now, we’ve come a long way from that boy who couldn’t find his favorite foods. He leads me confidently through the mall now – a minor miracle, let me assure you. He even notices little details here and there that escape me, like the pattern on a shirt or a tiny advertisement. Some days, I’m so proud of him my face can’t stop smiling.
But it didn’t happen overnight.
We started with I Spy books, and other ‘find the person’ books (many are quite inexpensive and can be found in bargain book areas). We played games in grocery stores: If he could find it, I would buy it (already planned to, but it was more fun this way). I let him take the cart and lead the way, for that extra boost of confidence and awareness. When he got tired, I tried to respect that and give him a break.
For my whole family, I de-cluttered the house. Clean, bare, white walls. It was amazing how everyone seemed chirpier and less moody. Instant results. Okay, I miss pictures, but the happier, more relaxed family members more than make up for it.
One of the best things we ever did was find bubble gum machines in malls (see my post Find Those Bubble Gum Machines!).
We also enlisted the computer game. I know, a lot of people shun them. But the I Spy computer games really worked for us. They can be difficult and wearing – playing in shorter bursts, or insisting on a shutdown when tempers fray worked for us – but also a lot of fun and excellent practice for those finding skills. Vocabularies get exercised and expanded; I can’t tell you how many times my son burst into a room, asking what a candelabra or a kazoo is, and what it looks like. Tolerance for busy backgrounds improved dramatically, and he can find things – anywhere – a lot more easily now.
Don’t give up.
People who knew my son a year ago wouldn’t recognize him now. His brain is still growing. Making skills fun to practice helps them get practiced. Whatever the combination that led to his success, I’ll never know for sure… but I’m grateful, and don’t plan to ever give up.
I welcome any and all posts with additional ideas on this subject. The safety issues involved with a child who has difficulty noticing what’s going on around him (or her!) are enormous.