I thought I'd try to explain another one of the senses that cause the biggest problems for Kathryn. This is what overwhelms her everyday... all day long. It is called Tactile Defensiveness.
Tactile Defensiveness is defined this way: "Children who have tactile defensiveness are sensitive to touch sensations and can be easily overwhelmed by, and fearful of, ordinary daily experiences and activities. Sensory defensiveness can prevent a child from play and interactions critical to learning and social interactions. Often, children with tactile defensiveness (hypersensitivity to touch/tactile input) will avoid touching, become fearful of, or bothered by ;
vibrating toys, etc.
certain clothing textures
rough or bumpy bed sheets
seams on socks
tags on shirts
hands or face being dirty
shoes and/or sandals
wind blowing on bare skin
bare feet touching grass or sand
(as defined on Sensory Processing Disorder.com)
It is because of her issues in this area that finally sent me looking for answers to her odd behavior. You see, she HATES socks. I mean HATES them. The tiny little seam at the end by her toes makes her CRAZY. Seriously. We have literally spent 30 minutes pulling a sock on and off trying to get just the right "fit." Usually it ends in a meltdown with her crying and asking not to wear them. I went in search for seamless socks and a friend of mine found a website that sold them. I was so excited. When I went to the site I realized it was a site for kids with Autism and SPD. I was perplexed and began reading. After about an hour and following various links from that site, I realized that Kathryn was not just odd but that she probably had SPD. Honestly it was like a light shown down from heaven and pointed the way to the answers. I was so thankful.
So... back to our struggle with Tactile Defensiveness...it is so hard to find any clothes that "feel" right to her. When she was younger and I didn't know she had SPD we would force her to wear what we wanted her to wear. What a mistake... but now we know. She would spend all her time being miserable and totally unable to concentrate on anything but the itchy - scratchy clothes she had on. She was so easily brought to a total and complete meltdown.
I guess what makes me really sad about this is that she LOVES to play dress up and to look fancy. But it is hard to dress like that when all the fancy clothes feel so itchy and terrible to her. Now it seems all she wears is the softest cotton t-shirts and leggings. She looks pretty ratty-tatty most days, but she is comfortable and with the comfort comes the ability to think more clearly and to be less agitated and for that... I say HURRAY! Now don't get me wrong, I will spend hours wandering from store to store feeling the inside off all the dresses or shirts. I am on a mission to help her feel good and look as cute as she really wants to. At this point she is honestly afraid to try any new clothes. It takes a good week for her to give something new even a try.
Another example is a hug or kiss or a light touch on her shoulder to show affection. She will pull away in a total "fight or flight" response. She will hit or throw her arm out to block the unwanted and offensive touch. It isn't that she doesn't love you or crave affection from you, it is that it feels like sandpaper scratching her skin. Who wants a kiss that feels like that? The touch really must be made by her initiating. If she initiates it, then she knows what to expect. It is that simple. I'm learning how and when to ask for a hug or to accept the high fives when then are offered as secret super kisses.