Today, I listened to a Dutch video about sensory processing and creating a sensory valuable environment for clients with challenging behavior due to sensory processing issues. As I may’ve shared, the Center for Consultation amd Expertise (CCE) coordinator asked whether I’d ever had a sensory integration assessment. I haven’t and figuring out my sensory needs by myself is really tough.
It doesn’t help that I have little memory of my sensory needs growing up. As you might know, my parens don’t believe I’m autistic, believing instead that I choose to misbehave out of a will to manipulate. As such, I cannot ask them (particularly my father) to provide insights into my sensory needs. As the video presenter didn’t say whether sensory needs can change over time, and I am unsure about my childhood, I do not know whether my needs are valid.
After finishing the video, I read The Realistic Autistic’s post on touch-based sensory processing issues. This was really insightful. I could relate to a lot of the issues Sarah, the post author, describes. For example, growing up, I do remember hating the seams in socks and possibly the tags in clothes too. Now that I’m an adult, I don’t experience this issue that much anymore.
Like Sarah, I also prefer deep pressure to light touch, but I don’t have a problem with light touch usually when I’m okay mood-wise. Unlike Sarah, I’m more sensitive to cold than to heat.
One particular aspect of touch that Sarah didn’t touch on (no pun intended), is the experience of tactile stimuli in the mouth. I seem to have a lot of issues with this and always have.
In some respects, I seek extra stimulation in this sense. As a child, I’d very often chew or suck on my clothes and, later, my hair. I still chew on my hair on occasion (though, having had a haircut a few weeks ago, I no longer can).
On the other hand, I hate the feel and taste of teeth-brushing, particularly with toothpaste. I couldn’t stand brushing my teeth with toothpaste until I was eighteen and even now, I want it over with quickly.
What I also notice is that, if I have control over the stimulus, I may seek out more stimuli or avoid them less than when others impose them on me. For instance, Sarah talked about the issue of having a haircut. I hate this. Interestingly though, hair-twirling is one of my main stims.
In the Dutch video, it was mentioned that between eleven and thirteen million stimuli get to our brains each second. Most are immediately filtered out, but roughly 4,000 are processed on some level. For this reason too, the presenter said eliminating all stimuli is not possible. I find that sometimes adding a stimulus will help me deal with overload. For example, I recently discovered some weighted stuffed animals at day activities. These provide a form of deep pressure that helps me feel calmer when overstimulated.