Living with a Sensory sensitive child :)

For those of you who are following this blog, you will have journeyed a little of the ups and downs, calm days and stormy days of loving my Sunshine πŸ™‚

We are on a whole new journey of discovery at the moment as we look into the are of the Highly Sensitive Child. There is so much research out there, and it can be a little overwhelming and at times misleading.

I have the wonderful blessing of a sister who is a qualified child developmental psychologist and it is to her wisdom we have turned recently.

The other night as we sat and chatted about Sunshine and her beautiful but fragile temperament, my sister shared with me a little diagram. I have found the one below from the web and it matches pretty closely to what she drew.

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Without an explanation it probably seems a bunch of gobblety gook! πŸ™‚ (it did to me!)

So here goes my layman explanation and if anyone out there who is an expert finds any mistakes in my explanation, PLEASE comment and correct me :). Remember… this is me learning from the deep end!

Everyone experiences life and the world around them at various levels. For the average person, sound, light, touch, taste, smell etc. effect us, but don’t overwhelm us in general, as we are able to filter them and manage our responses. For those with high and low sensory thresholds, it is a different story.

HIGH SENSORY THRESHOLD: These people need more sensory input, greater stimulation and experiences to feel normal. For an Sensory Seeker, this means standing on your head, jumping off high objects, putting your bare feet into the snow. For the Low Registration person, life almost doesn’t graze the surface and they need to be shaken into reacting.

LOW SENSORY THRESHOLD: For these people, the normal pace and experiences of life can be overwhelming! I like to think of it as a more colourful life. For a Sensation Avoiding person, this means strategies! Covering ears, reading books, counting the floor tiles etc. For a Sensory Sensitive person… well life hits them with all it’s fullness and they react and respond however comes naturally, emotionally or physically.

When my sister was so patiently explaining the basics of this continuum, I found myself staring at my two girls!! One a Sensory Seeker and the other Sensory Sensitive!

It is mind boggling how out of the same genetic pool, such opposite temperaments can be born! πŸ™‚

The beauty and gift of this information as been a new found enthusiasm and motivation for both my hubby and I to actively love and support our children more. Our two girls need different things from us! They need different levels of input, different experiences, different strategies and a SAFE place to grow into the wonderful women God made them to be!

Like I said before, we are very much in the beginning stages of a journey of learning, so these ramblings are naive and probably flawed in many aspects. My aim in sharing them with you is, that maybe someone out there, is finding themselves on a battle field with their own children and they know in their hearts they could be doing something more.

With this new found knowledge, here is how I tackled two separate occasions with my girls this week…

CURLY SUE (my energiser bunny!)

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One morning while sitting on the floor reading our morning stories, Curly Sue had the case of the fidgets. She hopped around, sat on me, then on the others, grabbed the book, jumped off the couch, and basically caused mayhem. Taking the above info to heart, I grabbed her firmly (not with anger or aggression) and plonked her head between my crossed legs and flicked her legs up and over my shoulders. She squealed with delight and after getting down, wanted to do it again. We worked out a way between us that she could suspend herself upside down around my neck while I continued to read to the others. The strong sensation and closeness to me brought peace to her active soul! πŸ™‚ I had a different child on my hands! Stay tuned as I discover more ways to tame my wild child πŸ™‚

SUNSHINE (my true spectrum of colour!)

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The playground has always been an environment fraught with hazzards for Sunshine, both of the physical sort and emotional. Her perception of space and her own body are not strong, and as we do this research into Highly Sensitive Children, we are learning that this is quite common. The volume of children’s voices at a playground can be quite extreme for even the most normal of ears and the intensity of visual stimulation is high. The biggest challenge for Sunshine is always trying something for the first time. As she can’t predict how something is going to turn out or what it will feel like, she becomes very, very hesitant and often anxious.

The slide is a classic example of this.

This weekend we were at a park with good friends. There were 9 children between us all and lots of little boys! Sunshine climbed the ladder of the big slide quite happily and sat down at the top ready to come down. NOW, several factors then came in to play. Firstly, the other children followed her up and started to line up in a confined space for their turns. Secondly, there was verbal pressure for her to “hurry up”. Thirdly, the longer she sat up their, the more aware of the height she became and therefore the anxiety started to build. Within seconds we had a child in tears and in full panic mode. Having been in this situation more times than I can remember, I immediately climbed the slide (amazing what you can do when you have to!), straddled her back (once again a sight to behold!) and slid down with her. I then took her aside and worked on the soothing πŸ™‚

Next came the hard part! The Mummy needs to be super patient part! The part that requires much grace when you have a child with such a sensitive soul πŸ™‚

After the others all headed back to the house for tea, I stayed at the park with Sunshine and she went back up to the top of the slide. For the next 15 minutes she sat there and we talked. We talked about her past good experiences of slides. We talked about how it really wasn’t that high compared to other things she knew. We talked about safety and how your feet and hands can slow you down. We talked about how brave she is and how great she would feel when she actually did it. SO now you can see why it requires so much patience! One important factor… NO PRESSURE!!! I had to keep telling myself…. no looking at my watch! No “do it now or we go!”… No “hurry up, you are being silly”. I had to have faith in her for her to have faith in herself.

AND SHE DID IT!!!!

For a 7 year old, a slide is no great achievement. But for Sunshine… you would think she had conquered Mount Everest! That is the beauty of a child like this. That no matter how small the challenge is, the exhilaration and sense of pride are something to behold when all is overcome! πŸ™‚

One strategy we came up with walking back to the house was this… “I use my feet to slow myself down” (sung to We three Kings). Sunshine responds to music greatly and so I often use it to help her remember things. Over the last few days I have heard her singing this to herself… we will see if it helps next time she is at the top of a slide! πŸ™‚

Much, much to learn!

Much, much more prayer and discernment required!

But… I am excited! Very excited and pumped to LEARN!!! πŸ™‚

Blessings!

Ruth

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10 comments

  1. Ruth I am amazed at God’s perfect timing. We have a wonderful 31/2yr grandson who has been diagnosed with sensory sensitivity some time ago. Just today we have been talking that he has almost regressed to a place worse than last year, he has been in a new school for the last 6 months. It was decided to make an appointment with another specialist physician. His mom is at a point where dealing with him has really drained her. He was the most amazingly happy little person up to about 9 months old, then got rather sick with flu (if I remember rightly) and since has such ups and downs. Would really appreciate if we could contact you via email. They will be immigrating to OZ from South Africa shortly and we are so concerned for all of their wellbeing. Really appreciate any info. God bless you Linda

    1. Dear Linda

      I am in no means an expert on this topic, as we too are only just starting to get our heads around it all! 3 1/2 is an intense age for a non sensory sensitive child anyway, so I feel for your grandson’s mother… I have been there too! Our Sunshine at that age was a bright, bubbly, super friendly child, but extremely intense with her emotions, and need for my presence always. She has a vivid imagination and a bright wee brain… both beautiful, but at that age, made daily life a juggle between “real” characters she became and her perception and questions about the world around her. I can see now that there was so much more I could do, but then that is always the case with parenting πŸ™‚

      I am currently reading two books which my sister recommended, and both are great!

      – Raising a Sensory Smart child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske
      – The Challenging Child by Stanely I. Greenspan

      They are a fabulous starting point and have given me lots of clarity and insight!

      The other path we are currently pursuing, and I think with your grandson’s history of illness could be good, is the natural health path. I have been so tempted to just take Sunshine to the doctor and say “fix this!”. But the truth is, even if she was seen by someone and given meds, it would be a bandaid, not a cure :).
      I am realising more and more, thanks to a good kick in the behind from God, that Sunshine doesn’t need to be fixed as she is not broken. What she does need is help rewiring some of the frayed parts of her wee system and LOADS of love, understanding and support to grow. For the last week I have been giving her ashwagandha capsules, morning and evening. I have definitely noticed a calming of anxieties in her, but it is only the beginning. I hope to take her to see a wonderful Chiropractor we know, who is a practitioner of Applied Kinesiology. Hopefully she will be able to balance the hormonal and nutritional side of things and we will continue to pray and read to equip ourselves for the parenting side of things πŸ™‚

      I don’t know if any of this is a help! My email is matt.ruth.green@gmail.com, so feel free to email me πŸ™‚

      Blessings!

      Ruth

  2. Ruth, I just read this post and It helped me to understand more Samuel (my highly senstive boy). There are some things that are overwhelming for Him and I need patience and love to understand him. Otherwise he full finish in tears and cries!!!
    Thanks for sharing this & I hope God give me patience and discernment to be able to understand and guide him more.
    My love. Luisa

    1. I understand why patience is a virtue now πŸ™‚
      You are the right mother for Samuel in every way, because God gave him to YOU! I will pray for you and journey with you my friend!
      Blessings!

  3. Pulchra – this is a beautiful post! OK, I don’t have any kids but to just read the energy and love you put into understanding how your very different children work is astonishing!
    I think the greatest thing is how you don’t write of any of this being a hard task that you hate – you are in fact “Very excited and pumped to LEARN!!!” Your efforts in motherhood, and desire to help your children grow into who they should be, are an example to all families. It even inspires a childless student like myself!
    I will keep you and your family in my prayers. May God bless you in your efforts!

  4. Hey Ruth,
    What a great explanation of the four quadrants! You sound like an expert already. I spend lots of my time at work explaining these things to parents of kids with sensory issues, and I think you’ve done it incredibly well! I’m really glad you now have a deeper understanding of your girls… if you ever want to chat/ email about strategies to assist “Sunshine” from an OT perspective I’d be happy to help out… especially once I’m back in Oz and have my resources at hand… Janine : )

    1. thank you so much Janine for your feedback! πŸ™‚
      I am definitely not an expert but I am doing my best to understand.
      Your wealth of knowledge and wisdom would be very much appreciated and I’m sure the little time you spent with Sunshine last year would help too πŸ™‚
      Let’s make time… I need to set aside time to really catch up with you beautiful lady!
      Blessings
      Ruth

  5. Ruthie – I’m in tears of Joy over this one! Congratulations to you and Sunshine!!!!!! So super excited….. need to talk to you about this more as this sounds similar to my eldest and I am in desparate need to stratgies to do things differently with him…

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