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The Senses: TOUCH

Posted Jul 17 2009 11:22am
I hold my Maisy book in my right hand and I bang it with my left hand, over and over and over. Sometimes I bang in time to the music, sometimes I bang in time to my singing, but I always bang my book... it makes me feel safe and happy.

My Maisy book is squashy and smooth, and so is my pig book and my dolphin book. Before Mummy and Daddy gave me my squashy books I banged every kind of book I could find, and I banged them until they fell apart, until my hand was so sore and bruised, but I just couldn't stop!

I like using my hands to see what is around me...

I like to dig my fingers into mud and soil.
I like to squish baked-beans and rub the bean juice in my hair!
I like to pat Grandma's face, all soft, gently gently and then... SCRATCH!
I run my fingers down the television screen, over and over, feeling the smoothness.
I look for puddles, spills and drips and rub my hands in the water.
I like to hit my squashy books as hard as I can.
I like to hit faces as hard as I can.
I like to hit Lily-Rose's face as hard as I can.
I like to stroke Mummy's hair (and sometimes pull).
I put my hands in my nappy and squish my poo. Sometimes I spread it all over my bedroom!

(Sorry if that last point is too much information, but that's the reality of severe Autism, I'm afraid!)

I've decided to do the next few posts on the various senses and how Zac is affected by Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), which is a condition that many Autistic people suffer from. (By the way, did you know that there are many more than just 5 senses? In later posts I will talk about some of the internal senses affected by SPD, such as the Vestibular and Proprioceptive senses.) The condition manifests itself as hyper or hypo-sensitivity to the environment.

Zac's SPD affects all of his senses, in particular his sense of touch, and it causes him to suffer from "hypotactility" - this means he will actively seek out tactile experiences because he does not get enough tactile stimulation in the normal way.

One of the ways he does this is to bang things with his left hand (despite being right-handed). He has done this since he was a toddler and it seems to calm him in some way. It is a very real need, and if he has nothing to bang he can become very distressed. At one stage he was doing some real damage to the joints in his left hand (as well as systematically destroying our entire collection of books!), and it was a huge relief when we found that he got the same stimulation from the squashy "bath" books, but without hurting himself.

Zac had regular Sensory Therapy in his pre-school years, which did help a little with his SPD, but sadly this isn't available to him any more. We are hoping that the Occupational Therapy and access to sensory play and the sensory room at his new school (which he starts at in September) will help him with this hypo-sensitivity.

WHITE text is me, "speaking" as Zac
GREEN text is direct quotes from Zac
GREY text is background commentary or explanation

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