Thursday, November 13, 2014

How We're Wired

Some of the benefits from the Occupational Therapy that the kids did over the spring and summer months are the tools we learned to use.  Some of those tools are tangible, others are just understanding the way we are wired.

Sometimes when kids (and us grownups too!) are overwhelmed by the information pouring in from all the senses, our bodies and brains don't communicate well with each other.  And that can mean that we don't communicate well with others at those times either.  One thing the Therapist did was to try to get the kids to find and use words to express the feelings, instead of just having a blinding swell of anxiety or anger.

At home, we laminated some conversation starters for times we feel upset or angry but don't know how to express it.

You can't see it, but on the back of the sheet there are two illustrated options:

Plan A) If the feelings are small to medium-sized, let's take some deep breaths and use some of these words to talk about how we're feeling.  Then we can make a plan together.

Plan B) If the feelings are really, really big, take some time alone in a safe place until you feel a little calmer.  Then we can move to Plan A.

Here's another tool:

This is just a little diagram with a moveable hand so when it's time to sit down and work on something, we can identify how our body is feeling.  If the student is feeling a little bit too fast for example, he might need to use some calming techniques such as holding a "fidget" (a small, handheld item that gives sensory input), chewing some gum, having a glass of water, or finding a place to rest his feet.  

Our kids have benefited from these strategies. From the beginning of her work with the kids, I could see myself so clearly as also being a highly sensitive person with trouble processing large amounts of sensory input.  

When J and I were in New Orleans on business in October, one night we walked into an overcrowded restaurant with music blaring and conversation and laughter even louder.  

In the past, I would have felt scared and upset and mad and wanted to run away because I had no control over the situation, and then felt ashamed of being such a "weak and anxious" person.  This time, it was like there was this little voice in my head.  "Okay, it's REALLY loud in here, really crowded, and everything is unfamiliar so your senses are in overload.  That's okay, because that's just how you are wired." 

What a peaceful difference understanding made!  J asked if I wanted to go, but just knowing what was happening in my brain made it okay.  We ended up going somewhere else because it was too long of a wait for a table, but I was so happy with my epiphany that I had to share it with J when we finally got to sit down.

And now I share it with you.