AUTISTIC NICK’S SENSORY SHUT DOWN
A single trickle of sweat had slowly descended from my neck and dispersed itself by tricking down and hitting the base of the small of my back.
The first warning sign.
A barrage of words began flowing out of my mouth like bullets from a machine gun being sprayed everywhere they landed.
The second warning sign.
A voice cracked with emotion, a barrage of words, a pool of sweat, all came together as one.
The third warning sign.
I opened my sensory box.
I looked at the products and food items that lay dormant inside.
I closed the lid.
I re-opened it hoping to see an item that would engage my sensory need.
There was nothing.
The box was closed, and I was left wondering what the hell I was going to do.
I changed out of my clothes and went for a swim in my pool.
Water for me has always had a calming effect on me.
Being submersed under water, laying on my back and inhaling the sounds of the water feature as water droplets trickle down.
Half an hour later my sensory need was not met.
I opened the box again, I peeked inside.
All I saw staring back at me were items that filled me with anger and rage, and I closed the lid.
I took a nap.
2 hours later I awoke, but the nap wasn’t satisfactory.
The sensory need grew and grew, and I needed to find something to quench it.
I tried solitaire, then a word search, chewing on my favourite lollies, using a sensory toy known as a popper, listening to a podcast, watching tv, playing a word game like scrabble, but these all failed me.
It was starting to look as if I needed a big sensory hit – I just didn’t know where I was going to get it from and what it was likely to be.
If this was a movie scene then it would cut to me outside on a cold dark night, (it’s always winter in these scenes or it’s raining or it’s both, but it’s never a hot sweaty night, is it?) the actor is always wearing a dark hoddie which they use to pull up and over their ears in an attempt to make their face feel warm).
Anyway, I’m getting distracted. If it were a scene in a movie then at night as thick snow lay covering the city I would be walking out, and it would all be from my point of view.
I would be in search of a sensory hit, maybe I’d previously text someone, a mysterious person that I needed this sensory hit, and I was now on my way to meet them in an abandoned warehouse (why is it an abandoned warehouse?).
I meet this stranger and handing over money I’d get what I was promised a sensory hit like no other.
Off course this isn’t anything like that and I never went to meet anyone.
Because no one has that item.
No one has that one sensory item that can be the magic sensory cure.
It boils down to repeatedly going over your sensory tool kit and looking and wondering and asking yourself questions in order to find the answers.
I take my own advice and go back into my sensory box, I look and examine each item individually and I assess its sensory worth.
By that I mean I look at the item – for example it may be a word search book and I ask myself some questions and attempt to work out if this item will satisfy my sensory need.
If it’s a no, then what’s the next item and I repeat the questions over and over until I find that item that will work for me.
I find nothing, I feel a failure for not being able to answer some simple questions.
So, I take myself for a walk.
I put on some sunscreen, grab a hat, and fill up a water bottle with ice cubes and cold water and head out.
Walking has always had a calming effect on me.
I can always by going for a walk, work through any issues that I am having.
I do this by having a conversation with myself inside my head.
I walk, and I think, and I replay the situation repeatedly inside my head.
By the time I’ve completed my walk, I have the answers and I have a clearer perspective on the matter.
In the end, I simply sat outside in my garden, on a chair, as the sun set and I sipped a hot cup of tea and I began to run my fingers over a pebbled coaster and that it appears was all that I needed.
It’s not always clear or as simple a process as that.
I haven’t got all the answers but for me it’s a case of self-analysing and remembering what sensory strategies and tools you have in place and making use of them.
CARRY ON THE CONVERSATION
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.