Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween plus Sensory Processing Disorder Equals a Marriage Made in Hell

Halloween and the Sensory World are often a marriage made in hell.

Do you agree? Is this too strong a way to put it?

As the mom of a teen on the Autism Spectrum, tell me you disagree – I can take it. But give me a moment before you do.

Live in my house during the last few weeks of October. Shop with me at the party store late August – or the grocery store in September. Watch my kid try her best not to go to bed with nightmares.

Fun times.

(And people think the winter holiday images are offensive…)

For many, what awakens the senses this time of year is precisely what draws them to it. The sounds, eerie lighting, the chance to be something graphic and provoking - and all else that goes with it. But for many on the Autism Spectrum, and those with Sensory Processing Disorder, in particular, this time of year is nothing short of a nightmare come true.

Much of it comes down to their interpretation of the sensory world around them. Just as the sights and sounds draw people to this month, the flickering lights in orange and purple, the echoing screams broadcast in stores and throughout many neighborhoods, and the gory imagery make many very uncomfortable and much more than scared. They become terrified.

They shake. They cry. They cover their ears and eyes as they go aisle to aisle, and as they participate in school parades, eyes often downcast if gory costumes are allowed.

And they ask why so many are so excited to celebrate things we are told to fight against: murder, death and gore.

And I have no answer.

And not everyone celebrates in this way.

It’s hard to put experiences of these kids into words if you don’t know anyone who feels this way. Who sees the world with a sensory eye. Who thinks in color, in images, often with a constant video stream running through the mind. For many visual people, excessive imagery and sounds really can be too much to bear.

Couple this with a gap between IQ and EQ (that’s our emotional age, per se), and this time of year easily overloads.

Don’t get me wrong, some kids want to participate. Some want to dress up. In fact, it’s one time of year kids with Asperger’s can dress as their Special Interest without being ridiculed. They can enjoy being who they want to be for a day without being picked on. Maybe. And most want the gobs of candy, processed with dye# who-knows-what.

Yes, this is a rant, but it’s a rant with a point. A rant from a mom who has seen all too many Octobers end in sweat and tears from a young girl, counting down the hours for the images, sounds and textures to be put away for another year.

I’m not asking it be stopped. I’m asking for some to consider looking at it through someone else’s eyes.

Rather, if a kid stops by Monday evening, and seems overwhelmed, please, be sensitive. Not all kids like a plastic severed hand in the candy dish. Don’t make them go through sensory hoops just to get a sweet. Hand it to them with a real hand.

Smile at them, and compliment them on their costumes. Even if they don’t smile back. It just might give them the juice to knock on the door of the next house before they turn in for the night.
If you would like more information regarding Sensory Processing Disorder, the Sensory Processing Foundation is a terrific resource. If you are looking to connect with other parents, as well as search out advice for handling times such as sensory laden holidays, the SPD Blogger Network is another great resource. (And they have a pretty cool purple octopus to greet you, too!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Have You Ever Done This?

I have a habit of taking on more than any sane person should. Currently, that means promoting Autism Asperger's awareness and understanding, creating and growing a small business, freelance work (writing), contemplating my next book, sketching out speaking ideas, learning and using social media for all sorts of applications (raise your hand if you know what a time hog social media can be!), taking care of my family (can you say "Mom's Taxi Cab Service" or "Bank of Mom"?) and everything else in between.

Oh, yeah, there are windows and floors to clean, too. But don't cobwebs simply add to the theme of October?

The other night, I looked at the clock and it glared back at me. I really, really wanted to sit down and relax a bit before bedtime, which was only an hour or so away. But dishes were in the sink. About 10-15 minutes worth. Not the end of the world by any means, but I was tired and then it hit me.

Why didn't I ask for help?

For help from my...gasp...teen.

She can wash dishes. Heaven knows she does other chores, so why do I always choose to do them instead of getting her into the dish washing rotation? So I asked her. And I got the glare. Then the excuses. Then the *sigh*.

And she did them.

And she honestly did not complain one bit.

There are many things over the course of her life she either has needed assistance with, or her gross motor skills make difficult for her to do. Washing anything made of glass, for example, has been a recipe for disaster, as we're still working on coordination in that area. And I have an antique, fairly thick now chipped tea glass to attest to that fact.

How she managed to chip that is still a mystery. But she did - while simply removing it from the previously functioning dishwasher.

But if I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that there are many times I should ask her to do more than I do. That I should increase her responsibilities. That I need to chose to give her even more than she (or I) think she might be capable of handling. My task is to get her to grow. And she won't grow if I allow her to stay stagnant, will she?

So, have you ever done this? Done too much for your child, for any reason, instead of letting them pitch in and help? These kids are growing up, and it's up to us to help them be the responsible, hard working adults we all know they are capable of becoming.

Give them a chance to pitch in. It's good all around!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Helping the Autism Society of North Carolina

As many of you know by now, both the Arts and Autism Asperger’s Awareness are important to me. And I have a not so subtle goal of combining the two when I can. (Remember the blog post featuring Faded Leaves?) Last month, while at a craft fair, I had a chance to take a break from my table and walk around and check out the other booths. That’s where I met Elizabeth and what made a slow day priceless.

The bright green caught my eye immediately. It’s the unique color for the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC). (North Carolina is one of our states here in the US.) I had read about the, “It’s a Cinch,” campaign, and was thrilled to meet Elizabeth, who began this amazing project.

What am I talking about?

It’s a cinch.


Like many moms of kids on the autism spectrum, Elizabeth decided to delve into her creative side and come up with a unique effort to give back to a place that has given her and her family so much - the ASNC.

Here’s the project.

Volunteers make cinch bags (those small fabric jewelry bags that “cinch” when you pull the strings taught) out of either their own fabric remnants or donated fabric, which are then sold for $10 each. All proceeds are donated to the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Here’s the goal.

Make and sell 1,000 bags, generating $10,000 for the ASNC. To date, 370 have been made and 286 have been sold, and she is always looking for volunteers to help her meet and exceed this number.

There are so many angles to this project that I love. For instance, the economy has hit hard for many of us, but if you can sew, you can participate. Click HERE for the project's link on the ASNC site. Too busy to sew? You can do what I did and donate some fabric so others can have some to work with, or recruit a friend to make some out of your stash. (Takes care of quilter fabric stash guilt! Give that fabric a happy new home - but email Elizabeth first to make sure she has volunteers who can make use of any donated fabric.) And if you’d love to buy a cinch bag, just like other sites that offer unique handmade gift ideas for the Holidays, this truly is a unique, handmade gift – and all for a great cause!  100% of the proceeds go to ASNC. Simply send an email to: for more information. Bags are $10 each plus shipping. Although she can’t promise a specific bag, Elizabeth will try to fill general characteristic such as color, style, etc.

Not in North Carolina, or even the US? Not a problem. Have questions? Want to help? Just send Elizabeth an email and she can fill you in with all the details.

But if you are in NC, and have an interest in helping Elizabeth expand her project, she would love to hear from you, too. (email her at

See, I told you.

It’s a cinch.