Though especially prevalent in those on the autism spectrum, sensory processing issues are a challenge for a wide range of people.
Why do sensory challenges occur?
How do we help a person navigate life with sensory processing difficulties?
These are infinitely complex questions having answers as nuanced as the individuals struggling to cope.
The experts I respect most are those who say, “We don’t have a clear answer, but let’s do our best with what we know at this time.”
Example: Our son standing frozen on the beach, head and shoulders bent forward, thumbs pressing his ears and hands shielding his eyes.
Too loud? Too bright? Wind too strong? Probably all those and more, but our son has difficulty with language and can’t tell us. Even verbally articulate people may not be able to pinpoint the exact element that is bothering them.
Years of peeling away onion layers of cause-and-effect helped us understand our son’s sudden halt-and-freeze episodes better. Waves of emotion, triggered by memories associated with a place or type of scenery, can stop our son in his tracks. Dynamics beyond the standard five senses can trigger reactions in any of us.
Some individuals may react with a loud meltdown or aggression. Something invisible to most of us, like the flickering of fluorescent lights, can trigger a major episode.
When we see a child in public “behaving badly,” we might stop to consider the possibility that the child and family are dealing with extraordinary sensory processing challenges. Receiving a little space and understanding can make all the difference in regulating systems back to functional mode.
Our son’s visit to the beach in this photo was actually happy. He needed to stop and regroup several times: for a hug, for a wind break behind some rocks, for a snack. But overall, being out in the world pelted by sensory input is much better than hiding from the world under a literal and figurative blanket.
Exploring the outdoor world is a hard-earned opportunity for those with sensory challenges. The patience, love and support it takes to get our son and others in similar straits out in the world is something we are eternally grateful for.
This week’s Hike Notes are about Montara Beach, a gem of a beach between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, with water that glimmers in a unique blend of deep blues and aquamarine greens.
Please feel free to share. If you’re not able to take one of these Northern California hikes, hopefully you can enjoy the photos!
The list of hikes is getting long! Please check the Quick View Hike List or scroll down the main Hikes page to see the current list of hike notes.
New this week:
Hike Notes 47: Montara Beach
Sharing insights and hiking highlights (Hikes, Hike Search by Area) from the special needs caregiver front in San Francisco.