We have had our challenges with getting people to understand the tactile issues with Mitch, and it appears a lot of mums are facing the same problem, so I thought I would start this discussion so we have an area to add any tips or strategies we have found useful along the way.

To kick it off, I thought I would share the examples I have used over the years, that for a lot of people "make the penny drop".

When trying to explain the issues with sound I use the chalk/nails on the blackboard example, as this form of sensitivity is very common - even in people without sensory processing dysfunction. By explaining that when a person drags their nails down a blackboard the sound doesn't change for each individual (so therefore they should all react the same) but some people cringe, and some are ok with it - why? Once people think about this they realise it is the way the individual interprets the sound that makes a difference, and all of a sudden the penny drops for our boys. Once they have the concept I then explain that our boys are affected by a range of sounds but the end result is no different to that of the person that hates the sound of nails or chalk on a blackboard.

The example I use for clothing is to ask people if they have ever had a piece of clothing that didn't "sit" right, and as a result they spent the night pulling it up (or pulling it down) trying to get it to feel right. Most people (if they are honest) can immediately think of a situation where a top or pair of pants drove them nuts. I then explain for our boys this is similar, except a little crinkle or seam is all it takes to trigger the need to adjust the clothing as they are much more sensitive to the way things "sit"........ by reminding them of a time when their clothing was uncomfortable, they quite often remember all the feelings that go with it - the frustration, the grumpiness, the whole "can't wait to get home so I can put on something more comfortable". Once again, when given a situation they can relate to, they start to understand it.

The specificity of brands in food is harder to explain, but recently I discovered an excellent way to do it. My husband bought some butter that was salt reduced (we use so little butter that not stressing about the sodium in it is our only luxury in life) and when he put it on his bread he was horrified at how awful it tasted compared to our usual butter. I then used the opportunity to explain to him that butter is butter (I could see him cringe when he realised I was giving him a taste of his own medicine following years of him saying to Mitchell "juice is juice mate, theres no difference, so just drink the brand I bought today ok?"). I then explained that the slightest change in ingredients can drastically change the taste of a product depending on an individuals ratio of taste buds, and that whilst for us we might go "uuugh" and get over it, for Mitch it triggers a response that is almost like a panic attack. Now he gets it. Now instead of buying what ever juice is on special, he comes home with Mitchells juice, and like me, if its Mitchells juice on special he'll come home with 6, as they keep in the cupboard.

So thats our journey of education. Some people don't get it straight away, but by planting a seed they then think about the conversation when they have clothing that doesn't sit straight, or when some one makes comment about nails on a blackboard, and all of a sudden the penny drops.

Don't know if that will help anyone else, but I know that for us, it has made explaining the situation to others much more effective......

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Julie,
This is good advice and we will use it for explaining future issues with Michael. He sometimes gets so upset or anxious when he knows a certain sound is about to happen; ie: fire engine siren; car burglar alarm; the band playing at a sporting event; car honking; opening or closing an electric garage door, sound at a movie; He plugs his ears a lot to help him deal with these noises that to him must be so extra sensitive and annoying. The rest of us don't realize what these children are going through behind the facade............

Cathie Bullis


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