Takiwātanga with Lloyd I AM
My Own time and space | Love not Cure
S01 E06: Introduction to sensory processing part 1
Pre Intro message:
This is Lloyd I AM and you are listening to Takiwatanga, love not cure, exploring autism one strength at a time.
Good day to all. I hope you are all well and good.
During our last episode, we talked about how we got into these series of training sessions about autism. This is from exploring autism to sensory processing training.
I am really not a 100% with my last episode after hearing it. It felt like I was trying to rush through the talk and make a series of pauses which are not supposed to be. This is resulting in sentences spoken that are confusing… Maybe this time I will talk a little bit slower than last time so it is a bit clearer on how my communication would be… And of course I remember all the importance behind communication so I think we’ll do little by little improvements here.. We’re learning here… we’re learning.
For today, we are going to discuss key takeaways during the first day of sensory training. What happened during that day and what to expect. I will also share some stories from parents along the episodes but will not name anyone. This is in respect to the parent who shared the insights. I will just give some examples and those examples could perhaps come from the discussions or my personal examples. I will make them as generic as possible.
Ok so let’s get on to our topic…
The beginning of the first day was more of an introduction about sensory processing and what to expect during the 4 day training class. At the start of the session also gave each parent a chance to introduce themselves and share a little bit about their child. There were only five parents that time and that includes me and my wife. I was actually feeling a bit awkward that time, in a way I am not confident speaking in a group so after I introduced myself, and gave a little background about my son, I quickly handed over the floor to my wife. Why am I feeling awkward at that time? Well I am always like this, I am not comfortable speaking, and I am just pushing myself to look and sound confident, especially in topics I am not familiar with, hence this podcast.
Back to where we are, after the introduction of parents, the discussion will then head on to the history of sensory integration and our brain’s capacity to process sensory input. In other words, sensory integration is how our brain makes sense of the information we get from the outside world.
What happens during sensory integration is that whenever we receive information from different sources from outside our body. Our brain will organize this information and will try to understand this based on how we perceive things should make sense. How should things make sense, this would then in my opinion be based on how you were thought about things making sense.
It was also mentioned that if a particular person is having a challenge to process the information then they have sensory processing disorder… Note that I am using the term disorder here so we can better understand what the challenge is all about keeping in mind that some information is named based on clinical terminology i.e. deficit, disorder, etc. due to lack of a better term, we will be using those terms so most can get what we mean but we’ll be limiting those as much as possible.
We all have different sensory profiles and there is no right or wrong approach as to how our brain should process information. We just need to be aware about it so we can develop the skill or skills that will enable us to handle the information being processed by our brain.
We also have these sensory systems and if you will remember about the 8 senses that I have discussed in the last episode, that’s all about the sensory system. For those who just started listening, you are correct, you heard 8 senses and not just 5.
The following are the 8 senses. The way this was discussed is they divided this into two groups. The first group talks about the first 5 senses that we all know of. We have sight, taste, hear, touch, and smell. These senses are also called our external senses. The second group is the 3 additional senses. They are usually called our internal senses..
So here is our 1st group of external senses and I have to say, they were given some interesting names. Interesting for me, and maybe you have heard these alternate names.
Here we go,
The first sense is our sense of sight, they named it ms visual. This sense is the one responsible for our visual sight, as the name implies. This is how we see things, how we see beautiful colors, how we recognise faces, or places. Our eyes are responsible for sending the visual signal to our brains.
The second sense is our sense of touch. This was named Ms tactile in the handout. This was about how we can differentiate the smoothness vs roughness of the surface. This is how we can feel if the weather is hot or cold. Our skin owns this sense of touch territory. The skin is responsible for sending information about touch to our brains.
The third sense is our sense of hearing. This was called Ms auditory. This sense is responsible for capturing sound. We hear the sound from a guitar, the voice of someone speaking to us. The sound of a horn. The ears own this hearing territory. They are the one responsible for sending audio information into our brains.
The fourth sense is our sense of taste. This is called Mr gustatory. Our sense of taste is the one responsible for telling if the food we eat tastes good or not. It can tell us if the food will harm us, meaning if the food is spoiled or not. Our tongue is responsible for sensing the taste and the one that sends signals to our brain.
The fifth sense is our sense of smell. This is also called Ms Olfactory. This sense is responsible for capturing the odor of our surroundings. This is how we smell the perfume or maybe the cleaning detergent or the aroma of the coffee. The nose is responsible for smell and sends this information to the brain.
I am thinking of a good example so I can relate this sensory integration with both external and internal senses. We’ll talk about it more shortly when I come up with a good example…
We’ll go on to the next group which is the internal sense and how they function. Note that internal senses for me are all new, I was never taught about these during my class in science. If the teacher taught ahat, I may have been absent that day when they were being told or was not listening… In short, I just learned about these just recently during the sensory training.
Here are the three internal senses,
The 1st internal sense is called Vestibular, or Mr Vestibular. It is spelt as V as victory, e for echo, s for sarah, t for total, i for indigo, b for bus, u for uniform, l for live, a for alpha, and r for romeo. That is V E S T I BU L A R.
This sense is responsible for our sense of balance. This has something to do with our body movement with respect to gravity.
The second sense is called Interoception or Mr interoception. Interoception is responsible for sensing how we feel inside our body. This is how we sense our body temperature. How we feel being hungry, This is where we also feel our sensory overload and so on.
The third and final internal sense is Proprioception or Mr. Proprioception. This sense is our body positioning and how we make adjustments by movement and balance. It basically tells where our body parts are in space so we can make movement or adjustments in our positioning.
Let me try and give you an example of how all of these senses work together. This is my own example based on what I learned. This example didn’t come out during the discussion. A little disclaimer. Again I am not an expert, I am just trying to make an example here that will allow me to understand how these 5 or 8 senses work together.
So here’s an example.
Let’s say someone from our neighbor is having a nice barbecue outside the house. You saw that from your window. This information is then sent to your brain and then you confirm that yeah someone grilling you can see the smoke and it made sense that time right? After a few seconds, you started to smell it. And your brain recognizes that it is indeed a barbecue right?
So what do you think will happen if let’s say you saw someone having barbecue but when you smell the smoke, it smells like pasta? So this will send the signal to the brain and you will be confused right? It would seem like your senses are jumbled and you do not know what is real?
So when we talk about sensory input, our sensory integration will process 2 inputs, one will be someone having a barbecue as an event, and the second will be the smell of the barbecue. If both instances are processed by our brain through sensory integration, and our brain sees a barbecue event but the smell is like pasta… the information doesn’t make sense right?
That is how important our sensory integration is.
It’s like deciding if you are going to wear a jacket during summer…. Two senses are involved at the minimum here, sense of sight and touch. And we could potentially add the interoception. And so on. It’s like you are seeing that the sunshine’s hot in the middle of the day and you can sense the heat on your skin and internally you are feeling exhausted with the heat. Given those inputs, your brain will tell you that it is not a good time to wear a jacket right?
Just imagine that we have a lot of sensory input and our body will need to provide that information to our brain and our brain will process that information and give it as a feedback to understand how to approach that information.
So when we talk about people on the autism spectrum, some have hypersensitive senses and usually, the challenge is how to regulate the sensory information. Having too much information means there is so much their brains to process with. This scenario is common to result in information overwhelm.
I have also learned about these three alert levels. There were strategies taught as well on how to regulate these alert levels so your child will stay in a specific zone. Having a regulated alert level will help improve the ability of a person to pay attention and engage with any activities.
These are the following alert levels. We have
- Just right
An example of high alert is about feeling agitated, you have a fast heartbeat, eyes are wide open, getting fidgety. Usually high alert levels are caused by sensory overload..
The low alert level on the other hand is like feeling sleepy, or drowsy, tired, feeling sick or nauseous. Simple as you do not have the energy to do anything.
So when we talk about the just right level, this is the optimal level. This is the level that we always want to target. This is the sweet spot I must say
The strategy here is to identify the triggers for your kids. Identify what makes their sensory move to a low or high alert level. This will help you identify what sensory activities we should use to regulate their senses.
If during the day we see that the alert level is low, what alerting activities we should focus on doing so we can balance the level and move to just right. Examples could be going on a trampoline or going for a bike ride.
On the other hand,if the person is super alert, what calming activities should we be doing to ease up the level from alert to just right. This could be doing calming massage, reading, meditation.
Again each case may be different, some might find the triggers to be the opposite of the expected outcome. What do I mean by this, let’s say chewing a carrot, for some kids this may be a trigger to alertness. This is because of the weird chewing sound that it produces. Others may find this annoying and could lead to high alertness that could eventually lead to overwhel. Same example, if you chew a carrot, some kids will find this as calming not because of the sound it produces but because of the child’s proprioceptors leading to calming the child’s behavior from being alert to just right.
At the end of the day you know your kids very well, and you know what activity is overwhelming for them and what’s not. It’s about finding the balance in those activities. And if they are about to move to high alert, what activity are you going to do with him or her to quickly move the alertness back to just right. Trial and error is the key. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next.
The key takeaway is understanding your child’s behavior on which time of the day they are alert or low. If they are alert but we expect them to be low like sleeping time then we have to start leading them to low alert level by introducing calming activities. If it’s morning and the child should start the day, we then need to adjust that state by doing activities that will move them to just the right alert level..
That’s the summary of that first day session.
Next episode,I will talk about session two of sensory processing so Stay tuned!
Every tangata whaiTakiwātanga or person with autism is different. If you fail with one strategy, don’t stop, keep moving forward. Always remember that for every failure encounter is one step closer to your success.
Thanks for tuning in, until next time…
Me mutu te Whakawa Haere, Let’s stop judging others
Me Mahi Tahi Tatou, Let’s all work together,
Kia Maia – Kia Kaha, Be brave and Be strong