autism · autism sensory bag · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · sensory bag · Uncategorized

Savannah’s Sensory Bag

After a few close together meltdowns these past few weeks, I’ve realised that perhaps the majority of people around me do not know how to handle this situation. If you’ve read this and still feel confused, I’ll explain a meltdown.

It’s basically getting overloaded with too much information and the only way I can cope with this or to regulate my emotions is to completely shut down and stim (repetitive behaviours such as rocking, verbal sounds, hand flapping etc). In these meltdowns I pretty much turn into a toddler – mostly non-verbal, no eye contact, no compliance with direction and self-destructive behaviours.

Signs of a sensory overload or meltdown include:

  • Irritability
  • “Shuts down”, or refuses to participate in activities and/or interact with others
  • Avoids being touched or reaches out for touch
  • Gets agitated or upset
  • Covers eyes around bright lights
  • Makes poor eye contact
  • Covers ears to close out sounds or voices
  • Complains about noises that do not affect others
  • Has difficulty focusing
  • Over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, and/or sounds
  • Has trouble with social interactions
  • Extremely high or extremely low activity levels
  • Muscle tension
  • Stimming – repetitive behaviours such as rocking, hand flapping and skin picking
  • Fidgeting and restlessness
  • Panic attacks
  • Angry outbursts
  • Sleeplessness/fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

So now you know what my meltdowns are, you’re probably still a little uncertain on what you have to do. This is why I’ve created a sensory bag that contains everything that will keep me calm and help shorten the meltdown. See below for some useful tips.

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  1. Do not stop any stimming behaviours – they help me regulate my emotions. Only intervene when I could possibly cause danger to myself. If I am rocking too close to a wall, move me instead of stopping me rock, for example.
  2. Understand that there may not be a reason for my meltdown. If I cannot give an explanation, be at peace with that.
  3. Sit close to me or even hold me unless I resist this (depends on my mood). Deep pressure against the skin combined with individual input often calms the nervous system in places such as the legs or the hands. Constantly reassuring and pressure to these parts of the body allows me to know you’re there whilst keeping me with reality.
  4. Whenever possible – go for my sensory bag! If its not on me, it will be in my room. These items will calm me. There will be communication cards in here that will help me communicate with you when I become non-verbal.
  5. Talk everything Gruffalo. I am utterly obsessed and in a meltdown the Gruffalo becomes an anchor. Find the story on youtube and play it for me –  Find it here. My sensory bag contains the books – let me read them. If you don’t have the books, encourage me to say them (I know them off by heart).
  6. Let me walk, run or spin. Follow me as I tend to wander. This lets me release my energy.
  7. I may have panic attacks during meltdowns. Watch out for fast breathing.
  8. Know the meltdown will pass and I’ll return to normal 🙂
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Gruffalo books, thinking putty, ear defenders, sensory bottle, chewys, tangles, fidget toy, communication cards (unpictured), blanket (unpictured) and gruffalo teddy  (unpictured).
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autism · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Sensory Overload

Sometimes, things get a bit too much. Noises are everywhere. A pencil moving. A person breathing. A stereo. Then there’s lights; flashing lights, coloured lights, a quick flash, a constant light. There’s textures, tastes, smells, sights and sounds consistently – all of the time. All of these merge together and create a jumbled blurred mess of colours and sounds. This is sensory overload…

A sensory overload occurs when one or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. I am over sensitive to sounds, sights and tastes. I can’t hear you very well when you’re talking next to me, but if you’re on the other side of the room its not a problem. I can hear a door close on the other side of the house. I can hear someone sigh a mile away or turn a page in their book. Lights and objects jump around; and little details stand out more than the whole object or situation.  In terms of touch, I am under sensitive. I have a high tolerance to pain, and I need deep pressure from others when I feel completely overwhelmed.

Imagine a sensory overload. A complete rush of sounds, sights, smells, textures and tastes. A complete blur of people, noises, the environment, cars, the street, even your own mind.

A noise in your head that rumbles and screeches. People, lots of people. Heat. Too much touch. No time to think. Too many flashing lights and sign posts. Too much visible information. Too much sound. People talking. People typing on laptops. A page of a book. A pencil hitting the floor. People laughing. Music. Not enough touch. Trapped. Cold. Heavy breathing. Sweating. Tired….a sensory overload.

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How do you spot a sensory overload?

Signs of a sensory overload or meltdown include:

  • Irritability
  • “Shuts down”, or refuses to participate in activities and/or interact with others
  • Avoids being touched or reaches out for touch
  • Gets agitated or upset
  • Covers eyes around bright lights
  • Makes poor eye contact
  • Covers ears to close out sounds or voices
  • Complains about noises that do not affect others
  • Has difficulty focusing
  • Over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, and/or sounds
  • Has trouble with social interactions
  • Extremely high or extremely low activity levels
  • Muscle tension
  • Stimming – repetitive behaviours such as rocking, hand flapping and skin picking
  • Fidgeting and restlessness
  • Panic attacks
  • Angry outbursts
  • Sleeplessness/fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

Helping somebody with sensory overload

The quickest way to calm somebody down during a sensory overload is to remove that person from the environment in which the overload occurred.

If other symptoms alongside a sensory overload occur, work on these also. Panic attacks include heavy breathing, disorientation, low body temperature and severe panic. Once a person recovers from this, their senses may calm down also. Anger should be dealt with alongside an overload if it occurs.

Deep pressure against the skin combined with individual input often calms the nervous system in places such as the legs or the hands. Constantly reassuring and pressure to the person’s body allows them to know you’re there whilst keeping them with reality.

Reducing sensory input such as eliminating distressing sounds and lowering the lights can help. Calming, focusing music works for some.

Talking or repeating the person’s name may help them establish their surroundings, the people they are with and what they are currently going through. This may encourage the person to calm themselves down, or reaching out to somebody to help.

Stimming or self-soothing behaviours should not be stopped unless they pose risk to the person suffering the sensory overload. These behaviours often allow the person to calm down and come out of an overload.

If a quick break or intervention does not relieve the problem, an extended rest is advised. It is important in situations of sensory overload to calm oneself and return to a normal level.

Sensory Overload Virtual Reality Video

autism · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

A New Diagnosis

So today we may have reached a good point in terms of ‘recovery’. I had a meeting with my DA to discuss referral processes for a new diagnosis. I did a referral test which gave a result of 10 out of 10 and have now been processed onto a referral to wait for assessment.

I’m not going into this ‘diagnosis’ until I have 100% confirmation that it is the diagnosis we have been searching for.

Either way, new and positive things may be coming up in the future that will help explain my entire life, my behaviours, my problems, my anxiety, and so forth.

It’s been a rough 24 hours and I have took about 10 steps back in terms of being ‘stable’. My depression has thrived in my defeated mind this last week and my anxiety has not been in my control. Either way, 12 hours later after 10 panic attacks, I’m feeling ready to fight again.

I think people underestimate the struggle of trying to remain ‘okay’ when you battle with so many internal illnesses.

Every single hour of every single day is a big deal for somebody struggling.

This morning was a success – leaving the house, getting a bus and attending two appointments before getting the hour journey bus back.

Little steps are everything.

Please keep trying to make those little steps and push and push and push until you get the help you feel you need.

Love you all, hope you’re doing well! ❤

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Explaining my Stimming…

Stimming. Where do I start with stimming? Maybe I should give you guys an overview on stimming before I go into talking about it and my experience. It’s not really something everyone knows much about.

Stimming is basically short for self-stimulatory behaviours. This means, technically, that somebody is doing something to give themselves sensory input – but what does that mean? Think of it this way: when most people say something, it’s usually to communicate; when they do something, it’s usually to have an effect on the world or themselves; when they look at something, it’s usually because they’re getting information from it. You do something because you want to achieve a consequence. When someone is stimming, they’re speaking, moving or gazing purely to enjoy the sensation it creates, and the state of mind that sensation produces.

Common areas of stimming include:

Visual. Staring at lights; doing things to make the vision flicker such as repetitive blinking or shaking fingers in front of the eyes; staring at spinning objects.
Auditory. Listening to the same song or noise, for instance rewinding to hear the same few notes over and over. Making vocal sounds, tapping ears, snapping fingers etc.
Tactile. Rubbing the skin with hands or with another object, scratching, unusual hand movements and flapping, hands near or in mouth, hand clapping.
Taste/smell. Sniffing objects or people; licking or chewing on things, often things that aren’t edible. Pica can overlap with stimming.
Verbal. Echolalia, basically: repeating sounds, words or phrases without any obvious regard for their meaning.
Proprioception. Rocking side to side or back and forth, swinging, jumping, pacing, running, tiptoeing or spinning , walking in circles.

There’s no one reason why someone stims. It can be a way of shaking up ‘hypo sensitive’ senses – that is, senses that need stronger input to feel things. We all need a certain amount of sensory stimulation to feel comfortable, and if it doesn’t happen in the ordinary run of things, stimming can be a way to get it. It’s also, according to the people who do it, just a nice experience, something that you do because it feels good, calming you down and helping you relax. During stress and anxiety or emotional trauma, a person also reverts to stimming in order to shut things out or self-soothe. Tiredness can also trigger stimming behaviours. Stimming behaviours are likely to occur in those with autism, sensory processing disorders, mental health problems, and someone experiencing current trauma or distress.

[Information provided by ambitious about autism]

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In terms of stimming in relation to me; I didn’t really notice it until about a year and a half ago. I remember rocking in one of my college classes because I felt extremely uncomfortable and distressed in the environment. I’m not sure how long I’d been doing it before then, but it only became prevalent and part of everyday life about a year ago. I am usually oblivious and unaware of my stimming behaviour unless somebody points it out. Sometimes, I am able to notice the stimming and stop it or at least slow it down.

When I first started stimming, I would only tactile stim. I would often rub my hands together or wring my hands. I would sometimes scratch at my skin absentmindedly. I would also do what is known as ‘teepee hands’ which basically means interlocking the fingers into a stiff position. These stims were noticeable to me years before I even realised what stimming was. If someone noticed these behaviours, I was able to stop them. Hand scratching was the most prevalent – occurring when I had panic attacks.

Over time, I’ve developed more stims, targeting more sensory areas in order to fulfil my sensory processing needs. These stims were not noticeable to me until people began pointing them out. One of the biggest stims that people usually notice about me is rocking. I’m not sure when or why I started ‘rocking’ but when people told me I was doing it, I would stop. Eventually rocking became a ‘natural’ stim. I rock about 60-80% of the day where as I used to rock about 10% of the week. From what people have told me; I rock most of the time, more so when sitting. When standing I either bounce from one foot to the other, walk in circles or resort to other stims.

I have noticed recently that I involuntary clap my hands when severely anxious or tired. I clap twice and then stop. It’s almost like an involuntary muscle reaction that my body does when stressed. I also tap my fingers together rapidly, shake my hands, put my hands near my chin or in my mouth, or less frequently; flap.

I fiddle almost all the time, mostly with my tangle but other objects include pens, sleeves of a hoodie, and small stationary equipment.

I find it extremely difficult to open up about this behaviour on my blog because I struggle to tell people about it. I already have enough reasons why people would not consider me ‘normal’ and to stim at this age just looks ‘weird’ and frankly ‘crazy’. After deep thought I realised that I NEEDED to write this blog post because people don’t understand stimming or even realise the reasons why a person does it. Stimming is a self-soothing mechanism that a person does when clearly distressed, tired, emotional, going through trauma or struggling. It’s the body’s natural instinct; after all your mother rocked you as a baby so you could fall asleep.

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From a young age, I have been hypersensitive and ‘fussy’ with the senses. People with sensory processing disorder are oversensitive to things in their environment. Those with SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) and sensory issues often struggle with people touching them, hate mess and having stuff on their hands, fidget often, are bothered by changes (especially those involved with senses), are over sensitive to certain noises, are fussy with food textures and are easily anxious. They also take part in stimming and repetitive behaviours.


If you’ve read until here; thank you. Thank you for trying to understand stimming.

To the person in class who saw me rocking last Monday and then went on to mimic my behaviour to your friends to laugh at me; please understand the reasons why a person stims in the first place. It’s not for fun. It’s not because you’re bored. It’s the body’s natural reaction to trauma, stress, severe anxieties, mental illnesses, processing disorders and various other conditions.

Be mindful.

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

breakdowns…

Some days, I have such highs. Some moments, I feel like you could never bring me down. I laugh. The smile actually reaches my eyes. I feel free. But most of the time, I just feel like I’m drowning. I can reach the top, and continue to sore up, but once I’m dragged down, I’m weighted down and I can no longer fight. All the air is sucked out of me, I crawl myself into a ball on the bed and fight the silent depression and raging anxieties that continue to take over my mind. Mental illness seems to rear its ugly head at night time – when you’re on your own, ready to sleep, absolutely exhausted and unwilling to fight. It picks you at your weakest moments and tears you down even further. It chokes you up, brings tears to your eyes, leaves you a rocking, screaming mess on the floor until you eventually submerge to all the pain and fall into a restless sleep…

A lot of the time I filter my blog posts so that my real struggles are hidden from view…but the true and raw reality is

Mental illness fucking sucks. Anxiety plagues you with thoughts that are completely irrational but they consume you anyway. Depression leaves your mind whirling with lies and disturbing thoughts until you hate your entire being.

I am so damn tired. So utterly exhausted. I probably need to sleep…

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mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder is a neurological disorder that prevents the brain’s ability to integrate information received from the body’s sensory system. Sensory Processing Disorder is often seen in people on the autistic spectrum as well as people with mental illness. People with the disorder tend to react more extreme than normal. The disorder ranges from barely noticeable to having an impaired effect on daily functioning.

There are so many symptoms for Sensory Processing Disorder so I’ve decided to list a few of the common symptoms in late teenage years and adulthood:

  • Atypical eating and sleeping habits
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Very high or very low energy levels throughout the day but more active at night
  • Very resistant to change in life and surrounding environments
  • heightened senses (sensitive to sounds, touch, taste, sight and smell)
  • very high or very low energy levels
  • Lethargic or severely tired most of the day
  • Motor skill problems – unexplained injuries and bruises with no recollection of how or when they occurred
  • Difficulty concentrating and staying focused – often in ‘own world’ or ‘glazed off’
  • Constant use of neurotic behaviours – swinging, rocking, bouncing, rubbing skin
  • repetitive and stimulating behaviours
  • Can appear self destructive (such as head banging, pinching, biting)
  • doesn’t notice dangers (such as walking in the road) or recognize pain
  • easily overwhelmed, frustrated, emotional and very tearful
  • clenching of extremities (hands and feet)
  • Sensitive to certain fabrics or textures

facts:

  • Sensory Processing Disorder is a complex disorder of the brain that affects developing children and adults.
  • At least one in twenty people in the general population may be affected by SPD.
  • In children who are gifted and those with ADHD, Autism, and mental health problems, the prevalence of SPD is much higher than in the general population.
  • Studies have found a significant difference between the physiology of children with SPD and children who are typically developing.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder has unique sensory symptoms that are not explained by other known disorders.
  • Heredity may be one cause of the disorder.
  • Laboratory studies suggest that the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are not functioning typically in children with SPD.

To find out more about Sensory Processing Disorder feel free to follow the link below:

http://www.spdfoundation.net/

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