I can't tell you how much I appreciate your newsletter! It really encourages me and gives much-needed guidance. Our daughter is six years old and has sensory integration dysfunction. While she has never been diagnosed with Asperger's, she has many of the symptoms, so I find your articles extremely helpful. We have had to pull her out of the public schools and are homeschooling her for 1st grade. She is doing much better. Her OT says that she is like a different child this year.
Anyway, here is my question. My husband and I have been planning a trip to Disney World for our daughter for her 7th birthday. She has been begging to go for the last few years, but we have put it off not knowing if she could handle it. She is doing better with loud noises, crowds, etc....but I'm not sure she can handle the sensory overload of DW. She has an incredible imagination and loves fairies, princesses, etc.....I know she wants to do it, but I'm not sure she is ready. And then again, if it's an "on" day while we're there, she might be fine. It's an awful lot of money to spend if we get there and she can't do it......ugghhhh. I'd appreciate your thoughts.
Here are some tips that apply to Aspergers children, although the same would apply to children with Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID):
1. A gift of a journal or sketchbook is helpful and can provide a good outlet for frustrations and other emotions, as well as a way to make a permanent record of the trip. The records of the trip that your daughter makes may well become a treasure in years to come.
2. Bring a few of your daughter’s favorite items from home (e.g., a particular spoon, plate, clock, etc.). Familiarity, texture and feel are important to children with Aspergers. For example, a fork with sharp edges or an unfamiliar feeling handle may bother her.
3. Bring her pillow and favorite blanket from home. This will help your daughter adjust to changes in sleeping arrangements. She may insist on favorite toys as well. She should be allowed to bring books or other reading material, or anything else she is used to having at bedtime that is portable and light.
4. Bring whatever instruments, song books, stories, or games you have traditionally used to help her unwind.
5. Explain everything you possibly can in advance, with details. Being prepared fully helps your daughter relax and enjoy the trip more, which means you will, too.
6. Give her a bag or small backpack to pack full of things to do on the trip. These items should be ones she chooses herself.
7. In the car, allow your daughter to bring an iPod or MP3 player with her favorite music on it. Listening to familiar music is soothing and will have a calming effect on her.
8. Keep it simple. Don't plan 25 things to do in one day. Add in extra adjustment time for each change of location.
9. To the extent possible, keep the same schedule and meals that your daughter is used to at home. Save the Chinese restaurant for later, and remember to bring her favorite cereal, sandwich fixings, and snacks.
10. Allow for frequent ‘time-outs’ (about 10 minutes in length) during the day’s events. For example, find a fairly quite area with a picnic table and have a snack or read to her.
11. She may want to wear earplugs or listen to soothing music on her iPod during the day’s events to screen out unfamiliar sounds.
12. Sunglasses are also helpful in that they screen out some of the unnecessary visual stimuli.
In addition, consider your daughter’s specific symptoms and make allowances accordingly. Here is a summary of SID symptoms:
• Symptoms of Auditory Dysfunction:
Hypersensitive-- Covers ears and startled by loud sounds, distracted by sounds not noticed by others, fearful of toilets flushing, hairdryers and/or vacuums, resists going to loud public places (even cafeteria at school).
Hyposensitive-- May not respond to verbal cues, loves loud music and making noise, may appear confused about where a sound is coming from, may say "what?" frequently.
• Symptoms of Olfactory Dysfunction:
Hypersensitive-- Bothered or nauseated by cooking, bathroom and/or perfume smells, may refuse to go places because of the way it smells, chooses foods based on smell, notices smells not normally noticed by others.
Hyposensitive-- May not notice unpleasant or noxious odors, smells everything when first introduced to it, may not be able to identify smells from scratch 'n sniff stickers.
• Symptoms of Oral Dysfunction:
Hypersensitive-- Picky eater with extreme food preferences and limited repertoire, may gag on textured food, difficulty with sucking, chewing, and swallowing, extremely fearful of the dentist, dislikes toothpaste and brushing teeth.
Hyposensitive-- May lick, taste or chew on inedible objects, loves intensely flavored foods, may drool excessively, frequently chews on pens, pencils, or shirt.
• Symptoms of Proprioceptive Dysfunction:
Under-responsive-- Constantly jumping, crashing, and stomping, loves to be squished and bear hugs, prefers tight clothing, loves rough-housing, and may be aggressive with other kids.
Over-responsive-- Difficulty understanding where body is in relation to other objects, appears clumsy, bumps into things often, moves in a stiff and/or uncoordinated way.
Difficulty Regulating Input-- Doesn't know how hard to push on an object, misjudges the weight of an object, breaks objects often and rips paper when erasing pencil marks.
• Symptoms of Tactile Dysfunction:
Hypersensitive-- Refuses or resists messy play, resists cuddling and light touch, dislikes kisses, rough clothes or seams in socks, resists baths, showers, or going to the beach.
Hyposensitive-- Doesn't realize hands or face are dirty, touches everything and anything constantly, may be self-abusive, plays rough with peers, doesn't seem to feel pain (may even enjoy it!)
• Symptoms of Vestibular Dysfunction:
Hypersensitive-- Avoids playground and moving equipment, fearful of heights, dislikes being tipped upside down, often afraid of falling, walking on uneven surfaces, and avoids rapid, sudden or rotating movements.
Hyposensitive-- Craves any possible movement experience, especially fast or spinning, never seems to sit still, is a thrill seeker, and shakes leg while sitting, loves being tossed in the air, never seems to get dizzy, full of excessive energy.
• Symptoms of Visual Dysfunction:
Hypersensitive-- Irritated by sunlight or bright lights, easily distracted by visual stimuli, avoids eye contact, may become over aroused in brightly colored rooms.
Hyposensitive-- Difficulty controlling eye movements and tracking objects, mixes up similar letters, focuses on little details in a picture and misses the whole, loses his place frequently when reading or copying from the blackboard.