Since I work with (and live with two) children who have sensory integration difficulty I try to have empathy and put myself into their shoes. I can envision a cockroach in my bedroom or the sound of nails on a chalkboard. Both examples evoke a physical reaction in me. So, any information taken in by your senses can cause chills, fear, joy, nausea, etc. The point of having a sensory system is to get information into your body so it can be processed and then form an outcome. The outcome can be protective, such as quickly removing your hand from a hot item you’ve touched. It can be pleasant, such as the fond memories that can result from smelling your mother’s perfume. From the various experiences that we’ve had, we form a memory which can help your body to respond more appropriately or learn from that experience.
Yesterday, I proudly put on my new cottony winter shirt. As I cut the tags off, I happily thought, “It’s about time you bought something for yourself!” After feeling quite confident that I would be stylish as I did my errands, off I went! It was about thirty minutes into my trip that I realized I was getting warm. After cranking up the A/C, I still felt un-comfortable and a little itchy. Soon, I tried to push up my sleeves with no success. You see, they were tapered down my arm and were going to stay that way-like it or not. The situation become dire as I felt sweaty, irritated, and a bit nauseous from the lack of control I had over my own body temperature and sleeves! After hours of this torture, I cut my day short and returned home to throw off this terrible shirt and put it into the Goodwill pile. Ahhhhh..sweet relief.
Now, I will not be forcing my son to wear anything he doesn’t want to wear. It’s not because he’s being a “brat” or “difficult” and instead that the clothing that he doesn’t prefer may actually be making him feel sick or uncomfortable. Think of this situation or your own similar one when you work with or live with someone who has sensory integration difficulty. Every seam, bump, or roll on clothing may cause an unexpected reaction. You just never know what someone else is experiencing!
What types of clothing bother you?
By- Cara Koscinki MOT, OTR/L
Author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist- a handbook for caregivers of children with special needs. Questions and answers most frequently asked to OTs with easy to understand answers and fun activities you can do with your child. Order anywhere books are sold. www.pocketot.com