Whether your child has autism, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, or something else, chances are their bodies react strongly to certain stimuli. You might notice your toddler tugging at their shirt or refusing socks and shoes. They might reject certain food textures too.
I used to think mine were being picky. But then I learned that these inputs are bigger to them than to me. Their brains interpret their shirt tags as cacti. Will cannot function if his socks, clothes, or hair are out of place. At 12, he is skilled at addressing these concerns without my assistance. He can even shower without help now! As a toddler and younger child, he required my help to address wrinkles in his pants or ensuring his sock seam was just right. Mack and Will reject jeans. Kae tugs on the fronts of her shirts. Rory doesn't overtly have clothing struggles, but they do have feelings about certain foods.
In some ways, they strongly avoid certain input. In others, some may need more significant input. Mack desperately needs to touch all the things, feel the textures, make and hear the sounds. We had blowing snow overnight and he has been struggling with keeping himself under control so I had him go shovel what had blown across. While it didn't take him long and it wasn't as heavy as he needed, it was something. Climbing, running, screaming, lifting heavy things like hay bales all help Mack maintain regulation. Even Mack's instrument requires multiple modes of input simultaneously. Will needs calmer, gentler stimuli. His instrument, though loud, is precise and measured which speaks to him.
While I need to avoid loud stimuli and fidgeting, Mack needs those things as regulators. I had to find a way to help him get the input he needs for his body and brain to function well while ensuring I was not overstimulated by his needs. As a toddler, we got him an indoor trampoline which is where he learned to multiply. I allowed him to hang off the couch while looking at books and he learned to read. We started working at OATS when Mack was 5 where he ran and climbed and lifted hay bales. Until this year, we couldn't provide that at home, but now we can. He has his own barn to climb hay bales in. We got a dome climber too. We plan to add a ninja course outside too this spring.
Finding the right environment for each kid is crucial to maintaining a happy family. Rory has a room filled with art supplies, lights, and plants. Will's room has books galore, Legos, dinosaurs, and Transformers. Mack's room is frequently full (splayed across the floor full) of Lego projects, cardboard, drawings, and more. Kae is surrounded by horses, dollhouse, and art projects. During their younger years, I attempted to maintain clean, organized rooms. Rory quickly showed me that was not how they functioned best. Will enjoyed it. Mack bucked it even harder than Rory. And Kae is still figuring out her needs at almost 6. I still keep the rest of the house neat and my desk space too. Even Leigh maintains his desk space and work area in a way that works for his brain, not mine.
Helping each individual find and fulfill their sensory needs has allowed a more relaxed home. Letting go of the need for the kids to wear certain things, clean their rooms a specific way, enjoy the same activities, and operate for school and family life the same way, I realized a more relaxed existence for myself. I strongly feel that finding each person's joy is important for cohesiveness. We are all individuals with our own needs, loves, and wants.
The freedom I gained letting my kids choose their clothes, handing over their rooms to them in a bigger way, and encouraging their own passions has been incredible. However, figuring out these things is not simple, so if you need help learning how to feed your kids' passions, I am here to help! I can also help lead you to more affordable ways to do so. We have long operated on a strict, tight budget, so I understand those constraints well! Don't go it alone. Reach out.