It seems fitting that at the end of the year I finally finish all of this writing about the senses…
So, on this – the final day of 2014 – I introduce yet another new (to most of you) and final sense. The Interoceptive Sense. This is the sense that is “responsible for detecting internal regulation responses, such as respiration, hunger, heart rate, and the need for digestive elimination. (http://spdlife.org/aboutspd/senses/interoception.html)”
A decade ago today, Tucker was two years old and had a fever of 102. For two days straight I had pumped him full of Tylenol and Advil (rotating basis, of course). On New Years Day he was lying on top of me for comfort and began to seize. His eyes rolled back in his head, his jaw clenched – it may have been the most frightening moment of my life. I held his lifeless body as we rushed to the ER. His fever had spiked, yet again – regardless of how many meds I had been giving him.
A year later he was playing in his first tee-ball game. It was 95 degrees outside. He looked at me and whispered, ‘Mom.” I knew something was very wrong. Very, very wrong. His eyes were glossy, his skin was bright red. He was listless. He was not sweating. How could he not be sweating?
Soon after we went through a series of doctor appointments to come up with a diagnosis of Anhidrosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Anhidrosis is the inability to sweat normally. When you don’t sweat (perspire), your body can’t cool itself, which can lead to overheating and sometimes to heatstroke — a potentially fatal condition. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anhidrosis/basics/definition/con-20033498)”
Was that fever when he was two connected to this diagnosis? I was sure of it…and then he was identified as being on the spectrum. Now, all of this was much more connected than ever before.
If his interoceptive system was under-responsive he would not feel these body sensations like the rest of us.
- He may not feel hungry – thus the rotation of eating all the time and then never. Why? Because Tucker LITERALLY cannot feel hunger.
- He may not feel the urge to have a bowel movement – thus experiencing chronic constipation. Why? Because Tucker LITERALLY cannot feel when it’s time to go (remember Day #97 – The Trouble With Going) .
- He may not breathe or sweat when his body should – thus experiencing higher fevers and possible heatstroke. Why? Because Tucker’s body LITERALLY cannot feel the need to sweat.
Was it ‘just’ a fever or was his body not able to break the fever?
Was it anhidrosis or was it connected to being on the spectrum?
Then, I received the fateful checklist that I have been sharing with you over the past couple of months. I read through each item and marked my fateful x. If x marks the spot – then I had finally found it. The ‘treasure’ I had been looking for all along…a treasure trove of answers.
The best kind of treasure there is.
Checklist from http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-processing-disorder-checklist.html:
_x_ becoming too hot or too cold sooner than others in the same environments; may not appear to ever get cold/hot, may not be able to maintain body temperature effectively
_x_ difficulty in extreme temperatures or going from one extreme to another (i.e., winter, summer, going from air conditioning to outside heat, a heated house to the cold outside)
_x_ respiration that is too fast, too slow, or cannot switch from one to the other easily as the body demands an appropriate respiratory response
_x_ heart rate that speeds up or slows down too fast or too slow based on the demands imposed on it
_x_ respiration and heart rate that takes longer than what is expected to slow down during or after exertion or fear
_x_ severe/several mood swings throughout the day (angry to happy in short periods of time, perhaps without visible cause)
_x_ unpredictable state of arousal or inability to control arousal level (hyper to lethargic, quickly, vacillating between the two; over stimulated to under stimulated, within hours or days, depending on activity and setting, etc.)
_x_ frequent constipation or diarrhea, or mixed during the same day or over a few days
__ difficulty with potty training; does not seem to know when he/she has to go (i.e., cannot feel the necessary sensation that bowel or bladder are full
_x_ unable to regulate thirst; always thirsty, never thirsty, or oscillates back and forth
_x_ unable to regulate hunger; eats all the time, won’t eat at all, unable to feel full/hungry
_x_ unable to regulate appetite; has little to no appetite and/or will be “starving” one minute then full two bites later, then back to hungry again (prone to eating disorders and/or failure to thrive)