Autism spectrum disorders often come with a host of other challenges. Some folks have additional challenges such as epilepsy or even mutism. As part of the original Sensory Processing diagnosis Tucker has fairly significant challenges with auditory-language processing.
These factors (I believe) set Tucker apart from his neurotypical peers. Not wearing jeans isn’t a big deal, being in constant motion isn’t a big deal, talking incessantly about the Minnesota Vikings can be cloaked in ‘fandom.’ These factors? These are what truly make him stand out.
This list comes from the following website: http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-processing-disorder-checklist.html. It’s one of my favorite ‘go-to’ places because it helps me organize and keep track of all the sensory difficulties that Tucker may experience.
Over the next couple of days I will write specifically about some of the factors on this list – the ‘checked’ items are characteristics we either currently or have struggled with.
Auditory-Language Processing Dysfunction
_x_ unable to locate the source of a sound
__ difficulty identifying people’s voices
__ difficulty discriminating between sounds/words; i.e., “dare” and “dear”
_x_ difficulty filtering out other sounds while trying to pay attention to one person talking
_x_ bothered by loud, sudden, metallic, or high-pitched sounds
_x_ difficulty attending to, understanding, and remembering what is said or read; often asks for directions to be repeated and may only be able to understand or follow wo sequential directions at a time
_x_ looks at others to/for reassurance before answering
_x_ difficulty putting ideas into words (written or verbal)
_x_ often talks out of turn or “off topic”
_x_ if not understood, has difficulty re-phrasing; may get frustrated, angry, and give up
__ difficulty reading, especially out loud (may also be dyslexic)
_x_ difficulty articulating and speaking clearly
_x_ ability to speak often improves after intense movement
I was reminded of “difficulty filtering out other sounds while trying to pay attention to one person talking” over the weekend. I was trying to give him directions to do something and he wasn’t responding even though he was directly in front of me.
I think one of the keys in understanding the spectrum is always, ALWAYS paying attention to the surrounding environment and never, NEVER blaming the child for what it is they cannot do.
When he wouldn’t respond I stopped talking and started listening (side note: sure would be nice if leaders in our government would do this). I then realized that a television was on in a nearby room and the dishwasher was running. So, I said in a calm voice, “Tucker.” He immediately looked at me…then I gave him instructions and he did exactly what I asked. That made me think quite a bit about this piece of the spectrum.
Often, he fails to recognize someone is talking to him unless his name is said at the beginning of the sentence.
If I looked at him and said, “Please put your shoes in the entry way.” He probably will continue to do whatever he is doing not even recognizing that I made a request.
If I looked at him and said, “Tucker, please put your shoes in the entry way.” He will immediately get up and put his shoes in the entry way.
I’ve never really thought about this before – but it certainly has some strong implications for school…and, well, life. When he is in a group of people and someone is talking he will most likely tune-out because he doesn’t recognize himself as part of he group. He doesn’t understand that it’s important to listen EVEN if his name was not said. His ‘default’ is to believe others are not talking to him when most of us believe the opposite.
Now that I recognize this factor…the real question is what to do. This is the case with the ‘warrior’ parents who try to help advocate for and with their children. As I’ve been thinking about this most of the day here is what I’ve come up with.
- Talk to him about listening when someone is talking to a group. I need to teach him to always assume that person is providing directions to him. After listening for a bit – if he realizes he is not part of the group being addressed, he can tune-out. The default must be to listen.
- Talk to his teachers. When they are providing group instruction maybe they could walk by his desk and whisper, “Tucker – we’re going to begin now.” That would wake his senses and bring attention to the fact that their instruction is for him.
- Talk to his coaches and ask them to understand providing group instruction is difficult. I know that movement helps – so maybe if he is the ‘ball holder’ while directions are given it would increase the likelihood that he will actually listen to the instructions given. Flipping the ball in his hands would increase brain activity thereby increasing the likelihood that he would be attentive. As you can see in this picture, the other boys are paying attention to the coach and Tuck is in his own world. This is a pretty common scene – and now I get why.
If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that all I can do is try – try to push the boundaries of the status quo. It may not work…but what if it does?