Water World.

My precious boy has spent so much time in and around water this week we think he might dissolve! His sensory seeking behaviour has been on overdrive and the desire to play with or immerse himself in water has been overwhelming for him. My understanding of this is that the water is providing both tactile and visual stimulation. Sensory integration issues are very much a part of Andy’s autism. For those who are not sure about this let me explain it the way it was best explained to me – simply! If you think of the brain as a processing system for sensory stimulus like visual, tactile or from any of the other sensory systems then these signals are interpreted and sorted to allow our body to produce the correct response e.g. Scratching an itch. If the signals or stimuli are poorly or weakly received this affects how they are interpreted leading to the body failing to produce an action or response e.g. keeping your hand under a hot tap. This is referred to as a hypo sensitivity. The opposite of this is hypersensitivity. e.g. Andy struggles with bright lights at times and I believe this arises from a hypersensitivity to this stimuli. His brain processing system causes him to experience a light that most of us can cope with, in an extreme way, causing distress and difficulties for him. These hypo and hyper sensitivities can be unpredictable and have a very debilitating affect on an individual’s ability to function. Ok end of amateur lecture on sensory integration!
Andy has been drawn to all sources of water almost continuously over the last week or more. This has involved bath after bath and shower after shower. In between times he has been playing with water from taps, washing up bowels and drinking bottles. He soaks floors, clothes, towels and carpets. He loves to spray water by putting his hand over taps and to pour water from bottles, cups and jugs. He clearly enjoys the feel of water on his body, tactile stimulation, and watching water moving and shimmering, visual stimulation. This sensory seeking behaviour is at times completely overwhelming for Andy and makes it so difficult for him to process any other information like verbal instructions. If he cannot get what he desperately needs and craves we can experience tantrums and difficult behaviour. An example of this just now is getting him out of the bath or shower. Many behavioural problems experienced by people with autism are poorly understood and cause disappointing responses often from people who should perhaps know better. Understanding the behaviour promotes tolerance and helps find solutions or coping strategies. A good example of this is the ” tornado tubes” we have used to help with Andy’s water fascination. This is simply a plastic double sided screw top that allows two bottles to be joined. With water inside the device Andy is able to turn the bottles over and watch the water flow inside.
Many unusual behaviours displayed by people on the autistic spectrum can have a very logical reason behind them if properly understood. Perhaps we all need to learn more about autism before we judge or comment.


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