Sensory behaviours….

Posted on: February 18, 2012

I was fortunate enough to go on the National Autistic Society Early Bird Programme – which is a programme designed for parents of pre-school children at that time recently diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

It was a valuable course, where i learnt  alot about Autism and why certain behaviours occur. Over the next few blog posts i’d like to share some of these with you.

We all some way or another thrive off habit and the need for our daily routines. They help us to stay calm and in control in times of stress.

A, has quite a few repetitive behaviours, which before i did the early birds course i never recognised them of being these types of behaviour. A, flits an awful lot, up and down the room, he spins (on occassion) used to line up objects obsessively, hand flapped and rocks his body – where these behaviours can seem odd to most people they are actually his way of coping with stressful situations, situations that we may not of visually seen a trigger for but for A, who has alot of sensory issues – they are situations that can be caused by the ‘smallest’ of things. I learnt that these behaviours occur because he is trying to keep things the same, predictable!

One repetitive behaviour of A’s is to jump up and down whenever he is watching tv, usually on the sofa! I used to think this is because he was excited, and why it may well be, it could also be a repetitive behaviour. A, used to climb obsessively, to the point i was ripping my hair out at the end of the day, he would be on top of the sofa stood up or climbing the fire guard, most usually the windowsill – especially in his bedroom – naked for everyone to see! Luckily enough he grew out of this and its not that often he does it. One way of combatting the jumping up and down will be for us to get a trampoline, either that or a new sofa – people often say ‘Just tell him to stop jumping’ Oh right ok, but its not that easy, you try not itching an itch – its impossible, you have to do it – its exactly the same with A.

A, is also a chewer! He chews anything and everything he can get his hands on, most noteably his clothes. I have picture of t-shirts ive taken off him which look like theyve just been in the washer – used to drive me mad. He eats paper and would chew on anything from plastic pringle lids to dirty socks! You get your most sensory integration from your jaw and that is what A, is always searching for, he doesnt care what it takes – its hard to think of alternatives sometimes but in this case we use soft toy animals – safe and chewable…Also chewy tubes…

All of these behaviours as i mentioned before can look ‘odd’ to another person or they’re usually thinking ‘I’d never let my child do that’ Its not a case of it being odd or that i LET him do these things. If im honest, no i dont want A to have to do these things to keep him calm and to avoid change but he has to – all we can do is provide safe alternatives and make people looking in more aware of the situation..

Ive had so many funny looks when A, is chewing on his clothes especially when they are wet through, i’ve had funny looks when A, is excited and he bites his fist or shakes his body rigidly – ive also had people laughing. And i think how dare you laugh at my child or judge my child without knowing his story.

This is why Autism Awareness is so important to me and this is why i write these blogs.

It may not be so obvious to us but people like my A with sensory dysfunctions, that are acting out these behaviours, arent in any discomfort or upset they are actually most likely having pleasurable experiences.

As always please comment if you have any of your own stories to share.

*Following the publishing of this post a friend of mine from Twitter, who is a Psychologist has recommended these books about Sensory Dysfunction – ‘The out of sync child’ By Carol Stock Kranowicz & ‘Sensational Kids’ By Lucy Jane Miller*

Any other recommendations of any kind are greatly appreciated 🙂

L x


4 Responses to "Sensory behaviours…."

Good blog post. We have many sensory issues here as well. The main one is flapping. (Lately ITCHING) Little bit has “flapped” since she was old enough to sit up. Sensory issues are so very unpredictable at times. It’s part of what keeps us on our toes every single day. Breaks my heart that you have had people laugh at A. It sounds like you are doing everything possible to educate yourself and help A. Appreciate your sharing. 🙂

Im not sure how long u hv been dealin w this but it seems like all this is a fairly new for u. From someone who’s been on this journey for over 4yrs now, u r absolutely going to get the best advice & info from other autism parents either by word of mouth locally where u live or by internet research&discovery thru websites, blogs & social networks. So, u r on the rite track here by sharing&reading comments via blog/twitter. Happy to hv stumbled upon ur blog. I love sharing what has helped my son knowing that someone else in the world might benefit.
First of all have u heard of PICA? It sounds like what u r describing-the need to chew&eat objects other than food. Theres great info out there on PICA related to autism & it is believed it may be due to certain vitamin/mineral deficiencies in addition to poor diet. My own son has not had this thankfully,but he has been on supplements & a GFCF diet since 2yo. (BTW-I truly believe THAT approach has been the most important intervention thus far & is at the core of all his successes.) But, sensory wise, I think his system requires proprioceptive input mostly. That would be the need to do things like jump,run & move around. We bought his first trampoline when he was around 3yo. He loved it&it really helped him. I used to make him jump for like 20min before his therapist came to the house so that he was sensory regulated, calm&ready to work w them. Having him jump on the trampoline at a specific time of day&duration became very effective. Basically not letting it be a free-for-all where he cld jump whenever all day long. Say, 11am 20min jump before speech therapy session & 4pm 20min jump before OT session.10min may be enough. My son loved jumping to music & he knew jumping was over when I’d shut off the music.I also would make him jump b4 we had to go out somewhere where i knew he’d hv to sit a while such as car ride or shopping wagon. So, for him jumping on trampoline became a part of his sensory diet. Others sensory diet things that helped us thru the yrs: the brush,weighted vest,weighted blanket,seat cushion,ankle weights,warm baths,massage w/lotion, bendaroos, the park. (Feel free to ask how any or all of these helped.)
Now that my son is older (6yo) his sensory needs are minimal & we’ve adapted to new,more age appropriate ways to manage them. We still visit the park often.Running around,jumping,climbing etc r always great for all kids. But my son gets gr8 input using the monkey bars so u will find him there. If i need him to wait on line w me in the supermarket,I give him chewing gum or chewy candy like starburst. If he has to sit in a dr’s office waiting room for ex, we bring his iphone/ipad that has all his games&apps. He asks to use ipad everyday as soon as he gets hm frm schl. He just wants some down time to himself to relax&enjoy his games,which is fine by me. If he is hyper& needs to calm down/relax,he plays with bendaroos (he calls them stickystix) or legos. Also coloring/drawing are calming activities for him too. We have baths pretty much every nite bc the warm water is extremely calming for him so it helps w his sleep. So calming that he often starts falling asleep in the He’s so easy. Really he is such an awesome kid& has come soooo far. He is very verbal though. I hv to say, we turned a corner when he strtd speaking & as his communication improved it got much easier. I suggest putting most effort into speech/language bc it makes all the difference. His only struggles rite now speech wise are being able to express his emotions in a highly emotional state or when frustrated. And thats complex. Heck,most men cant express their emotions anyway,right? Haha
He’ll get it. I know he will. He knows he will. Bc we will never give up.Have hope! Its what has got us from there (where u r) to here (where we r)!! Never give up hope! Good luck:)

My brother is nearly 21 and still rocks when he is in a stressful situation. They also like to be in confined spaces when they are upset. It is a way for us to know something is wrong and talk through it. I would quite like to set up a petition to send to government to ask that in primary school instead of religious education our children get taught a little about the common disorders such as autism so that they understand what is happening with their classmates and can help them. This would teach acceptance of a whole range of things and would stop the pointing and laughing etc. I am 23 and still fighting my brother’s corner. I can’t stand when people don’t understand him or say something mean.

Other sensory issues I have noticed my brother cannot wear certain clothes because he doesn’t like the feel (to the point were it makes him feel sick). It is strange!


MY 2 year old flits a lot as well and she goes in circles …and she is also a climber . When we tell her no and take her down she just goes back up. Hope she will get better


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