Olive is our spunky six year old, who is on the spectrum. At a very young age, it became apparent something was different about her. While she was generally a happy baby, she wasn’t responding to her name, had no interest in speaking, and began engaging in repetitive behaviors. Olive became very routine oriented, and would become upset when that routine was broken. Things like a sudden change in her environment would send her in a screaming mess, leaving her unable to be calmed or soothed. At 18 months old, she began Speech therapy and Occupational therapy.
By the time she was two, we had an official autism diagnosis.
While an autism diagnosis gave us the answers we were looking for. We still didn’t know what that meant for the future. Olive also was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, which is a common co-existing condition in those with autism. A person can have sensory processing disorder and not be autistic. It effects the part of the brain that controls how a person receives, processes, and perceives the certain sensory stimuli. This means a person might hear, feel, taste, and see things more intensely or differently than the average person. This can be painful and also cause a person to become overwhelmed, even inconsolable at times. On the flip side, a person can be under responsive to sensory input, and crave things like compression and movement. A person on the spectrum can experience both.
Olive is a “sensory seeker”, she’s always hopping, climbing, or jumping. She loves bright lights, twirling, and spinning herself.
Sensory Processing Disorder also causes her to have a low sense of body awareness. For her this means she can be a little clumsy, and struggle with chewing and swallowing swallowing certain textures. It also means her reactions to certain stimuli can be under responsive or delayed . Too much sensory input can lead to a sensory overload. It took years for me to realize that was the culprit of a lot her meltdowns and frustrations.
With lots of hard work and tons of prompting, by the age of four Olive began finding her voice. Something I was never sure would happen. The past few years have just been a series of trail and error in trying to find what works for us. If being an Autism mom has taught me anything, it’s to celebrate the little things, and always trust your instincts. At the end of the day, no one knows your child like you.