My high school morning routine

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I hated the sound of my alarm clock. It was loud and obtrusive. Getting agitated first thing upon waking is not a good way to start the day. But this one had a soft green shade for checking the time in the dark instead of the bolder red. So I liked that feature. And that’s why I kept using it.

I set the alarm and placed it on my desk, several feet away from my bed. This way I had to physically get out of bed to turn it off. I couldn’t be trusted with the alarm next to my bed. I never could figure out how to properly use the snooze button, but instead would just turn off the alarm. So having it right next to my bed was a risky move and would likely result in me not registering that I turned off the alarm. And I’m sure by now I was responsible for waking myself rather than relying on my parents, so I couldn’t wait for a second or third call from Mom or Dad asking if I was up yet.

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Preschool through 8th grade: Where do things stand?

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Since my preschool diagnosis of sensory processing disorder and the completion of eighth grade means about 10 years have passed, I thought I would do a review of how things have progressed. I’m looking to address these questions:

  • What areas seemed to have improved?
  • Have I grown out of anything?
  • What am I still struggling with?
  • Has anything new developed?

If you missed my big rundown of sensory issues, you can find it here. And don’t worry, throughout this list, there will be links back to appropriate blog posts to offer further explanation. 

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The rowdy school bus

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Our bus never did any two-wheeled turns, but it was crowded.

Last year I read “Sensational Kids” where, among other things, it gives a day in the life of five students, one typical child and four who exhibit different characteristics of sensory processing disorder. The idea is to illustrate how each child encounters similar environments.

One girl had sensory modulation problems, like me, and she was hypersensitive to sounds and light, touch etc.

She was overwhelmed on the bus because of all the loud noise from the other children talking, she didn’t like being crowded on there with extra touching. Basically riding the bus further stressed her out before school even began.

It’s an interesting comparison.
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So much music

 

636243282134517774-314545726_music9Seventh grade was the year of music. I feel like I finally started paying more attention to the radio and what was playing. I’d been around music before, certainly. But the radio was just a tool for offering songs. Songs were enjoyable but not identity-defining. No compulsion to memorize lyrics. I could just passively enjoy it.

My earliest memories of music involve listening to the record player. My parents had plenty of albums by The Beatles. We’d play those or other records (I believe there was a Sesame Street one in our possession, too) and I’d dance with Dad. I think the first attempts at dancing meant my feet placed on top of his. But music was fun; there were no expectations.

Before public school or being this particular age, I listened to music more out of enjoyment. There was no need to know the names of bands and song titles or lyrics. I liked the song and that was enough. But now? Now there seemed to be more emphasis on joining in with the shared knowledge. If you can’t reference a song or band, you can’t join in the conversations. You can’t discuss things. You need to know what people are referencing.

Now I was spending lots of money buying blank cassettes at the Dollar General near my house and spending hours listening to the radio and recording on the tapes, taking diligent notes of what I was recording. The New Years Eve countdown was more about listening to the top songs of the year and recording a copy for myself than actually enjoying the year in review.

New friends meant being introduced to new music. I began listening to country more as well as top 40 radio.

The biggest surprise of the year was the debut of “MMMBop.” Yes, the end of seventh grade meant the arrival of Hanson on the music scene. And man, did I love their sound. It was a band of three young brothers with a lead singer my age. What’s not to like about that? They wrote their own music, played instruments and sang.

You could call me obsessed about the band. I was. Some friends and I grew to really like their music and got involved in the whole fan fiction side of things. No story was really worth the light of day, but it kept us entertained. We were shaping characters after the members of Hanson, later Backstreet Boys and NSync, but it also meant coming up with different scenarios and problems and just plain exercising our abilities to craft fiction. Writing was a good outlet, and it was a nice way of bonding together. Some friends call each other up to talk about what they’re going to wear to school the next day. We discussed potential plot ideas.

Over the years, I’ve come to deepen my respect for Hanson. They were faced with social backlash where it became unpopular and people faced ridicule for liking their music. They didn’t give up. Their label started causing problems for them. They didn’t give up. In fact they launched their own label. Their music didn’t receive much radio play. They didn’t give up. They’ve maintained a loyal following through their own website, fan club and social media.

And that’s a great lesson in itself of not letting obstacles defeat you. As I’ve learned and reflected on my experiences with sensory processing disorder, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been doing just that: overcoming many different obstacles. Of course a lot of it was unknown to me at the time, but that doesn’t diminish the victories.

May 2017 marks 20 years since “MMMBop”, and Hanson came out with a new song “I Was Born.” This new song is full of hope and wonder, and about how there is so much possibility out there. And how we all have the potential to be trailblazers in our own way. So if you haven’t listened to it yet, check it out. Below is the official video which adds another dimension by featuring 11 of the band’s 12 children.

Spinning Rolodex: The chaos of communication

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Yes, I know what a Rolodex is. I never had to use one, but I have seen them around. For those of you who have grown up with cellphones and computerized address books, I’ll let you in on a fun device. It was a place to alphabetize contacts in what was expected to be within easy reach. You just flip to the appropriate letter and then through the cards available until you get the right one. These were mostly used in offices, so that you could cradle the phone against your shoulder and continue to talk while you searched for a phone number.

Alright, now that we’re clear, I’m moving on.

So, I’m great at listening. I will do my darndest to follow your train of thought until the very end. That’s not to say that’s it’s easy. Sometimes it requires extreme amounts of focus to keep up as people mumble through their sharing or speed through one thought after another like a verbal Nascar race.

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All twisted up with learning cursive

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Last year, I had an opportunity to write about my experience with sensory processing disorder. It was an in-depth piece with a broad overview of the symptoms and characteristics that I encountered, as well as areas where I continue to struggle. This is the raw, unedited version of how I began that piece, a snapshot of my classroom experience with learning to write in cursive.

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Engaging the senses with a sensory diet

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A weighted sensory snake

With a bank account, you make deposits and withdrawals throughout the day. In a metaphoric sense, we have an emotional bank account too. We receive deposits through kind words or seeing someone unload the dishwasher without being asked. We also have emotional withdrawals throughout the day with working hard, facing stress or deadlines.

For someone with sensory processing problems, those account deposits are crucial and often times lacking.

Every day there are annoyances, challenges and various stimuli that aren’t getting processed and regulated properly. All of these things drain on the sensory and emotional account, making far too many withdrawals.

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Two-Face living and after-school meltdowns

Looking back, I am so amazed at my level of awareness to surroundings. I knew being in public meant needing to put forth as much effort to be “good.” I distinctly remember being on my best behavior with relatives visiting, trying to smile and be happy. Once they left, my attitude changed almost instantly. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult to just stay happy.

It’s also why in high school I termed this phenomenon “being two-faced.” I was pleasant, trying to be as easy-going as possible at school and then all the emotions and irritations were let loose at home.

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Therapy, beautiful Cloud Face and insights on kindness

I look at that list of sensory issues and think “How did my family manage not to kill each other?”

But I also look at my childhood and think that it was relatively normal. We had fun. There were games, movie nights, camping trips and other typical activities. It wasn’t an awful childhood. I am very much blessed. But I did have extra challenges and obstacles to overcome that most of my classmates didn’t have to deal with.

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What is sensory processing disorder?

Sensory processing happens when the nervous system collects data from sensory experiences and organizes it so that the brain can make an appropriate response. For instance, your eyes register obstacles in your path as you move, and then while communicating with your brain, messages are sent to your feet to alter your path so that you can navigate around the pile of books on the floor.

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