This is the first in a series on Dabrowsky's five over-excitabilities - sensual OE.
We spent the first night of the kidlet's life with all the lights on. All night. Daddy and Mommy wanted to sleep, but the kidlet screamed as soon as the lights went off. Being new parents, at first we struggled to figure out what was wrong - does he need his diaper changed? Is he hungry? The crying would stop as soon as we turned the lights on to check - and then it would start up again immediately when the lights went out. I think we checked his diaper about three times and tried to feed him twice before we put it together (we were a bit tired already) - the cries were only when he couldn't see what was going on around him.
And that was our introduction to sensory intensity. It is one of the hallmarks of Dabrowsky's Over Excitabilities in gifted children - experiencing the world through the five senses in a hyper-aroused state. The kidlet has been diagnosed with sensory processing challenges - especially visual, auditory, interoception and proprioception. (Never heard of those last two? Interoception is our sense of where our bodies are in space. Kids with understimulation or overstimulation of interoception will run into things, drop things, be unaware of their personal space. Proprioception is pressure on and inside the joints - the kidlet expresses his need for proprioceptive input by running, jumping, climbing.)
As he grew older, the kidlet continued to need lots of sensory input. As a baby he cried a lot, especially if he was put down or held in a way he couldn't see out. Breastfeeding was painful (especially after he got his first tooth), because he was constantly looking away from me to see what was going on out there - and trying to take the nipple with him. I had to feed him in a quiet room with the door closed. He was interested in everything. Being our only child, we didn't realize how different this was from other kids until he got to preschool age.
I started learning about hyper-sensitivity when the kidlet was 3 or 4. I was reading a book on spirited children, and it talked about how these kids would see and hear things most people could not. It started to click for me after a particularly horrible restaurant experience. The kidlet hadn't taken his afternoon nap that day, grandparents from out of state had arrived in late afternoon, and we were late having dinner. We went out to a restaurant, and he proceeded to have a complete meltdown in the restaurant after the food he ordered (macaroni and cheese) wasn't exactly what he expected (no bright yellow cheese like in the box). He and I waited in the car while the grandparents and daddy finished their meal. While we were sitting in the hot car - doors and windows wide open, in a large parking lot full of cars and motion - the kidlet asked me, "what's that sound?" I didn't hear anything so I asked him to describe it to me. He said it was "ticking." I listened closely, and finally picked up the faint click of a car motor cooling from five rows away.
On the other hand, when kidlet got to school he had a very hard time managing all the sensory input he was getting. During assemblies, he would curl up into a ball and rock himself, cover his ears, and cry. In the classroom, his teacher put him at the back of the room (because of his psycho-motor intensity - constant motion!! Another blog about that one later), but he couldn't concentrate because he saw every movement, and heard every scratch of a pencil on paper in the room, and every bird's chirps outside (where is it?), and... oops someone left a ball out in the bushes after recess. He still refuses to use a pencil because he doesn't like the sound of it or the feel it has rubbing against the page.
When he gets excited (especially when guests come to our house), he runs in circles. That's proprioceptive need, reacting with his psycho-motor intensity, mixing with the emotional intensity of meeting someone new. When he's feeling anxious or angry, he needs tight hugs (interoception). That seems to help him recover his sense of where he is - to get more grounded within himself.
To me it's a chicken-or-egg thing - is this truly a 2e-type diagnosis of sensory processing disorder? Or is it strictly the high intensity we see in everything he does due to giftedness and OE? I guess it doesn't really matter - he has been helped to learn coping skills through occupational therapy, and we start seeing signs of over- (or under-) stimulation early enough to avoid the huge meltdowns - most of the time. He competes against himself in martial arts, and we play tennis together (so he can "whack" things) - both great ways to gratify the need for proprioceptive input. He's learned to pick up a book when he's getting overstimulated, and if he is in a group of children that gets too loud for him, he will isolate himself and play quietly with Legos until it is time to go home.