I frequently run into children in my psychology practice who have issues with how things feel, taste, or sound. These children do not have diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (although many of those people have significant sensory problems). No, the children to whom I refer are just really irritated and bothered by things in their sensory worlds. They have problems with the textures of foods, with seams in their socks, and with dirt on their hands. They crave tight clothes and heavy blankets, or else they don’t like wearing clothes at all. Some can’t abide loud noises. Some can’t bear to have anything like a tooth-brush in their mouths, or else they have an intense need for oral stimulation and need to chew on things. I refer them to Occupational Therapists who do all sorts of mysterious and wonderful things with them to reduce their sensory stress and make them less irritable.
I, too, have some sensory issues. I remember as child that I wouldn’t wear any article of clothing that had a tag in it. Mom had to cut them off. They were itchy and scratchy and I couldn’t stop thinking about them if they were still inside my clothes. I also remember wearing what are called “rumba pants” as a very little girl. They were decorative panties with lace on the backside. They itched like crazy and it was impossible to sit down without having them scratch my legs.
I prefer loose clothes to tight clothes. I never liked it when my mom would wash my bedding, since I liked things soft against my skin, and the freshly laundered sheets were scratchy. I can’t stand to feel that there is anything under my fingernails. This partially accounts for my unbreakable bad habit of chewing my nails. My son tells me that whenever he touches cardboard with his fingertips, it is like hearing nails on a black board for him.
I don’t know why I am seeing so many children with this issue. I think other children had sensory issues when I was young, but that no one asked the right questions to find out. Perhaps life wasn’t quite as complicated then and it was easier to learn to cope. Perhaps we are doing something environmentally or in our child rearing practices that is causing more problems like this. I don’t know the answer. I just know I am glad there is help for all that sensory irritability now.
What sensory issues do you have? Do you know someone with sensory issues?