Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Bolt from the Blue

The fam has been dying to see "Captain America".  Last night was our night.  I'm usually "The Grinch" when it comes to movie snacks, but the searing heat demanded that we all have an ICEE.  I joined the fam after parking the "kid hauler" and joined them at the concession stand.  Amanda handed me my jumbo cup of ice cold relief and it happened.

The instant I grabbed the cup, my central nervous system went into overdrive.  It was as if I'd grabbed the bare leads of a transformer.  My whole body tingled and waves of numbing, needly voltage coursed back and forth through my limbs.  Fight or flight was revving up.  I couldn't speak.  I looked at my family and could only utter "wait....wait..." 

Welcome to Sensory Integration Disorder.

Sounds terrifying?  Not for me.  I've been there before.  The cup that contained my ICEE was made from that plastic covered 3D paper that kids' story book covers are made from.  I've never been able to "safely" touch that stuff.  Being handed a frosty cup of the stuff was like being hit by lightning.  I never saw it coming.  While my family was quite puzzled, they were not overly concerned.  They are, after all, MY family.  They don't spook easily.   I looked around and spotted exactly what I needed.  Napkins.  I safely insulated myself from "my own personal torture device" and explained it to my fam.  We found seats and enjoyed the show.  Just another day on "Planet Neuro".

"Sensory integration disorder or dysfunction (SID) is a neurological disorder that results from the brain's inability to integrate certain information received from the body's five basic sensory systems. These sensory systems are responsible for detecting sights, sounds, smell, tastes, temperatures, pain, and the position and movements of the body."  --  Shamelessly stolen from

There you have it.  Many of us who are either on the Autistic Spectrum, or "somehow perilously orbiting it", like me, experience this lovely little "upgrade".   Certain sensory input sends us "off the reservation" in a big hurry.  Sounds, touches, bright lights, etc. are normal inputs for most.  They require no cognitive thought and generate no stress.  For us, they are a constant struggle.  As parents of autistic kids, we pay for expensive therapy to help our children desensitize and "integrate" the stimuli.  It works and they benefit.  Their quality of life is massively improved as their Sensory Integration issues are modulated.  For me, I only realized what was going on at 43.  I've spent my life working to conquer and suppress it.  The idea of desensitization therapy scares me silly.  For Nathan, the therapy could be disguised as play.  He LOVED it.  For me "bring on the Spanish Inquisition"!!

Next time you see an autistic person recoil from the kindest of touch, or "lose it" at a loud noise, or bright light, remember.  They just got "A Bolt from the Blue"


  1. Thanks for educating me... never heard of it ... glad your family can take it in stride. I think i would panic!

  2. Very interesting. There are times that I wonder if I have some form of autism or if it's a sensory thing. Some days I'm fine with people touching me, but some days touch feels like needles scraping my skin. Most of the time loud sounds don't bother me, but some days I'm come unglued at loud sounds. It baffles me, because I can't find any rhyme or reason to it.