Afternoon at school for a child with processing difficulties
“The world is spinning and bombarding too fast! I try, and try, until I cannot process any more. Help! My brain is drained, and my energy depleted. It is only noon and I have to somehow make it through the afternoon. Recess is chaotic; let me hide to the side. I have to somehow regroup and conserve, since I have little reserve . Like every afternoon I will have to ”shutdown” to “shut out” the world. As I overload, my senses become heightened, hyper-sensitive, and impossible to tolerate. The sounds, the smells, the chaotic activity around me meshes into confusion. I have to hold it together, and stay calm, as to explode would to bring disaster. I will sit quietly, but stare off. To be aware will overwhelm.
Like most every afternoons I will not remember what happened. It will be a blur. I will withdraw to survive, and gasp for air to not suffocate! I hurt all over, but cannot cry! I feel panic as the bright lights blind my eyes, the voices overwhelm me, and the smells make me nauseous. I can barely feel my arms and legs, let alone use them effectively. I am falling apart as I hold it in. As my coping skills collapse. I will withdraw and hide, sit quietly in my chair and hope that everyone forgets I am there. I want to hide in a corner, wrap up in a blanket, and withdraw to survive. I pray there will be no snags, or added demands, and hope that the teacher doesn’t call on me. .I cannot distinguish between what is said, what I did, or what is happening around me. Please somebody! Stop the world and let me get off!”
Please everyone, always be aware that a full day at school can be very draining and overwhelming. The sensory bombardment, social strain, and academic demands can tax an already vulnerable nervous system. Our world presents too much, too fast, and too intense, for many on the spectrum. Many have delayed processing issues that makes processing slow and taxing. They have to consciously “think through” much of what we process subconsciously and smoothly, with minimal energy. Slow it down, break it down, and give them a lot of breaks to rebound. Their energy supply drains fast, and they must have time to withdraw to regroup. Many have sleep disturbances, dietary concerns, and anxiety issues that leave them with a low reserve starting out the day. If they had a exhausting time the previous day, chances are they still have not replenished to full reserve. Do not pressure, do not demand, and let them pace themselves. Develop a sensory diet with plenty of breaks, and most importantly allow them to escape when needed. Give them a voice, and make sure they know how, and feel safe, to say “no” and “I need help.” As a teacher or aid, help them feel safe in your presence, and trust that you understand. As the day wears on, be aware that stress chemicals accumulate and the child will be drained. Do not pressure or ridicule, but support and reassure. In the mist of chaos, they need to feel “safe and accepted”, and know that they can count on you to support them.
From my experiance with dealing with my own son it isn’t just getting threw the afternoon at school that can cause them to feel this way or have this reaction. Reading and reserching it online. A lot of kids will have these same problems just trying to go shopping for a new toy clothes or anything else they may need to go to the store for. They don’t have to even be there for hours or the day. It can hit them as soon as they walk in the door. Everyone rushing around the sounds and smells from everything can send them into overload in a matter of seconds. I know a 5 minute in and out trip to the store would turn into 15 or 20 at times just trying to get him to sit still and go along with me to grab what we needed. He would be trying to leave hide in the clothes putting stuff over his head or just throwing a fit in the cart because he couldn’t get a way from it all. There were times we just turned around and walked out because it was just so busy and he could do nothing but lay in the floor or bottom of the cart and cry. It is one of the hardest things you will deal with as a parent. You feel helpless and have no clue what to do for your child but have to get those one or two things before you can leave. Then if it isn’t bad enough you are trying to calm your child and shop at the same time you get the stares glances smirks and snide mumbles and rude comments as people walk by. Like your child is so horrible and bad and your the worst mom on the planet. They are so quick to pass judgement never thinking about what that family might be going threw or dealing with. I have had times that between his melt downs and all the rude people I cried all the way home or once I got home because it is so emotionally physically and mentally draining just to make a quick trip to the store sometimes.