Like many Aspies, I have an insatiable craving for knowledge; one of the best ways to learn is by traveling to different places, especially that I have a keen interest in ancient history in human developments. However, traveling is not the easiest feat for Aspies with sensory processing challenges; I am not immune to that.
I was born and raised in Singapore, a modern urban jungle. Due to land scarcity, the island is filled with skyscrapers so that the residents have a home built upwards. To experience nature, we would travel out of Singapore. Singapore has many advantages being a small country; we have one of the world-best public transport infrastructures; we also have malls and countless of eateries and 24/7 convenience shops in each neighbourhood. Life in Singapore is quite convenient with all sorts of delivery services; McDonald’s for example, delivers to our doorsteps 24/7, even though there are at least a few McDonald’s chains within walking distance from home.
For a period of 6 years, I rarely left my apartment. I went out to run errands once every 3 to 4 months; other times, I traveled out of the country 2-3 times a year for 10-14 days each trip for vacations. Life was safe, somewhat comfortable, and seemingly complacent.
I moved to live and study in Perth, Australia since Feb 2015. I started to plan for my relocation since Jun 2014 as I needed more time to take each necessary step in contacting the university, disability support officers, immigration offices, government officials, financial institutes, healthcare providers, psychiatrist and psychologist, movers, and most importantly the accommodation liaison in Perth. I was told that normally, students only needed 2 months to complete the process; I knew I needed more time to prepare myself mentally and be ready for the major changes. Usually, accommodation arrangement was lower in priority; living arrangement, was of paramount importance to me – it’s an Aspie no-brainer, if I couldn’t live there, I couldn’t study (or do anything) there.
I have accomplished all those tasks independently; it would have been easier to have help, but the tasks are accomplishable independently with early planning and organization. Even though I am also effected by executive functions, I have fairly high self-discipline in keeping track of tasks – using Reminders app and plenty of post-it notes. Singapore is not exactly a welfare country, she practices self-efficacy and encourages self-sustainability. In short, if I did not learn how to manage tasks, no one will do it for me. Although it was forced upon me, with hindsight, I am quite thankful to have acquired this life-skill.
Living overseas alone is not the easiest thing, especially that I have a specific learning challenge (Dyscalculia) that impacts heavily on my spatial ability. Getting to places in Perth without a private transport is proving to be challenging, but again, it can be overcome by planning in advance using bus app and maps app. Advance planning helps mitigate anxiety due to unexpected incidents. Sharing the living space with other people is the biggest challenge, but it also ‘forces’ me to learn to set boundaries and make tolerable compromises - something that may be helpful later with working with other people at workplace.
Life is hard, for everyone, on the autism spectrum or not. We all have some levels of difficulties in different areas, but we should actively seek for a workaround so that we could also enjoy the joy of traveling, experiencing a completely different culture, and living independently. I will not lie that I have experienced intensified emotions and episodes of meltdowns since I moved to Perth, but these ‘hardships’ will not deter me from moving forward with my journey. I am a psychology student, I major in social and developmental psychology. I am hoping to use my personal experiences and knowledge to develop effective coping and learning skills for people with pervasive developmental disorder; to live a fuller life.
My name is Lis Sun, I am currently a second year Psychology student at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia. I am a blogger, and crochet toy (Amigurumi) designer - I design and sell crochet patterns and some artworks to support myself. In 2013, I received the diagnosis for Asperger’s Syndrome, comorbid with generalized anxiety disorder and dyscalculia-like traits. My blog: http://quirkymissy.com
My craft business: http://simpleartsplanet.com
Penmanship. Using scissors. Tying shoes. Skipping. Tossing a ball. These are just a few of the developmental milestones so many families take for granted. They seem so simple despite the initial struggles our kiddos may exhibit. I remember being kept from recess until I could make a proper cursive lowercase letter f. My teacher must have eventually given up on my success because to this day, my cursive f's are funky! If I'm being honest, I still struggle with some basic OT related skills. Most all of my script and printing is a bit on the funky side. I still can't cut a straight line or wrap a present pretty. I can however, skip with only an occasional trip and I hardly coach myself when I'm tying my shoes. I can even toss a ball far, well, so long as I'm throwing it down a hill. I've made some improvements, that's for sure, but I'm here to tell you that most things which look simple and not much more than a mark on a developmental chart, are in fact, quite difficult for someone with challenges from fine motor coordination, to bilateral coordination, or eye tracking or any number of other physiological challenges. Thank goodness for the OTs in our lives who work with teachers and parents to help these challenges take over less of our lives.
And now, a gracious look at the challenge behind the 'simple' written by my peers from the OT department at BRAINS.
Not Just a Snowflake
Many of you have probably noticed the many brightly colored snowflakes that the OT department has put around the building, and have been making with our kids over the last few weeks. I thought it would be a good time to let everyone know that it is not just a pretty snowflake (although I think they look really cool). We started making the snowflakes with our therapy kids because it works on so many different skills that they need!
~the OT department at BRAINS
Sensory Tips for a Happy Holiday
The holiday season can be a joyous one, but it can also be very overwhelming. For all of us. As adults, there are so many things for us to plan and get done, but we also sometimes have good strategies to help us from getting overwhelmed so we can get everything done when we need to. As a child with sensory struggles, these strategies may be non-existent. The noise of all of the kids getting together once a year, the changes in routine, and the unexpected may be too much for a child with these difficulties. Here are some quick tips and tricks to help everyone get through the holiday season with a smile.
Get involved in the preparationsThe more that you are a part of the process, the easier it is to participate in the final product. Get your child involved with planning for what is going to happen, and have them help prepare! This could be crafts to celebrate the holidays or small more controlled events prior to the big family gatherings.
Meal preparation and cookingFood preparation, cooking, and mealtime are sensory rich activities. Involve your child as much as possible during the holidays for some sneaky “heavy work”, messy play, and becoming familiar with holiday foods. Ask for help with pouring, mixing, measuring, and decorating. Having your child gather ingredients, write a grocery list, and locate familiar items in the store are also great ways to involve your child. Even if going to someone else’s house for the holiday, encourage your child to bring a small dish that they helped to make.
Reduce the element of surprisePlanning helps everyone keep calm and collected. Go over plans with your child, and work together to come up with ways that they and/or you can help during the large events. If you can work out a signal for each other that means your child is stressed, or if she/he knows a place that they can go to “regroup” prior to the event, it will help everyone enjoy the events.
The calm before the stormEngage your child in their preferred, calming sensory diet activities BEFORE leaving to go to holiday parties or before the party comes to you. Jumping on a mini-trampoline, wall push-ups, animal walks, swinging, deep breathing, tactile bin play, etc. Preparing your child’s brain and body ahead of time will be beneficial for everyone, giving them their best potential for the hectic day. Movement breaks and calming strategies should also be sprinkled through the day to maintain optimal regulation.
Keep your child happyYou know your child better than anyone! You know what they need and how to help them out. This may be a great time to do some education to family and friends about your child and their special needs. If your child needs to do 10 wall push-ups prior to dinner so they can attend better, or they need to stand instead of sit so they are less disruptive, go for it!
ShoppingWhen shopping during the holidays, it may be best to shop when stores are less crowded or shop online. If a child must go with you to the store, planning ahead and bringing along sensory “tools” like earplugs, gum, fidgets, or a hat/hoodie will help ease the over-stimulation. Going with a plan in mind or a short list that the child can help cross off may also help. This season is busy and overwhelming for anyone, so knowing the goal and having an end in sight may ease the stress for everyone.
Stay on scheduleDuring any holiday break, it is easy to get off schedule and have more flexible routines. However, try to stick to the typical schedule, especially bedtime and wake-up routines. Not only can a child’s sleep-wake cycle become disrupted, but this also affects self-regulation. A child is more able to self-manage and regulate their state of arousal when routines, schedules, and sleep/rest are consistent.
Remember what’s importantAt the end of the day, remember that you and your child are more important than any holiday “tradition” or ritual that only happens one time a year. Take a deep breath, remember what matters most, and enjoy the season!
Adapted from: http://sensorysmarts.com/tips_for_the_holidays.htm
For All of your Sensory, Motor, Adaptive Skills, and other Occupational Therapy needs, let our team of OT’s and other professionals help your family and you!
Change. I don't want it. I don't need it. I resist it. I hate it. But does it matter? Nope. It will come pretty much every single day, even if it's only marked by a few degrees up or down in the weather, or a few minutes plus or minus in the moments the light beats the dark in the day. Change is notoriously difficult for anyone on the spectrum and the sooner we learn to deal with it, the sooner we will banish some of the anxiety that barks each time we face it.
This time of year is fraught with fluctuations. I'll enjoy the leaves new colors here in the Midwest where I live, but that's about it. I'll be fine, because I've had years to tell myself change is normal. Seasons come and go. Time alters things. I can't stop any of that. I can't embrace that. Best I can hope for is a neutral ho hum here we go again attitude; an attitude that lends itself to acceptance and beyond that, the knowledge that even change can have consistency, because in fact, it's gonna happen whether we like it or not.
As the contestants on the TV show Big Brother like to say, "Expect the unexpected". Be prepared for it. Have a backup plan. Keep a list of things you can do when change comes up and bites you smack in the butt. Be pragmatic about your options and be honest about your needs. Find a friend or an emergency contact to have on call should you have a bit of a panic or a touch of a meltdown, thanks to a yucky change. And always remember, that time will pass and the sting of the change will lessen and you will survive.