So, this is one of those things that I never talked to other moms about because it obviously falls outside the range of "average" development. I've talked to Clara's OT about it extensively, and I guess the developmental specialist coming next week might have some thoughts. I'm just wondering if any of you have dealt with this before.
Clara gets WAY overstimulated by bright lights/big crowds etc, but she never reacts to it in the moment, its always once we are back in a quiet place. But then the reaction is huge and dramatic. Yesterday we had to go to a consignment sale, so I tried to get there early hoping to miss the crowds. Yeah, bad idea. It was PACKED (think black Friday packed) with people, screaming kids, tons of noise and of course people poking their fingers in the stroller and cooing at Clara. The whole time she was dead quiet, but her eyes get big like she's trying to take everything in but can't. As soon as we were back in the car, she started screaming and once we got home it was a solid 2 1/2 hour scream-fest. And when she gets like that, there just isn't any calming her down. I think (and her OT agrees) that even holding her at that point is overstimulating, because she arches and tries to wiggle away. But she won't stop crying or calm down in her crib either. So it usually ends up with me standing by her crib and not touching her, but talking and singing to try and calm her down. And after a fit like that, her sleep is all messed up, I think just because her system is so worked up.
I usually avoid situations I know will upset her, so she's only had a major meltdown like that 4-5 times. But she needed summer clothes - we had to go! And now I feel awful
I guess the developmental specialist is going to look into infant weighted blankets and things like that, but its just so hard.
Several things come to mind. We ALWAYS had to prepare Dakota before taking him anywhere. We would talk about it. Talk about the people, the noise, what we would do, etc. If we didn't? TOTAL meltdowns. And no they don't always happen in the moment. Maybe you could try watching a video of some type with a crowd scene. That way you can control the exposure at first. You might need to do this to ease her into the real life going into crowds. The weighted blanket is a good idea. You might ask about a SPIO suit. It reminds me kind of like a tight wetsuit. A couple of other things you could try, although she is still young so these might not work yet, sunglasses for the light. Headphones for the ears (think the kind that COMPLETE cover the ears) or even just earplugs. I thought I had a couple of other things but I can't remember what was going through my head. Kids interupted me. If I think of anything else I'll let you know.
Also a dear friend of mine started a blog. Her son has sensory issues and lots of problems just like my Dakota. She has a TON of ideas so she post them there. They may not help now because of age, but they might in the future. She tries to come up with stuff that is cheap. Anyway here it is. http://cheaptherapytools.blogspot.com/ I know it helps me a ton. Hang in there. I know it's hard right now. I really have been there.
My oldest daughter, Alana, was exactly like this as a baby. She didn't want to be held (which is crushing to a first time Mom), but instead preferred to be alone in her bed in a dark room. I played soft music in her room which made me feel better for some reason (like maybe she wasn't exactly alone, lol). Even having a few family members over would just be too much for her and she'd act exactly as you described. I was terribly distraught and convinced that she was doomed to live a lonely life in her dark room.
Something that helped Alana was finding a comfort toy. I started when she was about 3 months old and kept a small bunny with her wherever she was. She quickly became attached to the bunny and it became her sense of comfort. When things got overwhelming she'd close her eyes, rub the bunny ears on her face, and suck her thumb. She still has the bunny and many days he hides in her backpack while she's at school. If she is feeling overwhelmed she can reach in and feel his ears for a second and no one has a clue what she's doing. That bunny has been a lifesaver (and we have 4 more that look just like him, lol!).
Alana's sensory issues are still there, but she has learned to cope and most people have no clue she has them. She still gets overwhelmed in crowds, but instead of screaming/crying she now "checks out" and it is as if her head is in the clouds. For example, she dances competitively and has no problem on stage in front of hundreds (and once thousands) of people. She is performing and for some reason that is different. But come awards ceremony time when all those kids pile on the stage she "checks out" and won't even hear her name called. She's learned to sit up front so she can see me in the crowd, and her friends have learned to tap her and tell her it is her turn to go up.
Clara will find her own ways to cope as she gets older, but for now that responsibility lies mostly with you. I think Angela gave some really good suggestions and I'm sure Clara's therapists will as well. One day you may look back and chuckle, because what seems like a major deal now will be a distant memory in the future.
Thank you guys so much - I know I'm a total goober, but I got all teary reading your responses. I think that was honestly the first time anyone has said "yup my kid too."
Have you tried baby carriers? My kids did better in crowds in them - if it's really crazy then facing in so they can bury their head in my chest, smell me, and sort of eliminate some of the stimulation. Sam gets overstimulated more than Tom and hers is always exacerbated by hunger and fatigue - freshly rested and fed she can put up with way more than if she's getting hungry.
Natalie & Dan - June 2, 2001
Samma - Nov. 5, 2004
Tommy - Oct. 19, 2007