Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Horseplay and Sensory Integration

The boys in my group of Asperger's campers wrestle with each other quite a lot.

We allow a little horseplay in our room, under well-defined parameters. We basically have to. These are 16- and 17-year-old boys, most of whom have ADHD along with their Asperger's. If they sit mostly still during games and meetings, we let them grapple a little during the less structured times, as long as they keep their distance from others, and keep it reasonably safe.

However, there's another piece to it beyond, "boys with ADHD will be boys, times two." Many Aspies have sensory integration issues, and they are often almost literally "going out of their skin." If you've heard of Temple Grandin's discovery that certain animals and autistic people both calm down when they feel pressure against their bodies, you have a very general idea of what this means.

In moments of sensory overwhelm younger Aspies might flop on the floor and pile bean bags over their own bodies. If they're 16 or 17, and too "cool" to do that, they'll wrestle. (Some have other self-soothing mechanisms, but space doesn't permit me to detail those here.) It does get annoying, because some of them cannot sit still for more than 15 or 20 seconds at a time. While others are trying to have a quiet meeting, or do acting games, they'll be twisting each others' wrists, fingers, elbows, and so on. It looks a lot like the old "boys will be boys" behavior, but underneath, there's more going on.

We try to walk the line between letting them self-soothe and keeping the group attentive and cohesive. It gets very, very tiresome sometimes. But if I ever doubt their genuine need for it, I just look at the happy smile of one particular camper who is perpetually trapped in a head-lock or full-nelson, pretty much all day. He complains the whole time, but without it, I think he would actually drive himself, and us, even more crazy.


Muffy St. Bernard said...

I have an idea: put them in individual scuba outfits, and increase the air pressure until they get that all-over-stimulated sensation!

Though bathroom breaks would be complicated...

amysue said...

This is interesting, when i worked in direct care it was with adults with severe autism (amoung other dx) and yet I have to say allowing for certain "coping" behaviors was always necessary.

I have a friend (an adult) with Asperger's who has a mekori coming out from Random House next month. You might find his writing about growing up and learning to function within the framework of who he is to be interesting.

amysue said...

Umm, not sure what happened with my comment (probably typing too fast)-I meant to say "coming out with a memoir", although if anyone knows what a "mekori" is let me know.

Thinkulous said...

Muffy, that's a terrific idea, and I know one or two of the students who would probably just love it! First, they'd laugh, and then, they'd say, "How can we do that?"

a) thanks so much for the note about the memoir -- I'm definitely interested, so if you feel like it, you could post a link to info on the book as a comment, anywhere you'd like.

b) I encourage you to provide a link to your blog via your name (an option available when you post comments here). I think my readers and friends might enjoy your stuff. I'm glad you came back to visit!

amysue said...

Well here's the link to John's website ,John Robison. He provides links to info on the book, a blog etc.

As for my blog I thought I did give the link, but it's ,here

I'm not that great with the computer foo.