Autism Mis-diagnosed – Could it be Colour Sensitivity?

snow owl

My son is 11 and has a lot of sensory processing issues, his most challenging ones being visual and sound.  When we go to see doctors, paediatricians and occupational therapists no-one knows how to help us. They don’t seem to have seen this type of sensitivity before (especially the visual processing) and they don’t seem to have seen sensitivity outside of autism.

So . . . where do they refer us? Autism testing.

I told my son about the assessment and he was quite indignant that he didn’t want to be mis-diagnosed as having autism and so he he wrote a letter to the doctor.

Dear Dr,

I am Luca and I am 11. I have an appointment to come and see you and Mum and Dad say it is about behaviour and autism.

I don’t think it will help me to come to be assessed because I think lots of people are being mis-diagnosed with autism when really they are colour sensitive.

I am sensitive to colour and pattern. I see colour and pattern different to other people. And it makes my brain do funny things. I can’t think very straight when I am in a room of a particular colour. And when people show me things on paper or on the screen I might not be able to process them. Or when people ask me questions I might not feel well enough or have enough energy to answer them. I don’t even like looking at people’s faces much or do eye contact because of the colour and patterns on people’s faces.

When I am in a room of the right colour which is really a type of white, I can concentrate much better but I might still struggle if the light outside doesn’t feel right for me or if it is sunny or if there is a blue sky.

When I go for appointments to see doctors I feel like I can’t really be me. My Mum has to speak for me and I feel trapped by the colours in the room and on people’s clothes. I can’t really show people who I am.

I don’t really mind being assessed for behaviour things or autism but I am not happy to be assessed in a place that is not right for me and then get mis-diagnosed. I feel at my best in December when the light is dim, after dark and in my house which is all neutral colours and patterns.

My Mum helped me write this letter because of my processing problem.

I hope you understand and take me seriously,

Luca

 

Colour Sensitivity – Me and My White Kitchen!

Luca Cooking

We have lived in our house for 20 years and in that time we have never had a new kitchen. Our kitchen was a sort of yellowy cream yellowing with age with wood trim, slightly pinky walls and a very geometric patterned floor in reds and browns. I know – it doesn’t sound to good does it?! But you just get used to these things.

When I tried to cook in our kitchen I felt a strange sensation in my legs, a bit like I was being pulled down into a swamp.  And I would feel less and less energy in myself until I would feel like screaming and giving up. Often I wouldn’t finish cooking a meal. My husband would have to come and rescue me! And then I would get very cross if people weren’t appreciative of my efforts because I had suffered so much to do it.

Now I know – I was feeling a sensitivity to the geometric pattern on the floor and the dark brown colour of our gas hob.

When I tried to wash up in our kitchen I would feel a jangly sensation in my body. I would also go very hot, would feel achy and my face would always itch. I tried using washing up liquid without perfume but it didn’t help.

Now I know – I was sensitive to the grey colour of the stainless steel sink and also to the finish of the stainless steel itself. When light falls on stainless steel especially brushed steel it moves in a certain way creating rings and lines that were giving me a feeling of unease.

When I tried to eat in our kitchen I couldn’t taste my food. I would keep saying to my baker husband “Are you sure you put salt in the bread?” because I just couldn’t taste it. I would choose sweet things sometimes just because I could taste them better.

Now I know – Firstly I was sensitive to the blue light in our fridge so even looking for food in the fridge made me feel unwell and much colder than would be normal for a person to feel with the fridge open. Next I was sensitive to the appearance of the colours of some of the packaging under the poor lighting of our kitchen. Next I was sensitive to the orange pine colour of our kitchen table. And finally I was sensitive to the green rim of our Denby pottery plates. No wonder I couldn’t taste my food!

Solution

We finally have our new kitchen. It is not all clinical white as that would be too cold and not good for us at all. We have light ivory cupboard doors that have a certain warmth. We have surf white work surfaces which make every coloured package on the top appear more to their true colour. We have a white composite sink and white tap. We have a white glass splashback and upstand and a white glass hob and white oven.  All the whites are slightly different – a little blue, a little green here and there – but I like this. Our floor will be a polished concrete effect vinyl and our walls F & B All White paint. Our lights are all dimmable.

Yes, it does look cool (!) but more importantly it feels amazing. I fully interact with the kitchen, happily going in the cupboards and drawers, using the sink and the hob etc. Whereas my kitchen used to repel me, now it it draws me in and hugs me. I feel very alive and I tend to do things more slowly than I used to as this feeling of calm overtakes me. I no longer rush to get out of my kitchen. I relish the time I spend in there and look forward to it taking me on many happy cooking journeys.

My son (11) who takes sensitivity to a whole new level and literally would spend no time in our kitchen and not even eat with us now goes in there and dances around happily wanting to learn to cook and do everything himself. It is the most amazing thing to see.

So . . . how do you feel in your kitchen? Is it helping you to nourish yourself or hampering you?

To read more about mine and my son’s experiences of colour sensitivity please see my book:-

I Can’t Sit on That Red Chair – The Relationship Between Sensory Processing Difficulties and Colour Sensitivity

 

 

 

 

The Problem with Gaming is . . .

unhappy

I have a 11 year old son who is big time into gaming – even if isn’t all rough and killing people – it is still gaming! Minecraft is still gaming.

I am constantly telling my son what I think the problems with gaming are and he said I should write a post! So here it is . . .

My Son’s Story

My son, Luca, has a visual problem which means he feels more comfortable using the screen than he does in real life. This has been a dilemma for me. I was the Mum who said ‘only 2 hours of computer a day’ and really stuck to that. But over the years the time has climbed and climbed and now sometimes it is 11 hours before Luca emerges tired and agitated from his computer screen.

I have feared for my son’s eyes. I have feared for his nervous system. But I have felt powerless to change anything because my son would just complain of multiple symptoms if he had to encounter daylight, especially sunlight, without the screen. And I knew he wasn’t pretending. His distress is genuine. If I mentioned the word ‘rest’ he would wince at the thought of doing nothing without the screen. So I thought ‘Either my son has a supernatural ability to manage 10 -11 hours of computer time or something is going to give.’  And surprise surprise, it turns out he doesn’t have supernatural powers! (Well not that sort anyway!)

Following a bout of wobbly toothitis, poor eating and lack of sleep, Luca’s body started to send some messages that all was not OK.  He started to have spasms in his gut developing into typical IBS symptoms. Weakness in the gut tends to run in our family and I just hoped Luca would be exempt but apparently not. Thankfully due to my own lengthy experience of working with my own health I knew what to do.

1.Help Luca with his diet. We talked about his body making too much acid as he had too many complex carbohydrates and too much sugar. Also constant excitement or anger contributes to us making too much acid. He had been living on pasta and cheese, bourbon biscuits and multiple hours of Minecraft games and videos! We talked about the need for balance in the diet with protein, less wheat grain, some oats, some rice, some fruit and vegetables (to alkalise the acid)  and some dairy. We avoid beans and pulses and much raw food as we don’t feel this is easy for us to digest. And we drink 1 tbsp of kefir a day –  a life saving remedy for anyone prone to yeast problems. All quite basic really and my son already knew it but suddenly he found more motivation to try to achieve it.

2. Teach Luca about rest and comfort. He says he just can’t rest but when he knew he felt too unwell to use his computer he did find the capacity to rest. We sat and watched cookery programmes together. He said that when our new neutral coloured kitchen is complete (in a few weeks time) he is looking forward to doing some cooking and trying out some recipes. As we sat together Luca actually let me cuddle him and he usually resists all contact because he is so hot, agitated and over stimulated from gaming. He usually just paces and twirls around the room talking one endless Minecraft monologue! I sit and listen and try to resist feeling dizzy and spaced out as much as I can!  But on this occasion I felt Luca suddenly remember the wonderful benefits of being cuddled.  He felt unusually calm and grounded.

3. Teach Luca about finding his natural rhythm. The problem with gaming . . . as I say, is that children lose touch with their natural sense of rhythm. If they were playing a board game or riding their bike they would naturally get hungry, tired or just feel they have had enough of that activity. However when children game they have so much adrenaline in their systems that they are completely out of touch with their natural rhythm. Luca can easily go 4 hours without blinking. Scary really!

These are pretty simple things but they make a massive difference to a child’s health and well-being  Thankfully we can already see that if Luca eats well, has some rest, lets in some comfort and lives more to his own rhythm, he can stay well.

The problem with gaming . . . is that it can affect our health and well-being. Stay healthy!

 

 

 

Fear of Separation is Always at the Heart of Anxiety

waving goodbye

The biggest epidemic in our societies today is separation (disconnection with self and the world)  It is this feeling that leads people to suffer with low self esteem, live a life where they find it difficult to be true to themselves and ultimately dis-ease.   So why do we feel separate?  We send our children to childcare and nursery school, separating them from the essential mother child bond for hours at a time before they are barely able to hold their heads up.  Many families are separated by broken marriages.   Many families who live together live quite separate lives.  Many of us don’t know our neighbours. We travel separately and don’t meet in towns as we used to.  Isn’t it amazing when it snows and we meet people in the street, walking to town to get some bread because the Waitrose delivery lorry couldn’t get through and our car won’t start? That’s my favourite day of the year!

Some of us choose a form of spirituality that continues in us this feeling of separateness. We separate ourselves from the rest of the world when we feel that we have the answers.  We separate ourselves from the goodness of the world when we decide that we have to eat this food and that food and do this thing and that thing just to survive on the planet.  We separate ourselves from our very beings when we try to empty ourselves in spiritual practices and meditation.  We separate ourselves from God when we decide that we are in control and that we can use the power of our thoughts to draw to ourselves what we want.

Anxiety has little to do with being dependent on a significant other.  This is simply the symptom.  The cause is a sense of separation that runs deep in the core of our being.  It may have happened at our birth or in childhood, we may have inherited it from our parents but however it happened, I believe it is our deepest journey to find our sense of safety within ourselves and the world.  When we find that feeling, we will no longer tolerate separateness and we will do everything in our power to create strong bonds with our children, our families and the world.  We will fall into God’s arms and gladly admit that we can’t do it on our own.

All we all really want is to feel safe, loved and at home in ourselves and the world.

How do You Keep Your Heart Open?

holding-hands

I know I ‘see’ people’s energy but it doesn’t mean I have all the answers to life, the universe and everything! However I have some answers and answers come when we ask questions. The question I have been asking for a long time is ‘How do we keep our hearts open?’ I’ve asked this question because I know how good open heartedness feels. We don’t just feel warm and fuzzy but we breath better, digest better, speak with more conviction, think more clearly,  have a strong back, energetic legs, enthusiastic arms  and happily let in others. I also know that closing our hearts can cause us to feel the opposite of all the above leading to anxiety, depression and fatigue.

So . . . How Do We Keep Our Hearts Open?

We need to:-

  • Embrace the wonderful feeling of security in our lives – home, friends, family, community, nature, routine – anything that helps us feel more secure.

  • Connect with something that makes us feel inspired – art, music, movement, nature,  our passions.

  • Express our true selves and speak our truth.

  • Know we are loved and good enough as we are.

  • Trust God/Our Purpose.

So . . . What Closes Our Hearts?

  • Trying to be independent.

  • Connecting with things that don’t inspire us.

  • Living too much in our heads and our thinking.

  • Believing we are unlovable and that there is something inherently wrong with us.

  • Trusting only ourselves.

    Which do you choose?

 

 

 

 

Budding Visionaries and Music – They Don’t Need You to Be Musical

I come from a musical family and am musical myself. We have lots of instruments around in our home. However I go through long periods of times when I might not pick an instrument up. And when I do I don’t do anything by the book. I will likely fiddle around with my guitar and try to write a song or play my violin to a backing track that inspires me. So Luca grew up with music around him but not really immersed in it.  

When he was 4 we decided to buy Luca a violin as this is one of the instruments I play.  It is not an easy instrument to hold  let alone play! And if you don’t hold it reasonably correctly you find you can’t play it at all! This was a sticking point for Luca. He didn’t see why he should have to try so hard just to make a sound on a wooden box with some hair on a stick! So the violin went back into its box and stayed there!

All the other instruments that Luca plays on his videos (please see below,) he picks up himself with no prompting from us.  We had a ukelele on the wall, an old harmonica in a cupboard, a set of chime bars that we hardly ever played, and bought him a toy accordian one Christmas. He made his own drum set from a set of packaging boxes he found in our hall one day.  He also found his own backing tracks – music on his toy radio and on his toy laptop.  The words – well, they just come straight out of his heart – whatever he is feeling or thinking in the moment. 

You don’t need to be musical to inspire your child to play music. As long as they have a few instruments around them and listen to music they can find their way by themselves. In fact this is exactly what our sensitive intuitive children like doing. They like leading the way, finding their own inspiration and dancing to the beat of their own drum.

Below is a playlist including some of Luca’s creative musical antics. His first concert includes songs he knows but after that he lets loose.  On his journey we discover the magic and challenges of Luca’s extreme sound sensitivity.  His  journey also takes him through chronic fatigue and out the other side. I hope you find these videos inspiring. We look forward to your comments.

 

Our Body, Our Intention, Our Dance!

Today I tried to teach my son something about movement and energy. He seems to burn up a lot of energy making a whole lot of movements he doesn’t really do with control or intention. He does this all day long! This is quite normal child behaviour but when you are creative and intuitive you only thrive when you feel deep connection with yourself, others and your environment so self awareness is a must.  I taught my son that we may not be in control of our energy to the point that we can turn it down or off but we are in control or our intention to use our energy. When we line up our intention with our energy that is when we feel good!

Might your Sound Sensitive Child be Highly Musical?

This is what can happen when you give your sound sensitive child a keyboard, help them choose the sounds they like and teach them 3 chords. You don’t need to be musical yourself – just find a simple music theory book and teach yourself the basics about scales, chords and keys. Or even better  . . give the book to your child and let them teach you!