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.
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,
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!
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