Yesterday was the day that we started our first proper day of home educating The Sensory Seeker. I have been considering home education for a good half a year for his older sibling but the more I thought about school the more I was not happy how it was affecting The Sensory Seeker. They continued to not only ignore but tell me that his sensory needs did not exist.
Yesterday after the boys having an early start to learning (honestly they didn’t even want to put the television on they just wanted to start with education!) we went to the school and handed in the deregistration letter. This was also an opportunity to let friends who did not already know know and say goodbye (they will be keeping in touch with those they want of course).
What I learnt on my first day of Home Education with our son who has Sensory Processing Disorder
I was shocked as I guess somehow the school had convinced me that The Sensory Seeker had progressed so well that his senses were not getting in the way of his education. I am not sure if it is because I had more time to pick up on them or that it really is due to the different environment but I immediately saw how beneficial home education is going to be for him in terms of managing his sensory diet.
- The most notable thing is definitely that The Sensory Seeker has different times when he is receptive to learning. On certain occasions throughout the day I knew that there was just no point because he was not in the right frame of mind. What would they do in this instance at school? Punish him? I just let him play/cuddle etc on contrast at other times he was really raring to focus and wanted to learn – and this also did not fit in the 9-3 school day.
- Leading on from this there were definite times when he needed a hug or back/hair rubs. It helps calm him when being anxious or upset, or sometimes overwhelmed. It is all a new routine which he will find more difficult at first as change is hard for him. Home education I think will be better in this sense because there won’t be changes of going back to school and then holidays all the time.
- The Sensory Seeker sometimes required something to fiddle with. I have to admit whilst reading him a story it was distracting for me as he flicked a toy dressing up tiara and did feel as if he was not listening. But I know he was and it was actually helping him to concentrate. In fact he even started to read the story himself without being promoted (also showing that he was listening as he knew where we were). At school when I have talked about things to fiddle with or chew it has been all about him fitting in socially so not looking different to others (when they have even agreed with me that he may need this).
- The Sensory Seeker can move when he needs. This means he can get the proprioception and vestibular input he requires. We are lucky enough to have a large trampoline in the back garden as well as living locally to a park. We also wish him to learn how to ride a bicycle and he has taken to this really well over the holidays so this is a great way to break up any more formal learning when he requires it. This also includes going to the toilet without missing any play time (I hated that and am sure that is what led to him not drinking all day whilst at school!!)
- I think this goes for any home educated child but following The Sensory Seeker’s interests really help with his more limited focus, concentration and attention.
- He can wear what he feels comfortable in (or not wear as the case may be). Although he has been conditioned to the fact that you tuck your t-shirt in (which looks silly at times) because that was the “rule” at school.
- No need to just be quiet. If the Sensory Seeker needs to make noise or express himself he can – he is not stifled about it being the right time/place/content (if he wants to talk about his special interest then he can!). In contrast there is quiet time for learning without all the noise from everyone else.
This was my experience after just one day – most of which was seen as play time. The Sensory Seeker already seemed so much happier and definitely closer to me (in one day!). He also made a friend! I would love to know of your experiences of home educating a child or children with Sensory Processing Disorder.
Sensory Processing Disorder in Italy was always going to be a bit different than at home but The Sensory Seeker coped amazingly well during our stay.Of course there were times when he just didn’t cope, but there are some things I think made it easier for him and other things that I wish I had known before we left for Italy, that would have made things better for all of us. The main thing for us was to just make allowances: Letting him sleep in bed with us some nights whilst we were in Italy for example. Obviously every individual with Sensory Processing Disorder is different but hopefully some of this will help if you are planning on travelling to Italy.
Flying with Sensory Processing Disorder – What we learnt on our travels to Italy
So our flight to Italy was the first time we had taken the boys on a plane. The hardest part was the fact that the electrical devices need to have battery to go through security so the boys were unable to play with their iPods and 3DSs until we then and we weren’t prepared to risk them having them confiscated. In hindsight I wish we had taken the in-car DVD players – these could have been used in the car and again once we were at the resort (as there was no television) and they could have been packed in the hold. You should take into consideration the time of the flight – would it be easier if it was at a time when the child will be likely to sleep (remember this could be delayed and they could be overtired in the airport). Luckily our flight to Italy wasn’t a long one (or shouldn’t have been before all the delays). We did not take advantage of the flight’s special assistance but this means that we could have had priority boarding so that it was not as chaotic and noisy when he went on the plane. Saying that in Gatwick Airport we went through Family Security and this was much less of a wait and felt less intimidating than other security checks I have previously been through.
Tips for flying to Italy with a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder
- Obviously have some entertainment that does not involve plugging in – a book, crayons, LEGO etc.
- Give them a lollipop for take-off – this will help with their ears as well as giving them something to distract themselves with.
- Decide whether you think they would be better with a window seat or not, if they need extra room, or easy access to the toilet when booking your seats.
- Carry a charger (and adapter plug) with you – all the trains have somewhere to charge your devices and in Pisa airport there was free charging (with a lighting cable).
- Of course let them know what is happening and what to expect in advance. The Sensory Seeker was selected through security and had to take his shoes off. I think because we had talked about everything with him it made it much easier. Speaking of explaining things we were delayed by 2 and a half hours on the way there and 3 hours on the way back – although we were past security and the electrical devices were able to be utilised (and charged) so this wasn’t a problem for us.
- We took special things – a travel cushion, a soft throw and his favourite teddy.
Things to consider in Italy with Sensory Processing Disorder
I think it is good to discuss things that are not quite the same – such as crossing the road. We discovered that just because you are crossing the road on black and white lines does not mean that the drivers have to stop! Here are some tips from our visit:
- Plan where you are going and figure out where the toilets are. Book in advanced where possible (on the train this also means you do not have to validate your ticket before getting on). This can not only save you money but time too – some of the queues are actually really hideous. Find out which places are busy and which are quieter. You have to pay for toilets, so carry plenty of euros and 50 cents with you. I wish we had put on a map where they were located too.
- AttractionTix offer a range of discounted and beat the queue attraction offers: We chose to review the Rome Hop on Hop off Cruise. As there was a bar and toilet on board it meant that we could literally hop on if The Sensory Seeker needed the toilet desperately without having to worry about where to find one. Getting on and off the cruise was straight forward and simple and The Sensory Seeker loved the narrative about the area as we went round. Particularly when we were near where Romulus and Remus were left in a basket on the Tiber River as babies (which he had learned about in school). It also allowed him to sit and calm down as we were taken around closer to the next major attraction we wished to visit. Children under 10 years old are also free! Just be careful when going upstairs as if they are too seeking they could end up going overboard.
- Be aware of the street sellers. One guy came and put necklaces on the boys for “free” and tied a piece of string around my arm even though I kept telling him no. They he was quite forceful saying he needed money for food. My husband gave him back the necklaces and we gave a euro for the string as I couldn’t get it off – he was still trying to get money out of us, but my husband was quite verbally forceful back. This experience was unpleasant for all of us but particularly The Sensory Seeker. They seemed to be where the tourist attractions are most. Try to avoid eye contact and do not get into conversation with them.
- Italians do not eat at the same time as us here in the UK. At 5pm we found that they had not long closed up from lunch and could not get dinner. Supermarkets we personally fund difficult to locate and a sandwich meal deal cost us almost as much as eating out in a restaurant!
- Checkout the weather – we went in April and it was warm enough for us with just a bit of rain but did get really chilly on some nights. The mornings start out really bright though – but most places had wooden blinds blacking it out.
- The sirens sound different in Italy – maybe listen on YouTube before you go so it is not so startling. Or use the headphones/ear-defenders.
Tips for sight-seeing in Italy with Sensory Processing disorder
- First of all have a clear plan so that they know what to expect and when. Try to let them have input into what goes into this. For example if they just want to go swimming maybe you could incorporate that into the afternoon or evening for them.
- Give them opportunities to allow them to do what they need with their bodies – run, spin, swim etc. Parks are good for this (and obviously swimming pools).
- Ensure you plan in some quiet areas to take a break from noise/busy tourist areas.
- Listen to them – our son needed breaks and said it was because his toe hurts. I am pretty sure that actually he was sensory overloaded and needed a time out.
- Establish clear rules of what behaviour is expected and any rewards/consequences. In our case this largely involved a lot of Gelato!
- They may be unable to deal with their feelings (and possibly become upset or aggressive). Be aware that they may regress (eating with their fingers, need reminding to go to the toilet). Remember that this is a big deal for them and try not to chastise them for their behaviour, instead try and find ways to help them cope. We know that with The Sensory Seeker letting him talk about his favourite computer game helped him calm down. You can also use hand gestures to get your message across, when they do not appear to be responding verbally, or carry visual aids.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you did get stressed though – it is hard for us parent/carers too and we are only human. You sometimes may wish to explain why they are licking the locks on the public toilet! The nearest thing I could find is: “Mio figlio non e’ cattivo. E’ autistico. Per favore, siate comprensivi” Which translates to “My son is not being naughty. He is a child with autism/He is autistic. Please show some understanding.”
- Consider carrying packed lunches so they can be eaten in quieter locations – and it will alleviate the problem of finding somewhere to eat when they are hungry. Alternatively there are many Pizzerias where you can buy pizza/sandwiches take-away. If you carry a water bottle you can also have an instant drink – plus there’s water fountains around to refill them too.
- You could get the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder to carry the bag for the pressure (weighted work).
- Also pack ear-phones; a hat and sunglasses; something to do with their hands/keep them occupied (maybe a map to hold or a toy).
If you have any questions or experiences about visiting Italy with Sensory Processing Disorder I would love to hear them in the questions below.
Thanks to AttractionTix for the Hop on Hop off Cruise.