Can You Dim That Light Please?
Updated: Nov 8, 2022
As the holiday season comes to a close, I sit here thinking about the past year. Rather than dwelling on all the negative situations encountered or resolutions not met I like to reflect on the positive accomplishments no matter how big or small they may seem. Looking through my list I know that I am truly blessed which fuels me to continue to grow into the best version of myself.
However, another way to grow is to look at my mistakes made through the year (yes, I am far from perfect I am for sure a work in progress)! One of my biggest lessons learned this past year is how life changing having multiple concussions can be. Let’s just say I was in the wrong place at the wrong time trying to help out that resulted in an accident. I am not going to get into details but please know I am not writing this blog for sympathy, but more for awareness. After a couple months of recovery, I am so happy that I can finally write about my experience. Initially, I had a lot of trouble being able to express what I was thinking, and I have not been able to do much that required using some form of technology. So, anyone who knows me can tell you that I am not one who likes to sit still for very long. Slowing down has been extremely challenging for me, but it was absolutely necessary if I was going to ever start feeling like my old self again.
An eye opener for me was when a good friend of mine said, “I just want Farrah back!” That hit me hard because I knew I had been affected but I was trying hard to camouflage how bad I was struggling. When my friend made that statement reality slapped me in the face and I was thinking the same thing “I want Farrah back too!!!” It was at that moment that I knew I had to slow down and take care of myself. That day is when I scheduled my follow up doctor appointment. This was the beginning of my recovery for this doctor was extremely thorough, and I am so thankful that she was.
These past few months have really opened my eyes to how some of my students feel when their sensory system is dysregulated. Let me use my own experience to explain what sensory dysregulation means. With my first concussion noises sent me over the edge meaning I could not stand listening to music, people talking loudly, or multiple sounds in one space. Think about how uncomfortable listening to someone scratching their nails down a chalkboard can be that is how it felt to me. In the therapy world we call this over stimulation. Have you ever seen someone cover their ears with their hands, maybe they hum to block out the unpleasant noise, or a change in their behavior? Be aware that everyone reacts differently. Trust me when I tell you these behaviors our done because they are trying to block out the auditory input.
A month ago, I was sitting in a meeting where multiple people were talking, and one person’s volume was extremely loud and that’s all I could focus on. My head started to throb, I started to sweat, and I just kept trying to move further away from the loudness. As soon as the meeting was over, I retreated to my SAFE SPACE!!! I cannot stress this enough please give individuals who struggle with sensory over stimulation a safe place that they can go to calm down. My safe space was my office with my door closed away from everyone for just a short period of time.
My recent concussion gave me some sound sensitivity, but what really affected me was lights. It can be difficult to function at work between fluorescent lighting, and looking at computers. It is unbelievable how much screen time I use in my daily life from email, texting, therapy charting, music and movement time, circle time in the classroom, and brain breaks to name a few. Again, I had a couple experiences when visual input was just too much and I needed to retreat to my safe space where the lights were dimmed, and technology turned off.
Imagine every time you look at a computer screen or television and all you see is constant wavy lines. Pair that with someone who is prone to motion sickness and voila instant nausea. It literally feels like I just stepped off of a merry go round. The therapist in me was trying to come up with ways to assist with my problem. I discovered blue blocker glasses and they are now my new best friend when I have to interact with technology.
Keep this in mind if you see behaviors from students who may not be able to tell you what is wrong. Acting out or running away may be their way of communicating that they are over stimulated by whatever is happening in the classroom. When children are upset one of the first actions we take is dimming the lights to see if that helps them calm down. If you find that lights are the problem there is ways to help for example: 1.) dim the lights either by turning down the lights or purchasing light dimming shades, 2.) sunglasses or blue blocking glasses, and 3.) set up a safe space.
I hope this gives you a different perspective on sensory behaviors. How do you help a student with sensory behaviors? First thing to do is to rule out a medical problem, next are basic needs met (hungry, tired, etc.), then access the environment. My goal is to share my personal experience in hopes of helping others to understand how challenging sensory dysregulation can be for a person. Thanks for letting me share my story with you and please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions about sensory regulation.
Stay safe and make everyday count! Love Miss Farrah