For the last several years, I have been angsting over my son’s inability to consistently socialize with his peers at school. Birthday parties, sporting events, play dates and random encounters with new children all seem to go well. School, however, has been a challenge off and on for years.
Recently, we were encouraged to visit an occupational therapist to see if maybe he has some sensory integration challenges. Sure enough, with just a few tests it looks like we’ve found the (treatable) culprit.
What Do You Need?
When someone at the school finally watched him interact with classmates, it was obvious that he was looking for additional physical inputs, by hugging too hard or leaning against friends when sitting in circle. The sensory inputs he was looking for were mistakenly thought to be behavioral issues, even though he clearly knew what he was supposed to be doing and could manage it in most settings.
Now that we know what to look for, we are better positioned to help him figure out independent and socially acceptable ways to get the inputs he needs. The OT pointed us to a program called How Does Your Engine Run as a way to help recognize when additional inputs are needed, or things need to calm down a bit.
Are You Addressing Those Needs?
Generally, when things are going crazy and someone is over-stimulated, they might need to work on something alone for a while, in a quiet area without a lot of hustling and bustling around. When they are feeling run down, physical activity, a healthy snack or interacting with others might be just what’s needed to get them running at normal speed. The goal is to get to “just right” – an engine that has the appropriate energy level for the moment at hand.
Our OT encouraged me to share with my son how my engine is running at various times during the day to help him learn his own indicators. I have recently become very aware how consistently high my engine is running and that I need to calm things down a bit to get back to normal.
What is Most Important?
At all times I am many things…mom, employee, leader, friend, daughter, wife, sister, coach, chauffeur, move coordinator, photographer, writer…the list goes on and on. I am so used to being many things to many people that I failed to recognize when I hit my limit. The point where I needed to stop, assess the inventory, ditch what is unimportant, and request help for those things that are important but I can’t do alone.
In the last few weeks, I have been selectively delegating, outsourcing, saying “no”, delaying and otherwise clearing the decks of all but the things that are most important and need to be focused on now.
There are always new emergencies, new deadlines to meet and new problems to be solved. By clearing some space, I have room to effectively handle the unexpected, instead of the unexpected making my engine go into overdrive.
Take Care of Yourself Too
I think we all need to be more aware of how our engines are running. We all play many roles. We are expected to do more with less. Information pushes and demands pull at us from every corner. By increasing awareness of how our engines are handling all these inputs and demands, we can measure our need to slow down. To take a break. Or to ask for help.
It’s not easy. Admitting that we might need help or might not be able to be everything to everyone all the time. But if we keep piling it all on, without any consideration to our own well-being, that engine is eventually let us know the hard way.
Listen carefully and your engine will tell you what it needs.
Do you monitor how your engine is running? What tips can you share on getting it to “just right?” Please add your suggestions in the comments and keep the conversation going.