CPRI Brake Shop clinic: Sensory
- What do we do about sensory issues?
- How does a PDD affect behaviour? Why do these children often blame others for their mistakes, and blow things out of proportion?
- What’s the difference between “leaky brake” disorders and a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) like Asperger Syndrome?
1. What do we do about sensory issues?
A number of ideas (more are contained in our clinic handout, “Putting the Brakes on Sensory Defensiveness”) were shared, including the value of prewarnings (e.g. giving cues as to when he can expect a loud noise), a ‘sensory diet’ (e.g. providing earplugs in situations that will be overstimulating), and appropriate accommodations (e.g. a shorter period of time in gym class). Adults working with these youth should also be advised that one way individuals with sensory hypersensitivities tend to cope is to ‘drown out’ the environmental stimulation with their own. This serves a similar function as ‘white noise’ does for others – it masks distractions and can help to calm an individual.
2. How does a PDD affect behaviour? Why do these children often blame others for their mistakes, and blow things out of proportion?
Social skills such as reading someone else’s expressions are customarily learned through observing the interactions of others. Moreover, being watchful and present in a situation (i.e. directing one’s focus externally) can give you ‘clues’ about how to act, and what people are thinking or want you to do.
Individuals with PDD have ‘roadblocks’ in their ability to read other people’s nonverbal communication (e.g. body posture), or to recognize the signals they themselves may be sending to others. These individuals live in a very concrete, literal word. Because of this, individuals with PDD may miss many signals that something they are doing is inappropriate. The signals they send back, without any realization that a problem is brewing, may be interpreted as volitional responses by others, which only further confuses the situation.
All of this can ultimately culminate into verbal confrontations – which may actually be the first clue the individual with PDD has that anything is even amiss! From their perspective, all was well until suddenly they were “broadsided” by this “mean” person.
Hence, it is easy to see why an individual with PDD can quickly become paranoid – because they ‘miss’ all of the build-up to these sorts of confrontations, they may begin to feel ‘targeted’ and unfairly blamed for things they have only a vague grasp of. When they claim no responsibility and say that it is actually this OTHER person’s fault/issue, then, it is not a sneaky attempt to shift blame – these are actually the ‘facts’ as they see them.
By asking instead, “[Johnny], do you realize…” and making the explicit link between behaviour “A” and consequence “B” in a non-judgemental, non-condescending and informative way, this may help to clarify when actions are borne of unawareness rather than purposeful choice. And once the child ‘gets it’, you may even begin to see the kinds of responses and demonstrations of accountability that you were hoping for.
Tell other involved adults to treat these children as if they were Martians who just landed on earth and know nothing of human customs and interactions – this will help those around your child to adopt a non-assuming (and therefore more helpful) approach with them.
3. What’s the difference between “leaky brake” disorders and a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) like Asperger Syndrome?
While there is no doubt that individuals with PDD share many characteristics of individuals with ‘leaky brake’ disorders like TS, ADHD, OCD, fine motor problems, and sensory processing dysfunctions, even more is involved in a PDD.
For example, while social problems exist for both ‘leaky brake’ disorders and PDD, those with PDD may be completely oblivious of the perspectives of others, and showing no interest in any peer interaction at all. They may engage in ‘parallel play’ (playing alone amidst other children), avoid eye-contact, and make no efforts to engage with, respond to, or otherwise look to include others.
Those with ‘leaky brakes’ likely make social efforts and want friends – it’s just that these efforts may be unsuccessful for various reasons.
Also, those with Asperger Syndrome or autism must have at least one extreme, specific, narrow interest or repetitive, stereotyped ‘odd’ activity that consumes them (e.g. reptiles, operas) and interferes with their functioning due to their intense preoccupation with it.
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