The Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador is celebrating October as Autism Awareness Month. To do this, one of the things they’re arranging is a series of talks, incorporating subjects such as naturopathy, nutrition, etc. There’s only really one I’m interested in, however.
On Wednesday Oct. 30th, the Connections (Adult Aspies) Group is going to be having an “open house” (so to speak) panel; the topics are planned to include such things as sensory issues, anxiety, social issues, and available resources. At the moment, the plan is for 3-4 people to speak, and then have an “open floor” where questions can be asked.
The reason I’m particularly interested in this meeting is that I’m going to be one of the panelists speaking; my focus is going to be on sensory issues (with perhaps a bit of info re creativity and assuming competence thrown in). I essentially figure that if I want to be a self-advocate, I’ve got to start somewhere, and why not with something like this?
I have a basic plan of what I intend to say: intro to the fact that humans actually have seven senses, rather than just the five obvious ones; an explanation of proprioception and vestibular senses (to explain the sixth and seventh); and then an explanation of some of the issues that ASDers tend to run into when it comes to sensory issues – quick and succinct, but hopefully providing enough info that the parents (it’s likely to be parents, mostly, who attend) will understand a bit better what their children are going through. I intend to touch on hyper-sensitivity, hypo-sensitivity, the fact that one can have opposite reactions to different things in the same sense (I know someone on my blog circle, can’t remember who, loves spicy stuff but can’t tolerate the taste of mint), and hopefully mention a few potential coping strategies (including the fact that stimming is often a method of trying to cope with the overwhelming sensory influx that we live with). If there’s time (I’ll likely have maybe 15 minutes to talk), I also intend to mention the theories about how it’s possible that our impaired understanding of emotional and body language cues might actually be because of our sensory issues, rather than them being separate things that just happen to fall under the common umbrella of ASD symptoms, and also about the possibility that “emotional sense” is also a sensory input that we can end up overwhelmed by.
The thing is, I’d also like to provide some further sources for people to look into. I intend to have sheets to pass around with blog URLs, but if anyone has any blog posts specifically about sensory issues that they think might help educate people, and wouldn’t mind if I put those direct links on the sheet, could you please let me know? Also, if there’s anything that you think I should consider mentioning about sensory issues (whether I’ve listed it above or not), I would welcome your thoughts. There’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to include all of the suggestions (considering potential time constraints), but even just knowing what others think is important to mention could help.
Be careful when making your presentation. If you use words like “proprioception” and “vestibular”, people’s eyes will glaze over (sorry, that’s just the way it is). So I suggest just explaining “two other senses” in terms of what they are and being careful to keep it simple.
It will be easy to lose people if you start getting technical. People want to know about things like how bright lights can make it difficult or impossible to interact normally in a situation most people will think of as “relaxed and straightforward”.
So by all means explain how the sense of your own body interferes/affects how you can handle things… but be careful.
The other thing I would suggest, is to pare down how much you are going to talk about. There are going to be several people speaking and so you will have a limited amount of time for your presentation. Perhaps prepare to present the most important portion of what you want to present (based on being important to the audience versus being important to you) and have some additional notes/materials to use if you have time left over (or if the other speakers are too brief and leave a lot of time to be filled).
I commend you for being willing to stand up and talk about the issues you run into.
I think it’s pretty awesome that you’re willing to do this! And that’s not just self-advocacy, you’re advocating for an entire group of people!
I’ve written a sort of impressionist piece about my inability to filter out background noise, here: http://autisticook.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/silence-is-not-silent/ I don’t know if that would fit your idea but feel free to use it! Nattily over at Notesoncrazy has a thing about sensory meltdown which might be useful too: http://notesoncrazy.com/2013/08/spd-bs/ If I think of anything more I’ll make sure to post it here. Good luck!
(I agree with JRG, try to stay as practical, simple, and close to your own experience as possible, you can always provide some extra information about what proprioception and vestibular senses are during question time. And yes, rehearse or tape yourself speaking about your key points beforehand, to avoid becoming flustered by the time constraints. I often do that to prepare for meetings as well as public speaking, and it really works for me to keep my main talking points straight in my head. Hope you don’t mind this bit of unsolicited advice!).
Thank you, for commenting, for the links, and for the advice! Will certainly try to take it…. 🙂 (Yeah, my dad’s done presentations before, so he knows what he’s talking about.)