Last August, we began to prepare for first grade. One of the largest errands on the list was clothes shopping. If you have read my previous post about shopping, you know that we don’t “go” school shopping in the same way that many of us did when we were younger. I tried the actual “trip to the mall” and despite my best efforts, I could not turn this outing into a family tradition. So instead, I shop online after my TBP’s asleep. We have found that we have the most success, when my son looks through pre-selected items and give them a “yes” or “no.” Athough not required, he usually has some explanation of why the item didn’t make the final cut. “It isn’t my style” or “It doesn’t look well-made” are just some of the editorial comments that have been shared during this process.
One item that we all agreed on, was a zip up the front sweatshirt (lined with furry material) and a comfy looking hood. We thought this would be perfect for school and great for the always changing weather. When the sweatshirt arrived, it was even better than promised. It was pulled out of the bag and we all immediately felt the inside and decided it was soft and wonderful.
Here’s where our plan fell apart…my TBP used the hood at school to shield himself from the outside world. A bit of an exaggeration perhaps but…he might as well have had “KEEP OUT” written on the top of the hood that he pulled tightly around his face. What we didn’t know at the time, was that this was his attempt to deal with the over-stimulation that he was feeling due to his sensory issues. The hood closed around him, could muffle sounds, and block out some of the movement that went on around him.
As you can imagine, the hood didn’t help him socially. He acted as though the barrier was so thick that it prevented him from being able to hear anyone talking. He used it to avoid his teacher’s requests. Pretty soon, the hood was uninvited to first grade. Being a teacher myself, I understand the challenges that the hood caused… but then we started to look at the bigger question…Why does he feel the need to block out light, sound, movement, and voices in the first place?
This sweatshirt experience was the starting point for understanding so much more about how our TBP lives in this world. For awhile, the hood was put away. Eventually, we replaced it with other things such as different materials that he could hold and “pinch” when he needed something to help calm his body. We also worked with the school to avoid some of the loudest activites such as school assemblies or the lunchroom.
Now that things are going SO much better, the hood could probably make an appearance without the same interference. I don’t regret this purchase. In fact, I attribute the issues with the hood as a way of getting us to research more about sensory issues and how to help our son. $40.00 is a pretty good price for that amount of knowledge!