Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Super Memory

I know that it is easy to focus on some of the more challenging behaviors that come with sensory processing disorder. But I wanted to focus on one of the positives. Ryan has an extremely good memory. I am not talking about a typical good memory but something better. Ryan remembers events that happened several years ago. And not just vague recollections but he remembers the tiny details. The first time I realized how strong his memory skills were was when he was 4 years old. We were playing with his toy metal airplanes around the living room. I grabbed one of the planes and made it do flips in the air making an awesome plane engine noise. Ryan smiled and keep saying "hot dog". At first it took me while to realize he was saying hot dog and then it took me probably 2 or 3 minutes to make the connection.
I remembered that a year (yes it was a full year before, well 11 months to be exact) we had gone to an air show and while we were there we bought a hot dog at a food stand. I stopped mid flip in the air and just stared at Ryan. How could he remember that? I looked at him and I said "air show?". He looked at me and said "yeah, air show".
Now that I am more aware of how Ryan's mind works I know that the air show was a new event for Ryan which means he was probably more likely to remember it. Also eating is a major thing for Ryan and a big concern so it is something he would pay more attention to then most kids. But I was still surprised.
Ryan says stuff all the time that demonstrates his good memory skills. Most of these involve new or scary events for Ryan that involve a major sensory challenge. Just this week he was recounting for me who came with us to our first visit to Chuckie Cheese which happened 3 years ago. We have never discussed who was there since the event with him. 
One of my favorite memory story is when Ryan told his Dad how to get to his favorite park from the backseat of the car when Daddy was lost. He did not know the names of the street but he was able to tell Daddy when to turn and which way. His memory for directions was noticed before he could even say right or left and he would point with his fingers which way to turn. Even though I know Ryan has an excellent memory it still amazes me.
Typically with his school work Ryan will take a little bit longer to learn the material but once he has the material he remembers it for life. I think that Ryan's memory skills are going to come into handy for him throughout his life. He also would not have this skill if it was not for his "disorder".

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Dreaded T word

For Ryan all transitions are difficult. Transitions include changing of settings or activities and also the big life changing events that happen in your life. Because all new sensory information is a lot for Ryan to take in he likes things to remain the same, to stay the status quo. Unfortunately for Ryan he has had a ton of change in his short life, more change then most adults deal with. Despite his difficulties with transition and change Ryan has been forced to deal with it straight on. Since Ryan was born we have moved a total of six times, that is one more move then the amount of years Ryan has been on this Earth. Some of the moves were minor but most of them were major moves. From Germany to California. From California to Massachusetts. And from Massachusetts back to California. We have lived with extended family and by ourselves. Each move has brought many changes for Ryan, new schools, new roommates, new rules, new friends, and even new places to eat. As his mother, I have always felt guilty that we were not able to provide a more stable beginning for Ryan's life. Hopefully the rest of his childhood will involve less change.
Besides moves there has been an addition to the family, a little sister. And of course there are the more trivial transitions that Ryan has had to deal with like going from school to home, or from playing to going to bed. Each transition brings its own set of struggles for Ryan.
I have found that Ryan responds to most transitions by crying through it. He will cry and do something intentionally until I put him in time out. After time out he is happy and can go on with his day. As he is older now we only see this behavior with the big transitions. But when he was younger he used to do it several times a day. The best visual example I have of this was when Ryan was attending preschool. We literally lived right across the street from Ryan's school so I would walk him across and walk him back. On several days when he was having a hard time with the transition of coming back home he would just collapse on the sidewalk the minute we were out of the blacktop. It was like he would melt in slow motion. He would come home and start screaming and then throw something until I put him in time out. He would then sit in time out and then he would be fine for the rest of the afternoon in the house. I am not sure how Ryan began to associate time out as his transition tool. It probably started because he would become upset over the transition so inevitably he would end up there and he started to use it to calm himself down. One day I was busy and could not put him in time out right away. So he continued to throw things, even though he had stopped crying, until I put him in time out. It was like he needed it to handle the transition.
As a said he does a similar pattern even now. We are in the middle of a big move right now (surprise surprise). We have purchased a home in California but are only living there on the weekends. During the week we are living with relatives. So this is a huge transition for Ryan. On the weekend living in a different house in a different city is a lot for Ryan to handle.  Just this last weekend Ryan cried the entire drive back to the house for the work week. He cried himself to sleep in the car and when he woke up he was fine again.
As his mother it is hard to watch. I felt like crying with Ryan this week as I was watching him try to handle his life full of change. As I said, I wish that life was not so full of change for him but often change is unavoidable. I wish that Ryan could work on his transition skills in small doses instead of the gigantic changes he is forced to deal with on an everyday basis. I can only hope that it will make him stronger as he gets older. As I watch him get upset I feel like I am watching my son fall apart and I wish I could hug him tightly and help him keep it together. Unfortunately it is something Ryan has to work out on his own.