We ran out of apples two days ago.
Two. Days. Ago.
I should know better.
I have learned that Conor is a sensory seeker and a sensory avoider (yes, you can be both). While he can get completely overwhelmed in loud, crowded, unfamiliar places, he does great in places that are part of his routine. In some situations, even in familiar places, he seeks out sensory input to help calm himself down.
Input is a new word I learned last year (or an old word with a new meaning, rather). Sensory input can be anything from loud noises to tight squeezes — really anything related to our five senses. Conor craves oral input. He stuffs his blanket in his mouth, hums to feel the vibration on his tongue, cheeks, and throat, chews on his shirt collars and sleeves, and eats 2-4 apples a day. That last point is important because if you recall from above, we ran out of apples two days ago.
Apples, we discovered, provide the perfect input to satisfy Conor’s sensory seeking needs. They are cold and crisp, tangy and sweet, and crunch loudly as you bite into them. He has a skill when it comes to eating every bit possible and I’m amazed by the perfectly cleaned core that he hands me when he is done.
Conor asked for an apple last night and had a sensory meltdown because we didn’t have any. While a sensory meltdown looks a lot like a tantrum, it is actually quite different and can be really hard to control for someone with a sensory processing disorder. A sensory meltdown happens when there is too much sensory information for the brain to process. When this happens, Conor seeks oral input to help himself regulate. He knew what he needed and we didn’t have it, so the over-stimulation triggered his anxiety and his brain overflowed in the form of screaming, kicking, throwing, and hitting.
While I feel like a horrible parent for not having something as simple as an apple on hand, I realize that it is important to continue to identify when Conor is overstimulated and help him work through his anxiety in multiple ways. Some other tools that we have found helpful are: swings, a weighted blanket at night, fruit snacks (and other sticky, chewy candies), tight squeezes, and swimming. If you think about it, swimming is the perfect activity for a sensory seeker. When you sit in a pool or bath the water applies a form of constant pressure all over your body. For Conor, there is no better feeling.
Except maybe biting into an apple.