Sensory Heavy Work

by Eileen Parker on January 8, 2015

LA Fitness

I joined a gym back in October, not to look like Arnold Schwartzenegger, but to relax.  I can get quite wound up so anxiety and confusion ensue, which at work can be a huge problem.  In the occupational therapy world of sensory processing, “heavy work” helps me feel grounded, relaxed, and orderly in the mind.

I found this article online by PsychMamma:

In therapist lingo, “heavy work” refers to proprioceptive input. The definition of proprioceptive is “the awareness of posture, movement, and changes in equilibrium and the knowledge of position, weight, and resistance of objects as they relate to the body.” Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder sometimes seek out proprioceptive input when they are looking for a way to calm and organize their nervous system. They may seem disruptive, full of excessive energy, or even unsafe. They might purposefully crash into things (or you), jump off of things, or seem in constant motion. Jenna seems to alternate between “sensory seeking” days and “sensory avoidant” days. When she’s sensory seeking, one of my first clues is that she purposefully bumps or crashes into me (or walls & furniture). I thought I’d share with you a list of suggested “heavy work” activities that our therapist provided to us, along with some of my own additions of what we’ve found that works.

When I am really stressed, I go to the gym and work the weights with the heaviest I can stand.  One of my favorites is the leg press, which mentally  feels the most gratifying and relaxing.

I received a newsletter from the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM–gotta love that acronym).  One of the paragraphs was an upcoming class for children with autism:

Learn the structure, visual strategies and protocol to implement an effective exercise program for individuals with autism and other learning differences. Discover exercises and routines that immediately can be implemented in your home, center or classroom. Be ready to move, and you will leave with tools to transform lives!

Here is a video from the presenter:

Okay, to give a nod to New Year’s exercise resolutions, you will likely lose weight, build muscle, and increase your endurance, because when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you look great.  There’s nothing like the glow of good health.

Like the Salt n Pepa sang, Push it.  Push it real good.

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Autistic Christmas and Other Holidays

by Eileen Parker on December 20, 2014



Note:  We do Christmas at our house, so I am focusing on what I know, not other holidays at this time of year.

Search the internet for five seconds and you will find plenty of posts about how difficult Christmas is for the autistic child and the parents.  People visiting, different food, Christmas songs on Pandora, parents (sigh, almost always the mother) super busy doing things the child is not used to and many more things that upset a child’s world.

But, I’m not a child.  I am an autistic adult with the same concerns.

Therein is the problem.  Understanding family members who are not usually frequent visitors will forgive the behavior of an autistic child.  When adults do similar behavior, albeit toned down over the years, people have less or zero empathy.  It goes like this:  Child has problems with Christmas, poor thing.  Adult has problem with Christmas, what’s your problem?  It’s good to keep in mind that generally people don’t want to be understanding with adults.

I have been found to be:

  • Stand-offish
  • Talk too much
  • Since I’m female, not helping with cooking and dishes (I should know that I’m supposed to do this with glee–female bonding and all that)
  • Wandering off somewhere
  • Not saying the right thing socially
  • When I was younger, being angry with others who snub me
  • Over-stimulated, so I retreat somewhere to the porch, or another alone place
  • Sick to my stomach that I HAD to go to someone’s house for Boxing Day, or worse, Christmas dinner at my house

The Good News

It gets better!  Seriously.

If I’m at Granny’s for Boxing Day dinner, and if I wander off, my family totally understands.  Not even understanding, they treat me that I’m just me, and no thought is given to any oddness, because that’s just me, and they like me that way.  With their unconditional understanding and love, I feel free to be a part of the conversation or just sitting that the table eating and listening to everyone else, that is totally okay with them.  I’m not a kid anymore, so I have learned how to feel to be part of the family.

That’s the thing.  I have learned.

I have been a part of a lot of Christmases by now, so I know what to expect from who will be there and what to talk about with them, to what food will be served.  It’s always the same special dishes, hence the term, “comfort food.”

My Advice

If you have an autistic child, make it EXACTLY the same every year.  The same food, the same decorations, the same people, the same time to open presents, the same time for Christmas breakfast, and so on.

The do nots are:

  • Don’t be helicopter parents telling them how to open presents.
  • Don’t rush them on opening presents.  I like to open them exactly the way I want on my time frame.
  • Don’t let siblings or you “touch their stuff.”  It’s a joy to revel in a new toy, so let them.  Do not use the term “let me see what you got,” because every autistic kids knows, it’s really “I’m going to touch your stuff when you don’t want me to.”
  • Don’t push them to talk to Uncle-So-and-So.  Let them watch, or even if they don’t want to watch, they can be focusing on the intricacies of one toy, and they hear everything.


  • Tell them what to expect in explicit terms, so they don’t feel blind-sided, which can be super “upsetting.”  For me, that means waning to flee if things happen that I didn’t know would happen.
  • Ask what are their favorite foods for Christmas.  They may not say anything, so telling them what to expect food-wise goes a long way.
  • My mum is a fan of tradition, so she made Christmas a known comfort, not a freak-out feeling.
  • Let the child participate in their own way.  Listening might be the only way.  Think of it as parallel play.

Merry Christmas!

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No Eye Contact Needed on Facebook

by Eileen Parker on September 28, 2014

No eye contact required!

 Eye Contact & Autism


How do I socialize?  The easy way is to ignore it, and go on lonely and not knowing why.  I wanted human contact in short doses, usually with my neighbors, so I could feel like I belonged, but their social skills easily surpassed my own with seemingly no effort.  I knew I wasn’t good at it, and I would screw up in situations.

I thought, “Maybe I am not that likable.”

As the years have passed, people told me how nice I am, thoughtful I am, and decent I am.  But, that’s after years of being autistic.

Then Facebook came along, and with it our autistic voices…and yes, it requires no eye contact.  We can be with people like us.  We can  talk with each other.  And, we belong with each other.

Most of the time, I read posts, but do not often post myself.  I don’t know what to say.

I imagine for young people, Facebook and other forums will help them to socialize from a much younger age.  For autistics who do not speak verbally, some can speak with their computer.  It is totally different for each person with autism, but the forum is there for any way they want to engage.

Writing note:  Sorry, but I played with groups of three.  :-)

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by Eileen Parker on February 20, 2014

Autism Hyper Focus

Go The 2014 Olympic Autism Team!

The intense determination and discipline required for an Olympian is all so common in the autism world.  Intense is relaxing, beautiful, and soft.  It’s like reveling in the sweetness in the flower-scented avenues of our brains.

With Olympians, we see and hear about discipline and all the sweat and tears that are their lives.  If you’re autistic and hyper-focusing, determination isn’t necessary because for us, it’s our love; we don’t want to stop, we don’t want to go to bed quite yet, we don’t want to answer the phone, and we don’t want to talk.

Heck, Olympians are lauded for their intense focus and all accommodations are made for their training.  So, while we are focusing, can we receive accommodations for our endeavor?  Of course you will.

I have read here and there that autism is an evolutionary leap forward.  When it comes to focus, sure.  It’s a gold medal for us every day–one that isn’t on NBC Olympic coverage.

But “accommodations” and “need” is an attitude or a reality that I don’t care for because I don’t want to feel like I’m not good enough, that I need help because I’m not okay the way I am.  On the other hand, I don’t want to be painted in the stereotype of an “autistic prodigy.”  That feels condescending.

I’m okay just as I am–like the every day Olympian in your life.  I hope I can inspire you to find focus in your life, unless you are already an Olympian to be a role model for me.

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