My husband and I have a term in our house – bounce back. Sounds strange I am sure but it is the time the kids take to “bounce back” to their normal selves after a sensory overwhelming activity / day(s). When my daughter was very little the bounce back could sometimes take her three days but as she has grown older and with the help of some wonderful Occupational Therapists the bounce back time has reduced drastically. Now as a general rule we try to allow one day a week as her bounce back day – for her that means a day when we are just at home, no outings, no visitors just the four of us.
But the bounce back period differs for different kids. And some activities which my one child might find very intense and overwhelming the other will not, so it can be a bit of a juggling act. But we have learnt that when either child asks for a bounce back day going out just does not end well. So we respect it.
However having said that we have also learnt that every now and again we need to stretch them. When we do stretch them I try to make sure my husband is around just in case I have misjudged it and not read the signals well.
The past eight days we stretched our sensory kids and they both blew us away with how well they coped (having said that we are at home today totally locked away). But this is what we did
Day 1 – Legoland
Day 2 – driving to 3 different castles
Day 3 – shopping and dance class and friends
Day 4 – Wisley gardens,
Day 5 – Beach day (very windy so massive sensory overload)
Day 6 – home, catching up on some learning activities, gardening
Day 7 – shopping at a busy town center
Day 8 – Trip into London using the dreaded underground
For my two that is a lot of sensory input over eight days. And the last day, a trip into London using the underground going to a busy noisy museum with strange lights which my daughter does not like was a big ask after a very busy week.
But here is the thing. If I had just relied on past experiences I would have vetoed the last day trip. The Underground in the past has been a big issue, the last 2 trips in have gone well but we did them when everyone was well rested and had not had a busy week. The last time we went to this particular museum she found the one hall every tough we actually ended up leaving without having finished the museum.
But she has been showing us time and time again that she is getting much better at managing the sensory overloads and her little brother is learning a lot from her in how to deal with his sensory life. So we tried it. And there were no sensory issues. The trip in was a nightmare because of signalling issues but the kids were fine. We arrived later than planned and had to stand and wait a fair bit. The museum was busy and noisy but she walked around the dreaded hall that has scared her last time. She even listerned to a talk and read the signs in the same hall that freaked her out just six months earlier. The trip back was long and we ended up taking extra trains and it was hot and muggy. Only by bedtime did the signs starts appearing. Both kids were exhausted however they still insisted on reading their animal encyclopedia (yes they are reading an encyclopedia – totally another post on its own). Our night was not the best, both kids were up during the night from sensory exhaustion. But for me after where we have been through in the past, managing the last eight days the way they did and then waking up last night is such a small thing.
We have learnt a few tricks of our own to help. Like driving in our car as opposed to using buses gived them time to unwind. Making sure my daughter has books to read in the car helps her a lot. Giving them activities while we are out – a map of the castle to use while we walk around, a leaf idial to match leaves too, a camera to use to take photographs. It helps when they have an activity to focus on. Lots of snacks. Giving the kids sunglasses to wear on the underground or in shops.
All those small bits help but the main thing is the kids are getting better at managing their sensory life. It has been through trial and error but pushing them sometimes and them knowing without a shadow of a doubt that when it gets too much we are there to help, they are getting more and more confident with how they manage their sensory life.
We pushed the idea of what the kids could cope with on a sensory level, we really pushed it the last eight days and they both managed. They proved to us and more importantly to themselves that they are getting better at managing sensory activities.