Sensory Processing Disorder

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Sensory Processing Disorder
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    Heidi Fischer

    Why Conventions Can Be a Healing Experience for Neurodivergent People

    Convention season has arrived, and I’ve come to a new realization. It now seems so incredibly obvious to me, but the truth is I didn’t see it until now. Conventions can be a healing experience for people who are neurodivergent.A group I include myself in. In case you aren’t familiar with the term neurodivergent, it falls under a large umbrella, something I’ve written about previously. Let me share how I arrived at this theory. For my fifth year running, I walk into my local entertainment expo, ready for a weekend of volunteering. I see the cosplay, the laughter, and the purchasing of artwork. Ah yes, I smile to myself, I am amongst my people. Friday night begins with a fellow volunteer spending 40 minutes excitedly informing me how critical it is that I one day visit Universal Studios during Halloween. We’ve never met before; it doesn’t matter.  He is fully immersed in sharing his experience, so much that I’m unsure when he has time to breathe. I don’t disagree, it sounds like it would indeed be awesome. Saturday, I volunteer at the photo ops booth. I chat with fans as they await their turn for a picture. I admire an attendee’s cosplay and enthusiasm. When I run into him later I ask to see his pictures. He does so happily,  proceeds to gift me a special rainbow Star Trek pin, and tells me how he started a 2SLGBT+ Star Trek scholarship. It’s all so awesome to hear about and I pop the pin on my backpack with a smile. On Sunday, I run into a friend. Over our overpriced colas, he tells me about some of his recent projects. He laughs and says how nice it is to not have to explain what the various Star Wars ships are that he’s talking about. I nod knowingly. Somewhere in the middle of those three days, it dawned on me that these conventions are a place of acceptance, kindness, and unapologetic nerdy joy… and that a good portion of folks who attend them are likely neurodivergent. I think about how in “the real world,” we are often teased or ignored when it comes to our enthusiasm for beloved fandoms and special interests. It’s common for the things we’re fans of to be seen as uncool when we’re kids and teens. As adults, in some circles, we may be scorned as being juvenile or weird. Here at conventions, our quirks are met with love and enthusiasm. A few weeks later, I headed to the Star Wars Celebration convention in Anaheim, and I made a note to myself to continue looking for proof of my new theory. The first thing I do is await a photo with Ewan McGregor (swoon). I immediately make a line buddy when a nice fellow mentions he likes my makeup. We chatter about Star Wars and swap convention tips for the 30 minutes or so we are in line. I feel like I have a new best friend. In that same line, I mumble something about how I didn’t get a lanyard. Within seconds I get a tap on the shoulder and the person behind me hands me an extra. Nice. Later over lunch, I sit at a table with some friends and folks we’ve just met. As we eat, we are given tips on every topic from the best strategies for a Disney trip to where to buy the best and most affordable fabric for costume creation. Other folks ask to see our photo op pictures and become a cheering section as to the pictures’ awesomeness. We feel great. I could share many more stories but I’ll leave it there. I know not all people at these conventions identify as neurodivergent, but the kindness and acceptance that is offered to all in attendance can mean a lot to those of us that are. These spaces aren’t perfect. They can also include things that are regularly challenging. There are large crowds, long waits, bright lights, confusing directions, accessibility issues, lots of noises, and more. I do find though that a lot of conventions are actively working on making improvements so the experience can be enjoyable for all. When it comes to convention time, I do love meeting celebrities. It’s fun to get photos with them or have little chats. What I also cherish though is the experience of being in this funny little cosmos that encourages gender-bending cosplay, jumping up and down over getting exclusive merch, and where you can be an all-out nerd without fear of ridicule. There is also a recognition and acceptance that even though we may not share the details, we have deep reasons why we love our particular thing. To me, that’s the very definition of healing.

    Community Voices

    Lately the stress in my life has been messing with my language abilities, more than usual. Mostly expressive, but of course, since I have developmental receptive language difficulties as well, that's affected too. It's reminded me (over and over again) that the basic, underlying , fundamental difficulties that have been with me all my life really haven't changed, even though I've got oodles more compensatory skills than I used to. Many of which I've been losing to various degrees, for varying lengths of time.

    I really don't have anyone in my life anymore who understands what it's like to struggle with language, to struggle with communication, to struggle even with the concepts that underlie these things. Much less the physical difficulties that present themselves periodically as well. (Movement disorder type things, which may or may not be partially diagnosed). #Apraxia #ApraxiaOfSpeech #VocalCordDysfunction #FocalDystonia #SensoryProcessingDisorder #SensoryIntegration

    I feel like such an alien sometimes... having difficulty understanding concepts other people (even children) take for granted, yet easily understanding and being able to do things other people find difficult, easily.

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    Community Voices

    Have you ever heard of a neurodiverse theatre company?

    <p>Have you ever heard of a neurodiverse theatre company?</p>
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    Community Voices
    Community Voices

    EPIC Players presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in NYC!

    <p>EPIC Players presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in NYC!</p>
    Community Voices

    Have you heard of the term “sensory defensiveness?”

    <p>Have you heard of the term “sensory defensiveness?”</p>
    12 people are talking about this
    Community Voices

    Neurodivergent fidgeting/stimming

    <p>Neurodivergent fidgeting/stimming</p>
    15 people are talking about this
    Community Voices

    What do your sensory needs look like?

    <p>What do your sensory needs look like?</p>
    14 people are talking about this

    How to Shop if You Get Sensory Overload When Shopping

    Going to the store, for many, is a necessary part of adult life, but when you live with sensory sensitivities due to neurodivergent conditions, it can become a bit more difficult and at times, a literal headache to endure. If you struggle with excursions to the market due to your sensory sensitivities, here are some general and basic tips that will hopefully come in handy the next day you have to run errands. 1. If you don’t already, wear earbuds. Noise protection earphones are a must . Personally, I love my AirPod Pros, because they are excellent at canceling outside noise, but I recognize those are expensive and there are earphones at half the cost that can do similar. Whether you are like me, and you use music to emotionally regulate, help with your cognitive processing, or you just want the option to not be bombarded with the constant and at times incessant sounds around you, earbuds help give you better control of your surroundings in the small way you can. 2. Time when you’re going (if you can). When stores first open, they tend to be less busy. Likewise for when they’re about to close (excluding holiday seasons). If you time it correctly, you may be able to shop at a time when the stores have fewer people, thus less foot traffic, noises, smells, sounds, you name it. Also, if you’re a first responder or in a certain age demographic, some stores have special hours specifically for you to shop! Look into your local markets because if it applies to you, you’d definitely want to take advantage of that. 3. Keep wearing masks. Yes, COVID-19 is still very real and we are very much still in a pandemic, but and also, there’s a certain peace and calm that comes with wearing masks. When you are neurodivergent, we can catch ourselves physically masking constantly. If half of your face is covered, guess what? That alleviates the need to control your face as much. Because I’m not so preoccupied with masking my facial expressions, I’m immediately not predispositioned to being incredibly overwhelmed. 4. Have a go-plan. I have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which means my attention span is minimal on a daily basis. Sometimes I tend to go into a store, and not actually leave with anything I need because I become so preoccupied with everything around me. Making a go-plan or a list (yeah, yeah, I know) helps drastically. Having a definite focus keeps my mind on the task at hand, and not on the BOGO sales that always inevitably catch my eye. 5. Order ahead and do curbside pick-up. If you can, ordering ahead is such a joy. If you’re able to just go on the store’s app, put in your purchase, and then pick up your purchase at guest services or while parked in a parking space, you can almost eliminate the need to go into the store, to begin with. That means you get to remain in the comfort of your own car, where you can control your environment (hopefully). 6. Bring your stimming toys. If stimming helps you, then make sure you bring whatever stimming toys that help bring you peace. There are wearable stim toys , toys that attach to your keys, small portable ones, etc., that way if you are stuck inside a store and sensory overwhelm isn’t being kind to you, you have a way to release that tension. 7. Find the “secret” cash registers. Obviously, there are the self-checkout and traditional check-out areas, right? However, in a lot of stores (especially Target), there are other check-out areas that aren’t advertised. If your brain seriously disagrees with standing in those long lines (like mine does), find the secret cash registers. Usually, they’ll be in an electronics, clothing, or produce section. Just know that you can’t always check everything out there (alcohol and medicine for example are usually no-nos). This helps you get in and out, without having to stand in what looks to be a long line. Now, are the lines ever really that long? No, but you know how our brains can be. Shopping can be stressful with the vast kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, smells, and textures around you, and depending on how your neurodivergence impacts you, these tips may help, or they may not. Navigating in a neurotypical world isn’t just hard at times, but it can also be draining, isolating, and can even lead to the feeling of being “othered.” Let this be a jump-off point for you to consider how you can accommodate and advocate for yourself in public shopping spaces, that way you can get done what you need to get done without having a downright horrible time.

    Community Voices

    Meme #2

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