"I love you. And I love you. I love you all. It's not anyone's fault that Mummy is upset. It's because I'm autistic, and I've had to touch kiwi fruit and mandarines and the juice has got on my skin and now I'm really upset and my whole brain and body feels really yucky and tense and I can't think properly."
Me this morning at morning tea time.
My family know my sensory sensitivities. We all know each other's limits and strengths.
Mum can clean up bodily fluids and look at injuries and nothing about the human body bothers her (she studied Medical Science and wanted to become a surgeon but changed her mind).
Dad is incredible at finding solutions for situations that are so unexpected and unfamiliar. He thinks quick and is extremely innovative.
But Dad also HAS TO CUT UP THE FRUIT THAT'S TOO JUICY.
Today, Mum did it because her babies wanted mandarines and Dad was working.
"Mum, why don't you practise this so you get used to it and it isn't hard anymore?" says Miss 6 as I was closing my eyes, tensing up and gagging.
Sensory sensitivities aren't phobias or skills that we can build.
They're violent assaults on the autistic body that cause serious dysregulation and long lasting physical and emotional distress.
My response to the juice is that my entire system then goes into threat response and I react from the space of fight or flight to everything in my environment until I return to my centre again.
Music I was listening to had to be turned off.
Sweater off, t shirt on.
Jeans off, tracksuit pants on.
The need to have everything and everyone as far away as possible is a frenzied need I cannot escape and must comply with.
Because I'm parenting, I find ways to regulate.
I pace and engage in BIG STIMS.
I dance. BIG dance moves. Big, big movements - gross motor movements and find motor movements all in one.
My body becomes a machine that works in it's sacred and organic Neurodivergent way to protect and restore me.
Big hand flaps and flicks, clapping the inside of my hands together where the knuckles meet really hard and fast, singing loudly, rocking my body from side to side.
Inviting my children to sing with me so they know I'm okay.
We are all okay. This isn't distressing, it's as normal for us as putting a bandaid on a cut.
We understand one another because this is how we cultivate autistic identity and culture.
We talk through each moment so we never have to be secretly dysregulated and not okay.
There is no shame. Not ever.
And finally I return to my centre, until the next time someone wants a mandarine or I stand in something wet.
Toe walking, anyone?
Image Credit: Emma Bauso
(Image description: A photo a family, mum, dad and two children. They are outside, holding hands and walking together in a straight line, positioned one after the other.)
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