For children with sensory issues, sometimes the world can just be too much. It is too loud. Too bright. Too crowded. Too hot. There is too much sensory input to process and too little time to take in the assault on their senses. It can be easy to get caught up in the rush when you are out in the world, both for fun and for errands. There are times when things simply have to get done in a certain time frame, but there are others when it is okay to take a deep breath and go a little slower than usual.
My daughter is easily overwhelmed by crowds and by noise, but she still enjoys trips to the petting zoo or beaches or museums. I can’t change the world for her, as much as I would like to at times. I can’t keep her away from the world either, because there is just too much to experience. But we can take it slowly. We can experience the world at her own pace and her comfort level. I try to avoid the busiest times at her favorite places, but things don’t always go according to plan.
There is a local splash park that she loves to visit. It is zero immersion, sprawling, and colorful with all different types of sprayers. An amused attendant dubbed my daughter “the driest child here” when we had been there for over half an hour without her going under any of the sprayers. She loves water but doesn’t like the sensation of the water spraying on her. The water comes out too hard and too fast. It was also a very busy day. The parts of the splash park that she liked best were too crowded for her to be comfortable. While all the other kids and babies splashed and squealed under the jets of water, she skirted the edges and splashed her feet in puddles. They ran while she meandered. They were soaked while she was dry. But like the other kids, she was happy and having fun.
She wasn’t using the splash park the way she was “supposed to,” but she was enjoying it at her own pace and in her own way. On slower days, she goes deeper into the splash park. With fewer kids, there is less of a risk of her getting bumped into or splashed on. She is happy to go in the water on cooler days that keep the other kids away, and she never seems to feel the cold. She likes letting the gentler flow of the water in the water tables run over her fingers.
So we take things slowly and enjoy things the way we can. Planning ahead is helpful but can only do so much. When we have the time to dawdle, it helps to let her go slowly and explore the world in a way that doesn’t threaten and overwhelm her. The more we explore familiar places, the more comfortable she becomes the next time she returns. A little less uncertainty helps her in the future on those days when everything is just a little too much, and she needs to take it slow.