Friday, December 28, 2012

skiing with a sensory kid

 us.  on the condo's balcony.  in the morning before we drove home.

we had a truly lovely and fun time with jeremy's family in steamboat springs, colorado last week.  it was such a pleasure to see and spend time with everyone and it was a joy - sheer joy - to watch our boys learn how to ski.

the beautiful snowy view the condos on the other side of the pool and hot tub.

harrison and graham are both excellent skiers.  they both picked it up without any trouble at all.  it must run in their genes - from their dad, not from me.  harrison, especially, was such a pro.  before lunchtime his second day of ski school he was already parallel skiing and doing j-turns.  we were all so impressed with both boys - but just couldn't believe how much harrison was able to learn in such a short time.

this was very thrilling and heart-warming to me because the first morning we dropped the boys at ski school i walked back to the condo in tears.  i was deeply concerned for my sweet sensory boy.

 this was not even half of the gear that was typically strewn throughout the hallway.

winter sports typically involve dressing in three layers - the wicking layer goes on first, followed by the warm layer and, finally, the water/wind proof layer.  simple enough.  the tricky part is trying to put all those designed-to-keep-you-warm-in-zero-degree-weather-layers on while inside a toasty warm condo.  then walk in ski boots, while carrying skis, down to catch the shuttle (working up a little sweat), step up into the toasty warm shuttle and ride to the base of the mountain (getting sweatier), walk in ski boots from the shuttle drop-off to ski school registration, and, finally, continue to carry skis and helmets and goggles and mittens (really sweating up a storm now) to the kids vacation center where you will leave your bundled-up, excited children for the day.

before we even stepped out the condo door harrison was complaining that he was too hot.  before we even boarded the shuttle harrison was complaining that his hot chillys sleeves were bothering him.  before we even arrived at the kids vacation center harrison was complaining that his sock was crumpled up inside his boot.  harrison's excitement was waning, his smile was son was on a downward spiral of unhappiness.  i was worried. 

as we walked inside the ski school i noticed how crowded and loud and chaotic it was.  harrison doesn't like loud noises.  he does better in peaceful environments.  he has a hard time interacting when there are that many people around.  i was more worried. 

when i realized i would not get an opportunity to talk to their instructor, to say, "it will really help harrison if you let him know what to expect...", i became really very worried. 

i put on a brave face, kissed their foreheads and told them to have the time of their life.  then i walked out the door.  and the tears came quickly.

my overwhelming concern for harrison was compounded by feelings of guilt about the complete lack of concern i had for graham.  ha!  can't win either way, i guess.  jeremy hugged me and repeatedly told me "he'll be okay...they'll both be okay".

and of course he was right.  but it wasn't until four hours later that i was able to see it for myself.

 harrison in the blue helmet, graham in the green.  riding up the magic carpet.  their coach, dave, is walking up the hill.

after joining meme, papa, jeremy and his brother zach at the base of the mountain for lunch, we all headed over to the ski school area to watch the boys.  they had just gotten back from a gondola ride all the way up to the summit and back, made complete by getting to eat chocolate chip cookies while enjoying the view. 

 harrison skiing down the hill.

they were happy!  they were smiling!

then i watched in amazement as they rode up the magic carpet and skied down the bunny slope.  again and again and again.

 graham skiing down the hill.

they were having fun!

there were some sensory things i noticed about harrison: 
1) he had his coat completely unzipped.  maybe he was hot.  maybe the collar was bothering him.  maybe he was too distracted by other things to notice.  but when i asked him if he wanted me to zip it up he told me no. 
2) he did not want to wear his mittens.  my own fingers were painfully cold from taking photos without gloves on.  his fingers were bitterly cold to the touch and deep red, almost purple in color.  yet, when i implored him to put on his mittens he refused. 
3) he continually picked up snow from the ground and ate it.  he skied down the hill while eating snow.  he rode up the magic carpet while eating snow.  he ate chunks and chunks and chunks of snow.

 harrison riding up the magic carpet while eating snow.  this was just before his mittens started bothering him.

but ya know what, even with those three little things - things probably only his mother would notice - he was kicking the pants off the rest of the kids!  he had no trouble fitting in with his group.  he had no trouble listening to instructions and doing as he was told.  he certainly had no trouble skiing.  his instructor repeatedly praised him and his ability.  it was just as jeremy said it would be - he really was okay...both harrison and graham were!

 graham riding up the magic carpet.

after we made their ski school reservations i wondered...what if they don't like it?  what if we have to force them to go back to ski school the second day?  we've paid all this money...

turns out they both loved skiing.  that's an understatement.  they LOVED skiing!  they didn't want to stop skiing!  which delighted us all.

one thing jeremy and i have noticed since day two of our trip and since being home:
1) harrison has not been chewing on things.  this is big.  typically, that's one of the main ways harrison's sensory struggles present themselves (that's why he was eating all that snow on the first day of ski school).  at home we see him chewing on his shirt collar, chewing on his shirt sleeves, chewing on objects (toys, bottle caps, straws, blankets), chewing on snacks and gum.  apparently, his body seeks out that oral stimulation because it's calming for him.  simply put, chewing on things helps harrison's body organize and process the sensory input he receives.  and it gives him more sensory input.  you can click on this link to read more.  harrison would fall into the HYPOsensitive catergory. 

as our dear OT friend rachel ottley told us, that's why you might see adults who smoke, constantly chew gum, bite their nails, keep a toothpick in their mouth...lots of people have oral sensitivities.

what's interesting to me, though, is that harrison has not needed to chew on anything since our ski trip.  we are fully expecting to see this habit return.  and that will be okay.  but it helps me understand further just how connected everything is.  i'm assuming harrison's body received enough sensory input from all the extra activity he was doing while we were away that he just doesn't need to chew on things right now.  harrison did a ton of heavy lifting, everything from wearing all those extra ski clothes and heavy boots to carrying his skis and our luggage, pushing and pulling heavy doors...and he exercised his body so much including using a ton of balance to ski.

i can't wait to talk to harrison's therapists about this.  it gives me hope for the future!

No comments: