The more I write about stories of my life growing up with Rob, the more I remember and the more I realise how similar my brother and I are. Our tastes in foods, books, TV, colours; our cheeky personalities. But something big I've only recently thought about is how we both are sensitive to various sensory experiences.
Here's a graph of Rob and my heightened senses:
You may notice that my two main senses are vision and touch, whereas Rob has all his senses turned up full blast (except for smell, but really I just can't know what his sense of smell is like). In this post I will mostly be talking about sound and touch (as they are the senses I relate to my bro) and I will only 'touch' on the other senses.
Rob has always been sensitive to sound, more specifically other people's sound. It's one sense he can get rid of fairly easily, by blocking his ears with his fingers, which is why most photos of Rob look like this:
I know how overwhelming situations (particularly social ones) can be and I often feel like holding my hands over my ears so I can focus and hear myself think. Unfortunately, not having ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), I was expected to not cover my ears when talking to people. I was always a little bit jealous of Rob being able to skip a few of the social niceties that I found pretty tough being a shy kid who liked reading and drawing.
Just because he didn't like other people making noise around him doesn't mean he didn't like making noise himself. Whenever he watched a video he yelled with excitement at the TV screen (I do a pret-ty goooood impression). The same was true when he played on the hammock swings: screams of delight would emanate from the backyard as he swung higher and higher. He never once hurt himself on the swings and it was really quite amazing the kind of acrobatic feats he could achieve on the swings.
Of course, the moment other people came to catch him, he would stop and his fingers would go straight into his ears.
Both Rob and I find material and the touch and feel of things important. Rob loved his bright pink body tube and would play in it and wear it (in and out of the house).
He also loves to be covered in pillows or mattresses and being squished, absolutely loving a big ol' bear hug. He doesn't, however, like being lightly touched or tickled.
One of Rob's favourite 'words' was 'tickle'. However, Rob had a very different point of view of what 'tickle' meant. Instead of lightly touching your fingers on his belly or the bottom of his feet, he would get you to almost stab him with your fingers; he thought it was hilarious. Unfortunately for me, this meant that I never really learnt how most people tickle and when I got older and started tickle-flirting with boys, their appendixes were in for a rude shock.
At school Rob would have his sensory room (at home we called it his playroom) where he could go when everyone else was a little too much for him. When photos like the one below came home with Rob in his visual school diary, I would get super jealous that at school he got to spend so much time in comfy pillow-filled rooms. I wanted to have autism so I didn't have to sit at my school desk all day.
On my account, I was more of a safety blanket babe -- always dragging around my current blanket of choice (I had many as I would wear through them so quickly from always having them). It all came down to the feel between my fingers, softness on my face and the smell.
My favourite thing to do with my safety blanket was to rub it on my cheek, Linus from Peanuts style (it calmed me down when I was nervous), and between my fingers, again giving a calm feel. I still rub lots of materials between my fingers and most of my t-shirts are bought if they pass the between the finger rub test. Often on my bus ride home after a tough day at work, while listening to my jams, I will feel a corner of my leather satchel between my fingers.
I also used to roll those cheap chalky lollipops around my lips before I ate them; I'm not sure why, but I still do it whenever I eat one of those lollipops.
As I grew older, I didn't always have my safety blanket at my side (I still like to have it near my bedside at night to help calm my overactive mind into sleep) but I did upgrade to the larger knee rugs and quilts. The more layers, the better, in my opinion. Covering my eyes so I don't have anywhere to look helps me calm down too. Sure, I could just shut my eyes, but physically covering them with something just gives you that extra level of sensory dulling.
It can be hard not knowing what will overstimulate and stress Rob out. Both of us find solace in surrounding ourselves in pillows and blankets or dulling our overactive senses. But where I have some control over my reactions to stimulating events, Rob has very little control. Of this, I am not jealous.
Whatever our sense sensitivities though, we both loved cuddles in bed with Mum.
See you next time. xx