Sensory Issues: When Things are Too Loud, Too Scratchy...and more

Do you have sensory issues? A surprising number of people with ADHD also suffer from hypersensitivity and sensory issues. What bothers you? Have you found ways to work around them?

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One of my special interests is sensory issues with ADHD. I will be writing more about that in my blogs and here. But feel free to share your experiences with being sensitive to: sound, fabrics, touch, visual clutter, etc. Lots of adults with ADHD still hate having foods touching on their plates; it's not just a "kid" thing!
Hi Terry,
I personally do not suffer from ADD/ADHD, but have noticed I have developed a mild form of OCD, but my concern is for my 7yr old daughter who recently was diagnosed with ADHD. I knew from her birth something was different about my baby girl because she would stay up till 3-4 am crying and wanting me to cuddle her, she would react differently/negatively to collars and frills, onesies with footsies, thick materials, infact I noticed she liked and was the happiest when she wore this one particular onsie that seemed softer than the rest. Now that she is 7 it has come to the point of her wearing dirty panties, dirty shorts, big t-shirts such as her daddy's t-shirts, no socks because of seams and or small lint ball inside sock, etc , rarely wears tennis shoes because they hurt, shirts and pants all have to either be tagless when bought or tags cut out after being bought and loose. Shopping is a disaster and extremely exahusting for my husband and I and for her as well.
School last year (1st grade) was really difficult I can not begin to count the many absent and tardies all due to clothing sensitivities!!! I can't also begin to tell you the amount of money we have literally wasted due to them fitting/felling good one day and then hurting/irritating our daughter the next. Thankfully though, she has a 4yr old sister that we are able to save the unwanted clothing for the past 3 years for her to wear:)
She also has senstitivites to brushing her teeth, hair, sometimes baths, etc...anything that involves hygeine is a battle for our daughter because everything "hurts":(
Together as a family we have shed many tears, yelled quite often, given up, thrown our hands up in the air, collapsed alone in tears in dressing/fitting rooms, etc...all because of not understanding what our daughter was feeling and trying to explain to us!!!
We also try to avoid loud and or bright places because of her reactions to the stimuli-they hurt her! So many other things....
Anyway, I have bought books, done so much research and finally stumbled on "sensory integration" which describes my daughter perfectly. I have mentioned the sensitivies to clothing, lights, and sounds to my daughter's pyschologist and he has suggested we put our daughter on Omega 3s and Attention supplements for her ADHD but I am hoping they will also calm my daughter's sensitivities. But now I am intrigued after reading about Occupational Therapists and how they can possibly help. We have also started her on Melatonin to help her sleep at night because her brain is constantly going she can not fall asleep along with feeling hot in a very cold room, pillow has to be flipped for coldness constantly, covers itch her legs, etc...it has really helped her and us.
I know that our daughter may never outgrow or "get rid" of her ADHD and or sensory integration dysfunction, but it feels reasuring to learn/read that our daughter is not alone- even if you are an adult. It will most likely help us to hear about this sensitivity from adults to better understand how to cope and help our daughter cope. I just wish to find a clothing store catering to children with high senstivity to clothing-it would make life so much more easier for her and us!
I have noticed our youngest daughter who just turned 4, likes her food to not touch on her plate infact, she has to have a fork for each item on her plate and if one fork meant for a certain food item touches a different food item she reacts big time by either not wanting to finish eating or throwing the fork down or simply getting another clean fork each item and starting all over again! Don't know if this is the beginning of her showing signs of sensory integration, but we are learning to cope with it.
Thank you for starting this discussion and I look forward to reading your blog:)
Hi Destiny and welcome to my site.

Your daughter sounds a lot like me at that age, so I can relate. I know I made my mother miserable, but in those days, no one knew about ADHD or sensory issues. Luckily, YOU are learning how to best help your daughter and have an understanding that she cannot help the way she is wired.

I've written a few blogs on this topic: http://www.momswithadd.com/profiles/blogs/adhd-and-hypersensitivities and http://www.momswithadd.com/profiles/blogs/when-even-socks-can-put-you .

I can't speak for the supplements you are trying, as there isn't a whole lot of research on that, but I know that many with ADHD find their hypersensitivities improve when taking specific meds for their ADHD. Not that it goes away, but it helps.

I also have chosen many products to help kids and adults manage their ADHD and some are sensory items (see Store link, above).

There are probably many many other things that are bothering her that she can't yet express, ie sounds, visual over-stimuli, etc. I think you're on the right track, though- acknowledge her discomfort and pain and brainstorm on ways to help her tolerate them better.

Have you read the book "Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World?". It's also in my store, under books. It's quite an eye opener. There are a few more specifically geared towards kids. If you need titles, let me know.

In the meantime, more and more OTs are understanding sensory defensiveness and I would recommend you take your daughter for sensory treatment. It might help her a great deal!

Terry
Hi Terry,
I am so glad to read that you responded to my reply. We have noticed the noise factor which ranges from certain things such as a full movie theater with loud bursts of laughter or the movies itself are "too loud", but most of all it was during her 1st grade when she started coming home complaining of headaches because the lunchroom was too loud at 10:30am but didn't get out of school till 2:25pm or the room of 12 students she shared with were giving her headaches. Lots of people talking at once triggers her headaches, irritability, and meltdowns.She also startles easily, just the other day while shopping a clerk threw a pair of jeans over the fitting room door and the hanger barely slapped the door. This didn't even create a reaction out of my 4 yr old, but my 7 yr old immediately clasped her ears and started crying that it was too loud and hurt her ears.
It's such a relief to learn she's not alone and I am looking forward to reading your blogs, checking out your links, and purchasing the book you mentioned!
I at least have a path to follow to know where to look for coping solutions:)
Thank you again Terry!
Sincerely,
Destiny

Terry Matlen said:
Hi Destiny and welcome to my site.

Your daughter sounds a lot like me at that age, so I can relate. I know I made my mother miserable, but in those days, no one knew about ADHD or sensory issues. Luckily, YOU are learning how to best help your daughter and have an understanding that she cannot help the way she is wired.

I've written a few blogs on this topic: http://www.momswithadd.com/profiles/blogs/adhd-and-hypersensitivities and http://www.momswithadd.com/profiles/blogs/when-even-socks-can-put-you .

I can't speak for the supplements you are trying, as there isn't a whole lot of research on that, but I know that many with ADHD find their hypersensitivities improve when taking specific meds for their ADHD. Not that it goes away, but it helps.

I also have chosen many products to help kids and adults manage their ADHD and some are sensory items (see Store link, above).

There are probably many many other things that are bothering her that she can't yet express, ie sounds, visual over-stimuli, etc. I think you're on the right track, though- acknowledge her discomfort and pain and brainstorm on ways to help her tolerate them better.

Have you read the book "Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World?". It's also in my store, under books. It's quite an eye opener. There are a few more specifically geared towards kids. If you need titles, let me know.

In the meantime, more and more OTs are understanding sensory defensiveness and I would recommend you take your daughter for sensory treatment. It might help her a great deal!

Terry
Hi,

Poor kid! Can you imagine how it feels to be so tightly wound up, neurologically? I would definately look into sensory intergration via an OT for her.
My daughter takes an iPod with HUGE headphones everywhere she goes so she can block out noises while listening to her music. It helps her a lot. She doesn't have the startle respone (but I do), thankfully, but she can have a meltdown in seconds if there's too much going on sensory-wise.

You're on top of things, so I know you'll figure this out for her!
Terry

Destiny Coryn Brooks said:
Hi Terry,
I am so glad to read that you responded to my reply. We have noticed the noise factor which ranges from certain things such as a full movie theater with loud bursts of laughter or the movies itself are "too loud", but most of all it was during her 1st grade when she started coming home complaining of headaches because the lunchroom was too loud at 10:30am but didn't get out of school till 2:25pm or the room of 12 students she shared with were giving her headaches. Lots of people talking at once triggers her headaches, irritability, and meltdowns.She also startles easily, just the other day while shopping a clerk threw a pair of jeans over the fitting room door and the hanger barely slapped the door. This didn't even create a reaction out of my 4 yr old, but my 7 yr old immediately clasped her ears and started crying that it was too loud and hurt her ears.
It's such a relief to learn she's not alone and I am looking forward to reading your blogs, checking out your links, and purchasing the book you mentioned!
I at least have a path to follow to know where to look for coping solutions:)
Thank you again Terry!
Sincerely,
Destiny

Terry Matlen said:
Hi Destiny and welcome to my site.

Your daughter sounds a lot like me at that age, so I can relate. I know I made my mother miserable, but in those days, no one knew about ADHD or sensory issues. Luckily, YOU are learning how to best help your daughter and have an understanding that she cannot help the way she is wired.

I've written a few blogs on this topic: http://www.momswithadd.com/profiles/blogs/adhd-and-hypersensitivities and http://www.momswithadd.com/profiles/blogs/when-even-socks-can-put-you .

I can't speak for the supplements you are trying, as there isn't a whole lot of research on that, but I know that many with ADHD find their hypersensitivities improve when taking specific meds for their ADHD. Not that it goes away, but it helps.

I also have chosen many products to help kids and adults manage their ADHD and some are sensory items (see Store link, above).

There are probably many many other things that are bothering her that she can't yet express, ie sounds, visual over-stimuli, etc. I think you're on the right track, though- acknowledge her discomfort and pain and brainstorm on ways to help her tolerate them better.

Have you read the book "Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World?". It's also in my store, under books. It's quite an eye opener. There are a few more specifically geared towards kids. If you need titles, let me know.

In the meantime, more and more OTs are understanding sensory defensiveness and I would recommend you take your daughter for sensory treatment. It might help her a great deal!

Terry
I have the opposite problem...I notice nothing! My husband and I have been reconverting a bedroom into a sort of game room. He told me that he put in a new DVD player. I was so busy admiring the dvd player that I did not notice at all that he had removed 2 huge bookshelves and hung all kinds of pictures on the wall. He had to point them out to me. I must say being oblivious does have it's advantages. :)

If I'm staring at my computer I don't hear anything...phone, spouse, daughter trying to get my attention for the umpteenth time...

~Linda
Hi Linda,

That's not uncommon, either! I'm not sure it's sensory related; it sounds more like inattention and hyperfocus.
I have a friend who has a great story she loves to tell. She had gone to church like she normally does each Sunday and couldn't understand what all the commotion was about before the service began. Apparently, there was a HUGE tractor sitting on the front lawn of the church, practically blocking the doorway. She was oblivious- hadn't noticed a thing out of place. : )

Linda W said:
I have the opposite problem...I notice nothing! My husband and I have been reconverting a bedroom into a sort of game room. He told me that he put in a new DVD player. I was so busy admiring the dvd player that I did not notice at all that he had removed 2 huge bookshelves and hung all kinds of pictures on the wall. He had to point them out to me. I must say being oblivious does have it's advantages. :)

If I'm staring at my computer I don't hear anything...phone, spouse, daughter trying to get my attention for the umpteenth time...

~Linda
I myself have sensory issues. Some clothes, especially tight turtlenecks, make me feel like I am choking to death. Some sounds, quite frankly, make me want to kill people. It doesn't depend on how loud they are, it is just the sounds themselves. Guitar riffs are one. Crowds of people, especially when they start coming up behind me, drive me up the wall. It is worse when I am too hot, so Christmas shopping can be very difficult for me. It gets to the point that I will have an anxiety (okay, full blown panic attack) and need to leave the store. Having a full blown meltdown and kicking and screaming doesn't sound like a bad idea at times like that.

I saw a child in my office ( I am a pediatrician) who had sensory issues and couldn't stand the noise that the bell made at school, or the sound of the static over the PA system. She was only 4 yrs old, and she would cover her ears and cry. Her teacher told her mother that she was a discipline problem and she needed to "do something" about her daughters "drama queen tendencies" !!!!
Margaret,

I can't wear turtle necks either, for the same reason.
I am in awe that you can handle a pediatric practice- all the screaming, crying, etc. How do you manage?
I used to have panic attacks in malls until I realized I was having sensory overload. Now I'm pretty much ok with that.

Another trigger is if someone pokes me in the back- watch OUT. Light touch is painful, too. Oh, there's so much more...

Margaret said:
I myself have sensory issues. Some clothes, especially tight turtlenecks, make me feel like I am choking to death. Some sounds, quite frankly, make me want to kill people. It doesn't depend on how loud they are, it is just the sounds themselves. Guitar riffs are one. Crowds of people, especially when they start coming up behind me, drive me up the wall. It is worse when I am too hot, so Christmas shopping can be very difficult for me. It gets to the point that I will have an anxiety (okay, full blown panic attack) and need to leave the store. Having a full blown meltdown and kicking and screaming doesn't sound like a bad idea at times like that.

I saw a child in my office ( I am a pediatrician) who had sensory issues and couldn't stand the noise that the bell made at school, or the sound of the static over the PA system. She was only 4 yrs old, and she would cover her ears and cry. Her teacher told her mother that she was a discipline problem and she needed to "do something" about her daughters "drama queen tendencies" !!!!
I have gotten used to the screaming and the crying, and it mostly doesn't bother me. If my stress level is extra high, it will bother me. When I did my NICU training, the beeping monitors drove me crazy, until I finally realized what the problem was. I also find that if I have a migraine coming on, my sensory issues increase dramatically - it actually warns me that the migraine is coming, and I can take meds and avoid the headache!!!
I give you a lot of credit. I never got used to the crying and screaming when my kids were little- or even as infants. It was like a drill in my head. Awful! And I can relate to the beeping noises!
I think, though, that being a ped might be a great profession for someone with ADD that needs a lot of stimulation in their job. I'm sure no two days are ever the same for you!

Margaret said:
I have gotten used to the screaming and the crying, and it mostly doesn't bother me. If my stress level is extra high, it will bother me. When I did my NICU training, the beeping monitors drove me crazy, until I finally realized what the problem was. I also find that if I have a migraine coming on, my sensory issues increase dramatically - it actually warns me that the migraine is coming, and I can take meds and avoid the headache!!!
No, they never are, lol!! It is interesting - not many people "officially" know that I have ADD, but I get a LOT of consults for 'school problems, ?ADD". I also pick up a lot of ADD diagnosis in the parents of the kids that come to me for assessment - quite frankly, without treating the parents, it is very difficult to successfully treat the children. Untreated ADD parents can have a lot of difficulty putting in the structure, supports and routine that is so important to help a child with ADD. Usually as I talk about the need for structure and routine, one (sometimes both) parent will either be completely off in space, or will start to look terrified, and I know who I need to focus on next!! I have a lot of families that have done extremely well with both parents and children being treated and learning new skill in terms of routines and organization.
And I am rarely bored!

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