Today, millions of children’s rights to a healthy environment and connection to natural human development through discovery and play is in danger of becoming extinct, and our super sensory children are in the crossfire.
I believe that children who are labeled sensory challenged, actually have supercharged sensory powers. They perceive the world through their super senses that go far beyond the five senses we learned about in school. Scientists have proven we have at least 54 senses and sensitivities, and it is through the understanding of these natural senses that we can begin to understand and help undo the environmental damage to our super sensory kids.
Approximately 16% of children in the United States are suffering from sensory-based challenges. These sensory related challenges or super sensory geniuses as I like to call them are at the root of typical symptoms like inattention, auditory challenges, visual-spatial, and motor sequencing.
Children today spend much of their time cut off from a world of natural sensory balance. Our indoor lives and education, leave many of our children stressed and acting out. It’s as if they have a super sense of sight and we blindfold them and then ask them what they see.
As parents, the last thing we want is for our children’s unique abilities to be minimized or even worse damaged. What if there was a way to support your child and their sensory powers and nurture your own journey?
In this manifesto, I share my story of personal recovery in nature and how that opened a window into my children's sensory worlds. A way for me to connect with their inner worlds and help them navigate their outer world. A place of connection in nature, where everything is in balance and everything is supported in a web of life.
Developing these openings to their senses can help make our children safer, by connecting them to their sense of safety or of danger.
I want to provide a way for the world to begin to see what we already know as parents of super-sensory kids. That every child is a gift, that they are all unique and for that reason should follow their own paths, and that our child's unique sensory gifts can bring healing to the world that needs it.
My journey began seven years ago when my twins were born after years of infertility treatments. A forty-year-old mom who read the books and followed the advice. Little did I know that my own sensory gifts would be needed to help my child soothe his overactive senses and for his brother nature would help bring him out of his shell and find his sense of self.
I first began to see how severe the issues were with one of our twin boys when a trip for a haircut at age two sent him into complete despair. A distraught, throwing up, terrified little boy. We tried and I stopped many sessions until I finally realized who the hell cares if he hair is long? I wouldn’t put him through it.
Walking into unfamiliar spaces like a church vestibule was overwhelming. He would hide under coats on the pew and hold his hands to his ears. I only knew that pushing through it was counter to my intuition as his mother, so I decided to follow his lead, and support him instead of fight it. It wasn't easy, but I could not do it any other way.
There were other signs of course, but I realize now how my natural intuition that led us outside on stressful days were just the beginning of his safe place. My mother’s simple advice for child rearing, “just take them outside you will all feel better” was more profound than she would ever realize.
We would attend a half day of preschool, only to be told by the director that they were concerned about him. He would not sit still. He would not stop counting at 10. He seems to have Autism. It would not be the last time I would hear words like spectrum and disorder.
I was strangely calm as I asked the teacher and director their clinical work experience that led to this diagnosis. I had that strange feeling in my gut all the way there that it was not the way to go. That they needed me.
This led to a cycle of stress as I began looking for a new line of work, knowing that my idea of working and motherhood would have to change. I was working part-time as a freelance educational consultant, trying to balance presentations with babysitters I could trust to be kind and patient. I also had the inner conflict that what I was presenting as a curriculum and learning philosophy would never work for my child and for many others.
Talking to a friend while the kids played one day I told her I needed a change. I wanted to go back to school. I wanted to find work where I felt like I was helping people. What I really wanted was to help my son and myself. I began to research social work and psychology, but it was the search for garden therapy that I knew I was finding my track. It would be a class by Martha Beck that allowed me to see a new way to work in the world. I would eventually land in a graduate program for Applied EcoPsychology. A distance program that would lead me to my own healing, while my sons would come along for the ride. I did find a way to help people. I helped myself, my sons, and our family find our way on a journey that continues to evolve. One filled with discoveries, triumphs, and challenges.
Out of balance sensory reactions are hard on kids, and for that matter on adults that never learned how to regulate their systems. It is a challenge that is hard to see.
Children that are bright, articulate, and funny. Kids that are also open to sensory changes in their environment in a way that is hard to describe with words, let alone explain to others.
I understand this because my own sensory system can be over-reactive. It is the basis for my Bipolar II Disorder, and what I learned by trying to help my son helped me finally put my symptoms in complete remission after years of managing them. It is like finding your balance on a swinging pendulum. That place where everything is in balance and peaceful. Changing moods and sensory awareness is normal, but the key is learning your individual needs to recover as quickly as possible to a place of peace. It is about understanding and creating an environment where you live well. Where your children live well.
What if our super sensory children are a warning sign to the world? What if they are sounding the alarm that we have gotten off track and only those so in tune with their sensory world can be the messengers of the changes that are needed in the lives of children?
We would realize that public school was never an option, and began the boys Kindergarten year at a part-time Waldorf inspired-homeschool class. That experience allowed them to be a part of a learning community, find their confidence, and also allowed me to see what worked for them and what was a challenge.
A move to another state and a slower quieter way of life in Wyoming would bring us full circle. A cooperative homeschool that allowed my children to be a part of a learning community while still being themselves. A place where they could experience natural play and a community of peers, but be flexible enough for us to participate in a way that nurtured their growth not challenged their development.
A place for me to begin nature school days that would allow the children and families in our community to thrive in nature. A place for me to discover ways to help others guide my children in learning, by understanding them better.
This was not part of my parenting plan, but it is has been an amazing trail to follow.
If you are still reading this, you probably have a super sensory child in your life. My mission is not one of conformity, but one of understanding of sensory gifts and how to use those as tools to overcome challenges. A project that is part of my ongoing research for my Ph.D., and my way to help parents have access to allowing nature to become your child's co-therapist.
Occupational therapy and other solutions offered for super sensory children are wonderful, but what if there was a way to guide your child yourself as a complementary therapy? Spending time in nature can help you observe your child in their natural habitat, where they are free to learn, play and discover themselves and the world around them.
How You Can Join Up With Your Super Sensory Child in Nature
As a parent, you are the best expert on your child. It is time to use your gift of observation to join up with your child in their sensory world. You need to go back in time to your memories of childhood of walks through wildflower fields on the way to school or playing outside with neighborhood kids until supper are hidden. Maybe your favorite nature connection was a plant on a window sill. It can be any connection. The days when a single butterfly on a flower could capture your attention. Those moments were the roots of your intelligence and your super sensory child can lead you back to a place so precious and magical, but only if you follow their lead.
My mission is to provide you with connections to nature that allow you to observe the natural habitat of your child's ecology. A place where their wild nature is observed, supported and celebrated. A place for you to figure out how your child uses their different sensory systems to see and be in the world, and how those gifted strengths can help them overcome their challenges. I will guide you through parts of my own learning path, to help you meet your child where they are and begin to nurture both your own inner nature while helping them connect with theirs.
This is a place where I share my own journey to help you begin yours with your child. It is a place where I share my research into the connection of nature as a co-therapist for your super sensory kid. It is my wish to share with you, the ideas and strategies to help soothe our parental senses so that we can learn from them and join our child in their magical world.
As a parent, I will help you connect with your own sensory gifts so that you can guide your children through this beautiful world to the very tribe of people who not only get them but need and honor them.
I will lay out ideas for ways to figure out how your child uses different sensory systems and then piece together their unique sensory-profile of the sensory strengths and weaknesses. I share nature-connecting activities with notes about how to adapt them to your needs and your part of the world. I utilize methods from ongoing research in child development and share them with you the parent. No appointment necessary. A place to learn to connect with each other and learn from one another.
Where do you begin?
We begin with you the parent or caregiver. I began this path myself and found a level of awareness awakened that I did not think possible. The part of me that would laugh at birds playing overhead or say good morning to the deer was hidden just under the surface. A place where a child's life begins with wonder and appreciation for the vast world around them.
It is here where you begin to find your own sensory goodness, and allow that connection to nature to guide you to a place of understanding and acceptance for your journey ahead. One that after you experience an exercise, you will share it with your child and see it through their eyes. It is the most magical experience to see their view of the world play out in front of you. It is a window into their inner nature.
My own personal need to reconnect to myself led me to this expressive nature-connected wellness practice, but it was my role as a mother and the fact that the only time I had to do this was when my children were with me that designed the process. Many activities I did while they were playing on the playground, acting out some magical imaginary play, or following along on a nature trail, or even while cross country skiing. Everything was adapted to meet our needs as a family, and my pledge to you is that they can meet yours too.
Start where you are.
We have this opportunity to get to know ourselves deeper, begin to accept our challenges in life as a signal. A signal that we are exactly where we are meant to be. That there is a lesson here. That we don't have to be able to explain it. We just need to sense it.
If this resonates with you, or if you know a friend who could use some encouragement with their super sensory child - please share. I don't have all of the answers, but I do know that connecting with nature has provided a profound shift in my awareness of myself and a deeper level of compassion for my children and their sensory challenges. It has helped them navigate their sensory world and find an environment that supports and loves them. We can change the conversation from challenges to gifts if we begin where we are.