A few weeks ago we experienced our first sensory event put on by our local school system. They provided families and children with special needs to opportunity to visit a local petting farm, take part on a tractor ride, watch a pig race, roll around in a silo of dried corn, grab a pumpkin, slide down farm equipment turned to kid-friendly play structures.
If you aren’t familiar a sensory event is when a business takes into consideration things that might be overwhelming for children with sensory difficulties. Considerations can include earlier times with fewer customers, dimmer lights, no overhead music, staff familiar with sensory needs, and at times no blinking lights. You might not feel like these things are a big deal but when your child has sensory issues one of these things could trigger them into a meltdown. These things often prevent families from taking part in everyday childhood experiences because some lights and crowds just may be too much for their kid. These small changes make the experience bearable, enjoyable, and inclusive.
I hadn’t taken Logan or our family to any sensory-specific events. I have seen a couple listed and advertised throughout our local area but I never jumped at the opportunity to check on out. Logan can manage in a crowd, and handle lights without any issues. Logan can enjoy most things if the conditions of Logan are right, meaning he has used the potty, ate, drink, and been told the game plan. This sensory event was free, we didn’t have any plans, so I thought why not, let’s check it out.
When we got there we checked in with the hosting group, we were handed stickers to wear for admission. This was already a great start, wristbands are always a nightmare for Logan. We have worn wristbands on our ankles, attached to the belt loop, on my other arm, and often we keep it in our pocket. Nothing can take Logan from my sweet loving boy to an anger filled raging lion than putting a bracelet on his wrist. Even John Hopkins waited till he was under anesthesia before putting his wristband back on after the sixth time. Teeth are pretty strong if you didn’t know, Logan’s can bite through a wristband in a quick second.
We headed to the bleacher seats to check out the pig races. As the baby pigs scurried across the field, Logan’s interest scurried right along with it. Logan isn’t much of an animal lover, but Olivia loves every animal in the world from bugs to scurrying baby pigs, it is her jam. This is often when we go out to do family events or activities, I always bring another adult with me. This way I can focus on Logan’s needs and watch for any triggers and Olivia can be with another adult doing the things that she likes and enjoys. This is a win-win for my family. We generally try to stick together and focus on each child’s individual interest and it has worked well so far for us.
We walked with Olivia to interact with every horse and pig in the field, Logan sat on the bleacher and frowned. This often happens when Logan isn’t interested in an activity or if it’s a non-preferred activity. The great thing about the sensory event was the farm wasn’t crowded and there were other children who also wanted to do things their way. During this sensory event all the families that attended had a child with a special needs, and if anyone would understand how a child could be pouting at a farm event, then it would definitely be them. With the limited crowd, I could let Logan pout for a moment and could give him the time he needed to himself.
Once we rounded the animals I called Logan over and directed him towards a silo filled with dried corn. I was able to catch up with a former co-worker who was there with his family. As we exchanged stories about our life and nurse stories, our kids along with several others played in the silo filled corn.
I watched in amazement of how something so simple such a huge pile of dried corn brought so much joy to so many kids who played around in it. I watched children tossing it, rolling in it, making corn angels, burying their bodies. Not once was there an incident of misunderstanding, these kids were simply happy playing next to each other and sharing in the same joy. It was beautiful to watch.
As I got lost in conversations, I heard a familiar cry. I quickly looked up and panicked as I saw blood coming from Logan’s nose.
As I scooped up Logan he cried out “there’s corn up my nose.” As I wiped away blood I couldn’t see any corn up his nose. My former co-worker who is an emergency room nurse without hesitation looked over at Logan. He quickly assessed him and he didn’t see any corn either. Logan began to get frustrated and agitated with corn stuck up his nose, he began shouting in the midst of his tears “I hate you, get away from me” hands flying and feet kicking.
After several attempts and prompting Logan to try and blow his nose, the decision was made that he would need to go to the hospital to remove the corn kernel. I tried to walk Logan over to a quiet area to try and help him calm down. He kept repeating over and over “corn doesn’t go in my body, corn makes me cry.” I tried again to dislodge the pesky corn and nope, it wouldn’t budge.
There were several mom and dads who stopped us, each with their own suggestion or advice on getting the corn out of Logan’s nose. I tried every suggestion with no movement from the corn.
I gathered up the rest of my crew to head to the hospital. Logan cried out “but the tractor.” I explained to Logan that I couldn’t get the corn out and we were going to have to get some help. This sent Logan over the top as he screamed, flailed, and cried. While carrying him out to the car, he screamed and shouted: “I hate you to everyone, I hate you farm, I hate you tree, I hate you girl.” If it could be hated it was hated.
Here is the great thing about attending a sensory event and the irony of it being our first one, Logan’s behavior, his words, and his actions didn’t faze a single person at this event. Not one people turned around to stare, not one person gasped in disbelief, not a single person made us feel bad about the way Logan was behaving. We felt more empathy, understanding, and support in the midst of our chaos than any other situation we have been in. If you are hesitant to try out a sensory event, don’t be these are your people, these are your child’s people.
I buckled Logan into the car and he screamed out “oh no, my fun, my tractor.” Nothing more heartbreaking than your kid who didn’t want to do anything now suddenly wanting to do everything but can’t. When you want to encourage social interaction, but it is suddenly cut short by a pesky corn kernel.
The local hospital is about 20 minutes away. That is 20 minutes away on roads with a screaming 4 year yelling “pesky corn get out of my body.” Streaming tears, halfhearted nose blowing, and a snotty nose, and still nothing. As we went around the curves and sought the quickest way to the hospital. Logan finally stopped crying and said “Mom this corn, mom, mom. why won’t it come out of my body?” As I came around the curve Logan finally passed out from exhaustion.
When I pulled down the street the hospital is on, I looked over to Logan and gently woke him and said: “Buddy, we are going to have to have a doctor get that pesky corn out.” Logan said, “no, momma not the hospital.” With that, he gave the biggest nose blow and a smirk came across his face, “momma, it’s moving. Mom I can feel it coming down.” I glanced back into his bloody nostril and said “I don’t see it yet, keep blowing buddy.” Logan took a big snotty blow and there I saw the tip of a corn kernel. Suddenly our car began chanting “blow, blow, blow “ the corn slide down to the tip of Logan’s nostril.
The biggest grin had smeared across Logan’s face. “Mom, my corn it’s out, when corn is in my body, I cry and it hurts. I don’t need to cry anymore.” I smiled back and Logan said, “Mom, I don’t want corn in my body.”
A deep breath and a huge sigh came from my body. I glanced back at my beautiful boy beaming with pride, he defeated the corn. Logan looked up and said, “mom, what about my tractor?”
We turned around and headed back to the petting farm, Logan smiling and looking forward to the big green tractor slide.
As we walked into the farm Logan looked up and said “Mom, I’m sorry I yelled at your friends.” That’s an amazing thing about Logan, he easily apologizes and means it, there is still a lot of adults who struggle with this feat.
As we walked in we encountered many people who offered us support and help during our corn in the nose crisis. Logan was welcomed with love, encouragement, words of praise “you got it out, I’m so happy you are okay” were repeated over and over to him as he walked around the farm. Faces of happiness and relief surrounded us. Faces who understood the fear and trauma of a hospital room, faces that understood the importance of a socialization event, faces of our people, our loving and supportive people.
Have you ever attended a sensory-friendly event? Be sure to comment below and share what worked and what didn’t work.