Blue Man Group’s reputation for kids with special needs

By Laura Smith|April 3, 2016|Apraxia, apraxia blog, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Sensory Processing Disorder|

We went to Vegas for Spring Break, and we took the the kids to see the Blue Man Group.  I had heard great things about the show in my parent support groups, so I thought it would be the perfect show for my kids.

Ashlynn has a formal dx of SPD, and my son, well, he definitely has sensory issues.  Not sure if they fit a formal dx or not, but they’re there.

Many kids with SPD become overstimulated to the point of total meltdown.  Stimuli, whether it be visual, auditory, tactile, or any combination of the above can completely overwhelm a child with SPD.  To make it all the more complicated, each child is unique in their sensory profile. For example, many kids ( like Jace), are extremely sensitive to tactile (touch) stimuli.  They are the kids who complain about a tag, or rip off clothing because it hurts.  I’m not an occupational therapist, but from my understanding, this is considered over-responsive. Ashlynn is actually the opposite in the tactile department, and I’ve found many kids with global apraxia tend to have her presentation.  She is actually “under-responsive.”  Ashlynn is THE toughest chick I know.  She looks sweet right?  She is, but I have seen this kid get goose eggs, have blood literally running down her leg, or even get a turniquet accidentally from a hair wrapped around her toe, and she has NEVER cried.  Heck, she didn’t even whimper..  This has gotten better as she has matured, but let’s just say if Ashlynn is in pain, I come RUNNING, because it must be bad.

The opposite though, is true regarding visual and auditory stimuli.  She is definitely over-responsive.  Any visual or auditory stimuli completely distracts her.  This is ESPECIALLY true if it’s stimuli with which she has not yet experienced.  Two of her SLP’s have told me “she needs to take everything in.”  Unfortunately, this severely impacts her attention, so that is why I have her on a low dose of attention medication. I hate it because it’s not ADD…but sensory or ADD…it’s all neurological and meds have really, REALLY helped her.

Despite this, she’s never been so overwhelmed to the point of total meltdown.  SPD is a common co-moribidity with autism,  and children with autism tend to get so overwhelmed they have complete behavioral meltdowns.  Ashlynn has meltdowns, but they aren’t to the extreme.

So what does all this have to do with The Blue Man Group?  Well, I had just seen literally this week that they were going to create a show that was autism friendly.  When I did a google search, I read this:

“We’ve heard from many families affected by autism that their children responded to the Blue Man character in a very moving way.  We don’t know the exact reason. We can only speculate that it has to do with the Blue Men communicating in their own unique way — non-verbally, through visuals, touch and sound. Their message often resonates on a deeper, more sincere level,” says Phil Stanton, Blue Man Group Co-Founder, “Once we knew that we could be helpful or provide an outlet for those affected by autism, we  felt it was important to do more. With our sensory-friendly shows, we want to create a safe and welcoming environment for individuals and families affected by this disorder, in the hopes that they can have an entertaining and joyful experience together.”

So, long story short, I figured this show was a win-win.  I was surprised though when Ashlynn started asking me if it was time to go back to the hotel.  She looked distressed each time she asked. The show switches activities a lot.  She would acclimate to one activity and be okay, but when it switched she would be back to distressed mode.  I did something I nor she have ever done.  I covered her ears with my hands.  She instantly relaxed in my arms, so I held them there.  It had only been about 5 minutes and Cody was handing me a pack of ear plugs looking  confused.  He said he was told to just pass them down.

I smiled and put them in Ashlynn’s ears. They were perfect.  She went on to enjoy the rest of the show without incident. I literally wanted to kiss whoever gave those to her.  However, I did not know if it was a parent who had noticed, or the staff until after the show.  I asked Cody and he verified it was a staff member who asked everyone to pass them down our way.  I almost teared up on the spot.  Who noticed that??  Who took action??  Are they always prepared for that?  Is this why that have a great reputation for special needs kids?  I had so many unanswered questions.

At the end of the show, we had a chance to take pictures.  The Blue Men don’t talk, even after the show.  12932862_10207164753569775_5369643655843644488_nThere is something extremely relatable to a child with Apraxia as there is to a child with Autism.  I’m sure he saw the earplugs in her ears, and even though he had been standing with all the other kids, he immediately knelt down when he saw Ashlynn, and he stayed there.  I was trying to get a good picture…but as her SLP’s would say, “she was taking it all in.” She kept staring at him and never looked at me or my camera.  He let her.  He was kind and patient.  Others wanted their photo op, but he never hurried us along.  He wanted her to feel safe.  He wanted her to understand.  He wanted her to take it all in and not feel pressured.  He seemed to know how important it was for me to get a good picture, and no one else seemed to matter during the time he was with her.  Because of his kindness, I didn’t even care anymore that she didn’t look at the camera.  It was just a beautiful moment, and that’s what I wanted to capture.

My son on the other hand was ALL about the over-stimulation.  In fact, after my daughter told me those “ear things” made me feel better, because it was too loud”  my son announced he likes it LOUD.  He is  a VERY loud kid, so we kinda knew that.   Either way….two kids with completely different sensory issues left that show happy and excited.  They are my new favorite.  I truly can’t say enough.

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