I have recently returned from a week’s hike in Tasmania – the Cradle Mountain Overland Track – and it was extraordinary, for many reasons. (Lucky I went when I did as now the borders are closed.) What struck me most was how quiet it was, apart from the occasional other hiker on the track. Wallabies, wombats, skinks and other small animals actually don’t make a lot of noise – none, in fact. Occasionally there would be a bird or a small insect or else water trickling over some rocks nearby, but otherwise all was eerily still and quiet. Blissful and beautiful.
At the end of the week we were back in ‘civilization’ which meant we could get news of the outside world, which meantime had gone to hell in a handbasket! I was frequently heard on the track saying, ‘Beam me up Scotty’ (if you are old enough to remember Star Trek you will know what I’m referring to) as some of the track was gruelling to say the least, but now I wanted out of the situation for different reasons. It was all just too crazy, especially coming on top of the bliss of silence and of solitude. The contrast was jarring.
When we have the benefit of escaping our lives, even briefly, to switch off from electronic gadgetry and tune in to nature, we actually hear, smell and see what is around us, and occasionally taste and touch too. It got me thinking about children who are super-sensitive to sensory stimulation. They could do with a lot of bush walking! These are the children whose eyes water when the sun is too bright for them or the lights are too bright. These are the children who startle excessively at loud noises or who cannot bear to have the tags on the inside of their shirts rubbing against their skin – the tags have to be removed. These are the children whose diet is very restricted as a lot of food is unpleasant for them. Children with sensory processing disorder just need to be managed slightly differently. (Beware in the music room! If it’s going to be loud, provide headphones.) I recommend walking in nature and even gardening – provided the plants are not too prickly – and bear in mind some children will have difficulty with dirt and mud – provide gloves. Parents, naturally, have to take a primary role here but there are plenty of nature playgrounds that schoolchildren can go to for lessons outside class.
What we can learn from these children is that we can all do with turning our lives down a notch or two. Given the current crisis, it is an opportunity to slow down and breathe. What else can we do instead of living such frenetic lives? Children pick up on the stress around them and they need the bliss of solitude even more than adults do. They are not mini-adults but little people trying to navigate the world around them. Some do so more successfully than others. If your school is in lockdown, be grateful. Breathe. Think about how different next term will be in terms of peace and quiet. We all need it from time to time. Program it in – meditation, relaxation, yoga – after lunch is a good time. Calm children learn better.
I wish you all the best of luck in the coming days and weeks. Breathe.