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This Bites! Painful ADHD Overstimulation

Summer-event crowds, noise, smells, and heat are a killer combination for Natalie, who has major problems with sensory issues.

“Can we go to the State Fair?” Aaron asked. “Please?”

The State Fair is a big deal in Iowa, and one of the many ways I’ve deprived my 11-year-old son of a full life (others include not buying him a Wii or a cell phone) is by not taking him to it, at least not since he’s been old enough to remember.

The state fair means heat. Crowds. Noise. Smells.

“I’m NOT taking Natalie,” I said immediately, just in case Don, who isn’t a fair fan either, was wavering.

Crowds, noise, smells, and heat are a killer combination for Natalie, who has major problems with sensory issues, and summertime fun in Iowa tends to include all of the above.

So far this summer, we’ve braved three large events, and I came away from two of the three with bite marks to show for it. That’s right, bite marks. When Natalie is over stimulated, it seems the only way she can relieve the pressure is to bite down  hard — on my arm or leg.

I know better than to take Nat to crowded events, but sometimes, my desire to do things as a family, paired with recent small successes, make me overly optimistic. “Nat can do this,” I tell myself, “I’m just being lazy by not trying it.”

So, off we went this summer — Aaron and his friend Zach, Nat and her friend Bekah, and Don and I, when RAGBRAI, The Register’s Great Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa overnighted in Ames. Don, who rode on RAGBRAI BK (Before Kids, or to be honest, Before Kay) and I wanted to see the outdoor Styx concert, and the boys wanted to see Lance Armstrong, who gave a nice “Why I Love RAGBRAI” pep talk and introduced Styx.

We lasted through 3 or 4 songs (during which my 11-year-old did not allow me to dance or sing, even though I knew every word of the lyrics) before Natalie made it clear that we had to leave. The big bite came as we made our exit.

Then, Saturday, we went to Don’s company picnic at Adventureland. I have never seen it so crowded. Again, a big bite, followed by a long, hard 4-fingernail scratch down my arm, proved that we’d stayed too long.

I don’t know if we’ll take Aaron, but Nat won’t be experiencing the State Fair this year. If she wants to sink her teeth into something, it’ll be fresh Iowa sweet corn at home, not my arm at the State Fair.