My daughter is 12 years old and has exhibited some signs of sensory integration differences: can’t stand to see metal when eating, excessively cold, hyper-reacts to food textures. She sometimes has difficulty relating to others, especially authority figures; however, she is fairly well-adjusted socially with friends and in school.

When she was a toddler, she spoke of “The three Hannahs,” (Hannah is not her real name) from her dreams. She seemed to believe that these “Hannahs” were real and would talk of them often. Now, as a pre-teen, she has these dreams that are vivid, realistic, and continuing. She lives in an orphanage with other people, goes to school with other children and develops relationships with them. She says that it’s not like a dream, though she does have normal dreams. She calls the place “the dimensions,” and what happens there progresses in a way that waking life progresses. She doesn’t have recurring dreams there. When she goes into that state, she leaves off where she left off as if she’s waking up there. The happenings there affect her waking life: there was a death of a good friend there, and before that there was a girl who was teasing her. She even has a vocabulary for things–she’s a “third runner” or something like that there–someone from the third dimension. She takes gymnastics there. She considers the characters there (people who do not exist to her knowledge in waking life) to be friends. It’s a complete world that she enters. Overall, she doesn’t like talking about it too much, though, because she feels I can’t understand, and she’s afraid I’ll think she’s weird.

In waking life, she hears no voices or experiences no hallucinations, though she has told me she was afraid that because she was entering some portal that something might follow her here–that she worries that something is watching her. She seemed open to the idea that her brain is wired to construct this world when she is very tired, yet she seems reluctant to believe that she is not entering another dimension.

Is it possible that sensory integration differences can cause her to have these kinds of wild dreams–that when she enters REM her brain is hyper actively constructing this world, and that’s why she feels tired even after sleep when this happens? Or, is this dream experience a prelude to something more complicated?

A: It sounds as if your daughter has a variety of rich and intense experiences, some of which are problematic. The nature of this is such that you may want to get a consult with a child psychologist or psychiatrist to talk and evaluate her about these experiences. The psychiatrist or child psychologist, particularly if he or she has a lot of experience, can help sort through these happenings and give you some feedback about next steps.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral