Thursday, January 31, 2013

Creating White Space

(I apologize for the low quality pictures. I'm having problems with my phone, and am in the midst of troubleshooting. Hopefully, much better ones will be coming soon.)

Our eyes are constantly taking in and processing our world. Everywhere we look we see shapes, colors, shades of light, and shadows create darkness. Sometimes our brain registers this input as soothing. Sometimes it registers it as irritating, overwhelming, or even painful.

For certain individuals it just proves to be too much and their brains get confused. Suddenly, it's as if they've forgotten how to perform even basic functions or execute a plan of action.

Now this can happen to anyone, some of the time. However, there are some that this can happen to anytime. This makes certain jobs of daily living very difficult. Take for example my children and their school work.

A normal page of math may not present a very big challenge to you or to me, but on some days, for my children, it can be paralyzing. Not everyday. Not every page. But when it happens, then they are completely at a loss of how to proceed.

Zak will just draw instead. He draws something, does a math problem, then draws some more. I would not object to this system if it didn't take him over two hours to complete one lesson!

Grace will get really upset and eventually dissolve into tears. She simply cannot proceed when this strikes.

Now, while she does not present enough evidence for me to suspect that she has SPD. She does have a few specific sensory difficulties. This may be one of them. Or maybe it's our first indication of ADHD, or something else. Or maybe she's just six and sometimes school is hard. I don't know. Yet.

What I do know is that we have found a HUGELY helpful solution! Thanks to one of the suggestions made in the book, The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A. She suggested using a cardboard template to create white space around a singular task, a math problem, for example.

Well, I didn't have any cardboard at the moment so I just taped three envelopes together since they are thicker and more durable than just a single sheet of paper. I made two, one with a square cut-out, and one with a long skinny rectangle.

They have helped both Zak and Grace enormously! I made them with Zak in mind, but as it turns out, Grace actually uses them more often. She likes them a lot and will specifically ask to use them. And not just for her math either. She especially likes them for the sentences that she copies everyday.


They have proven very useful to Zak as well. They help him go from doing this:
To something I can actually find his math work on:
Not to mention it helps him to accomplish his math assignments in a very reasonable 20-30 minutes. We really love these!

No doubt there are many kids out there that might find a template like this helpful even if they don't have SPD, or other sensory issues.

It makes so much sense that this technique works. Just think about how nice a photograph looks when it has matting around it. Or how we arrange pictures on a wall with space in between. Or how much easier it is for us to read black print on a white background than white on black. 

We use white space all the time to draw our eye to a focal point. So, naturally, creating a little white space around a math problem or a single sentence can automatically make it easier on the brain to know how to proceed.  

Hooray for white space! A brilliant solution to a couple of our school day blues!



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wordy Wednesday: Stress

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday!

Today's subject is:

STRESS

Now I know I said I was going to focus on words and subjects that are new or unfamiliar. And I know that stress is unfortunately way too familiar to most of us. So that is exactly why I choose it for this week. Because knowledge is power and strength lies in numbers. I'll explain.

The simple definition of stress is: physical or mental pressure.

Well that doesn't sound very threatening, right? Right. Stress can be a positive force. It's what motivates us to make split second decisions that can mean life or death, success or failure. So it's actually an essential function. But it can also be very, truly, threatening.

When I looked up stress on my Dictionary.com Thesaurus, it has fifty synonyms. FIFTY! Including the relatively mild: alarm, crunch, ferment, hassle, pull, tightness and worry. At the other end, though, were words such as: agony, dread, mistrust, overextension, strain, trauma, and trial. So many individuals I know and love feel too many of these!

The words that were not listed were PARENTING and MOTHER. As rich and rewarding as these roles are, they are indeed synonymous with stress!

This type of stress isn't limited to our kids alone. Almost every mother I know feels the pains of so many children, regardless of who birthed them. It also isn't limited to children. Mothers care for whoever needs caring for.

Lastly, it is not alleviated when our children are grown. Every mother I know whose children are grown still worry about and stress over those children. Not because they believe them to be incapable, but because we seem to be hardwired that way.
 

Knowledge is Power (but not always easy to execute)

We all for the most part know the recommended medical nuggets for alleviating stress.
  • Exercise (insert eye roll here ________)
  • Eat a varied and healthful diet (insert spoonful of leftover mac-n-cheese)
  • Get enough rest, 7-8 hours a night (hysterical laughter!)
  • Keep stressors to a minimum (change clothes, just peed pants laughing!)
  • Have a good laugh everyday (well, at least we have that one covered)
Know any mothers (many of which also are employed outside the home!) who can achieve all these stress relievers? Most of the moms I know start to get really good at just a few and then they or a kid gets sick, or hurt, or someone looses a job, or your father-in-law moves in. Stress skyrockets, relief remains elusive.

And here is the insult upon injury. Due to our desire to not burden anyone else, or add stress to someone else, or sometimes just to not appear insane or like we're complaining, we withdraw into ourselves and suffer alone. Angry. Resentful. LONLEY!
 

Strength in Numbers

But we are NOT alone! Not even close! We are all in this together! And a very attainable way to relieve our stress is to pour it all out to one another. 

We all want to support each other. We want the women, the mothers in our lives to feel loved and built-up. But we are afraid to ask, and afraid to invade. Even though the vast majority of us sympathize so closely with each other.
 
So, maybe today we can get the great big therapy ball rolling!
 
I know we don't want to inconvenience each other, but truly, how many of us are ever upset when a friend sends us a text or email that tells us what they are feeling, or dealing with? Don't we usually burst forth with love and empathy? Even if it's just over cereal on the floor and not having any clean towels. We feel for each other, because we all feel it ourselves. Often.
 
What we do is beyond a career. We are sustaining life, nourishing it, shaping whole people. What we do is priceless, it's important to remember that we are too. Even on our worst days.
 
So, if you text, text. If you email, email. If you like to hear a voice on the other end, then call. However you can, reach out to these precious women who are experiencing the same stresses.
 
Sometimes I feel like I must really be dysfunctional. Seriously failing as a mom, wife, homemaker, person. But then I'll get an email, or phone call from a friend or sister, or even my mom, and they'll tell me the things they are stressed about, how frustrated they are, and it's as if they were reading my mind.
 
Maybe we are all a little dysfunctional. But we will not fail. Not as long as we remember that we all have cereal on the floor and no clean towels sometimes.

Stress isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Humph! But we can beat it back just a bit. Friendship is the best antidote that I've ever found.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Weighty Matters

We received our weighted blankets a little over a week ago.

Kits weighs 4 pounds.

Zak's weighs 11. Wow! This thing is heavy.

Resting Easier!


Kit still won't sleep at night with it covering her, but sometimes she'll nap with it, so progress!

What she will let me do at night is roll it up and squish it up next to her. She then has pressure from both sides, one side from the couch cushion, the other from the blanket. Also she has a cushion up top, so she can push against it if she wants.

We have seen much improvement at night. She let's me put her down easily into her little cubbyhole after she's asleep. That alone is huge!

A few times she has even stopped nursing and gone to curl up there and go to sleep on her own!!! Beyond HUGE!! Not enough exclamation points ever to convey my excitement!

Next, all week long she has woken up just once, a few nights twice! AND...She's not crying when she wakes up! YAY! YAY! And double YAY!!

I'm not even sleeping with my head by her feet anymore. I switched directions because the cushion was uncomfortable. She's been just fine!

I'm so relieved. Now I'm just not sure how to get her from the couch to a toddler bed in a few more weeks. Guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there. I'm grateful for our current sleep triumphs!

Two For Two


Zak was super excited about his. He snuggled up in the recliner and buried himself in it for twenty minutes or so. That's a very long time for him to be in one place without electronic assistance!

He couldn't fall asleep with it the first few nights, but no problem with it lately. He even took it with him to his sleepover. He really seems to like it.

He still has had a few nights that he hasn't been able to relax so he's needed to pace and use the exercise ball, but hopefully that becomes a rare occurrence.

He's been asking us to "lay on" him around bed time more often. That's what he calls it when we sandwich him between the couch cushions. We've noticed that all the kids seem to fall asleep quicker on those nights! Maybe we will have to find a way to add it to our nightly routine.

I'm really proud of him for being able to identify things that make him feel more balanced, more in-sync, and tell us what he needs. Him asking to be squished, or to pace for a while is really helpful for all of us. We don't have to guess what he might need.

...And Mommy Too!


What a surprise I found when one evening that I was feeling particularly tense and developing a strong aversion to being touched at all, on a whim, I asked Zak if I could borrow his blanket.

I curled up in the recliner with it tucked all around me, and I felt an immediate sense of relief! I felt like I could relax, all of me, and breathe without reminding myself to.

It was like I had a shield wrapped around me and since my body felt protected, my mind could let go. The lights, sounds, and even the kids trying to crawl up onto the chair were now manageable.

I didn't feel like screaming, or shoving anybody out of my bubble, or covering my ears and closing my eyes to avoid overload.

I didn't feel like I was constantly on the brink of loosing my temper.

I was able to sit there and smile and laugh with their antics. To participate because I was really enjoying it, not just because it was what they needed and I should. It was wonderful! I was blown away.

Maybe it was a fluke. I'll have to try it again. My biggest problem is being able to give myself permission to walk away from everyone's needs to take care of my own for a moment. But I need to keep reminding myself how good an investment it is for my whole family that I take care of myself too. Nobody wins when mommy looses it. =(

For now though, it's wonderful to finally get what we've all been "weighting" for.











Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blessed

I've spent the last few days alternating between anger and feeling sorry for myself. A lot of it may be justified, but for the most part it is entirely unhelpful. Almost, I do sometimes clean when I'm angry, so that's a plus.

Most of the time though it just means that I'm even more tired than I started out, and have just as much, if not more work to do. Which of course just makes me feel sorry for myself, then angry, etc. Vicious cycle.

So every once in a while when I'm feeling that way, I'll steal away during or right after the kids bedtime. I'll indulge in a coffee or hot chocolate, and maybe some cookies. I'll go to my 'Thoughtful Spot.'  Not as nice as Pooh Bear's, but almost always empty, and as decent a view of the stars as one can expect within city limits.

I went there tonight and just breathed in the cool night air. I let my eyes follow the fog as it slowly swept the field, set aglow by the moonshine. I resented the streetlights along the perimeter and the drone of traffic that crowds out the sounds of the crickets, frogs and the breeze in the trees. But my thoughts could roam free and uninterrupted, and to my surprise I didn't cry, or feel angry, or even sorry for myself.

I found myself thinking about how we got here. How every big change has been so unexpected, but has turned out to be full of blessings. Not just the big changes over the last few weeks, but over the last few years. So many changes. So many blessings.

I reminded myself that the blessings are always there, I just need to be watchful so as not to miss them. And as I made my way back home I felt grateful. Prayerful. Much more at peace with myself.

As Victor and I patiently tried to lull Kit to sleep, this song came on from his playlist of Kit's nighttime songs, and it made my heart swell with deep appreciation for each and every one of my babies, my nieces and nephews (be they by blood or by bond), and everyone else here in my heart. So I share it now with you.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Some Like it Hot! (Well, More Like Warm)

 
 
I cut up two kiwis for Kit today. One was room temperature the other had been chilled in the refrigerator.

She only ate the warm ones. If she got a cold one off the fork, she'd spit it out right away.

Toward the end of her snack, she started piling the cold ones into my hand. She apparently didn't want them fraternizing with her warm ones any more.

Maybe they were making them cold.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wordy Wednesday: Reframing

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday!
The subject for today:
REFRAMING
 
You know how every now and then some average Joe finds a painting at a flea market or in Grandma's attic. The frame though is loose, chipped and discolored. He dusts it off, looks at it in decent lighting and decides it's a nice painting, just needs a new frame. He takes it to a frame shop or artist, and low and behold, he finds out he has stumbled upon a true treasure! Now, in a lovely, well fitting frame, everyone around him can enjoy this masterpiece and see how beautiful and delicate it is.

 
People are very much like art. Each of us precious, unique, and complex.

 
Sometimes though, the true brilliance of a piece is obscured by an inappropriate or ill-fitting frame. This could lead one to believe that the art itself is defective, or damaged, but that is often not the case. Usually, all the art needs is a little TLC, a new frame, and good maintenance.

 
This is also true of people. The way we chose to see and think of an individual is our frame. Our viewpoint. At times however, we prove to be inferior craftsmen, and the frame we've fashioned just isn't the right fit. So we must reframe. We must adjust our view and possibly our expectations.

 
Especially is this so in regard to individuals with a disability, illness, or special needs. However, this is easier said than done. Expectations and hopes can be hard to readjust. Even feelings of disappointment or resentment can make reframing difficult.

In Regard to Our Children

While reframing can be an invaluable aide to success for anyone, from old to young, we are going to focus primarily on children. I have compiled some steps that perhaps might prove helpful. The goal is to see specific behaviors as symptoms of his/her condition. Then one is more clearly able to see the child for who they truly are, and be able to focus on their abilities and talents.

 
[Please keep in mind that I am not a health professional, and this is not to be viewed as medical advice. This is a presentation of research that our family is trying to incorporate. Please talk to your doctor about your child's specific needs.]

 
Our family is far from mastering these steps yet, in fact, we haven't even worked through all of them. That's okay though, initial reframing can be accomplished without mastering anything. Over time these steps can help refine parents viewpoints, and in turn parents can help their children properly frame themselves, and help others see the best in your child as well.
 
 

Seven Steps to Aide Reframing Success

  • Become familiar with the unique challenges that a child faces due to a condition they live with. (Even highly gifted children, while not having a 'disability', do sometimes have behavioral issues due to their giftedness.)


  • Finding out what is and isn't within a child's ability to control is a vital step. It is entirely unproductive, and in fact can even prove destructive to punish a child for behaviors over which they have no ability to self-regulate.



  • Educate your child on their condition according to their level of comprehension. This empowers a child instead of isolating them.



  • Help your child recognize and eventually foresee their triggers and learn to anticipate their needs.

  • Learn how to enable your child to employ techniques that encourage self-regulation. Especially how to deal in unexpected scenarios when a parent may not be present to help.



  • Provide your child with the words he/she needs to navigate common challenges. Many problems occur because of communication gaps. (See Communication below)



  • Empower those with whom they have regular dealings, teachers, coaches, babysitters, extended family, by helping them become familiar with these same steps. Then they can advocate for your child with you.

Communication

Clear communication is vital to successfully reframe. Between parents, parents and their child, parents and other caregivers, parents and doctors, and children and their caregivers. All of these relationships will help children thrive when good communication exists.


Parents cannot always be present to interpret a child's needs to others, so it is important to help a child cultivate this skill themselves. This like most skills will take time, patience and practice, but the results can be very positive.

 
A child who knows how to say, "Moving really helps me to concentrate, may I please swing my foot as long as I don't bang anything?" will likely have a much more positive exchange than one who simply shrugs, or can only say, "I can't help it!" Obviously, age plays a large role in this ability, but even young children can be equipped with simple explanations. "I'm feeling scared/angry/fast!" "I feel less scared when I'm over here." "My body is hungry to move!" or "My spring is too tight, I need to bounce." (Some children, however, have speech delays or other significant communication barriers that can make this type of self-advocacy extremely challenging, if not impossible.)

 
This type of clear statement may help a teacher or caregiver remember to  reframe your child and their natural desire to help them succeed will hopefully move them to work with your child's needs.

 
Sadly, not everyone in your child's life will be as enthusiastic to go the extra mile for your child, and may simply be unwilling to try and reframe their viewpoint. This is sure to result in bad days, stress, and maybe even resentment, from all parties. Especially if it is an individual highly involved in your child's life, such as a teacher or daycare provider. If you are a family facing this challenge, my heart hurts for you. I wish I had some great words of wisdom. All I can really say is:
(((HUGS)))
I hope you find the support you deserve soon.
 
 

Acceptance

Reframing an individual can lead to fulfillment of a basic human need, acceptance. Everyone, regardless of our skills, faults, or challenges needs to feel accepted for who they are. I can say firsthand that reframing someone can be very hard, in part because it requires more effort on our part, more personal responsibility. The rewards are huge though, especially when it comes to our children.
 
 
Let's try it. Let's all keep on trying to reframe each other and pretty soon we'll find ourselves surrounded by fascinating, beautiful living art!
 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Growing (Grace)fully



 
 
Grace is peeling an orange.
 
"You know what, Daddy?"
 
"What?"
 
"When I was three, you lied to me"
 
"I did?"
 
"You told me these would make me happy."
 
"How is that a lie?"
 
"Well, these do NOT make me happy. So, it's a lie."
 
"Maybe you're just not eating enough of them."
 
 
Thank you for sharing, Grace.










When she was three...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Wax on, wax off

"I'm not upset."

"You seem upset!"

"Sorry, I'm not upset at you. I know it was an accident. I'm just frustrated about how much work it is to clean it. It takes a long time and a lot of work, and it's been a really long couple of days is all. I promise, my upset is not at you. You're a good boy."

"I'm really sorry, I tried to clean it up. "

"I know baby."

Clean what?
 
This.



Yeah. This.



This gruesome scene is not murder, nor gore. It's wax. Lots and lots of bright red wax splattered and spilled ALL OVER the bathroom walls, counter and sink.

Why is this everywhere? Because everything Zak does, he does big. He starts out with a toe in the water and ends up way over his head. Every attempt to make it better made the mess bigger. Poor guy.  He may lack a measure of common sense, but he makes up for it with tons of heart.

If I were watching this in a movie, I would be laughing. Because in a movie, the funny happens, cut scene, new scene, cleaning crew cleans up actual mess.

I have no cleaning crew. Just me. And an actual mess. So here I am, ironing wax off my walls. Yes, literally ironing my bathroom walls and shelves. 






This method works a million times better than trying to scrape hardened wax and then scrubbing the stain until the paint peels. I know this, as this is not the first time this has happened, it's the third, in this bathroom. That's not counting all the little splatters that occasionally occur.

I discovered this method when browsing for 'ways to take wax out of towels.' I wondered if it could be a better way to remove it from the walls as well. Indeed, it is! Supremely better! 

 
 

Here is my recipe for Miracle Wax Removal:

1 roll of paper towels
1 iron
1 boatload of patience (depending on amount of wax)

Insider's Tip: Use the toilet paper to cry in, save the paper towels, you might need all of them.

Plug in iron and turn on. I found a medium setting most effective. Don't set it to high as paper towel is flammable, and we are trying to avoid permanent damage to the paint.

Tear off and fold a towel short ways. Several of these can be prepared ahead if needed and desired.

Place towel directly over wax. Place iron on towel. Maintain steady heat until wax melts into paper towel. (About 15-30 seconds)

Remove iron and gently peel towel away from wall. Wax should have transferred to towel.

Repeat if necessary, using a fresh paper towel until all wax is removed. Some hard to reach sections may still need to be scraped, but using a really warm scraper helps (place in very hot water for a few moments, then dry before scraping)

Wipe wall with very hot cloth to remove any remaining residue.

Unplug iron, and enjoy your wax free wall!

Zak's seal of approval!

Post Script -Since the men in my family seem unable to figure out that when it's lit the wax is melted, and that switching it off doesn't instantly harden the wax, I have wised up and will be finding my beloved Scentsy warmer a new place to reside in our home. That is assuming of course that the water that Zak poured on it to clean it didn't fry it.












Friday, January 18, 2013

Zak's Sketchbook





 
Even though he perpetually leaves his shoes in the exact spot he took them off...

 
He often leaves wonderful little surprises too...  
 
I love rifling through his notebooks and seeing where his imagination has taken him. Here are some samples I recently ran across. Enjoy!










 
Square cartoon robot guys with flailing arms seriously ROCK!
 
DRAW SOMETHING!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sock Wars

 
"Her feet are cold. The floor is freezing. You need to put socks on her."

This line, delivered in Spanish, is repeated
to us multiple times a day, but especially at night.

"Yes, Grandpa. I'm putting her socks on in just a minute."

I do put socks on her. In front of him, so he is satisfied. Knowing full well that in a matter of minutes (usually), Kit is going to yank those things right off and run across the "freezing" floor pleased as punch with herself. As soon as he notices, the whole thing starts over.

Occasionally, she will leave them on longer if there is enough distractions that keep her from noticing her feet. And if the socks are well fitting and have grips on the bottom. But how many times do toddler socks ever fit well? It seems like they are always sliding off because they are either too small or too big.

As for grips, I should be out buying puffy paint and then applying it in cute patterns to the bottoms of all of her socks. But I'm not, I'm writing about not doing it instead.

Grandpa-approved footgear. Check.
Wait! Donde estan sus chicitas pantelones ?!
 (Where are her little pants?!)
 
 
The sock conversation is one I do not see an end to as long as Grandpa lives with us. That one is not due to any illness. He just assumes that everyone is as cold as he is, especially the baby. Our barefoot ways drive him loco! He tells them everyday, in Spanish, "It's cold! Put on some socks!", and the kids just nod and go about their business.

Zak usually wears socks during the day so it's no big deal for him to go slip on a pair. But Grace does not like to wear them without shoes, so she resists. Silently but stubbornly refusing by simply not complying. If he gets insistent, she just quietly slips out of the room.

He doesn't tell me directly that I should wear socks, but he does repeatedly tell me how freezing the floor is.

And while yes, our floors can get quite chilly when the temperature drops below 50, they are not going to make me, the kids or the baby freeze to death if we walk on them with bare feet.

Actually, I know that Kit likes it. She prefers our hard floors to the rugs, and she likes feeling things with her feet, textures and temperature.

I keep her dressed otherwise temperature appropriately (even though Victor and I squabble about what that means, he feels I underdress her sometimes too), and I check her neck and torso throughout the day to make sure her temperature is toasty, because cold toes doesn't always indicate a cold body. And I do try to make sure she wears socks on the colder mornings/days.

I am not, however, going to lead her into a massive meltdown over socks. We have much bigger battles to fight.

Right now, though, she's asleep. With socks on. Everybody wins!





Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wordy Wednesday

I'm going to try something.

I'd like to introduce a weekly post that focuses on a word or phrase that might be unfamiliar to many, myself to begin with, in order to expand as many horizons as possible. Any and all feedback is welcome as are suggestions for investigation.

This week on Wordy Wednesday:

 

PROPRIOCEPTION


Did you know that we actually have SEVEN senses, not five? It's true and in fact, the two so often omitted are quite possibly our two most important. If these two don't work right we are a "hot mess of fire!", to quote my niece.

This week we will focus on one. The proprioceptive sense. This sense is perhaps the most difficult to explain. So I will do my best.

The five most common senses are known less often by their scientific names, but rather by what they enable us to do. Auditory = hear. Tactile = touch. Olfactory = smell. Visual = sight. Gustatory = taste. If I were assigned the task of labeling the other two this way, they would be: Proprioceptive = alignment. Vestibular = balance.

Even 'alignment' is an incomplete simplification, as our proprioceptive sense does more than that, but it's a good place to start. This sense starts deep within our muscles, ligaments, and joints. Receptors there collect information about our particular body parts and where they are in relation to everything else, our other body parts, the floor, other people, furniture, etc. It also is what enables our fine motor skills to master things like holding a crayon, zipping up our jeans or learning a musical instrument. In essence it is the sense that tells our brain where our body parts are so that it can tell them what to do.

It Just Makes Sense!

That may not seem remarkable, but it really is when you realize that most of what this sense does, it does without seeing. This is the sense that enables you to find your way to the kitchen in a blackout, or allows you to type without watching the keys. Those tasks would be impossible without proprioception. Here is a great video:







To give you an idea of an impaired proprioceptive sense, think about this example: Have you ever sat on your foot until it falls totally and completely asleep? Have you ever tried to walk in that condition? It's pretty hard isn't it? Aren't you constantly looking at your foot to make sure it's hitting the ground properly and not twisting or buckling underneath you? Bet you can't wait for it to wake up.

Well, for those who suffer from an impaired or even a weak proprioceptive sense, the same thing is needed. That sense needs to be woken up! This is done through movements that provide information that arouses those receptors. Because they are located deeper than the skin, deep pressure must be provided.
  • jumping
  • rolling
  • rocking
  • tapping
  • banging
  • squishing
  • kneading
  • firm rubbing
  • pushing
  • pulling
These activities all can help wake up a sleepy proprioceptive sense. Often occupational therapy will include jumping on a trampoline, and heavy work activities to achieve optimal proprioceptive function. Once this sense is alert, the brain and body can flow through daily movements and activities smoothly, and often more gently.

That brings this weeks installment to a conclusion. Hope you enjoyed it! I'm posting part II momentarily, in which I explain how we are incorporating these activities in our daily routines.

Wishing everyone a positively proprioceptive day!


Proprioception Part II...WooHoo!

In our house we are trying to wake up our sluggish systems with various activities.

Heavy Work

Zak has chores that include heavy work, such as taking out the trash, and hauling baskets of laundry to their respective places. We also have a play set in the backyard which allows him to climb, slide, hang, and dig. We also allow him a digging hole. It is in a place in the yard that does not have a lot of traffic, is not obviously visible to those driving by, and must be covered at all times when he is not actively digging in it. Victor let him pick out his own shovel, and when he feels like it, the boy can just DIG!

The interesting thing is, we have provided all of these thing for him before we ever knew about SPD or suspected he had it. They just seemed like something he really needed to be able to do, and they seemed to make him more mellow. Only for a while though, then he needs another wake up call.

 
 
Kit gets her proprioceptive needs met by pushing anything she can find across the floor. Kitchen chairs, stools, boxes, both full and empty, her old bouncy seat that she still likes to sit in to read, and her little pink wagon. She also likes to run back and forth on the couch and throw herself into the cushions or the other people sitting on the couch. We ask her to take things to someone in the family so that she can carry things, a full wipes container is perfect heavy work for her. (And for Daddy after she brings it to him!)

...and Other Activities (?)



But above all, Kit likes to climb! She climbs on the couch, the recliner, the beds, the chairs up to the desks and table. She pulls herself up onto the piano bench and pushes open the lid, plunks out a happy baby tune, then yanks the lid shut. (Then she usually proceeds to pull all the pictures off the top of the piano, and anything else that we have carelessly set down there.)

She tries to climb the slide out side, and can easily clamor up most of the playground equipment at the park. I have to follow very closely behind her all the time. She was most proud of herself for figuring out how to climb the ladder of the kids bunk beds. Oh, yeah, she made it all the way up and onto the top several times. We don't allow her to do this, but she is quick so sometimes we are still running as she's starting to climb. As a result, she did fall off the ladder one time, but she emerged with only the slightest bruise on her cheek.

Unusual Needs



Both Zak and Kitty Kat like to CHEW! Seriously, like puppies. We have NO erasers on any of our pencils. Not one. Even the replacements we have are chewed! Even the metal is all gnarled and deformed.

Most of Zak's shirt collars are stretched because he will twist it up as he chews on them. Same thing for the corners of several of our blankets, and often his pillowcase. He chews his fingernails till they are nubs. Then he just chews on his fingers, especially while he watches TV.

Kit's nickname around here is Goat Baby, because she will eat ANYTHING! She especially loves paper and anything she can pull out of the trash, coffee grounds, chicken bones, and much grosser. Hence, all of our garbage cans are now elevated. She daily taste tests the dog food. She tries to suck the shampoo and conditioner out of the pumps.

She loves finding treasures that the kids have neglected to put away including but not limited too: Legos, googly eyes, fuzzy balls, coins, glue sticks, candy wrappers, marbles, ear buds, and yes, I'll admit it, batteries (EEK!!). Let's face it, our house is one giant chocking hazard!

Unusual Fulfillments



So what do we do about it? Short of throwing everything in our house away (since we can't give it away all chewed up!), we must find alternatives!

A smattering of sensory satisfiers.
 
 
For Zak, we give him straws, allow him to chew gum (sugar free), and we bought him a couple of teething toys. Yup. Right out of the baby section. One is a ring and has tiny plastic bristles, great for tactile input too! Another vibrates when he bites down on it.

We got the same items for Kit, and of course Grace was pouty and all upset because, (by thunder!) she wants a baby teething toy too! So we got her one. Now all three of my kids can sit on the couch lined up watching a movie with chewies in their mouths. Yay...right? Well, at least the fingernails are getting less action.

Less Embarrassing Solutions



We also have a weighted exercise ball that they can bounce, roll, and otherwise play on, but not throw.

We have recently learned about 'sandwiching'. This is where we put couch pillows on the floor, then have Zak lay on them. Then another layer of pillows, then Grace will lay on those. Then another pillow, and Kitty Kat goes on top of that. I use a small pillow or blanket to gently push Kit down into the pillows below, transferring gentle pressure all the way down into Zak's sleepy receptors! I bounce them, and make them roll back and forth.

Kit is usually done first, then Grace. That's when I lay on the pillows like a t and roll back and forth until Zak either says he's done or starts wrestling to get up, or starts getting too giggly. That means his receptors are on line! Ready for action. Nice, calm, steady action. Like school work, or getting ready for bed without mass distraction. Or doing chores without too much silliness.

 
 

So Many Things to Do   :-D



Some other things we are eager to do more of is clay and play dough molding. It's wonderful deep pressure for the hands and arms and even the shoulders. Also would like to have the kids do more jump roping, tug of war games, and more time upside down.

Yes, being in an upside down position, stimulates the proprioceptive and vestibular system in different ways than when we are upright. I've read that some kids who have trouble reading or listening to a story, can do so, much more efficiently while or just after being upside down for a period of time.

I think it would help Zak, and maybe even Grace when she's struggling with a tough concept in her schoolwork. I know that Kit likes to be upside down. We often swing her by her legs gently. Or I will just let her lay backward off my lap or on the exercise ball. She really likes it. She sings, especially "Patty-Cake". Even though the only words she knows to the song are "roooooow eht". (Roll it. You know.) 

There's more, but it now spills over into more of the other sensory needs. Also, I need to get some rest to fight this stinking cold. Kit has it too, so she no doubt is going to be all over me tonight, and up a lot. Sweet thing, her itty bitty nose is polished shiny from wiping it today, and bright red!
 

Almost done...Promise!

 
 
One last thing I wanted to mention. These strategies are not just helpful to kids with SPD, Autism, Asperger's or ADHD. ALL kids can benefit from these types of sensory breaks built into their day. All kids have these needs, and they are being met less and less in schools and daycares, where, recesses are reduced or simply removed and where they might only have gym once or twice a week. Even then activities are restricted because of liability issues.
 
As adults we are encouraged to take a 'stretch break' every 15 to 20 minutes, and a 5-10 minute brisk walk or other physical burst every 2-3 hours if we work sitting down in an office type job. Why do we expect our children to sit longer than that without moving, at any point during their day, but especially during school when their brains are working so hard?
 
Kids aren't always getting what they need at home either. Far too many kids spend too much time in front of screens and not enough on bikes or in trees, or just digging a good, deep hole. So please! If your kid is kicking the chair, or thumping something on the table during dinner or homework, maybe try challenging them to do 30 or more jumping jacks, or see how long they can hold up a wall. Perhaps put on a feisty song and let them dance their way to sensory success. It usually only takes a few minutes, but pays huge dividends in terms of focus. You might be pleasantly surprised!
 
 
Okay, that's it. I'm really outa here now!

 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Royaly Flushed

I'm trapped in the bathroom.

Trapped because if I open the door and go out, then Kit will start wailing all over again. I now have to wait until I get the all clear from Victor. That means she's asleep and I am permitted to move about my own home freely.

It's 1:30 am and I'm stuck in our freezing bathroom with no heat because the only way for my baby to fall asleep with someone else is for me to be completely out of sight and hearing range.

Interference


I've been trying to put Kit to sleep for over an hour now. She's completely exhausted, her eyes red rimed and heavy. But something is keeping her awake. She has some kind of unfulfilled need that we haven't met that is not allowing her brain to shut down and let sleep take over.

She kept nursing then popping up like her body had a spring in it. When I'd try to talk to her calmly or help her lay down she would throw her head and body back. Right into the back of the couch which is squared off since the pillow is moved so we can sleep there. Then she would cry, poor baby, because her head hurts. After the hurt passed she just couldn't stop moving, whining, screeching, fussing, getting mad, pinching.

We are all sooooo tired! Daddy finally came and took her to sit with her on the recliner. She'll go to sleep for him there, but only with me out of the room. So I retreat to the bathroom to brush my teeth and take my contacts out. But she is really wound up tonight, the angry, and sometimes very loud wailing continues for an extra inning tonight.

Meanwhile...in the bathroom, freezing!

 
I feel helpless when she gets like that. I don't feel like I'm equipped with enough knowledge to know how to best help her. Did she get over stimulated? Under? Should I have spun her before trying to nurse? Did she not get enough heavy work or deep pressure to satisfy her hungry little brain? Should I have fought through my tiredness and given her a bath with a good firm sponge rub down?

Sleep salvation sponge?
 
 
I don't know yet what all her signs and signals are. If she's sending them, I have no dependable way to know if I'm deciphering them correctly. And sometimes, I'm just tired, and I just want my baby to go to sleep instead of climbing and pulling out books and blankets and toys and trying to reprogram our phones. But I don't always clearly see. Like that tonight, a bath was clearly needed. I didn't see it until she was already in meltdown.

All's quiet in the other room now. In a minute I'll ask if it's okay for me to come out. Vic may not answer though because he probably already fell asleep too. So now it's just me, wide awake now, to contemplate and commiserate.    


 
Sweet dreams everyone.