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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Don't judge a book...

Several weeks ago I stopped at an automotive repair shop to get a quote on some work that needed to be done to my car.  I figured it wouldn’t take too long and that my son could handle a bit of a wait (boy, was I wrong).  That day, I learned how cruel total strangers can be when your child is different.
My son has high-functioning autism and sensory processing disorder (heavy on the SPD).  Odds are if you are reading my blog you are probably either dealing with something like this yourself or you know someone who is.  My hope is that this will also reach people who know nothing about the challenges of a child who is on the spectrum or has some other acronym. 
Sensory issues can best be described as a heightened awareness to sounds, smells, sights and any other sense.  Sensory Processing Disorder can make you feel like you are spilling out of control and most people who are affected, children especially, don’t know how to handle the barrage of sensory input that they receive.  Some kids seek heavy input, they like to push things, pull things, and jump off of things.  Others are avoidant, they won’t touch certain things, don’t like sounds, etc.  Imagine if you will that you drank too much, or you were on some sort of a bad acid trip or having some insane reaction to medication.  That out of control feeling can be what it is like to experience SPD.  
Now that you have some background, back to my story.  We were waiting for the car to get checked out and the lady behind the counter as awesome enough to put a children’s show on the TV; things were going pretty well.  I was actually going to accomplish something that I didn’t have to have my other half do after working all day.  In walks a lady with her daughter who I will from this point refer to as Other Kid and Other Mother.  My son wanted to check them out as he does with all new people.  He did and was sufficiently satisfied that these people were okay to be there.  The little girl went to the soda machine to get a Hawaiian Punch and that’s when things began to go awry.  My son immediately went after her (first nasty look from Other Mother).  I went to pick him up to remove him and he threw himself on the floor, screaming, banging his head, limbs flying around and grease in his blonde hair (second nasty look and big sigh from Other Mother).  I managed to scoop him up but not before he kicked me square in the eye.  It caught me off guard (usually does…) so I lost my grip. At this point he has one shoe on and is diving for the soda that the little girl has now left on the window sill.  In slow motion I watched as my son leaped 007 style through the air, swiped the soda spilling it EVERYWHERE including on Other Mother.  Now I have the desk attendant giving me dirty looks, Other Kid is screaming that he took her soda and Other Mom is positively livid that he spilled it on her.  As I collect paper towels to try to clean up while hanging on to my now hysterical son, profusely apologizing and offering to pay her dry cleaning bill and buy new sodas it hits me.  Other Mother let loose a deluge of derogatory remarks that will forever be seared into my memory and I am so glad my little man will probably never remember this incident.  Here is a brief list:  “you’re probably a welfare mom” (what?), “you’re kid needs a good ass kicking” (wow, I usually hear spanking, ass kicking is a bit harsh…), “worst mom ever”…”ghetto white trash…” I am pretty sure I heard “crack head” in there somewhere…all while I am still apologizing profusely, cleaning up and comforting my child.  In the mean time, 2 more customers walk in to witness the chaos.  I ran outside so that the lady behind the desk could hear her phone conversations and help her customers.  As I was cleaning off my greasy, dirty, tear stained two year old with baby wipes Other Mother sashays out of the shop to get into her car where, once buckled in, she yells out the window “you are the perfect example of someone who should never have kids” (Me? I’m that parent?). 
Heartbreak. Rage. Embarrassment. What emotion didn’t I feel?  This was the first time we had been under that kind of attack, I understood her anger, and I really did.  I have looked at other parents in disdain, thinking I knew what they and their child were all about. 
I am sharing this story because I am really hoping that if you ever see a parent and their child encountering a similar situation, a tantrum in the store, a fit in the parking lot that you won’t add to their grief by giving disapproving looks and harsh words because the bottom line is you don’t know what is going on, you only know what you see.  If you must do something, offer a smile or a look of encouragement.  If you must say something, offer a kind word, a simple “bless your heart” would do.  Yes, there are bad parents out there but there are so many good ones who are literally dedicating every waking hour of their day to advocate for and teach their child and for those parents a little kindness can be fuel to make it through one more long day.


Working with a therapist is a great way to help your child develop their gross and fine motor skills however; most children on a regular O/T schedule only receive the services of a therapist once per week.  As parents of special needs children, it is up to us to continue “therapy” after hours.
According to Berk, the development of fine motor skills can be supported by a daily routine of various activities (Berk, 317).  Common activities that facilitate this development include doing puzzles, drawing, painting (finger painting is great for sensory stim), sculpting and crafts that involve tearing paper and pasting. 
Helping out in the kitchen can be a great form of O/T and the internet has an endless array of kiddo friendly recipes.  The most recent creation that my son and I have cooked together is tomato-cheddar crescent rolls.  This is a great, simple and yummy activity for the development of fine motor skills and also lends a sensory experience. 
For this project we used:
Refrigerator crescent rolls
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped cherry tomatoes

Generally when we work in the kitchen, I like my little guy to utilize a stool and the counter as a work space but since there are more steps and ingredients involved in this project I opted to do the prep at the table. 
Of course, the first thing we do is wash our hands.  We like to sing the Itsy-Bitsy Spider while scrubbing to ensure that little hands are squeaky clean.  Moving on to the table, I have set out the cheese and tomatoes in separate medium sized plastic containers.  I have already separated the crescent rolls and laid them out on a piece of waxed paper.  One by one we add cheddar and tomatoes, and then we roll the crescents and place them on the pan.  We use our fingers as much as possible with cooking projects; my son is highly avoidant of anything sticky or gooey so it is good practice for him to get his hands working with the ingredients.  After the rolls are done cooking and are cooled we pull them open and enjoy. 
Cooking with your kiddos is a great way to get them involved in activities of daily living, help them develop motor skills and address any sensory challenges that they may have. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sensory Friendly Easter Baskets

With Easter around the corner I have been starting to see baskets pop up everywhere.  Although colorful and fun looking, most of the pre-packaged baskets wouldn’t work for little ones with sensory issues.  I have put together a list of cool items, helpful suggestions and links to websites that will help you build a fantastic Easter basket while keeping in mind the different needs of our kiddos.
Candy! I stumbled across this site while looking for suckers for my little guy that don’t contain preservatives.  From a really cool pre-packaged Easter egg or a chocolate bunny to individual candies, this shop has it all.  You will find GFCF, Feingold, Allergen Free, Vegan and Organic all in one spot.
Fidgets are ALWAYS a great stuffer for any gift.  There are multiple resources on the internet for finding some really neat ones, I like the citrus scented from Abilitations but there are some pretty fancy ones out there these days including ones that look like jewelry for the older kids.
TOPS! Spinning tops are wonderful and colorful, the smaller ones also make great fidgets.  You can find these at just about any toy store or online. 
Koosh balls!  These sticky tactile balls come in all different colors, textures and sizes. They are affordable and the perfect item to put in an Easter baskets.
Stuffed animals! A stuffed animal was always the centerpiece of the fantastic baskets my mother put together for us on Easter.  I really like weighted stuffed animals in different textures.  There are all types on the market but my son’s favorite is a stuffed monkey filled with lavender that you can heat in the microwave.  Children’s Hospital gift shop keeps these in stock regularly and they are awesome for those little ones who seek heavy input.  They are made in England by a company called Intelext.  On the web at
Rubber duckies! My son ADORES rubber duckies and has quite a collection.  You can find a wide variety of holiday themed (including Easter) duckies at
Play Putty!  Silly Putty is GF/CF safe and also comes in an egg so it really works for the Easter theme.  You can also get GF/CF friendly dough by Colorations at Discount School Supply.  For those who don’t have gluten issues, good old fashioned PlayDoh is great and comes in so many pretty colors.  Add a few Easter cookie cutters and a mini rolling pin from the dollar store and you have a perfect little gift set. 
Stickers! Stickers work for some kids, some can’t stand them.  My little guy likes to collect them, but doesn’t like them actually sticking to anything.  We collect them in a tin and take them out to look at them from time to time.  Any stickers work, but if you have a GF/CF or LATEX allergy concern, Mrs Grossmans has a ton of awesome stickers that are gluten and latex free at .
Trading Cards:  You can usually find these at the dollar store.  These are very popular with most kids, Braylon’s fave is Thomas the Train.
And don’t forget the tissue!  If traditional Easter grass is too messy or your sweetie pie just doesn’t find the texture pleasing you can always substitute with tissue paper.  I like the wax varieties, and they make a fantastic crinkling noise that your child may enjoy.