Monthly Archives: April 2010 up and running

I’m still tweaking colors and adding resources, and I know there are some typos because there is a lot of info, but do check out my new site for parents:

And feel free to offer me any suggestions!



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Auditory Processing Disorder & Rosie O’Donnell’s Son

Tara Pope-Parker in the New York Times has a wonderful piece on Rosie O’Donnell’s son Blake’s struggle with auditory processing disorder. Boy, could I relate to what she was saying, especially his description of the zoo visit (although I have to say, there’s an upside to having a child whose most comfortable form of expression is kinesthetic–it makes for VERY engaging and creative oral presentations and conversations!).

As I said in my comment, there are many different types of auditory processing disorder, some of which have been identified with certain areas of the brain. Terri James Bellis’ book When the Brain Can’t Hear was invaluable in helping me understand the differences and why my one friend’s son found the Fast ForWord sample on the internet challenging while my son didn’t have any trouble with it whatsoever, even though both had auditory processing issues. To make matters more confusing, you can have a word retrieval and auditory memory deficit that causes you to express yourself with the wrong word at times even though you can actually hear the difference between similar sounding words. I remember when my son was 7 and said, “Mom, your blood sound travels through your veins” while running his index finger down his calf. It took me a good 10 minutes to get that he meant “blood STREAM.”

The relationship between language processing issues and auditory processing issues is a complex one. Then too, there’s the curious relationship between vestibular (spinning, swinging, movement) input that travels from receptors in the inner ear to the brain for processing, and speech. Why is it so often easier to elicit speech in kids with autism and/or sensory processing disorder when they’re on a swing? It’s a fascinating topic, perhaps one that the Times will explore at a later date.

How has sensory processing based auditory issues (sensitivities and difficulty blocking background noise) affected your child? Does he or she have other auditory processing issues as well? Language processing issues that seem to be related?

Have you used The Listening Program or Therapeutic Listening or FastForWord? Did it work for your child?


Filed under auditory processing disorders, FastForWord, language processing disorders, learning differences, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder, SPD and auditory, The Listening Program, Therapeutic Listening, Uncategorized

School sensory diet and the IEP

My coauthor, Lindsey Biel, OTR/L, wrote an excellent piece on the sensory diet at school and the type of IEP goals an OT needs to write to help kids who have sensory processing disorder.

Sensory accommodations should include activities to help the child get calmer and more focused, opportunities to avoid sensory input and regroup, and accommodations for homework and tests as well as for classes such as art, music, and physical education. The IEP should also spell out the agreed upon discipline procedures for the child with sensory issues who cannot regulate her system like a neurotypical child can and is prone to a fight-or-flight panic response of withdrawal or aggression.

Not happy with the school’s proposed IEP? Don’t sign it. Do your research and call for a new IEP meeting. I’ve always found parents in support groups to be enormously helpful in guiding each other through the IEP process. Others have been there before and can offer insights, ideas, and emotional support. I highly recommend in-person as well as online support groups such as the ones at and

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Filed under IEP, online support groups, schools, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder, special education, Uncategorized

What is motor planning? is a wonderful organization dedicated to helping kids with motor planning issues. Here’s an article on their site about what motor planning is and how OT can help.

In short, praxis or motor planning is the planning and execution of a series of movements. Apraxia or dyspraxia of speech means there’s a glitch in turning your thought into spoken words–you can’t quite coordinate the movements of your lips, tongue, facial muscles, and breath to get out what you’re trying to say. This is also called oral dyspraxia. Global dyspraxia is poor motor planning of other movements, such as tying your shoe, putting on your socks, and so on.

Kids with poor body awareness due to sensory issues often have motor planning problems as well. If you can’t feel the food in your mouth, you stuff too much in and then how do you coordinate swallowing it? Better to avoid that mushy food that confuses you… See how it works?

Motor planning is a form of organization. So many kids with SPD have organizational issues, not just organizing body movements with motor planning but also organizing thoughts and ideas, language, time, and possessions. They’re the kids that tidy their room by placing the candy wrapper neatly on the bookshelf and the books under the bed where they fit nicely. They’re the kids who can’t quite grasp time and are always running late because they can’t judge how long a process takes.

Does your child have motor planning issues that affect his speech or his everyday activities. is a great resource.

Motor planning is the planning and execution of a series of movements

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Filed under organizational issues, sensory processing disorder

More evidence that spanking is counterproductive

Many are talking about the latest research that shows that children who are spanked are more likely to behave aggressively and act mean. Although causality hasn’t been proven, that is, we don’t know that spanking causes aggression and mean behavior, a established link is very concerning. As parents, we need to get curious and ask ourselves, what is the message of spanking? Does a spanking communicate what the parent THINKS he or she is communicating? Maybe not!

Kids with an altered sense of pain and who overreact and underreact to touch may be interpreting a “little swat on the butt” quite differently than a neurotypical child might. I remember one parent in a support group reporting that she came to realize that her toddler was actually misbehaving in order to get the calming, focusing input of a spank. By finding a different discipline method, and reserving firm pressure touch to be used only when the child requests it (massage, firm pats, and so on), you can avoid this problem. A child who is oversensitive to touch may be very frightened and confused by a spanking and go into a panic mode. And if we’re trying to teach our kids to be aware of and modulate their touch, and not hit when they’re angry or anxious, that’s a difficult lesson to impart if we hit them because we’re angry or fed up with their behavior in the moment.

What worked for me at the worst times, the terrible threes? (Yes, we were delayed on the terrible twos behavior!). Becoming “the Buddha,” quiet and still, observing and then asking, “What is going on with him?” My calmness supported him in his struggle to gain control again, and it allowed me to think straight and strategize.

Parents of sensory kids have shared with me many insights into sensory smart discipline and I’m especially grateful to those who allowed me to interview them for the book. I have learned so much about time out and variations on it, calming touch and holding, and reward systems that motivate kids with a “just right” challenge and focus on encouraging better behavior AND teaching self-control, social skills, and communication skills. Sometimes, you have to “dial it back” and lower the bar so that they can feel a sense of “I can do this” before raising the bar again, and it’s important to break down skills like developing self-awareness and impulse control and teach them incrementally.

What have you learned about effective discipline for your sensory smart child or children? What works and what definitely does not? Did you modify time outs? If you don’t use time outs, what do you use?


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“Parenthood” missed the boat this week

On this week’s episode of Parenthood, the parents of Max, the boy with Asperger’s syndrome, met with the emotional behavioral aide who would be working with him. They mentioned that he only likes his eggs a certain way and they have to be cooked in the orange frying pan. When they asked if this was unusual, the aide said it had nothing to do with Asperger’s and the dad made a comment about how wouldn’t ya know it, their Max is odd even for a kid with Asperger’s.


If the writers and producers of the show intend to educate people about what it’s like to live with a kid who has an autism spectrum disorder, they really need to do better research. This is CLASSIC SPD BEHAVIOR and of course, parents of kids with autism have plenty of stories about rigidity and control issues. It’s one of those areas where those of us whose kids aren’t on the spectrum meet on common ground with those whose kids are. We know the tantrum potential when the Elmo sippee cup cannot be found. We have tensed up when noticing that the yogurt manufacturer changed the look of the container because now we’re gonna have to explain to our hyper observant child who could recognize Van Gogh’s painting style before he could talk that really, no kidding, it’s the same stuff inside. The anxiety, the rising pitch of a child’s voice when the food isn’t just so and worse, is prepared and served in a “weird” and unpredictable way. Moms, dads, you know what I’m saying!

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Filed under anxiety, autism and sensory issues, picky eating, rigid thinking, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder

New Sensory Smart Parent Site Coming!

Many of you are familiar with the site Lindsey Biel runs for the book we coauthored, Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues.

The award-winning Raising a Sensory Smart Child, recently revised and expanded

This month, I will be launching a new site for parents, with tons of great info on SPD and how to help your child at home and at school, but with special sections on parenting issues. This site will be  Look for the announcement here! The new site will also be connected to this blog so that you can easily go back and forth between the two. I hope all of you will come check it out!

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Filed under Raising a Sensory Smart Child, sensory processing disorder