Monthly Archives: June 2010

Summer Reading–How About Raising a Sensory Smart Child?

I know, I know…on first glance, my book Raising a Sensory Smart Child, coauthored by Lindsey Biel OTR/L with a foreword by Temple Grandin, does NOT look like summer reading. It’s got a lot of pages and a lot of type (although if you page through, you’ll see we really broke it up with lots of headers and bullet points). But it may be the perfect summer reading for you.


1. Summer is a time when the pressure is off with you and your child. No homework notices, suspensions, calls from the school about unacceptable behaviors and frustrated explanations by you of the sensory issues underlying those behaviors–you get a few months off from those headaches. What’s more, if you’ve got a simple routine going for your child, he or she may be able to be less dependent and clingy than during the school year. That buys you more time to hunker down and do what you’d like to do for yourself. And I am sure that learning some keys strategies for making your life MUCH easier is on your To Do list.

2. Summer’s a time when you want to read a book that doesn’t demand your full attention. Personally, I struggle to dip in and out of fiction and keep track of all those characters, but a book I can read for 1 minute here, 5 minutes there? Love love love it. That’s what Raising a Sensory Smart Child is. Sure, read the first chapter or two to get an overview (why not read a page at a time every time you go to the bathroom? Seriously–I got through the entire first Harry Potter this way! Stay hydrated this summer, pee a lot, and work your way through those pages!). But then just dip into the Practical Solutions for Everyday Problems chapter anywhere and pick up a few tips. Page through til a header grabs your eye and read a page or so. Check out those bulleted lists. You might be surprised at how easy it is to understand the material in the book even without reading an entire chapter, or reading the book front to back.

3. Do the bibliomancy trick. (Excuse the big words–as a writer, I just love to use an obscure word! Bibliomancy is a way of randomly using a book to find information you need). Close your eyes, open Raising a Sensory Smart Child to a random page, plunk down your index finger, open your eyes, and read what you are pointing to. Does it have meaning for you? Don’t be surprised if it is exactly what you need to read today.

Developing sensory smarts doesn’t have to be some big overwhelming project that you mean to get around to and feel guilty about because time has a way of getting away from you. All it requires is learning a little bit, then a little more, then a little more, and applying what you’ve learned. Frankly, it takes time to process it all. You can’t just “inhale” all there is to know about sensory processing disorder and related issues and become an expert overnight (although being prone to anxiety, that’s what I tried to do years ago–the result was a fabulous book and the realization that shoot, it takes time to really “get it”!).  I found that even just watching my son play offered the perfect opportunity to relax and begin to muse about what I was learning from my OT and other moms as I was first developing sensory smarts. You have to have time to take it all in, to observe your child, and start finding ways to do just a little better today than you did yesterday. So relax, have a great summer, and dip into Raising a Sensory Smart Child as you would a bag of M&Ms or potato chips–only without the guilt!

Summer is a great time to read the revised and expanded Raising a Sensory Smart Child!


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Since when is diversity a bad thing?

Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., who wrote the wonderful The Myth of the A.D.D. Child, just wrote a piece on neurodiversity and how we pathologize brain differences. If a psychologist were a rose, Armstrong writes, and a calalily came into his office, surely he would diagnose “petal deficit disorder” and write a prescription for a medication that would compensate for this “deficiency”! What if we are meant to have neurodiversity in the human population just as nature has biodiversity? What if there is a rich gift in each type of brain?

I also love how he talks about how different skills are valued in different cultures, and how our culture can cause us to see certain temperaments and types of behavior as “a problem” or “a disorder” instead of seeing them in a positive way. There was actually a 19th century doctor who proposed that we recognize a “runaway” disorder in slaves, as if escaping to freedom were a pathology.

Maybe we should stop trying so hard to make everyone conform to some narrow ideal of how we are supposed to think, perceive, and behave and open our minds to the beauty inherent in every “flower,” every type of mind.

While nobody wants to downplay the challenges of people with very strong neurological differences, I have to agree with Armstrong that we need to rethink our limited ideas about what is “normal,” and what a classroom should look like. I also agree that so many traits are along a spectrum. If we think about anxiety, for instance, everyone has some anxiety. It’s only when there’s an extreme where it’s truly difficult to function in society. There isn’t some clear black borderline where the folks on one side are “normal” and the folks on the other side have “anxiety disorder.” We just know that if it’s really difficult to function, to socialize and learn, the person deserves to have some help–that means help in being able to conform AND help in terms of everyone else adjusting the external environment to some degree, and adjusting their expectations, to make that individual better able to be a part of the group. That is the compassionate response to differences. Do we really need everyone to fit into a narrow definition of normal for us all to get along and appreciate each other? I think that as a culture we could do much better at embracing neurodiversity and learning differences!

Beautiful flower, or victim of "gargantuan disorder"?

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Filed under A.D.D. and A.D.H.D., learning differences, Thomas Armstrong

Inspiring Story: What Happens When You Persevere

Chantal Sicile-Kira’s son Jeremy was “written off” as severely autistic and retarded when he was a toddler in France, but his mom refused to give up on him. With the help of an excellent school team, Jeremy pushed himself, learned to communicate, and recently graduated from high school where he gave a speech to his fellow students. This is such an inspiring story for any parent who meets resistance to their dreams and their advocacy.

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Raising a Sensory Smart Child Giveaway and Interview with Nancy Peske

I was just interviewed at the Welcome to Normal blog about how the award-winning book Raising a Sensory Smart Child, which I coauthored, came about, and how I came to be involved in advocating for kids with SPD. If you comment on their blog, you have a chance to win a free copy of the revised and updated edition of Raising a Sensory Smart Child (blue cover). Check it out!

Win a free copy of the revised and updated Raising a Sensory Smart Child! Hurry!

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Filed under books on SPD, Nancy Peske, Raising a Sensory Smart Child

Evidence on the Value of Recess

OK, I know it’s summer and recess at school isn’t on your mind, but I had to share the following article on the value of recess because it is full of footnotes. I loves me a good footnote! Keep this one bookmarked come fall. Recess should NEVER be docked as punishment. There are SO many better ways to discipline and teach (remember, discipline is from a Latin word meaning “to teach”) than taking away the few chances kids have to get out of their heads and back into their bodies during the course of a sedentary school day.

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Filed under playground issues, recess, schools, Uncategorized

Finding a Sensory Smart OT

I’m a big believer in the value of a Sensory Smart OT. If you are looking for a private pediatric OT who can work with your child, be sure you find one who is trained and experienced in working with kids with SPD (not all have). Here’s how to start finding one.

A sensory smart OT is trained & experienced in helping kids with SPD

While some of the OTs who work for school districts or early intervention programs, also known as Birth to Three programs and by other names depending on the state, are sensory smart, not all are. What’s more, after your child has “aged out” of EI, the services are only provided if the focus is on school-related skills. If your 4 year old’s sensory-based sleep problems or picky eating are making family life difficult, know that it is not a school district OT’s job to address those very real issues.

Private OT can be very expensive out of pocket. A good sensory smart OT should know how to code her interventions to get insurance coverage from various carriers but of course, if you don’t have insurance, have a high deductible, or have limits on the number of sessions and need more, it can be costly. What if you were to work with an excellent sensory smart OT, ask her lots of questions and observe her sessions, and carry over the types of activities yourself, doing “homework”? I think you should be doing this anyway if you can (some kids will do more for an OT or in a sensory gym than they will for you at home or in the park). But if you carry over the OT activities and ensure that your OT has set up a workable sensory diet for home and for school, then you may be able to work with her on a consultation basis. So, for instance, if your child is going to start a new activity, or transfer to a new school, she might be able to come out and assess the situation or consult by phone.

Then too, make sure your OT has a copy of the revised and updated Raising a Sensory Smart Child. The book is chock full of ideas and strategies for kids with sensory processing disorder. Having worked with your child, and drawing on her training and experience, she can be an incredible asset even if you can’t afford regular OT sessions.


Filed under evaluations, OT, Raising a Sensory Smart Child, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder

How to Pull a Loose Tooth…Well, Maybe!

If your sensory kid is like mine, he or she is not too keen on wriggling or pulling out a loose baby tooth. I did get one out before it got too nasty by offering my kiddo a carmel apple (one bite and whoosh! there it went) but for the most part it took a lot of careful tooth brushing and flouride-rinsing to make up for all the food that would get caught whenever the tooth moved until that day when it finally came out.

Anyway, this video of a boy who had his tooth pulled out by a toy rocket was pretty funny. Maybe something like this would work for the reluctant sensory kid (especially since he gets to be in charge of “lift off”)! If nothing else, it might make your child laugh and be a little less anxious about that tooth coming out at some point.

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