The Sensory Child Gets Organized [Book Review]

If you’ve been reading my blog this year, you probably know that we’ve struggled with sensory issues with Jack. We didn’t know whether these struggles were related to his fight with cancer (treatment can affect many things) or if the issues had been less noticeable earlier in his life because he wasn’t under so much stress. He’s always been a sensitive kid – I can remember setting him down on the lawn outside our apartment at nine months old and his look of consternation when he realized he was surrounded by pokey blades of grass. He kept trying to crawl away and shrinking back from the sensation of the grass against his palms. Frustrated, he started crying and reaching for me. After that I learned that if we put a blanket down on grass, he wouldn’t leave it – no playpen needed.

blanketingrass

When he wasn’t busy avoiding certain textures, he would sit and scratch his fingernails on others – which made me cringe. Getting Jack to eat solid foods wasn’t easy. He shuddered and gagged on so many textures. He also wouldn’t tolerate sticky or dirty hands and would hold them out and wave them at me while “uh uh uh”ing until I wiped his hands. This never bothered me – it was always easy to keep him clean because he would avoid being wet or muddy. It also never went away.

Later on, we noticed that he was sensitive to sound. He was easily startled and would cover his ears when a large truck passed by outside – even when we were cozily tucked into our house. He can’t STAND to hear me sing and will throw a fit until I stop.

He’s always had trouble with transitions, too. I don’t remember a time when I could just put a new pair of shoes on him – it’s always been a struggle. Coming home from a trip usually involved a meltdown, which we dealt with by sitting in a dark room together while I rocked and shhhhh’d him.

Many of these things have come and gone over the years and been fairly manageable. We just thought “that’s the way he is.” But earlier this year when clothing became such a problem that he was missing school, I realized maybe we needed help. We had him screened for sensory issues over the summer and there were several problem areas noted. We haven’t had a chance to follow up on the recommendations, though, due to Jack’s unstable health. Such is life, right?

When the offer to review the book “The Sensory Child Gets Organized” by Carolyn Dalgliesh came my way, I jumped at it. In between a zillion oncology appointments, I could get some useful advice that could help Jack in real time! Because while things like 504 Plans and IEPs will try to accommodate Jack at school, they don’t specifically address or help his sensory issues – only the fallout from them. I would love to PREVENT problems in the future.

Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster

First off, you should know that “sensory” children are dealing with a variety of issues – not just Sensory Processing Disorder. The book gives a great primer on what the various issues are and explain how they each impact children. Here are some statistics for you:

  • 1 in 20 kids have Sensory Processing Disorder.
  • 8.6% of kids are diagnosed with AD/HD.
  • Anxiety Disorders are diagnosed in as many as 1 in 8 children.
  • Currently, 1 in 88 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
  • As many of 50% of kids with a diagnosis also live with a co-existing condition
  • Most kids receive a sensory or special-needs diagnosis between ages 3 to 10 years.
  • Many kids will not be eligible for special services and parents need help supporting day-to-day life at home.

Sensory issues are not unique to one specific diagnosis. This struck me immediately because even if Jack does not qualify for a SPD diagnosis, there is still the fact that cancer treatments are known to impact cognitive function – particularly information processing, memory, and organization/planning. We need help in those areas and the book addresses them immediately, explaining in the section titled “The Sensory Profile: Different Diagnoses, but the Same Core Challenges” that the following issues are discussed inside:

  • Attention challenges
  • Ridigity/Infexibility
  • Anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Social and emotional challenges
  • Low frustration tolerance and/or explosiveness
  • Executive function challenges

Jack deals with all of these to some degree. And as his parent I struggle to help him deal with them in the appropriate manner, especially because I am stressed about other things so often. I’m sure a lot of other families deal with these issues, too – not only those who have diagnosed conditions.

This book has pictures and suggestions for how parents can (EASILY!) help their children focus on what is important by eliminating other sensory challenges that overwhelm their brains. I love this! I am not by nature a very organized person – I am easily overwhelmed by clutter and mess. With that said, I did find that some of these suggestions are things we are already doing to help Jack (and ourselves, frankly):

  • Labeling toy bins so that he can quickly find what he needs without getting overly frustrated and giving up or throwing a fit
  • Calming routines before bed – we read three books and snuggle before saying goodnight – if we don’t, Jack will thrash in his bed unable to calm down and sleep
  • Picking out outfits ahead of time – this way he doesn’t struggle with the choice about what he “feels” like wearing
  • Sorting Jack-specific food and snacks so that they are easy to see and accessible – he has his own shelf in the refrigerator

Things I want to do still:

  • MORE labeling of bins and grouping of toys – according to Jack’s preferences
  • Rotation of bins so that he gets a chance to play with different toys
  • Visual instructions about the process of play (play, then clean up afterward)
  • Build a quiet zone where he can calm himself and feel safe
  • Buy tactile items – i.e. a bean bag chair and a mini trampoline – so that he doesn’t use our pets for this purpose

There are some fabulous suggestions for how to deal with homework, as well. Jack is easily frustrated and asks for breaks often, but we haven’t always been accommodating because we want him to hurry and get it done. But hurrying him tends to have the opposite effect – he gets more frustrated and ends up going slower because he’s overwhelmed. The book suggests building breaks into the homework time and offers ways to organize the homework load (i.e. do harder tasks first) and make it less stressful for the kids. I’m looking forward to trying these tips out this week.

And when I’m ready to delve deeper, there are exercises in the book to assess learning style, suggestions on organizations that may help, and even product recommendations. Can we say thorough?

If you want to check this book out, visit Carolyn Dalgliesh’s website to find out where to get your copy. And, hey, she has a Sensory Parenting blog, too!

***

For purposes of this review, I was provided with a free copy of “The Sensory Child Gets Organized” by the publisher, but all opinions here are my own.

And now it’s time for a book review

I had a lot of blog visitors after posting about my depression (thank you all for the support!).  I figured there are at least some of you out there who are going through something similar or know someone in my situation, so I would like to share a book with you:


I found out about Tracy Thompson’s blog a few years ago and then immediately added her book to my wishlist.  Joe bought it for me for my first Mother’s Day, I believe, but I didn’t get around to reading it.  I finally picked it up after posting this week and it’s the perfect thing right now!  I can read tidbits here and there, pick it up and set it back down over and over, and still know what the heck is going on.

I haven’t found other books like this out there – a book about the uniqueness of depression in mothers written by a mother with depression herself, who includes research and testimonials from other mothers in this situation.  There are many books out there written by experts, doctors, scientists, etc. and while they include good information about treatment and symptoms, there is not much in the way of comiseration.  I’ve rarely come away reading a book addressing depression and thought, “They are talking about me.  This information could help ME.”

Additionally, the subject (depression related to parenthood) has been talked about so little outside of PPD, and depression is still often misunderstood (i.e. “what are you depressed about?”), so it’s nice to find information targeted specifically toward me by someone who has been on the “inside.”  The book discusses Major Depression and how it morphs when motherhood becomes part of the picture – when the affected parent must meet the needs of their child, those of which often conflict with what the parent needs to stay healthy.

I haven’t even gotten halfway through the book yet and I’m glad I’m reading.  It is very much worth checking out if you are depressed or even if you know someone who is.  The author addresses the subject with a delicacy that I don’t think I have myself!  There is so much good information and it’s presented in a way that isn’t going to be scary to family members and friends.

By the way, I am not receiving any compensation for providing this recommendation, and I have not been in contact with the author.  I just really like this book and think it could help a lot of people out there!

Reminder and a quick update

Reminder: Today is the last day to leave a comment on this post to get a chance to win a copy of Rebecca Woolf’s book!  I’ll be announcing the lucky reader’s name tomorrow.  I finished it in 3.5 days and absolutely loved it.  I can’t wait to hear reviews from all of you!

Two of Jack’s 2-year molars came in while I was out of town over the weekend.  He now has 18 teeth!  Only 2 left before this teething business is over (for a few years)!  YAY!  I firmly believe his recent sleep troubles are due to those molars.  He was drooling all over my side of the bed this morning.  Sheesh.

Three weeks from tomorrow we fly to Maryland to see my sister!  Since I was so happy with the service I received from the Traveling Baby Company back in December when Jack and I flew to Seattle, I decided to go through them again to rent a carseat, stroller, and baby monitor for this trip.  Their prices are great and their equipment is exactly what I would buy.  I am so excited for this visit and I can now enjoy the anticipation because I don’t have to worry about how to lug all kinds of gear along.  I can focus on worrying about how to keep Jack entertained on the plane for 5+ hours.

Rockabye: From Wild to Child (& giveaway)

I attended a book reading last night at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland.  One of my favorite blog writers, Rebecca Woolf of Girl’s Gone Child and Babble.com’s Straight From the Bottle, has released her first book entitled Rockabye: From Wild to Child.  I devoured the first few chapters yesterday before attending the reading, and I was completely engrossed.

Even though her story is different from mine, as all aspects of my pregnancy were planned out way ahead of time, her story resonates with me.  She describes so well the feelings of a woman who abruptly switches gears in her life and questions her identity as she transitions to the role of mother.  Planned pregnancy or not, parenthood feels like the first time you are thrown into a pool when you don’t know how to swim – you have to act on instinct and do your damnest to stay afloat as the water tries to suck you down.  Surviving is more important in the moment than doing a perfect job!

I love Rebecca’s depiction of her relationship with her husband, as well.  At the reading last night she described how difficult it was to remember why she fell in love with her husband amid the chaos of new parenthood.  I doubt anyone is able to anticipate how their relationship with their partner will change when the family expands, and I share her amazement over the enduring marriages of her parents and grandparents.  I have found it difficult at times to push aside the mama bear and remember that my husband is on my team – that it is not all up to me to protect and nourish our son.

I highly recommend this book (and Rebecca’s blog) to any new parent, but especially those out there who struggle with the new identity that comes along with motherhood.  I think there is something in this book for all of us parents, not the least of which is a feeling that we aren’t alone in the struggles and celebrations that come along with creating life.

Rebecca was completely charming and absolutely delightful to meet.  I personally love how much she curses, and laughed heartily when she explained that her son’s limited vocabulary is heavily laden with curse words.  Maybe it’s a California girl thing, maybe it’s a young mom thing, or maybe it’s just our stubborn refusal to give our pre-baby selves up completely.  Whatever it is, I love it.  I will cherish my signed copy of her book, in which she wrote:

Ewok Mama, you are wild and wonderful and rockin’!!  All my love to you and kisses for Jack.  Love always, Rebecca

Rebecca Woolf is currently touring the west coast to promote her book; see her schedule here.  For you local bay area folks, you can see her in San Francisco tonight at 7:30pm!

Contest time!  Leave a comment to tell me a little something about your transition to motherhood (or planned transition!) and win a free copy of the book!  (Winner will be chosen at random.  Contest ends 4/30/08.)