Monday, December 5, 2011


It has been a while since I posted. Life has been somewhat difficult for this sea otter mom.

School is an issue, more than it ever has been. Ryan is in the middle of the 6th grade year and it seems as though every single day is a S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E. Lockers and multiple classes...homework he doesn't remember how to do. Not enough time outside. Too much sitting. Too many people jostling him. Standardized tests testing his disability not his ability. A lot of crying (him and me) and hard work not followed by reward.


So everything sort of goes on hold while we manage life. It is very hard for me to do that, but I am learning.

My next post will be more about school and navigating the rough waters of standardized testing, ARDs, IEPs and other nifty info you will need as you progress on the bizarre and wonderful world of sensory processing problems.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sea Otter Moms

I have been reading the book "Tiger Mom." If you haven't heard a reference to that, it is about a mom that expects excellence in her daughters..pushing them very hard to excel in playing instruments, sports, school, etc. The "tiger" parenting style is all about pushing your children
to be the very best, with no room for error and no free time to just be a kid.
A mom of a special need child cannot relate.

For me, I had expectations of what my child would be. He would be intelligent (I skipped a grade and school came easy for me and my husband is highly intelligent,) musical and athletic. We would expect a lot from him and he would not disappoint. Instead he was delayed in every way, walking, talking, reading, running, with multiple disabilities. He was nothing like I expected. If he had been, I could have been in danger of being one of those "tigers."

Instead I became, the sea otter mom.

Sea Otters are known to be some of the most caring, loving and securely attached moms in nature. While Tigers have several cubs at a time, and take them hunting, Sea Otters have one cub. They provide round-the-clock care. When the mom goes looking for food, the baby otter cries until she returns. If the baby happens to die, the mom holds it for days, unwilling to let go.

When Ryan was a baby, he needed
to be held a lot. Kids with Autism or sensory issues especially need contact.
He had many fears and was so clingy, he needed to know that comfort was never far away. He needed a mom that could circumvent triggers that caused tantrums. He needed a mom that understood him even when he was unable to talk. He needed a mom that understood that when he cried for her,
it was not selfishness, but self preservation. He needed a sea-otter mom.

To think of myself as that tiger mom, pushing and pushing, scares me. It could have been me, but we were gifted with a special need child. So we parent and protect and persevere, hold and nurture, advocate and adapt. Ryan is now 12, and still needs many of those things.

So my message is: Sea-otter moms out there-- know how important you are, and how the universe deemed you strong enough for the task.

Blessings as you carefully parent the child entrusted to you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

On-Your-Own therapies

So money is tight your insurance does not cover SPD therapies. What do you do? Lots. Read on.

This blog is about the natural therapy outdoors probably within a mile or two of your home...The park. The park is a great place for an SPD kid. Outside is better than inside..fresh air and natural light. Many times fluorescent lighting is disconcerting to kids, it is LOUD (the incessant buzzing!) and makes everything look green. Sunlight on the skin makes vitamin D, which helps fatigue. The fresh air and natural lighting also helps deeper sleep at night, as it helps to produce melatonin.

Swings are great for propreception and vestibular senses. They also help the child with bi-lateral coordination.

Walking a balance beam is VERY hard for a SPD kid, so much better to practice in a non threatening arena. Climbing ladders creates work for the eyes, balancing system, gross motor skills and bilateral coordination. Slides help the same way, plus it is a bit scary, but scary in a fun way. There are often smaller slides for the very gravitational insecure child. Start by having him climb the slide if he is afraid of climbing the ladder.

Jumping and running trigger language. Hanging from a bar gives muscular sensory feedback and helps with loose joints. Exercise reduces stress by releasing the fight or flight adrenalin built up from the day's problems. Spinning on a tire swing helps the vestibular sense.

The park should be fun. If you are pushing your child to "experience" the park, he or she will not want to go back. Make sure you have plenty of time to spend and have them go at their own speed. If they want to immediately go home, take them for a little walk around, and tell them you don't want to go yet. Introduce things gradually. You might even find yourself on the swing right beside them.

No reason you can't enjoy the park as well....

hugs to you from me for the week!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


First, if you are a mom reading this...HAPPY MOM'S DAY! I hope you had a lovely day.

I wanted to continue with some thoughts on other therapies that we have done, which I believe have made a huge difference in compensating with unreasonable fears, particularly when it comes to balance issues or gravitational fears (fear of falling, heights etc.) Some of the therapies are very conventional and well-known. However, there are therapies that are not mainstream.

While nothing works for every child, I believe the best tool a parent can have is KNOWLEDGE. The more you know, the more informed every decision can be.

So one of the first unconventional therapies we employed was hippatherapy. The word "hippa" is from the Greek word for "horse." The word "hippopotamus" means "river horse." So the hippatherapy is in fact the term for horse therapy. (not riding a hippopotamus!)

This therapy is pretty readily available in most medium sized towns, usually in conjunction with a rehabilitation or physical therapy clinic.

The horses are older, calm and uniquely trained specifically for the therapy. 2 volunteers are positioned on each side of the child holding him or her on the horse. The child wears a helmet and the horse is on a lead, with another volunteer leading the horse around the pen. The child will work with a physical therapist while on the horse. They will ride, play ball, put rings on pins in the pen, ride backwards, ride on their knees, and do other activities. Safety is always the most important issue...there is no way the child can fall or the horse can bolt.

The horse provides a high, unstable place. The child must use his or her muscles to adjust constantly to the movement of the horse. Ball playing helps to trigger eye/hand coordination while promoting their balance. A horse's height helps to desensitize the child to the fear of falling, and the fear of heights. (gravitational insecurity) Senses must integrate if the child is to be successful. Many times the child is also allowed to brush the horse and feed the horse a little treat. (Ryan loved this part!) Bi-lateral (using both sides of the body in tandem) coordination is also enhanced with the horse-riding skills.

Ryan did hippatherapy for 16 weeks, once a week. He did an 8 week run, and six months later the other 8 weeks. We followed the hippatherapy with some horseback-riding lessons. I believe it made a huge difference in my son's ability to balance and cope with fears of falling. It also allowed his brain to make some connections in his body that were not wired correctly.

Ryan was around 5 years old when we began the therapy. If your child is younger, talk to your physical therapist to get a recommendation for a time to begin.

If hippatherapy is simply not an option, stay tuned....there are other things that will help your child's coordination and gross/fine motor skills, as well as calm many of their fears.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Today begins my series on therapies available to the SPD child. There are many therapies, both professional therapies and those easily done at home and through activities and sports. If your child has been diagnosed SPD, likely he or she has physical issues with coordination. If there are issues with gravitational security, there may be high anxiety along with the physical issues. Sometimes, there are speech issues due to the lack of ability the child has to "feel" their tongue and mouth to make and form words. Likely you have been referred to several specialists.

Every child is different, and sometimes exploring a wide variety of therapies, you hit on several that work.

Occupational therapy is a way to help your child read better, write in a correct manner (not gripping the pencil so hard it breaks, making handwriting legible, etc.) fine motor skills, planning, processing and better functioning in school situations. They work with training the eyes and the body to work in tandem. The occupational therapist will use many different methods of helping your child think and reason better, along with writing, reading and processing skills.

Physical therapy addresses the muscle laxity and coordination problems of the body. This might consist of swinging on a low swing near the ground on their belly, jumping in ball pits, riding bikes, hanging from bars, balancing on low balance beams and learning and following directions through an obstacle course. Many physical fears are addressed, particularly the gravitational fear.

Speech therapy is for both expressive (talking) and receptive (listening) language. There is also work done to better process language, follow story plots, etc.

The good thing about these therapies is that they work. They are time consuming and you may feel as though you are constantly spinning your wheels, but given time and patience, your child will be better capable of compensating for the SPD, with more confidence and less anxiety. The earlier you get therapy, the better for your child, but at any age, SPD children can benefit from therapy.

Call your insurance agency to see what is covered in your plan. Also call the school system and ask them to evaluate your child for therapies that he or she might qualify for. The public school system provides therapy to children over 3 that are in need, even if that child is in private education. Early childhood Intervention provides therapy for children under the age of 3. Many times you can also receive services with a public funded rehabilitation center, as they offer partial "scholarships" for therapies.

I believe therapy truly saved my son. He went from being a very fearful, uncoordinated, not confident child, to a pretty good defensive flag foot ball player. Will he likely be a professional athlete? No. But he enjoys biking, skateboarding, scooters, running, basketball and talking with all ages of people. He can navigate a playground and a kickball diamond with out fear. Perhaps not the most coordinated child on the playground, but he is no longer afraid.

In order to give your child the best chance to do well in life, therapy is important, accessible and necessary.

Next week I will talk about some unconventional therapies we have done in addition to the traditional.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I am dashing off a quick is a busy week. First though, I have to brag about my son..he PASSED the TAKS test. (reading) He is about to be in 6th grade, and Texas standardized testing requires each 5th grader pass both math and reading tests to be promoted to 6th grade.

So one big hurtle down..whew. He did not pass the math, but will retake and only missed a couple of questions. so I am confident and grateful.

Grati-Tuesday is a great day!

Another thing I wanted to share with you parent to parent. So much of Ryan's early childhood required me to be on call most of the time. If you have an SPD child you know what I mean. Much of the time is spent calming or doing therapy or cooking special meals or just managing outbursts before they start. Very little time is reserved for those drudge things in life like housekeeping or laundry. In our case, it just went on hold.

I am so so grateful that I could spend the time I needed with my son. And I am grateful now to encourage other moms and dads that are feeling guilty for not being domesticated enough. If you don't have time to put the laundry away or mop your floor, I'm going to give you permission today to put it off.

Be grateful that your child needs you now, and that you have time to give. If that time is in expense of laundry in drawers, so what? Clothes still work and socks still go on feet when worn out of a large laundry basket. Get several baskets and stop worrying..

The laundry and house will be there when you are 80 years old and bored. Then it will be clean and everything in its place. Today is grati-Tuesday. I hope you are filled this week with gratitude every day.

And filling up on Easter chocolate is ok as well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


This week starts my first Grati-Tuesday post. Sometimes I forget to appreciate the little things, so to remind myself to be grateful, Tuesday seems perfect.

Today I woke up and went upstairs to wake up my son. There are about 11 stuffed animals on his bed. He considers them "friends." They were arranged neatly around his head. It made me think about his caring and compassionate nature. He is naturally intuitive and loves people. And he cares about his friends just as much as his animals.

Perhaps your child is not so caring or compassionate, but has boundless energy. Maybe he or she is super demonstrative in their love. Perhaps they love to cook with you, or beating you at video games. Maybe it is a love of animals or an ability to do math or skateboarding. Whatever gifts your child has been given, take this Grati-Tuesday to be grateful and express that gratitude to your child.

Often SPD kids feel like losers in life. And their parents often wonder why they were not blessed with a normal child. But really, normal is so passe'. Different and special is so, so much better.

Know that your child is your child for a reason.
They are yours not because they needed you, but because you needed them.