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Help for Haiti
This organization has been in Haiti for many years. They are trustworthy.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dressing Up A Sensory Guy

People with sensory issues often have strong clothing preferences. I don't know if this is generally true, but in my experience most men do not enjoy dressing up. The men I know prefer comfortable clothing. They call their attractive dressier outfits "monkey suits" and yank their ties loose at the first opportunity as if their oxygen has been reduced and they need to gasp for air. Now add together "man who prefers comfortable clothes" with "sensory guy" and you'll see the issues faced by my son. A few weeks ago we were getting ready to attend a wedding reception. I informed Josh that he would need to dress up for the event. To Josh, "dress nicely" means wearing jeans without holes. Josh doesn't own a lot of dress clothes for the obvious reasons that he doesn't typically need them and he doesn't like to wear them. I asked my husband, Scott, to help Josh find something nice to wear. They are close to the same size, so sometimes they can share clothing in a pinch. This was a pinch, all right. Scott, who like Josh has AD/HD, didn't spend a lot of time selecting an outfit. He found something that matched and tossed it to Josh to put on. Then Scott was off to do something else. A few minutes later, I found a distressed Josh in my room. He looked truly miserable, although quite handsome. When asked what the problem was, he started describing how uncomfortable his clothes were. The shirt needed to be tucked in, but then wasn't comfortable. The cuffs around the wrist felt odd, but were tolerable. The shirt material was a little scratchy. I tried to tell Josh that it was necessary to dress up for special occasions and he quickly explained that it wasn't dressing up that bothered him. It was being dressed up by someone else. His Dad has made the choices for him, and because Dad doesn't have sensory issues he selected what would work for most men. Josh is the only one who knows how his body feels and responds to clothing, though, so we needed to make some adjustments. A change of pants for a looser fit made tucking in the shirt more comfortable. A belt held things comfortably in place - not too tight, not too loose, but just right. A plain cotton, tagless t-shirt under the dress shirt made Josh much more comfortable. Having the tie a wee bit looser but barely noticeable rounded out the outfit. Josh didn't own any dress shoes and his feet are bigger than Scott's, so he wore his nicest boots and it didn't look too bad. Tomorrow we are going to a wedding, and sensory guy Josh will be dressing himself up again. We bought a pair of dressier shoes (Rockports) that are slip-ons, with a little elastic around the tongue of the shoe for flexibility and comfort. Josh tried on several slip-on style shoes and found that some of the styles bothered him because they did not come up high enough on the back of his heel and he could feel them slipping around. The shoes Josh picked were high enough on his heel and comfortable, so hopefully the sensory guy will be able to relax and enjoy his time at the wedding and reception even though he is in a "monkey suit".

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pink Teeth / Winners of HOTM Online Conference Tickets

Trying to get a good family picture is challenging. Children aren't big on sitting still and posing in one position. Getting everybody to look in the same direction at the same time seems to be hard enough, let alone have the clothes and hair looking the way you want to remember it. I took my kids to a store where I had a "portrait package" coupon and hoped to get some good shots to frame and share with the grandparents. Since two of my children have AD/HD and sensory processing issues, we went on a weekend so my husband and I could team up to make this memorable photo a reality. Although we usually let our children select their own attire, that day we picked out their clothes so all the items would match and coordinate. Already, we should have realized that the end result wouldn't resemble what we saw on a daily basis, but we had a dream. The children were scrubbed and dressed and we were on our way. Unfortunately, the dressier clothes weren't as comfortable so my children were a bit fidgety right out of the starting gate. We assured them that it was only for a little while, and when we got back home after the photo session they could change clothes. We arrived and headed straight back to the studio in the store. We had failed to factor in the likelihood that going on a weekend seemed like a good strategy to other families as well, and we learned that we were in for a wait. Having to wait 50 minutes might not be a problem for some families, but the dream was seeming more like an impossible dream when my husband and I tried to figure out how we could keep the kids relatively content and clean while we waited for our turn. We thought about buying each child a toy, but that would have pretty much defeated the purpose of going there for the great coupon value deal. We decided to walk through the store at as slow a pace as the kids could tolerate, dragging our feet and hoping to make our store tour last about 50 minutes until it ended back with the photographer. At that point, we hoped our kids would be calm and bored enough that even posing for a picture would sound inviting. At first, Plan B seemed like it just might work. Then we hit a snag. There, directly ahead of us, was a little in-store pizza shop that served flavored icy drinks. Suddenly the children realized they were extremely hungry and thirsty, and I had to admit that the delay in picture taking did push us close to their usual lunch time. I couldn't see making it through pizza without getting some on the clothes, and I wasn't willing to take the chance. Instead, we offered them small cherry icy drinks with napkins tucked into shirt and dress fronts along with close supervision. My husband and I felt relieved, because the drinks would curb the appetites until we could return home for lunch and it was helping to pass the time. As an added bonus, those drinks can't be gulped or the kids knew they would get "freeze brain" so it helped pass the wait time. We were confident once again, that our portrait dream could come true. Having carefully monitored the time, I announced that it was time to make our way back to the photography studio. We should arrive just a couple minutes before our turn with the photographer. The children were happy and ready to go, having consumed their cherry icy drinks with great enjoyment. They turned to me, grinning with pleasure, and that's when I saw not only cherry red lips, but pink teeth! Getting a professional portrait done had seemed like such a good idea, but it just goes to show that plans need to be flexible and you need to have or develop a sense of humor to get you past those "pink teeth" moments.

We had a random drawing from our subscribers for five tickets to the Heart of the Matter Online Conference.

The winners are:

  1. awakenyourspirit
  2. missmichelle6
  4. D
  5. Amy Mason

Please email me with your Name and email address so HOTM can get you the tickets. If we do not hear from you in the next day or two, we will open it up to the first readers to respond.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

North Carolina HINTS Here We Come!

I thought about using the title "North Carolina or Bust" for this post, but with a sick child, a car in for repairs, having to replace the washer and dryer two weeks ago, and the dishwasher barely sloshing along, I decided that "bust" does not have a good connotation for my family lately. Not to mention the used dryer we bought doesn't dry the clothes any faster than if we held up the articles of clothing and blew on them for several hours. And I have asthma. Ahem. Enough whining about busted things. We are heading down to North Carolina to the HINTS (Home Instructors Need Team Support) book fair. I will be speaking on "Adapting Curriculum for Struggling Learners", "Helping the Distractible Child", and "Sensory Integration". I know at least one of my friends will be there, but since I'm from Ohio I'm hoping to make some new friends while I'm in North Carolina. If you are going to HINTS be sure and stop by the Heads Up booth and say "hi". The Heads Up crew is a fun bunch and would love to meet you! Plus, if you don't stop by they will be bored, and being bored is one of the things they fear the most.
Hope to see you soon!
Melinda L. Boring

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More Tootsie Roll Magic for Executive Functions

When a child is disorganized and distractible, he needs more direct instruction in learning executive function skills. So how do you teach what seems to come naturally to some people? How do you teach a child if you share these struggles with them? Just how many Tootsie Rolls must be doled out before a child learns and generalizes a skill?!?

I recommend the book "Smart But Scattered" by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare. Billed as "The revolutionary Executive Skills approach way to helping kids reach their potential", it is packed with practical ways to identify and address issues related to executive functioning. I found a copy at my library and it is available on as well. As for concerns about too many Tootsie Rolls, I feel your dental pain. Here's the upside with our distractible kids...they love/crave/need variety so the rewards not only can be changed, they should be changed now and then. And if your family is like mine, you do not need more trinkets cluttering up your house. For example, you could use a reward to work toward a larger prize by having two zip-loc bags side by side marked in some way to make them distinctly different. A small set of Legos goes in one bag, with one piece being transferred into the "I did it!" bag with each completed task. You could tape the picture of the completed object on this bag for added motivation. When all the pieces have been transferred the child can make whatever the set was designed to make, or if your child is like my son he can make something completely different! This is also a great way for your child to earn back toys that have not been put away or have been forgotten under the bed or in the bottom of a toy box. In any case, the child is getting rewarded for completing tasks and learning patience while working toward a larger goal or prize. The rewards don't have to be big or expensive, just rewarding. I used to sing the song "I'm proud of you" (from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood) to my kids when they did something well. It cost me nothing and took only a minute, but the children got the acknowledgment they needed. The entire song went like this: “Proud of you, I’m proud of you! I hope that you are proud of you, too.” The song repeats one time and it’s over. To this day, my children remember this song. Since you may not always be physically with your child when she completes a task, try recording a celebratory song on an inexpensive recording device and have her play it for herself when she completes a task. She can keep it in her pocket or you can leave it at the task completion spot. Again, if things tend to get buried or misplaced at your house try using industrial Velcro to keep it in one place. And now...(drum roll)...for the distractible adult here are a couple tips we've tried over the years. First, and only moderately successful but better than nothing, when my easily-distracted husband sets out to do a task I remind him of his goal and loudly hum the theme from Mission Impossible. "You're in, you're out!" I helpfully remind him as he heads out the door. The other tip I've used on those especially scattered, brain fog days is to wear a recording device and tell myself what I need to remember. I record a message, then when I get to the top of the stairs or in another room (yep, it could have evaporated from my brain already) I listen to the message. Usually it's something simple like "I'm going upstairs to get my sewing scissors." Sometimes I throw in an encouraging message like "You're the woman!" just to keep my motivation strong. Check your cell phone for an application that allows you to do voice recordings. That might be a good technology tool for distractible teenagers to use. It's faster than writing things down and we almost always have our cell phones nearby. Plus, cell phones are less likely to be lost than scraps of paper with hastily scrawled notes on them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Adults with Down Syndrome

My friend Penny brought this to my attention. I don't know if I can get HBO, but I hope to find a way to watch this when it airs. Here is the trailer:

Friday, July 02, 2010

Sniffing Tennis Balls?

My son, Josh, has a well developed sense of smell. His sensory processing issues are sometimes a strength but more often than not when he was younger they interfered with his ability to function and participate fully in activities. When I homeschooled Josh and his sisters, two out of three of my students had AD/HD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) along with sensory and auditory processing difficulties. Not only did they have more energy than I did, I had to repeat myself a lot and keep their sensory challenges in mind. Leaning over to help Josh with an assignment, I can remember Josh informing me that I had coffee breath. Unwilling to forgo coffee, I instead tried to angle my head so that when I spoke the air flow would be directed away from Josh's nose. Picture the way a bird cocks its head, and that's probably about what I looked like as I taught my little fledglings. Although I wasn't right in his face, his overly sensitive nose could pick up the smell of a peanut butter sandwich from several feet away. As with many of his sensory integration challenges, Josh was both sensory seeking and sensory avoiding at times. When I prepared his meals, Josh always had to sniff the food before eating it. Always. Even if it was his favorite meal, very familiar to him, he smelled it prior to eating as if this time I might have slipped something nasty in his food for unknown reasons. Josh wasn't a picky eater, but he sure appeared to be a suspicious one. Over time, I was able to get him to sniff more surreptitiously at least when he was a guest in someone's home or out in public. Josh still occasionally gives an unfamiliar food item a sniff prior to tasting it, but I think that's o.k. because we all tend to notice the smells of new and previously untried foods. Josh's tendency to sniff things wasn't limited to food or drink items. One time Josh was playing with our dog, having him fetch a tennis ball. This is when impulsivity collided with sensory processing and Josh took the tennis ball from the dog's mouth and gave it a sniff. "Ewww! This smells terrible!" he proclaimed, practically gagging before lifting it to his nose for another whiff. "Ugh! That's awful! Plus, it's slimy!" Now his whole system was on red alert since he experienced an aversive smell and an aversive tactile feeling together. I could practically see him shudder. We had to laugh, though, because even after he knew the tennis ball had a bad odor, he went ahead and smelled it again before he could stop himself. When I asked him why, he said something in his brain told him to check again to see if it was as bad as he thought it was. His own second opinion was confirmation enough. Josh still has an acute sense of smell, but over the years has learned to control both his impulsivity and his reactions to smells - even though as his mom I can still tell when he is cringing inside.