Water Anyone?

This post is for all of you out there who still worry about what other people think. If I did at all before today, I don’t anymore.

Put on your seatbelts; we’re in for a bumpy ride.

I have this great idea yesterday that I am going to take my boys, all three of them, to Jungle Playland. This is an indoor play area like a GIGANTIC McDonald’s area—tunnels, slides, climbing wall, obstacle course, video games and an under 3 area.

The bad news is that it is 1 hour away.

OK, so I ask my good friend Judy to join me with her two (NT) boys. Vinnie is 9 and Dominic is 7. They are happy to go, since they are the ones that have told us about it, and in our lovely Seattle summer weather full of rain and wind, inside is good for everyone.

We get up this morning and I prepare the kids.

Heavy work. Check.

Stretching. Check.

Pull ups. Check.

Big Breakfast. Check.

Pack snacks (juice boxes, water, cheese sticks, fish crackers, crunchy granola bars and Diet Pepsi for mom). Check.

Pack Heavy Blanket. Check.

Extra Socks for Matthew (who won’t wear them, so when he loses them I need more). Check.

Assign Seats (Gabe in his own seat; Nick to share the backseat). Check.

Verify Movie Selection (Horton Hears A Who). Check.

In the van.

We load up our friends, who luckily live right around the corner, and we are off.

The kids are great. Watch a movie, play DS, chat amonst themselves—they did well.

Gabe was agitated most of the time, he hates the car seat after about 10 minutes, but the company was a good distraction--for me and him.

We arrive at Jungle Playland just as it opens. Perfect timing.

The kids play wonderfully, while we order pizza (only $8.50 for a medium pizza!) and get settled.

They all were having so much fun.

Then, other parents got in the mix.

I stood up and walked the 15 feet to the ball pit area where Gabriel had been playing for quite some time. I approached, took photos, and this young girl, maybe 20ish, said, “Is that your son?”


“He is not listening. He is being very rough with the smaller kids in here.”

“That’s probably because he is on the Autism Spectrum and doesn’t know how to be gentle.” I responded straight faced.

“What? I can’t hear you it is too loud in here.”


I called Gabriel over to me and gave him a gentle reminder that he needed to be more aware of his surroundings; younger kids (which there were a billion of) need more room around their bodies for safety.

Gabe gets out and plays somewhere else.

Then it is Matt’s turn.

Matt is insisting on climbing UP the three part “waterfall” slide. Ah, sorry bud, too much traffic for that.

I grab him and remove him about three or four times, when I hear the woman behind me say, “He is going to get hurt.”

“No he isn’t.” I say with a smile. “He is the youngest of three boys.”

I remove Matt again, and when I walk back the same woman jokes, “Can you tell I am the mom of a girl? And she is an only child?” She was very warm and nice. Isn’t that amazing? Really.

Cue Nick.

Bawling he comes over to me. Gabriel was feeling overwhelmed (not too shocking) and had hurt him. I didn’t get the details; I just calmed Nick down, gave him fish crackers and water and went to find Gabriel.

He came down the slide and sauntered over to me like things were peachy.

“I hear you are having problems with Nick.”

Dirty look.

“Your body is way out of sorts. You are on mandatory 15 minutes of quiet time at the table.” I tell him—by his look giving it to him straight is the best choice.

He flips.

I grab him, and hold him tight against me. I start rocking him, hold his legs up to his chest in front of both of him, all the while talking to him about when he was a baby. One of his favorite topics.

“Do you want me to sing to you?”


“I used to sing to you when you were a baby. Do you remember what songs we sang?” I continue as he is fighting to get free.

“I don’t remember.” He says giving in to the pressure I am providing.

“We sang “I love you” the happy family song every night before you went to bed. Then we put you in your crib.”

He is OK now.

“I am hungry.” He says.

“I bet you are. Do you want some pizza now?”


“Is there something wrong with the pizza? Because it is either that or you have to wait until we get to the car for a snack and that might be too long to wait.”

“It is cold.”

“Ah, can I see if they will heat it up for you?”


I leave him in charge of watching the stuff at the table and walk up to the counter and a mere 30 seconds later I reappear with hot pizza. Microwave, I love you.

He eats them quickly and downs a bottle of water.

“You still have about 3 more minutes. How are you? Your body still seems high to me.” I tell him.

“I am a fine.” He insists, shoving the last bite in his mouth and trying to leave for the slides again.

“You don’t look fine to me. It is really loud in here and that is overwhelming for me. You seem like that is overwhelming you and you are too high.”

Here is where I missed; I let him choose.

“I am good.” He assures me and is gone.

One one-thousand, Two one-thousand, Three one-thousand.

Here comes Nick in tears again, only this time he has Gabe right behind him.

I grab Nick and pull him around the side of me while instructing Gabriel to sit down in the chair in front of me.

And that is when it happened.

Gabe reached for the OPEN bottle of water and held the bottle while he threw water all over the table next to us.

“Absolutely NOT.” I say to Gabriel.

He grabs a second and gives an unwelcome shower to the table next to that.

I jump to my feet and grab Gabriel to my body.

Dirty looks all around.

The lovely woman of one daughter next to me looks at me oddly.

“He is Autistic.” I say hoping for sympathy.

“Oh, no problem, can I help?” She says immediately.

This lovely lady retrieves towels and begins to clean up after my kid’s water episode as I am frantically picking up all of our things off the table and stacking up our trash—all the while holding Gabriel firmly under my arm to avoid any further (collateral) damage.

Here is to you “Mom of the Only Child Girl” for being an amazing parent, great person and for not judging me or my kids. You receive my "Stranger of the Day Award".

Judy is taking the time to round up the other boys, including Matthew, who apparently is wreaking havoc in his own way.

As my clean up goes on, I get approached by yet another woman, this one probably 22 with an 18 month old daughter on her hip attempting to get my attention.


“Your son is in the ball pit and he is throwing balls at people.”
“OK.” I say, totally not paying attention to her.

“I asked him to stop, but he isn’t.” She says with a tone of sincere concern.

“Oh, like he is three years old and doesn’t listen?” I say sarcastically.

“Yes, but I asked him nicely.” She says.

You asked nicely? Why didn’t I think of that?

“I am trying to keep my Autistic son from having a meltdown and being dangerous. I will get Matt out of the balls in a second.” I say, avoiding all of the swear words that instantly came to mind. Which is pretty much a gift to her.

Judy wrangles Matthew with the level of skill that only moms of boys have.

I pick him up and lock him to me. He cries for candy as I maneuver him and Gabriel through the doors, with Nick, Vinnie, Dominic and Judy right behind.

In the van Gabriel gets his heavy blanket and eats a granola bar, juice box, bag of apples and cheese stick before we hit the highway.

I realize quickly that I am not at all embarrassed by what any of the people at the Playland did or did not think of me.

I do realize that I am a tad worried that Judy thinks we are crazier than she may have before our enjoyable outing.

That fear is immediately proven wrong. Judy is a true friend.

“I am sorry for that chaos leaving.” I say.

“No problem. It was time to leave anyway.” She says with a shrug.

I feel lucky to have a friend that has no judgment—

So Judy if you are reading this, THANK YOU for being a great friend! : ) You receive the “Friend of the Day Award”. If only these “Awards” of mine came with a prize… I will have to ponder that.

Now we are home.

Gabe has attacked Nick two more times and is currently pounding the walls in his room with his feet because he wants me to be clear on his decision NOT to sleep.

Another day.

Now pass me a beer,

Sensory Diet

The term "Sensory Diet" gets thrown around alot and is honestly very intimidating.

It took me a long time to realize that Sensory Diet had nothing to do with recreating what my OT does. Funny as that may be, it really doesn't.

No one expects you to have the same equipment (although I bet you have some of it) as an Occupational Therapist, let alone the experience and education required to be doing therapy with your kiddo at home every day.

That is the fear that most newly diagnosed moms of SPD kiddos have--that Sensory Diet means making time every day to say, "Hey son, time to do your therapy." Which, of course, they are in no way shape or form going to agree to. Right?

What Sensory Diet really is, is a change of the way you do things each day that incorporates Sensory Activities into your day to day life. It keeps your kiddo from melting down. It keeps your kiddo Calm and Organized, in a state that learning and problem solving are possible.

My goal is 20 minutes every hour. Yes, that is a very optimistic goal some days, but we all need something to aim at--no matter how far away we are from the target.

Here are the things that I do with my kiddo. Gabriel is a seeker, so this may not always work with your kid, but hopefully it will get you thinking. :)

Proprioception (movement of our muscles and joints: pressure in and out):
Holding the door open in public and pushing it shut (don't forget to close it!)
Pushing a grocery cart
Putting the grocery cart away (pushing it into the others)
Pushing a stroller
Pushing me in a wheeled chair
Playing "Wheelbarrow" with his brothers
Animal walk races (crab, bear, inch worm, and more) front door to back door
Pull ups on a pull up bar in door way
Stretching with the door frame
Carrying a backpack--deliver the books upstairs
Carrying groceries
Unloading cans of pop into fridge (or water bottles, etc)
Crawling games
Simmon Says (lots of hopping on one foot, reach for the sky, etc)
Trampoline Dares (I dare you to do 36 jumps)
Backyard jungle gym (monkey bars, rock climb, ladder)
Cilmbing UP the slide
Heavy blanket (great to wrap in and then log roll through the house)
Moving furniture (Oh, Gabe, I forgot to push the chairs in at the table, can you do that please?)
Unloading dishes
Small motor work (scissors cutting cardboard, theraputty or playdoh)
Small Block Push/Pull (Zoobs, Legos, Snap Blocks, etc)

Vestibular (balance, where your body is in space):
Simmon Says (balancing on one foot)
Egg Chair spinning
Bean bag (holds body in one place)
Swinging outside, or in blanket with two adults

Oral (some are taste, and some are proprioceptive work outs):
"Drinking" semi-liquid foods with a straw (smoothies, yogurt, pudding, applesauce)
Gum with Bubble Blowing
Chewy Vitamins
Chewing ice (bad for teeth, talk to your dentist)
Frozen grapes or bananas
Blowing bubbles; look for great different kinds of blowers, whistles, pipes, etc.
Whistling practice
Various types of foods--crunchy (pretzels), chewy (raisins), sour, sweet
Things he can chew apart with his teeth (corn on the cob, hard bars or crunchy ones)--think beaver like almost. lol

Water play--sprinkler, shower, etc.
Burrito Making (we wrap him up in a blanket and call it a burrito)
Crawling through things (loves to be under the area rug)
Playdoh (also proprioceptive)
Bean tub (again, proprioceptive)
"Cooking" with flour (1 cup of flour, large bowl, measuring spoons, WAH LAH! Add water by the tablespoon for a disposable paste like substance that is ewey gooey fun)
Shaving cream (great in a stand up shower or on a table)
Mud play
Massage (talk with OT)
Brushing (talk with OT)
Pushing on shoulders or head
Tight hugging
Squeezing on joints (compression, talk to your OT)
We LOVE to use the vending machines (think gumballs or bouncy balls) as a reward after shopping--we don't buy anything, but they get to twist every knob and check every dispenser. Look for stores like Fred Meyer that have a whole bank of these on the exits
Appliances checking--again, sounds crazy, but at Loews you can let them check in every fridge, oven, dish washer and dryer until their hearts content.
Self serve lotto ticket vending machines. Lots of buttons to push and usually right after the grocery check out.

Smell: Usually trying to minimize
Cooking (smell everything--every spice and extract)
Candles (never keep them in the house, but great distraction at the store while we are shopping)

Hearing: Usually try to minimize
Music of choice w/or w/o ear phones
Quiet time in room
Sound canceling earphones
Listening games (Can you hear that?)
Repeating Songs (Going on a squeegie hunt (kids repeat), Gonna catch a big one (kids repeat))
Books on CD in the van (no video) makes everyone quiet as they concentrate on the voice
Sound Bingo (love it, check out DiscoveryToys.com)
High Low (a nightly ritual where we take turns talking about the best and the worst the day had to offer--GREAT for minimizing auditory distractions at the table, catching up, and practicing listening to our brothers)

Sight: Usually try to minimize
Quiet time in room w/o distractions
"Cool cloth" over the eyes with eyes shut (great for allergies too, but usually puts Gabe to sleep)
I Spy (with traditional colors--Something yellow)
I Spy (with letters, Something that starts with a "C"; WARNING this is REALLY hard even for adults!)

This is in NO way a comprehensive list. Not even close. These are things that we regularly do in our day to day life that are, at least for me at this point, second nature.

Remember, my son is under-stimulated (he needs more)--if your child is over-stimulated (needs less), you may not use some of these things. It is my experience, that most people can use these strategies, it is just the *timing* that is different. My son doesn't do well with too much in the sight, smell, hearing department, and that is why we do lots of proprioceptive work during the day so he can better deal with the other input.

We have mandatory quiet time to regroup every day after school. I think of it as sensory deprivation so that he can reset himself after keeping it together all day.

Also, for us, the more proprioceptive input he has the better off he is. Throughout the day, before or during a meltdown, just about anything that gives that input works to keep his body calm and organized.

In Kindergarten, with help from our OT, we had a strict routine of coming home, weighted compression vest on, yogurt with a straw, crunchy pretzels, and more food of his choice for a 20 minutes. Then structured free time for 40 minutes, and vest back on. We did the vest for 20 minutes every hour until bed time when he had a weighted blanket on him.

Now, we still do the weighted blanket but he fights it. The jungle gym and pull up bar are our new favorites.

Get talking with your OT, other moms, or email me and put together a list of things for quick reference in your wallet or on your fridge that you can do with your child every day. There could easily be a list for your classroom too!

Hope this has got you thinking. Leave comments with anything you have found that works for your family--away from home, in your backyard, or just hanging out at home.

Enjoy your week!

TV Solutions for Summer

Assuming you are all not TV Nazis, and have learned the value of some "quiet time" with a heavy blanket (or not) in front of the boobtube for your kiddos, these are some of my favorites. Grab your Tivo we are in for a bumpy summer ride and you'll need backup:

Special Agent OSO (Playhouse Disney): I know you are thinking "no way", but hear me out. This relatively new show stars Sean Astin, from the Lord Of The Rings movie series, as a sun bear (I think) with a James Bond flair. He goes around with "special assignments" solving problems for regular kids all around the globe. Why is it on my list? Executive Skills and Motor Planning. Yep, that is the theme of every mission: Find the problem, break it down with steps and accomplish your goal. From cleaning a child's room to making a salad to learning hop scotch this little Double-O-Bear is teaching something much more valuable than the ABCs.

Discovery Kids Ultimate Guide To The Awesome: This is a great show, 1 hour long, for kids that are into "facts". The series focuses on one topic (from the sun to Whales and everything in between) and delves into the facts and science of each thing. My little fact obsessed babies just thrive on the information provided--and the ability to regurgitate it at will for an impressed audience.

Pinky Dinky Doo (Noggin): If you haven't seen this, you are seriously missing out. Pinky Dinky Doo is a fantastic show that stars a girl that makes up stories. The songs are addicting "Pinky's got a story she wants to share with you..." and the vocabulary building words are great. That said, the true star of this show are the games at the end. Yes, at the end of the show they play video-style games that engage the audience into remembering the story in detail: who said what, what order things happened in, and practicing using the new vocab. Wonderful.

Dora The Explorer (NickJr): Cliche as it may be, there is a reason Dora has been so successful. There is great benefit to making a plan and sticking to it: just ask Map. Our kids thrive on the knowledge of what comes next, and of course, so does Dora. It also helps with Executive Planning skills: how will we solve this problem? What are the steps to get where we want to go? Showing our kids that things can be broken down is a valuable skill. This is a no-brainer for quality TV in my book.

Word World (PBS Kids): This new show has taken the toys aisle by storm. I am guessing you've seen it, but really, have you watched it? I am fascinated by how the animators get those letters shaped into characters, but what I really love about it is that it shows our WHOLE WORLD in words. There is such a strong belief in early education that words have to be incorporated into our children's worlds for them to truly make the connection (think how everything in a preschool setting is labeled: colors, shapes, calendars, even "door" or "rug" have tags), this takes it to another level. This shows how there are letters associated with everything in our environment. Excellent for our kiddos!

The Backyardigans (NickJr.): This is probably one of those shows you have seen already. But take another look; those characters are so easily relatable to our kids. It shows social skills at play, in their backyard, where kids are cooperatively making a game out of what may appear to be totally different ideas. Yet, they are playing together. Example would be Movers of Arabia where two characters are movers and two are playing Aladdin (basically). Another example would be the Snow Fort where two (boys) are playing snow fort, and the girls are playing Snow Patrol -- they end up playing together, but still playing their own game. These are great examples of sharing control of play during a play date. Huge social skills building here. It also encourages kids to use their imaginations--have independent and elaborate dramatic play scenarios, which at our house often extend far beyond the TV and into our real play. Prompting like, "Play Backyardigans Queen of the Nile" and all of the neighborhood kids know just what to do: rules and all. Add to that great music and hysterical dance scenes and you have a winner.

The Magic School Bus (PBS): This is also one of those things that you have seen, and your kiddo has seen in school. But it has great information, and some great examples of cooperation. Because the show has so many characters, they are constantly agreeing and disagreeing, as well as learning how things work together. We LOVE the shark episode where they introduce "symbiotic" relationships; we use that word in our life as a way for our kids to work together--being symbiotic means that each of you benefits in some way from the relationship. Great for my little fact finders as a push for peace in the house. The show has lots of good information, and it is something I feel pretty good about my kids watching.

Now--go grab those remotes and start recording!

Sensory Processing Disorder Advocate

We all are SPD Advocates for our children and all kids with SPD. Spread the word.

S - Sensory Seeking
E - Early Intervention
N - Noise Canceling Earphones
S - Shaving Cream Play
O - Occupational Therapy
R - Rocking
Y - Yelling

P - Proprioception
R - Rough Housing
O - Over-Stimulated
C - Crashing
E - Egg Chairs
S - Seven Senses
S - Support Group
I - IEP Meetings
N - Non-Verbal Learning
G - Gum Chewing

D - DSM 2010!
I - Input
S - Spio Suits
O - Olfactory
R - Reading Every New Book
D -Diet Changes
E - Ear Covering
R - Removing Tags From Clothing

A - Anxiety Issues
D - Desensitization
V -Vigilance
O - Obsessive Compulsive
C - Chew Toys
A - Auditory Processing Problems
T - Touch
E - Exhausted