Toys For Sensory Diet Fun

I am always asked about Sensory Diet and what my friends and readers can do to regulate their kiddo at home.

As funny as it sounds, I don’t even think about Sensory Diet anymore—it is so ingrained in what we do—that now there is a sensory component in virtually every part of our day.

I thought I would put together a list of things that we use (or have used before) on a regular basis as part of our Sensory Diet.

I mean things we REALLY REALLY use every day.

Things that you can use every day.

Things that your kids will like and actually want to do.

And things that hopefully don’t make a giant mess, hence making life better not just creating more work for you. :)

Gabriel was very oral when he was younger. He needed to chew on something constantly. He had a billion things in his mouth all the time. Small toys, cars, or blocks, and sometimes he would just lick whatever was around him—chairs, TV, etc.

Since that was a little odd looking, we had lots of mouth toys and objects that were OK for chewing on. We tried teething rings w/o water (that didn't last long since he had teeth by then), straws, things on the end of a pencil, some vibrating things and much more. No good.
Gabriel's shirt was CONSTANTLY wet at the neck and the wrists. His backpack was chewed up on every end and he had a habit of eating zippers.

That is when we found Chewlery. See the little girl chewing her necklace in the photo above? Yep, that is it. For Gabriel we used the bracelet version more often since we learned that when you chew the necklace all the time, since it is shaped like an old school phone cord, it holds the spit. Ewww. It would make his shirt awfully wet. The bracelet was very cool and since it comes in about every color, it was still "normal" enough for him to wear even though he was a boy.

When Kindergarten came, we moved to gum. Which has been awesome, but sometimes I feel like he is addicted to it so I do try to limit the amount of gum he can chew in a day by offering alternatives for mouth input like a straw, ice cubes, Popsicles, whistles, bubble blowing and blow pens just to name a few.

We also used the Theraputty a TON when Gabriel was in preschool and through Kindergarten. This was a big ingrained part of our routine.

Theraputty is a playdoh/silly putty type material that is used by therapists to help increase the strength in your hands. You absolutely need to ask your OT what "color" or strength is appropriate for your child to start with.

We learned about this from our OT and bought some for home. Our OT taught us the trick of using the Lite Brite colored pegs to hide inside the putty. Then, Gabriel had to find them all, then hide them all himself for the next kid. It is a very creative way for kids to use those small motor skills to dig, push and pull the putty around looking for their little treasures. For us it was used primarily as a "waiting game" for know, when I am making dinner and he has to wait. Or I am talking to some one and he has to wait. Theraputty keeps his mind and his hands busy.

We loved our Theraputty--and I highly recommend talking to your OT about this as it is much more fun and lasts longer than Playdoh. Playdoh is TOO easy to manipulate. Oh, and Theraputty is awesome to cut with scissors. Another terrific way to work out those small motor skills.

Another thing we have had for what feels like ever is a heavy blanket--or weighted vest, or weighted lap pad. Something that is full of beans or pellets that can provide the added pressure Gabriel craves. This is something that Gabriel needs and is so useful.

We take it to the movies to help with sitting still, we use it in the car on long trips, or when he has to wait a long period of time, we use it after a long day to help relax and to wind down while watching a TV show. It has been great for us.

I am also a big fan of the Zoob blocks (pictured on the side bar). The push and pull it takes to get them together and apart is fantastic work for little hands. They are like ashoulder joint--ball and socket.

I also love that they are not as complex to manipulate as Legos (don't require only the pincer grasp, hence uses more of the entire hand/arm to pull and push) and still cooler than Duplos.

Each tub comes with instructions to make some seriously neat and challenging things too--like dinosaurs, helicopters, a crown, a bicycle and more. This has been a great lesson in motor planning and even my hubby will play Zoobs with the boys.
Our Zoob expertise has really grown and taken off. All three boys love these things.

You knew there would be a trampoline on my list, so here it is. : )

This is the must-have of the must-haves.

Every person I know with an SPD kiddo has a tramp. You probably do too.


Do you have this trampoline? Hmm... I didn't think so.

Why is it so cool?

Well, it has the option of counting the jumps for your child. Think, "Hey son, go do 100 jumps" when he is 3 and can't count that might not work. With this trampoline it will count out loud for him, from 1-100 or from 100-1. Add to that it can play music. Challenge your kiddo to jump until the music is over or beat hims high score" jumping past a certain number. This trampoline can do so much more than your average tramp.....But no, it doesn't make coffee. But good question.

Why is the electronic part important?

I think it is important because it provides motivation, novelty and fun. All things that your sensory diet is in desperate need of for it to be successful.

I think that the design is fabulous as well. The triangle lends it self well to the theory that only one kid should be on at a time, and the bike-like handle bars are easy to hold onto and very intuitive for even the littlest jumper.

Another fun way to move is to spin, which brings us to the fabulous Egg Chair. I know tons of people who have these and we actually have two (don't want giant fights to break out).

The benefits are great. Not only can it be used as a place to escape, to pull the shade down over your body and virtually disappear, Gabriel also uses it for a place to spin. Spinning is fun.

Gabriel spends time reading in our Egg Chair, or playing with his lions, or just watching TV with a cozy place to keep his body tucked into. This has proven way better than our Bean Bag (although we do still use that, but Gabriel can't keep himself out of the cover--unzips the bag, climbs in with the beans--big mess).

Gabriel took gymnastics last fall and became a huge fan of the pull up bar. We bought a version that goes in our door way and we keep it there all the time as an option for him come rain or shine (or 100+ degree RIDICULOUS Seattle weather).

It has become a huge part of our routine. As a matter of fact we use it to hang on just as much as we do to actually pull up. All that time Gabriel has spent on the monkey bars really seems to pay off.
A friend of mine was here with her 5 year old SPD son earlier this week, and that kid was a bigger monkey than Gabriel is--which is saying a whole lot. My guess is that our kiddos spend so much time climbing anything they can get their hands on that they become extra strong. That sure is the case here anyway.

We have included some stretching exercises using the door frame to round out Gabriel's "heavy work" before school. This is what we do: Pull up bar to hang for the count of 10-20, then drop and push the door way, shake it out, hang again for the same count, drop and stretch our arms both forward and backwards, then the pull up bar, drop, push and shake it out. Three times to hang with stretching in between and we are off to school. It has been a fantastic addition to our sensory toys and even better for our Sensory Diet.
We also are in constant need of ways to stimulate our sense of smell in a positive way. I have recently bought a number of scented markers, and they now have scented colored pencils, but the good old fashioned scented markers I had as a kid are still my favorite.

It is not uncommon to find my darling boys with multi-colored noses after creating a masterpiece. My favorite is probably still the Red--Cherry. Oh, and we all hate Black--Licorice. Eww.

Another really cool thing to have on hand is Bubble Wrap.

Just the regular old wrap-your-stuff-to-ship stuff they sell at the post office.

We have been bubble wrap fanatics for years. Every time my husband gets anything shipped, we always save the bubble wrap for the boys.

The funny thing is that when I went to see Carol Kranowitz (author of the Out Of Sync Child) speak last fall in Tacoma WA, she was a HUGE fan too! Who knew?

Having bubble wrap on hand can be the best sensory activity and it is incredibly engaging for kids without sensory issues as well (great for play dates!).

You can roll on it, jump on it, pinch it, roll it and wring it out, hop on it, slide on it and about a million other things too. The possibilities are just endless.

And every one gives you the satisfying popping sound too.

Which brings me to my new found gadget: Electronic Bubble Wrap.

Yes, you heard me right. Bubble Wrap with batteries.

This little bit of genius allows you to pop away any time you like with a very similar feeling and sound to actual bubble wrap.

It is small enough to be in a pocket, or attached to a backpack and quiet enough to use during class.

The best part is after every 100 pops or so it gives you a bonus sound like a bell.

So cool. A reward for popping away.

OK, those are my favorites right now. There are so many more that I could put on here that are actual Occupational Therapy tools that I know many families have at home and love, but they are just too advanced for me.

These are things that all of my kids enjoy, use and are easy to access and do not require excessive parent participation or vigilante like supervision.

We never did inside swings or hammock, nor did we do the ball pit or some of the other fantastic options available now. I do not have the kind of energy required to be an OT. I'll leave that to the professionals. (Thanks Kelly!)

I have dozens of more things I could post, so I may do a second version of this posting if it gets a lot of readers.

I hope if you are in Seattle you are enjoying Air Conditioning somewhere. I big shout out to Stuart for my air conditioning--Thank you so much and WE LOVE YOU!


GFCF Birthday Cupcakes

For those of you who know me well, or just maybe have gathered from my blog, I absolutely LOVE to bake.

When my birthday came up (yesterday), I decided that the best thing I could do was to make some GFCF cupcakes so that Gabriel wasn't left out. I would feel horrible about that. And now that Betty Crocker has a main-stream option, it was worth trying.

So Matt (my little Gordon Ramsey) and I got going.

Here is my review:

The mix was very very very white and sparkly since you could see the sugar in it. I was skeptical.

We added the ingredients, per the "alternate non-dairy" instructions online. Save yourself some time: the directions are the exact same only using shortening instead of butter. Why didn't they print that on the package? Also, it calls for "Gluten Free Vanilla" which really threw me. But I was tickled to find out that my Costco standard Vanilla is gluten free. Thank you Costco.

Matthew gave the batter his seal of approval.

Twice. OK, maybe a few more times....he just kept eating it.

Into the oven they went.

Out of the oven they came.

I was concerned about the texture of the cupcakes. All three of my boys independently called them muffins. I think they are correct. The texture and appearance was more grainy looking--like muffins (which I make very often from scratch so the boys are used to seeing those around the house).

I decided to go with a Gluten Free frosting mix, because I was suckered into it while standing in the aisle checking out the Gluten Free cake mix. What a waste of money. LOL Although the frosting tasted fine, powdered sugar, shortening and vanilla are much cheaper when they don't come in a "GFCF" bag. Just a tid bit I picked up on.

Even after frosting the cupcakes, they looked a little sad and naked.

I toasted some coconut and rolled the cupcakes in it for me, afterall it was my birthday. For the boys, I put the GFCF Newman's Own brand "oreos" on top. That was a huge hit. Then I left a few plain for the purists in the family. I was very happy mine had coconut.

The answer is this: the cupcakes were great. They were not so bad that you remembered that you are eating something modified, and not so good that you have to eat them all in one sitting. That said, I had two.

There is my GFCF Betty Crocker review. How helpful is it? I don't know. What I do know is that there are about a dozen or so GFCF alternations in my head that I could do with that cake mix. I will try again--but right now, I don't feel like tackling test-kitchen recipes at $4.19 a box plus add ins. Sigh.

I will post again soon, as you have to hear about my day Monday when Matthew threw up on me right before I went into the YMCA to get Gabriel and how they said I didn't have ID (apparently the puke on me doesn't count as ID) and couldn't take my kid. But that story doesn't exactly go well with cake.

Ah, to be me.

See ya soon,

Back To School: IEP Meetings

When you think of school starting, do you get scared of the IEP Meeting? I do.

I really have no reason to be scared. Truthfully it isn’t the actual meeting that makes my stomach tie in knots, it is the horror stories I hear all over the country about how hard it is to get services for our kids.

It is the anticipation of a fight. And even though I may be Evander Hollyfield in my mind, the school district is known to be Mike Tyson--and in this heavy weight battle there is so much to do, that I am afraid I will forget to cover my ears.

That said, my IEP meetings have been few and far between, but also very pleasant.

I think that is because we don’t qualify for anything. (I can hear you laughing)

Again, my motto is, “If you can’t laugh at my life, you have no sense of humor.”


Gabriel qualifies for Speech for articulation issues. So he gets to see the school SLP for about 20 minutes once a week. That’s it.


My life has been considerably easier in dealing with the limited services that Gabriel qualifies for, in that I truly believe that the entire staff of our public school wants Gabriel to succeed. You are probably saying "Shouldn't every school feel that way about every kid?" Sounds great in philosophy (like "no kid left behind" did...), but in reality, that isn't how it works.

Which is why I feel like it is easier for me to trust my school since I believe that from the principal to the custodian each and every adult that runs into my kid during the day actually likes him and is willing to go out of their way to help accommodate him.

Yes that is mostly luck. And partially due to Gabriel being so damn cute. : )

However, as Gabriel gets older and not every person in the world is going to think he is the Shiz-nit like I do, (hard to believe, I know), I think it is important that we lay a good foundation of accommodations and services in his IEP that will act as a safety net for the times when his behavior isn’t exactly flawless.

That means that this Fall we will have our IEP meeting as soon as it is humanly possible to go over the new diagnosis, PDD-NOS and Mood Disorder NOS—

SIDE NOTE: Just so you know, I love the acronym NOS.

I have begun using it any time I feel the need to be vague.

“Are you ever going to fold the laundry?!”

“Yes, NOS.”

Doesn’t that rock? It is like you don’t have to pin point anything.

How about this one:

“Mrs. Steiner, you haven’t paid your water bill this month. When do you intend on paying it?”

“Soon, NOS.”

OK, OK, and last one:

“Why are you angry with me?!”

“I just am, NOS.”


If only NOS could be applied in the real world, I would get away with a lot more.

Now back to the IEP.

I am sure the meeting I have with the school staff will be successful. I also know that I work regularly to make sure my relationship with all of them stays positive.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I definitely walk a fine line between Bitchy and Controlling with the added bonus of being slightly overprotective. And for those reasons, I have been kicked out of preschool and a doctor’s office while protecting my kid.

I have to be careful, since I truly do not want to get kicked out of his current school. Which may not be possible, but trust me, I think I could find a way. ; )

Which means we have to have a game plan.

And yes, Mrs. Fuglevand, our principal, reads this occasionally. So,

Hi Brenda! Hope summer is going well! Let me know if you want to add any great tips to my series here on how to work with your school to make a better IEP.

If she emails any great ideas, I'll post them.

My IEP Meeting Tips:

Come prepared. Yes, you have to come prepared, duh! Bring current copies of all private assessments your child has gone through, from OT, SLP, psychologist, whomever your child sees over the summer (or up until now, including previous IEPs from previous schools/preschools). Providing up to date info shows you value everyone's time and that you are not looking to have them redo the testing. Prepare emotionally to be as neutral as possible--you want to be a team player. Do not come with that chip on your shoulder that you have such a hard time dusting off. Let's try to assume that everyone wants the same thing: a successful and happy kid. Put the past behind you. This is a new year and new starts can be great for everyone--yes, even you.

Know the law. It seems complex and awfully daunting, but you do need to know the actual law you are exercising. Those legal rights granted you by the Individual Education Plan (click here to see the law), must be followed by all parties. Common misconceptions are how your child qualifies for the services (OT, SLP, PT, etc at school). If you are on a preschool IEP currently, the qualifications for a school aged IEP are different. Yes. Shocking, but true. Once you move into the school aged IEP program you are having your child qualify under academic rules. Your child must test two standard deviations below in every category you are looking for support in. This is really hard to show for a smart (as most of our kiddos are exceptionally smart; with above average IQs) kids that are on target academically. Also, please realize that your school legally only has to give your kid enough to be academically successful. Lots of semantics here, so know your law. Oh, and you can just go down to the school and ask for a free brochure--on IEP rights and/or 504 rights--or call and have one mailed to your house. District offices are usually open most of the summer, and school offices generally open beginning of August.

Know what you want. Don’t show up without a list of your child’s deficits, how they affect him academically and what can be done to support/accommodate the issue. Hello? Make it simple, lay it out, ask for what you want. In life, you only get things you ask for.

Be realistic. I hate to say it, but the school’s job is to educate your child. Not to regulate him any longer necessary to allow him to learn something. Don’t shoot for the moon on everything. This has to be doable for everyone in the constraints of the system. They are educators, teachers and administrators; this is their job. We are parents, moms and dads; this is our life. See the difference? Job vs. Life.

Negotiate. This may have the fuzzy exterior of being "for your child" but it is a negotiation plain and simple. You are there wanting a level 10 and their goal is to provide a level 3. In order for any negotiation to be successful, both parties have to leave the table feeling like they got what their way. Sticking to your guns and being stubborn are very similar--walk that line carefully but keep your eye on the prize.

Set GOALS. Yes, IEP goals are supposed to be just that—goals. Which means that they should be attainable and measurable. Don’t put “will complete homework”. Instead, “Will turn in homework on-time 80% of the time without penalty.” Everyone should know what you are working towards and why.

Do not remove goals until they are met. Require the school to show what goals have been met--make them accountable. If the goal on last year's IEP has not been met, it stays on this year's IEP. Period. The school's goal is to remove goals as to make the IEP easier to comply with. Once a goal is on there, don't let it go unless you feel that skill has been reached successfully by your child over enough time that you and your kid think that it has moved into "always accomplishes" category.

Think about accommodations carefully. For example, if you are asking the teacher to modify assignments, think about what exactly your child needs. You don’t always need more time—maybe you need a different kind of assignment? You know, instead of asking for an extra week or two to write a 10 page paper, ask for a 5 page paper and the ability to do a visual aid to accompany it for the same credit. Be creative. Think outside the box.

Advocate, Attorney or other. My goal for my child is to avoid this phase. I am much more concerned about maintaining the team spirit and keeping my focus on my goal: a happy child. I am not sending my kid to school to learn to write and read. Shocked? You shouldn't be. I am sending my kid to school to to learn to control his behavior, maintain his arousal, monitor his body, practice social skills, make friends, learn about the world, be independent, make choices for himself, learn cause and effect, and consequences all in a real world environment (or closer to real than home is). If he learns the life cycle of a plant, that is BONUS. The obvious exception to this is if he is failing, doing so badly that it is affecting his self esteem, or if there is some other detrimental unforeseen circumstance that can only be changed by drastically changing his schooling. Then, I say, get an advocate that knows the law inside out and can actually voice in the correct rhetoric what you are wanting--and help you get it. I would warn against the attorney route unless you are so far escalated you can't handle it or if your child's rights are blatantly and unforgivably being violated. The last statistics I heard in our state were that 90% of cases failed without an attorney and a staggering 85% still failed with an attorney. Save your money people.

The IEP process is very daunting. I know so many families who have struggled with their school to receive services for their child.

This hasn't been my experience. And I don't want it to be yours.

Every family is different, but my main message for success here is be educated, be a team player and stay positive.

There are so many battles in your life--trust me, I know--but this doesn't have to be one.

Start preparing yourself for the "beginning of the year IEP meeting" so that you can take a deep breath once it is over--and successful.

Remember, I am not an attorney, nor an "IEP" advocate by profession, just a mom out there struggling like you are to get my kid everything he needs to be successful.

The good news is Gabriel is young. He and I have plenty of time.

You do too.

Back To School: Preparation

I know you don’t believe me (because I can’t seem to grasp the concept myself) but technically we have about 6 more weeks of summer, which means it is time for my back to school series of blogs. (It can’t go by too fast for me…)

Since we are so early, I am going to begin with “Preparing for School to Begin”. Please remember these are things that have worked for my family, and are by no means a guarantee for your family, but, they are my "two cents" so READ ON!

Routine (where are you my old friend?):

I spend the last two weeks of summer getting the “school routine” back in our systems. This means that we are up in the morning, on routine, getting ready for the day, eating breakfast, lunch, snacks and play on a very similar schedule to what they will be on when school starts. I think it is important to get my son’s mind and stomach working on schedule. At our school, there are no “second breakfasts” or “snack before lunch”, which means that I need his body in sync with that schedule, and not a hungry growling belly when there is no food. Oh, and my favorite; bedtime. They officially go to bed ON TIME every night. No “it is summer” crap. *evil laugh*

School Supplies:

We are not obsessed with Gluten free school supplies just yet, but I did find this great list of gluten free options should you have to purchase your own school supplies for any reason (here it is on TACA OR on this blogger's site too). I am not sure what we are doing, but my good old fashioned mommy advice is to start shopping the sales now. You can save some serious cash by picking up pieces here and there before the “official” list comes out.


This is a biggie for us. We have to have a “cool” backpack in my mind (can’t have stuffed lions sticking out of it with Pooh Bear cuddling Piglet for an 8 year old boy—even if he wants it—the least I can do is shield him from the more obvious forms of ridicule).

Secondly, in my experience it NEVER pays to buy a cheap backpack. Remember: This is going to be a chew toy for your child about 2+ hours a day for the next 10 months. It is going to lose its tags, its labels, and the adjustable straps will spend more time wet than dry. It is for that reason that I also highly recommend the darker colored straps (no light blue or pink or grey or whatever) as they get filthy fast.

And thirdly, it is important to us to buy a backpack that fits my son well. Why? Because I use it year round as a way to add heavy work to his normal day. If I am running errands, I fill it up with books for “waiting games” (but really just so he has something heavy to carry around should he need it), or if we are going to my mom’s house, I pack it up and let him wear it around the house as a way to keep him calm and organized while we are waiting. Works like a charm! So, that said, I want it to fit his back well and have appropriate padding and structure as to not inadvertently cause injury.


Yes, I think clothing matters. The simple answer is that people judge our kids everywhere they go, and having clothes that are relatively nice, stylish and matching makes a difference in how they are perceived. I achieve this most easily, since I have all boys, with basic T-shirts, shorts, jeans, sweats/athletic pants and a hoodie. Obviously where you live, the weather and the age of your child all matter. But boys are seriously easier in the clothes department than girls (not that I would *object* to some clothing arguments if it meant I got a girl…).

It is also my experience that if I buy certain “outfits”—you know where the pants or shirt only matches one thing--it is BAD. We can never be organized enough to have both pieces clean and available, let alone expect that Gabriel knows which shirt goes with which pants. Too much work. The easier it is for my son to select his own outfit, that is close-enough to good looking the better. Again, can’t go wrong with a T-shirt and jeans.

OK—I hear you screaming “MY KID WON’T WEAR JEANS!!” Gotcha. Go with basic sweats then, check out some stores to find the coolest version of whatever your kiddo will wear in STANDARD colors. No purple sweat pants for boys, no sweat pants that look like something else (ie Khaki colored or stripes, etc). Basics. Can’t go wrong with basics.

I also subscribe to the theory of buying “cool” clothes. Yes, I know it shouldn’t matter if you have the “right” brands or not, but in the real world, it does. For this reason, I take my son shopping to select *some* of the clothes he will get for back to school (budget has to reign supreme here). I do not think it matters if you are taking them to Nordstrom, Gap, Old Navy, Target, or a second hand store. I shop at all of them. Good quality nice clothing that your child thinks is cool and gets the stamp of mom approval is worth it. Just my two cents, feel free to disagree.

Meeting the Teacher:

I sincerely hope you have built into your IEP a summer meeting and the opportunity to assist in teacher selection (or at least receive prior to fall knowledge of your child’s new teacher). If not, we’ll get to that in the IEP post…but for now….

The first meeting with your child’s teacher during the summer is key. I think it is never too early to start bribing. : ) Don’t just show up to the meeting with a list of your demands, ten volumes on what the teacher should learn before school starts and a set of binders containing every single interaction with the school district, alphabetized and color coded for their convenience. It doesn’t exactly give the “I am a great person and you’re gonna love working with me and my kid this year” vibe.

Yes there is a LOT to give them, but we want to give it to them in little doses.

Simmer it down. No matter how great your info is, how fantastic the teacher is or how incredibly crazy your child was last year, this new teacher is not interested in a 3 hour monologue-style education on your son’s personal acronyms.

Give your child’s teacher the bullet pointed skill deficits they need to know ON DAY ONE (hopefully your IEP is pretty extensive already, again, if not, that’s a post that will come up) verbally.

Like Sensory: “My child needs help regulating his body, you will see the sensory information in his IEP and that will definitely affect him on day one”,

Handwriting “Handwriting is a struggle for us, and so you will notice that his isn’t up to par. Although the OT is working on this, it is important that for all handwriting tasks that my son have a scribe present, even on day one”,

Social “My son really struggles with social interactions, and a large group of new kids on day one is going to be hard for him. If you could help make some introductions or do a name game to get him going, that would be great help”, and

Embarrassment Management “My son embarrasses easily; this can quickly cause a meltdown. If his behavior is inappropriate, a quieter reprimand is much more likely to be successful than one in front of the whole class.”

This type of information feels manageable to everyone.

After describing how each of those are likely to manifest themselves on day one (yes, I hate to say it, but let’s manage day one before day 124, right?), you can give the teacher the opportunity to ask you questions and to elaborate on certain skill deficits.

This is something that both the teacher and you can handle.

I think leaving the teacher with some information they can read is OK (and is exactly why I wrote my book, but the damn thing isn’t published yet!! Anyone have a spare $2k?). But make it user friendly—print off no more than like 3 pages, that you have hopefully written up yourself that paraphrases what is going on with your kiddo and what kinds of things the teacher can do to make this year successful.

DO NOT hand the teacher a list of websites and a pile of books. BAD impression.

DO bring your short list, papers, a handmade picture from your kid (letter, or drawing, or photo from summer fun, etc) for a personal touch, and some home-baked cookies never hurt anyone.

DO assure your child’s teacher that although you have confidence in the school staff (stretching the truth here isn’t bad), you are always available via email or phone to help problem solve for your child. You should be seen as a RESOURCE for the teacher—if you ever need anything, do not hesitate to ask! : )

I want my son’s teacher to think I am an asset to the classroom – even though I don’t directly volunteer in the classroom (younger kids at home, but *if* Matthew ever potty trains, he’ll be in preschool this fall! Yippie!)—you have ways of showing that your child’s presence in the teacher’s classroom is a positive thing. You provide resources, ideas, and support for the entire class. Team Player Baby!

School Lunch (snack, parties, etc):

I am honestly terrified about what to do about food at school this year. I have no good advice as of yet, but as we get closer I will have my game plan in place. I am workin' my options to keep Gabriel GFCF at school, since it has done wonders for him in the last week, I would like to see what kind of impact it will have on his ability to learn at school. Wouldn't that be helpful. As I gather my new info on the dozen or so parent-run GFCF blogs out there, I suggest you stick with the Talk About Curing Autism site that has more easy-to-find information that anywhere else I have found--you know, if you can't wait for my blog post. LOL And please feel free to send me your advice, and I will post it in the GFCF back to school blog post later.

So by now you have a well dressed, well equipped, and well rested child ready to start school.

Now, if only that was tomorrow. LOL

I am going to post more on IEPs and Teacher Interactions as well as the GFCF thing in the future, but this should get you thinking of how to make this a fantastic year!!

Yes, I know how nervous you are, so am I, isn’t that what summer is all about? Stressing about the *next* school year?

Go get some sun,

Pyro Prep

You probably already have a pretty strong opinion on the 4th of July. It isn't exactly our favorite holiday either. Technically, we hate most holidays simply because of the intense amount of prolonged anxiety and lack of routine--and that is just my problem.

But back to the current holiday issue.

With 4th of July coming we are in need of taking many many precautions to prevent a meltdown worse than anticipated (which is pretty much however severe the meltdown was the year before, times whatever integer seems appropriate for his current state--last year was about a 7 on the 1-10 scale, and given our current problems, I'd say times a 5, and we are pseudo-scientifically expecting a meltdown of about 35--don't you wish you could really calculate these things with some equation? Where is that damn Easy Button?).

I am going to give you a list of things that *have* worked for us in the past, but are obviously no guarantee for your sensational kiddo, so as always, adjust where you see fit. : )

1. Give limited warning--it is my experience that if I talk too much about the noise that is coming and the problems Gabriel may or may not have he gets overwhelmed. I think the anticipation is just as bad, if not worse, than the event. Yes, Gabriel is clear on what 4th of July is and that it is coming, but we don't harp on it.

2. Assure your kid there is a Plan--we are so plan driven at our house, that assuring Gabriel there is a Plan on how to handle the fireworks, and going over the Plan with him (in visual form when necessary) is great. And I'm not gonna lie, the Plan is comforting for me too.

3. Try not to over do it during the day--if it is at all possible, limit the craziness of your day time activities so your kid has a better chance of being able to cope at night. Meaning, don't swim all morning, playground all afternoon, followed by a BBQ with dozens of friends and expect your kiddo to be calm and organized when the fireworks come. Your kiddo will be exhausted (aren't you?) and much less tolerant of the noise.

4. Choose to stay in--this is probably a no brainer for you, but if your kiddo has sensory issues, and doesn't like the noise, don't go out to a show. It always ends badly for everyone. Stay home. Make a new tradition for your family. Yes, even if you did it as a kid, and even if your husband did it as a kid, and even if this was the bestest thing that you loved about summer, and even if your family was in charge of planning the entire town's celebration, and even if you want it for your kid or yourself. Even then, this is not you, and your kid is probably never going to have the 4th on his/her list of greatest things about being a kid. Keep it Simple Stupid.

5. Go to bed on time--when Gabriel was younger, this was a big help. If we could get him to sleep early, then he would sleep through the fireworks. The older he has gotten, the harder this is because all those damn fire crazy neighbors of ours insist on doing fireworks during the DAYLIGHT. Ugh.

6. Getting through the noise--here are the tips for staying inside:

a. Keep ear plugs on hand or noise canceling headphones.

b. Try to go about your normal routine as best possible without too much change. Routine is comforting.

c. Reassure your child if he/she feels nervous, there are safe places to go (bedroom, bean bag, closet, egg chair, quiet place).

d. Play calming music at a normal to low volume so that your child has something to focus their hearing on--remember they can be SUPER-listeners (not to you of course) so they will hear the fireworks even if you are blaring the TV.

e. Play a new movie or a new video game, or something they will really be "into".

f. Make sure their bedroom windows are covered. The visual flashing of light can be awful.

g. Don't watch the fireworks on TV with sound. You can watch them on mute while playing your own music in the background--this way there is no "BOOM!" and you get the Oooo Ahhhh affect.

h. Take your child's lead. If they are nervous, adapt. If they are handling it well, compliment. This isn't the time to push your kid or to try to "desensitize" them to noise.

i. Remember your Sensory Diet. A little proprioception goes a long way. Do some stretching with a game of Simon Says, have a yogurt through a straw and engage in some playdoh pinching to keep your kiddo's hands and mind busy.

7. If you insist on going out to see fireworks--remember that this may not be a good time for your kid. If there is some family gathering that you are just compelled to go to, bring along things for your kid: Noise canceling earphones (or ear plugs), favorite toy, heavy blanket, and whatever else keeps them calm. Oh, and in my opinion, leave before dark. : )

8. Consider having your child spend the night elsewhere--we have a VERY active group of pyros here in our neighborhood--something I love on one hand and absolutely HATE on the other. 4th of July is nightmarish for Gabriel, so this year we are letting him spend the night at my mom's house where fireworks aren't legal, hopefully minimizing the noise hazard. We will be sending him with all of his things, just in case, but he won't be here for the major reenactment of WWII that fills our streets each year. This is a huge sigh of relief for our whole family. If you don't have a handy grandma's house to use, consider renting a hotel room somewhere fireworks aren't legal, or head to a cabin in the woods--make your family new memories in a firework-free zone. Camping anyone?

9. Try and relax yourself--the more well rested and prepared you are, the better your child's chances of feeling relaxed too. Make sure you are not over worked or super stressed (at least no more than usual) so that you can focus on your kid. He/she'll need you.

10. Remember it is just one day--Or maybe it is three weeks if you have a pyro-loving fire-worshiping neighborhood. But, regardless, it isn't the rest of your kid's life. Learning to be flexible and tolerant of things he/she (or you) can't change is a part of real life and something we should be coaching our kiddos on. Your kid can do it--and you can too.

My last piece of advice is more for me, perhaps, than for you all: Resist the urge to stomp out front and demand that the F'ing Bastard still shooting fireworks at midnight stop or you'll call the cops (or, you know, kick his ass, or torch his car, or whatever colorful expression comes quickly to mind in the moment).

The 4th of July (or technically that may be the 5th--isn't that what you are going to argue when you are yelling in the street?) is not the time nor the place to educate the world on the challenges of Sensory Processing Disorder. There are many opportunities to make them feel awful about upsetting your special needs kiddo in the future.

Instead while you lay awake at night, cringing at each firework, now further spaced making the anticipation as bad as the BOOM, use your time for plotting your revenge instead. Nothing like a pissed off woman who won't shut up while he is trying to mow his lawn. That'll get him. Or, the torching of the aforementioned car is a good one too...

And don't forget to have a HAPPY 4th OF JULY! It is a great day of celebration, and an even better reason to enjoy life a bit with friends and family. Grab your ear plugs and your heavy blanket and prepare to celebrate! What could be more American than that? : )