Hartley, a genuine thank you! It is my pleasure to join and contribute to your blog and a terrific way to share my new award winning children’s book Sensitive Sam.
I respect the grassroots approach to create continued awareness by sharing resources and experiences about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), it helps produce positive results for our children with SPD and truly is the backbone to the Sensory World.
I am looking forward to talking with you more about Sensitive Sam, but since you are a mom with an SPD kiddo just like me (and my readers); I would like to learn a little more about you and your family’s journey first. Can you tell me about yourself and your family? Besides being an author and illustrator, what keeps you busy? And you can’t just write therapy appointments. : )
I believe I have created a successful work/life balance:
• Board of Directors, Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation
• Assist in the marketing of Sensitive Sam with the Future Horizons marketing guru, Lyn.
• Marketing consultant work on a contract basis
• Appearances, speaking engagements, and book signings for Sensitive Sam
• Most fulfilling and gratifying job of all time, mom, wife, volunteer
How did your SPD journey begin? When did you realize that your son needed OT like your main character Sensitive Sam did in the book?
Early on, JJ was over come with sensory overloads. He would have meltdowns 15 -20 times a day and at night, which was extremely frustrating and tough on him and an exhausting perpetual heartache on our family. When JJ was born at UCLA Medical Center, the newborn pediatric nurse came to our room in a panic, and said that JJ was crying for what seemed like, forever, and so loudly that none of the other newborns could rest. She said that I needed him in my room. I couldn’t wait to have him with me—I held him tight in a burrito wrap, and the crying stopped immediately. The nurse was joyfully surprised. (Could that have been my first red flag?)
JJ started school at a local Montessori; he was full of sadness when we dropped him off in the morning, and even more upon our return in the afternoon. At conferences we spoke with JJ’s teacher, and then she asked the question “Do you notice any strange behavior at home? Well that opened up a tube of toothpaste, as my brother, the dentist, would say. The answer was yes—we had noticed lots of things, from his complaints about the tags in his clothing, the socks, the sheets, to him eating and not eating, his outrageous tantrums; the list was endless!
The teacher continued, “I noticed when we do an activity where the kids take their right hand and touch their raised left knee, JJ touched his right only.” I didn’t think much of it until later I found out, it’s a relevant and a crucial function of the brain called, “crossing the midline.” She continued, “I think that JJ may have Sensory Integration Dysfunction.”
“Sensory what?” I said with a lump in my throat. She immediately recommended a book to read, Out-of-Sync Child, by Carol Kranowitz. And suggested that we go get him checked out by an Occupational Therapist. “Could she know something we didn’t?” Aaron and I wondered.
Containing my emotional self until reaching the parking lot, the tears began and didn’t stop until we got home. Okay… I gave myself some time to pout, now, off to the library, book store and internet, to gather everything I could on this “dysfunction.” I read Out of Sync Child in a day, found the majority of the checks went into the “yes” boxes on the helpful Sensory questionnaires in the book. I couldn’t help but feel that this lady “Kranowitz” is a genius, she knows my JJ!
Questions about JJ’s future stirred inside my head; will he be able to learn like everyone else, what about his social skills? What is the best treatment? Where do we go from here? Will it ever stop???
I visited a referred, professional OT for a complete evaluation; JJ was diagnosed with “mild” sensory integration dysfunction, which is presently referred to as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). JJ’s troubles were clearly identified now, and we committed ourselves to the treatment plan with the OT. Love and patience, my special friends! Capturing each day’s triumphs and challenges in a journal, and listening to our OT as if her word was directly from the heavens above, we began to see the results after 3 short months!
Our sensory diet, included: brushing and joint compressions every 2 hours, playing with dry sand and beans, eating wet jumpy Jell-O and sweet smelling pudding, manipulating mushy green slime, finger painting with cans of shaving cream, making tons of homemade concoctions, and different color molding clay. We did activities to increase motor planning and balance in the vestibular system such as balancing on exercise balls, giving each other wheel barrel rides, and jumping on a mini trampoline. We played…a lot, taking our play (therapy) real seriously, and never missing the opportunity to engage, Abi joined her little brother in the fun. Not too surprisingly—JJ’s cousins even liked to get brushed!
As the weeks progressed, we incorporated speech therapy, writing classes using the Handwriting Without Tears program, found neat products to help him grip the pencil better, he enjoyed tracing super heroes and together all of these things truly helped JJ’s confidence!
My son Gabriel’s favorite part of the book was seeing how frustrated Sensitive Sam was when he thought of writing—an ongoing battle for us still at 8 years old. What are the biggest challenges you face with your child?
Continuing therapy for JJ and our family;
• Knowing he is special, more sensitive then most
• Listening to his words
• Giving tasks a little at a time
• Limiting the amount of choices, but still allowing him to make a choice
• Offering techniques that help him cope with the senses around him
While I read your book to all three of my boys, my middle son, Nicholas, shot knowing glances at Gabriel—as if he was thinking “You do that too”. Although I know that Nick “gets” that his brother has challenges, this book was a good way to increase Nick’s understanding about SPD and his understanding of Gabriel as a whole (an education process that is never ending). How do you see the sibling dynamic play out at your house?
We all draw inspiration from our children to advocate for SPD. I hear from readers every week about how they are personally working to spread awareness; what made you choose to write and illustrate a children’s book? Have you always been a writer and illustrator?
I have always written from the heart, and drawing is a hobby. Never thought in a million years I would have a published an award winning children’s book helping others to understand their own children, and for their children to understand such a difficult and sensitive subject matter as Sensory Processing Disorder. I gain more momentum when I hear that Sensitive Sam has helped children throughout the country.
I have a wonderful publisher that has helped me get Sensitive Sam on the bookshelves. Here is something you may not know about them:
Future Horizons is the world leader in publications and conferences on autism and Asperger’s Syndrome since 1996, and felt by “extending into the broader scope of sensory issues (they) would serve even more (children and families) on the PDD (pervasive developmental disorders) spectrum.” When you get a moment, check them out, and they will send you free catalog if you request it. http://www.fhsensory.com/.
Often, as I was just explaining this week to my youngest son’s preschool, sensory issues are labeled as behavior issues. I was impressed that Sam’s teacher was able to recognize Sam’s sensory needs and communicate them to his parents (a glimpse into our future I hope!). What message do you want teachers to get from this book? What are educators and caregivers able to gain from reading Sensitive Sam?
The message I relay to teachers/educators/professionals is that Sensory Processing Disorder is very real, very misunderstood, and misdiagnosed…often! The importance of learning more about SPD can only help, because when there is even one child with SPD in a classroom, the disorder affects everyone!
This quote speaks for itself from a teacher who has a copy of Sensitive Sam:
This book also does a great job at giving families with newly diagnosed SPD kiddos a good look at what may be going on with their child and even more important a reassurance for their child’s future. What do you want to say to the thousands (not that they all read my blog, mind you. LOL) of parents out there who are in crisis mode—afraid that things will never get better for their child or their family?
Interestingly enough, the more informed you get, the more you start to notice, and the easier it is to get help! I once brought JJ to a book signing here in Denver, and when the parents saw how wonderful he is now, they realized that there can be hope for them and their children with Sensory Processing Disorder.
When talking to parents I use the analogy “the toy in the cereal box”: It takes a while to find it, but it’s in there! Just like a child with SPD, they are usually loving, sensitive, bright and caring kids, you just need to get past the sensory stuff, their heart is your special prize.
I have spent a great deal of time looking through your website (www.sensitivesam.com), and it is obvious that you care a great deal about the “SPD Community” as a whole. Your work on the Board for the SPD Foundation is near and dear to my heart, as a member of our WA State Parent Connections Board; can you update us on the status of the DSM submission? (fingers crossed tightly)
This is the update on the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual):
“All the researchers at the Foundation spent the summer gathering research reports from the scientific workgroups that we put together from Harvard, Yale, Duke and many other universities. We compiled a ~90 page report summarizing all the studies. We submitted it into the "black box" where the submissions go. We haven't heard anything formally, but we have high hopes that we will at least get into the new category, "novel diagnosis" which will foster research and help parents know it is real. To be formally recognized in this way would be a huge step forward for this disorder.”
~Dr. Lucy Jane Miller
I know my readers will be excited to get their own copy of Sensitive Sam (should they not already have one—we are SO lacking in great books for SPD awareness!) for themselves AND their child’s teacher—can we buy them at a local bookstore or is your website the best place?
You can purchase Sensitive Sam, and other books on Sensory Processing Disorder at the following locations: http://www.fhsensory.com/, http://www.spdfoundation.com/, http://www.sensitivesam.com/, http://www.sensoryplanet.com/, http://www.amazon.com/, http://www.borders.com/.
The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation has just recently launched an e-learning resource, it’s helpful, unique and affordable and you are able to learn in the luxury of your own home. Please, check it out: http://www.spdfoundation.net/elearn/index.html.
I would like to thank you for making our lives just a little easier as SPD parents. Each new piece of information that spreads awareness and brings Sensory issues to the forefront of discussions with parents, educators, therapists and doctors is a true stepping stone towards a future where our children and their needs are recognized and accepted. It has been a true honor having you here to discuss Sensitive Sam and your continued SPD advocacy. Thank You.
If your readers walk away from this post knowing how important it is to get an early diagnosis and treatment for either their child or another special child that they may know with SPD, then I have done my job.
Please, buy the book Sensitive Sam; feeling alone and frightened is a terrible place for any child to be, especially one with SPD. Sensitive Sam helps make them realize how special they are, and that there is hope for them and their family. Sensitive Sam makes it so much easier on kids and parents to explain to extended family, teachers and friends what they are experiencing.
I would like to share real-feedback from children and adults that have already read and benefited from Sensitive Sam:
“I feel that way sometimes”
“Wow, another boy like me who gets brushed and doesn’t eat eggs, won’t wear jeans, socks or tags!!”
“I go to an OT office just like the one Sam does.”
“Hey, I feel that way too!”
“Your book is being well received, when I show it to parents, they generally want to buy it in triplicate – one for home, one for school, one for grandparents.”
“Darren refuses to read any other book, because he immediately understood Sam!”
“This book will be very useful to kids, parents, and teachers in helping them understand the process in simplistic terms.”
“My wife and I will be purchasing copies of the book so it can be in the library of the six elementary schools in the Farmington Public Schools” I challenge (kindly) the other parents to do the same for all the schools in their respective districts.”
“Finally, my son has an ally in his sensational world, it is wonderful for him to relate to Sam and watch him tell Sam what he does to make himself feel better.”
Feel free to pass this interview on to anyone who you may think would benefit from reading it.
WAIT! Did I hear you say FREE? : ) I thought so. . . Marla has graciously offered to give a signed copy of Sensitive Sam to one lucky reader! An autographed copy—so cool!
Here is how you can win: 1. You will need to join this blog (if you haven’t already) and 2. Answer the following question as a comment to this post:
Reader Question: How will you use your copy of Sensitive Sam to help educate the people around you?
Ok, once you have joined and answered, you are officially entered. The contest will run 2 weeks and will end at 7pm PST on October 9, 2009. Marla will have the honor of narrowing down the best 5 answers and then we will select the final winner by RANDOM drawing.
On your marks, get set.....GO!