Senstive Sam GIVEAWAY and Interview with Marla Roth-Fisch Author/Illustrator

Please give a warm welcome and a virtual round of applause to Marla Roth-Fisch, author and illustrator of Sensitive Sam. Marla, THANK YOU for joining us here on my blog!

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 was raised in Pennsylvania, and then moved to Southern California, where I lived for over 20 years. There, I met the man of my dreams – whom I have been married to for 15 glorious years and we have two beautiful children: daughter Abi, 10 going on 20; smart, empathetic, athletic and creative and JJ (Jason) 8, soon to be 9 (a.k.a. Sensitive Sam); bright, energetic, sensitive, and has a great sense of humor. I fall more in love with my husband Aaron each day; when I see him fathering the kids, from sports and brain teasers, to religious school and life lessons. We also have a dog, (he thinks he is human), named Bronco, a mini-Labradoodle, who is the best dog ever! We reside in picturesque, Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

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?)

Fast forward…

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?

Food and eating by far was and sometimes is now, most challenging. The smells would make him gag, and the textures would cause him to throw up. The OT incorporated a fun eating and spitting out therapy together with smelling different scents. Applying that to our play routine, he started to enjoy some different foods and textures, amazing how that works!

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?

I thought that I gave “equal time” to each of my kids, but the sad fact is that as a parent with a child with special needs it’s very difficult to keep it the same. Recently, a newspaper reporter asked my daughter, “Did you feel left out while your mom had to deal with the meltdowns of your brother?” Her response, “I know my mom had to deal with JJ, and I really didn’t like when I had to sit and eat by myself, but I got used to it.” I just about lost it! I begged for her forgiveness, and told her how much we love and adore her, she forgave us… thankfully.

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.

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:

“It’s so great to know that the relationships formed with parents and children are a win/win when the teacher has an understanding of Sensory Processing Disorder.”

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?

My dad always said, don’t waste time with negative energy turn it into positive and productive energy. Frankly, blame, ignorance, and self pity doesn’t help your kid!

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 (, 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)

Thank you for your commitment to the Parent Connections Board, they are lucky to have you. As an active board member for the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation – helping out in a marketing capacity, and more, getting the opportunity to work with such wonderful caring people with common goals is a dream come true for me.

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:,,,,,

If your child is newly diagnosed, or concerned your child may have Sensory Processing Disorder, go read Dr. Lucy Jane Miller’s book Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder, you will be glad you did.

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:

Portion of the proceeds from Sensitive Sam benefit the research, education and advocacy of Sensory Processing Disorder.

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.

Happy to do it!

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 copyso 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!



I have found inspiration all over lately.

My interview with Marla Roth-Fisch (Author/Illustrator of Sensitive Sam), which I will be posting soon, has got me inspired to get my book's illustrations FINISHED NOW! Except for Brandon Fall, my amazing illustrator, is on vacation for the next two weeks.

Owell, that just gives me time to find the money, right? Anyone with good ideas? LOL

I am also inspired by Jessica Ralli, at, who I am also interviewing (and no joke, she is giving away Sensory-friendly clothing to YOU, my readers!! You totally have to keep an eye out for that in November), and is following her dreams of making a clothing line for kids with tactile defensiveness.

And after talking with Sherri Pruner, and getting amazing feedback from her interview and her enthusiasm (which is obvious through her work), I am just ready to spread sensory awareness from the highest mountain peak.

I also got a fantastic email from another SPD mom/advocate who is interested in partnering for a special project (more to come on this later...I can't tell all my secrets, can I?) which should kick off before the holidays---

and, of course, the AMAZING calendar that I have worked so hard on with my friend Carrie Fannin over at **I am still in need of ADVERTISERS** for this--please contact me if your business is intersted!

So much to do, so little time.

How are you spreading SPD Awareness? Tell me!

Winner Winner

We have a winner!

Patty Mullins

You have won the Sensory Assault Pack from Sherri Pruner and

Please email me when you see this and I will connect you with Sherri so you can customize your pack and get it as soon as possible.

Thank you to everyone who participated and to everyone who made the discussion such a great resource for all of us.

*Special hint: There will be another giveaway in October!*

Enjoy your weekend!

Boys Will Be Boys

I have had the ridiculous pipe dream of having a daughter since I was old enough to want kids of my own.

I have held onto this theory for some 8 years as a mom, and even the past 4 years since Matthew was born.

I have to admit, that the dream is fading. Sad as that is, it is true.

I am the mother of boys. We are a different club.

We are a group of women who are comfortable saying

Fart (and all of the slang versions incluidng Matthew's "Pop Bubbles")
Hands out of your pants
Don't touch that
Get off your brother
No wrestling
No guns
I don't know who Anakin Skywalker's Dad is (OK, so I actually do know this, but that is newly acquired information for me)
I am not sure who won the first Superbowl
I don't know if there is a human that can break a chain with his hands
I don't know what the rules are for getting a drivers license for a firetruck
STOP making that noise (I don't care how accurate you are able to do a siren)

And obviously more.

It has become increasingly clear over the last few months that I will never have a daughter. *sigh*

And as obsessed as my children (specifically Nick) are with Star Wars and Football, I have learned to go with it. Yep, just go with it. Stop fighting. Testosterone wins. Ugh.

Sunday was spent with Nick, in all of his 5-year-old-going-on-15 glory watching football and discussing Star Wars with my husband in his 33-year-old-going-on-15 glory. Two peas in a pod.

My boys, both of them, would come down stairs rushing to tell about the score or the latest play. Their team, the KC Chiefs, always lose. They just do.

But, that doesn't stop either Nick or Jeff from the sheer elation of announcing a good play.

Sunday morning was something like this:

"MOM!!" I hear Nick scream as he runs down the hall, with my hubby at his heels--both of them grinning ear to ear.

"MOM! The Chiefs got a touch back. THAT'S 2 POINTS!" He yells as if he had just found out we won the lottery.

"Awesome son. That is the lowest possible number of points to score." I say laughing, and then add to my husband "Too bad the offense can't score." Ouch.

Off they run back to my room to watch the game.

Why MY room?

Because that is where the computer is hooked up to run an HD feed of the game, that is not otherwise being shown, through the computer and displayed on our TV like a monitor (you know we do NOT have a nice TV for the boys to watch, that would just be plain stupid, they are, after all, boys).

An hour or so passes with Nick repeating the same scenario with incredible statements like "We got a first down!" around half time, and the inevitable, "The game is over, and the Chiefs lost."

Which one might think my hyper competitive son would find upsetting, but not Nick.

The words right after were, "Now we can play Daddy's football video game!!" (Madden 2009 where Nick and Jeff get the opportunity to see the Chiefs win, at least virtually).

Finally, the games were over, for at least an hour or so, when I was talking with Gabriel.

"Do you still want to do dance?" I asked.

"Yeah, when is it?" He said.

"Monday, tomorrow, we'll go after school to try it."

"When is football?" Nick chimes in.

"Football starts Sunday."

"WHAT?! SUN-DAY?! But we watch football on Sundays." Nick says with a sheer level of grief that only an adult man should experience when being faced with missing the televised games to attend another event.

"You'll be OK, Nick." I say dismissing his concerns.

"We have the NFL pass online Nick, we can watch it after your game." Jeff reassures him.

Thank god for Internet. LOL

This is coming the day after Nick got his first chance to drive a Go-Kart.

We went to a birthday party for a friend and it was at the Go Kart race track.

That said, all of the boys did a great job and had fun.

But Nick actually took this SERIOUSLY.

That child has mad driving skills. That is scary.

He was power breaking around the corners, passing on the inside and causing pile ups on the track. I can't tell you how many times he was told to stop running into people, to which he responded in through his full face helmet by holding his arms up and shurgging his shoulders as if to say it wasn't his fault. It never is.

Too much testosterone is crazy. Crazy I tell you, crazy.

Matthew, today, had another chaotic day at school.

But today's charges were more mild: Kicked the puppet stand and had his hands in his pants.

Yes, I know, hands in the pants.

Did you remember the things I am used to saying that I listed above? Yes.

Hands in the pants doesn't exactly cause issue for me, but I understand that at school that could be a challenge. I sure hope they figure out how to stop that urge--if they do, I will be promptly applying that theory to all of my boys (yes, Jeff included).

When the boys were younger, and I envisioned having a daughter, I was stuck in that "picket fence" world where my boys didn't have their hands down their pants, they weren't wrestling and yelling or making such accurate machine gun noises that my heart actually skips a beat.

In my world, my daughter would be happy, safe, and well....wearing pink.

Something tells me if I had a girl she would feel really out of place in our Testosterone drive house. Or worse, be a Tom Boy.


The death of a dream.

Only time will tell. Never say never. And other sayings that keep the door open on having a girl just a little longer. :P

For all of you who have girls--go have a Tea Party and toast to us boy moms,

Last Week to Enter!

A friendly reminder to enter to win the wonderful Sensory Assault Pack that is being donated by owner Sherri Pruner!

Read the full interview and enter to win here.

What are you waiting for?

Free Sensory Tools

Just a friendly remider to enter to win the Sensory Assault Pack.

Here is what the SAP contains:

Sensory Assault Pack Specs: 1 Light Show Stick™, 1 Fishsticks©, 1 Smart Smencil©, 1 Relax Therapy Tangle©, 1 Find It Game©, 1 Chewy Tube®, 1 Package Balloon Bags©, 1 Mini Duckie Massager™, 1 Nature Guy CD©, 1 Propaganda Pad.

Entering is simple. : )

Read the interview below, and then submit your comment in response to the question at the end.

As Nick would say, "Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy." (I know, that is cute, huh?)

Now get to it--

Sherri Pruner: On a Mission (Interview & GIVEAWAY)

Welcome to my blog Sherri--a big THANK YOU for doing this interview with me! It is always great to meet another mom out there campaigning for Sensory Awareness. And you are really “On a Mission!”

I was so excited when I came upon your website and saw the work you are doing to make life easier for us moms out there with SPD kiddos. I can’t wait to talk about the fantastic pack you’ve made (and are giving away for FREE to one of my readers!), but before we get to the “business” let’s talk a little bit about your family’s SPD journey.

Can you tell me about you and your family? Kids, hubby, pets, where you live, favorite movie line, favorite color, and favorite book, you know the basics. : )
My husband and I have been married for 8 ½ years now, he’s been active duty in the Army for 13, and our son is 4 ½ and about to start Kindergarten! My husband is deployed right now so my son and I share a one bedroom apartment with our two dogs: My Rhodesian mix, Peanut, and my silver Cairn terrier, Milo.

We lived in Hawaii for 6 years—that’s where our son was born, but for this third deployment we decided it would be best to move back home for some help, so now we live in the gorgeous Hudson Valley in New York State. I adore old movies—I prefer them to today’s movies as a matter of fact--I could never choose just one favorite. I love to read---I am a huge history buff so we are always visiting historical sites and I am usually devouring a book on some sort of history. As for my favorite movie line--I always say that there is a quote in the movie “Spaceballs” for almost any situation in life. I love to laugh and enjoy the simple things in life—the smell of hay, eating apple pie, taking a drive, and being with my family.

Looking back, when did you know there was something “different” about your son? Where did this journey begin for your family?

My son was born with a heart defect called Tetrology of Fallot which was repaired through open heart surgery at 5 months of age, and then a catheterization at the age of 8 months to repair another problem.

We knew that because of these major surgeries there was the possibility that he could be delayed in one or more areas down the road. When my son was around 15 months old I started to really notice that he was not meeting milestones for his age. His fine and gross motor skills were delayed and he didn’t have any words—he was just babbling and that wasn’t progressing as it should have either. He never called for me or my husband, never reached for us, or even seemed to notice if we were in the room or not. He didn’t make eye contact and he never had gestures—he never pointed, waved, or reached. He also wasn’t interested in things going on around him---his interest was never caught with things that most kids would delight over—puppies, lizards, airplanes and such.

I can also look at his baby pictures and see a difference in him. He was a happy infant. His pictures through his first birthday were of a smiling and happy boy. After that time, he mostly has no facial expressions or emotions. I watched him descend into repetitive behaviors and it was beyond me at that point to deal with these things as a first time parent so I asked for help. I had heard of Autism and did some research on it on my own and it was scary because it sounded like my son so I talked to his pediatrician and I am eternally thankful that she took me seriously and didn’t treat me like just another worried mom.

So then we went to speech therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, a developmental pediatrician, and did DNA testing. All of those evaluations let us to a child psychiatrist who along with a panel of specialists observed my son within a peer group weekly for a month. The diagnosis for the full Autistic Spectrum was made—it was not a surprise to me, but it was still devastating.

From there we went on to Early Intervention. The sensory needs were always there---he loved his Jumperoo and would go to town in that thing for a half hour. He always loved to swing, spin, bounce, anything that lit up and spun, and music. He was also very strong and could pull 100 pounds when he was just a couple of years old. His case manager and team at the Department of Health were fantastic and always had my son’s best interest in mind---I am eternally grateful to them. His case manager noticed the sensory stuff and helped us with that and it made perfect sense to me. Later, we had him evaluated by an occupational therapist so that we could have the diagnosis of SPD on paper.

I want to thank you and your family for your military service to our country. My husband is a former Marine (HOO RAH!) and we respect and admire what you are doing for all of us. Does being a military family have a big impact on your SPD journey? How is it different than being a “civilian”? Are there different resources for military families?

Oh my gosh, being a military family impacts every nook and cranny of our lives. There is always a cloud of uncertainty hanging over your head in the military because deployments or orders to move to a new duty station can come at any time. It is a cruel sort of irony to have a child with Autism and SPD because they crave and need routine and structure and the military offers exactly the opposite. You also don’t have an ongoing sense of community in the military because people are always coming and going so you never get a solid support network with the same people to establish relationships. There are many families that have kids with special needs and they get through it.

Moving to NY has been a turning point. He is happy and content here and has flourished with all of the family and friends around and he loves to do things here—it is so different from when we lived in Hawaii. My husband and I see our bright, happy, and smart boy and we look at each other and wonder if he will ever reach his full potential if we uproot him and drag him from one duty station to the next, throw in a couple of deployments here and there and do it all with no family around. That is asking a lot for any civilian child with Autism and any child period.

I always use “Sherri’s Rule of Three” when dealing with the military---I ask three different people the same question and if two of them are the same it is a reasonable conclusion that it is the right answer. On my website there is a link for resources specifically for military families where they can see some of the programs that are available to them.

Many of my readers email me when they are moving across the country (or state) and are in need of new referrals or resources to find therapists in their new location. How has your military life style impacted your ability to have good therapists available in each new town for your son?
Well, being military, like anything, has its pros and cons but they have a program in place to help your child no matter where you end up on orders called the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). They can help you find resources in your area and being enrolled in the program makes the branch of service confirm that whatever duty station you go to the resources are available for your child to get what they need. On the other side of that, we are on a fixed income so we are unable to just go and pay out of our pocket for therapists and special schools.

We went through Early Intervention and when my son aged out of EI he was transitioned to the preschool at the Department of Defense school on base, because we lived on Wheeler Airfield at the time. There were heated discussions and some threats on my end to get what he needed at the IEP meeting, but in the end my son got what he needed.

I know my son’s strengths and weaknesses and I know when I see that person with him if it will work or not. And because Autism and SPD each present differently in each child, what works for one family and child may not work for another. I would urge parents that can’t financially afford to pay for special schools and therapists to use the resources that are available.

What are your biggest struggles now with your son? How have you learned to cope with his sensory needs?

Well, right now my biggest struggle with my son is that he is a 4 ½ year old mini-me. We are very much alike so we get into power struggles and we are both very stubborn, but at the end of the day, I am the adult, I am the parent. It can get pretty dicey though as any parent knows!

Our other big issue is potty training. Again, because I know my son so well, I understand that I have to back off---I can’t push him because potty training will turn into a power struggle and he’ll be 12 before it happens. People that I talk to give me looks though when they find out he isn’t potty trained and I get the inevitable “well, I took the pull-ups away and….” story. I stick to my guns though, because when he is ready, he will do it. It is hard as a parent to be comfortable with that because it feels like your child is calling the shots, but it is his body, so he is calling the shots on that one.

As far as my son’s sensory needs go, each day is different. I know what kind of sensory work he needs and his cues from day to day tell me what he needs. When you get to a point where you think you have one need managed properly, that way of doing it stops working and you have to find another way. I just take things day by day. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not a pillar of patience and strength, there are days where I have just had it and don’t want to deal with his needs. It is hard, basically I’m a single mom and sometimes I don’t have the energy.

I am always getting questions about “Sensory Diet”, something it seems you have figured out—so tell me what are your “go to” items during the day to help your son stay regulated?

I don’t have the sensory diet figured out! I get the basic idea of the sensory diet---A and B are my son’s problems and C and D are what he needs to help A and B. Often though, it is not so simple.

When we lived in Hawaii, they said my son was actively sensory seeking---as a matter of fact, I always said that he was on a “sensory mission.” When we got here to NY, his OT told me, he is definitely not a sensory seeker, he is sensory defensive.

When we came here to NY he started to revert back to the repetitive behaviors that made him feel safe: Chewing, spinning, and bouncing. I watched those behaviors take him over through his transition to living here and it was so hard to see; when he emerged his defensive vestibular system took over. He still has to push and pull things, but not to the degree that he did when we were in Hawaii. Because his vestibular system was very defensive his OT worked on that and I have seen my son come through that therapy a very confident boy, more sure of himself, and willing to try new movements. It truly is amazing.

My go to item, ironically, is to always have a toy car or train with me. It keeps him occupied—if he has several he can line them up to his hearts’ content. As for managing the sensory aspect, he is a chewer so I always have something for him to chew on such as a Chewy Tube, Super Chew, or Tangle Ball. He also is very sensitive to textures, orally and through touch so meal time can be trying. I always try to have something with a unique texture with me for him to fidget—a velvet slime anemone, fuzzy morph ball, and a cool new item made from sheepskin.

Now on to the business at hand—where did you come up with the idea to have a “Sensory Assault Pack” (SAP)? And please tell us what is in it?!?

When we first got all of these diagnoses I was overwhelmed with information from every place—the internet, TV, friends and family---as well meaning as they were----everything overwhelmed me because everything or everyone said something different. I decided to listen to my son and what his activities and behaviors were showing me. Because he was a sensory seeker he was always moving, always seeking hard work and so forth, I always always said that he was on a “sensory mission.”

I had the idea then for some sort of sensory bag, but because we were so isolated in Hawaii it was not feasible to pursue it, and I wasn’t ready either. When we moved back here to NY, in January, after things had settled down with family and such, one morning I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and the wheels were turning. I got online and I went from looking at purses made from my husband’s ACU’s to formulating the concept for my business and flagship product, the Sensory Assault Pack. Everything came together and clicked. Right away I knew my concept and where I wanted to go with this idea.

I tried my idea out on family and friends and incidentally, the International Toy Fair was the next week so off my dad and I went to the city. It snowballed from there. I am a true believer in Karma and I also believe that the Lord has blessed me with an open heart and an open mind. My mom had an old musette bag from Vietnam that she used to carry around---I borrowed that to use in the beginning as the concept for the pack. I was going through it--flipping it open and looking in pockets---she hadn’t used it in a few years---and I pulled out a piece of paper from the back pocket. It was an article on sensory issues. I looked up and said “I read you loud and clear Lord!”

The tools in the SAP were very carefully chosen---I didn’t just say, hey this looks cool lets have one of those, two of those. The tools in this pack are a combination of tools that I use with my son and unique tools that have great potential to help kids with their needs—tools that they would intuitively reach for. Everything comes packed in an authentic canvas military medic pouch with a dog tag and there is one of each item: Find It game, Fishstick, Smart Smencil, Balloon Bags, Nature Guy Studio CD, Tangle Relax Therapy, Propaganda Pad, Mini Duckie Massager, Chewy Tube, and a Light Show Stick.

How did that original “idea” turn into a business?

Once I clarified my concept, I came up with the name Sensory Assault Operations and I knew right away what my logo would be. Sensory Assault Operations is the name of my company because in military jargon something ongoing is an “operation.”

My ongoing mission is to offer affordable and empowering products and helpful resources to parents and their sensory kids.

It was just natural that Sensory Assault Operations is “gear for kids on a sensory mission.” The wings on our logo are actually taken right from the Air Assault Badge which is a course in the Army that involves doing assaults from a helicopter. Obviously our kids aren’t going to be using helicopters, but the assault part made sense to me because there are many kids whose senses are being assaulted by stimuli and their body can’t process it fast enough or at all.

The brain centered in the wings is there because the brain is the hub of the central nervous system. I offer empowering products with the underlying military theme to get kids geared up for a sensory mission so that they can face their needs head on and own them. In turn, they can begin to self regulate their needs and not be ashamed to do so.

I have seen the military change lives---it has literally saved kids from going down the wrong path: It gave them food, clothing, structure, a purpose to their lives, direction, and pride in themselves. That is the aspect that I wanted to capture and share with our sensory kids. I want kids to go on a “sensory assault”-- face those needs head on, “assault” them, and basically show those needs who’s boss!

With the name, logo, and concept nailed down my next step was to make it legitimate so I applied for my DBA and NYS sales tax certificate. That was the easy part--the hard part was coming up with the money to buy product. Eventually I got it worked out and started establishing relationships with my suppliers—many of which I sourced at the Toy Fair. I also have family that owns a business here and they introduced me around to people they do business with, which is how I found my web guy. I am eternally grateful for his time, work, and advice. He believed in me and went above and beyond to help me get started. Setting up an e-commerce business is not easy nor is it cheap, but he helped me step by step and believed in me.

Every family is different. I have really learned over the last seven years (gulp) that just because you have sensory issues, doesn’t mean every kid with SPD is the same. How does your SAP address the different kinds of kiddos out there? What if my kiddo is very oral but doesn’t have any issues with taste? Do you customize your SAP?

Well, that’s the hard part because SPD presents itself differently in each child---like Autism. I decided that I could either focus on one area or I could find tools that had the possibility to help the many kids. The great thing about the tools in the SAP is that each child will find for themselves which tool works for each need.

The way your child uses one tool could be completely different from the way mine uses the same tool. The Chewy Tube, Super Chew, and Tangle Ball can be used for chewers or those that mouth, the peppermint scent of the Smart Smencil helps kids focus, the weight of the propaganda pad calms and the aroma comforts while the hot or cold gives additional input, the Nature Guy Studio CD is soothing, etc.

Sometime in late fall we are going to be offering a fully customizable SAP so that parents can choose the tools that best suit their child. We will also be having new options for parents with younger children or those with kids that are more delayed.

One thing that I want to stress is that you won’t find clinical tools in the SAP or in our store—the Chewy Tube and Super Chew are as clinical as we get. There are times where clinical tools are appropriate, but most kids don’t like to use them because it makes them stand out among their peers.

We also will have a wider variety of tools to choose from when we unveil the customizable SAP so that parents or teachers aren’t constrained only to the items found in the basic SAP.

I want parents, teachers, and therapists to know that their opinion and feedback are very important to me. I am here to help you help your kids and I will always go out of my way to help you find what you need. I am constantly on the lookout for new products that have the potential to be beneficial to our kids, but hearing from parents and professionals has a lot of impact on what we bring to our store and our customers. Your success is my success period.

How do you see the SAP being used by an average family? Where will moms (and dads) like us most likely take this pack? Is it for school? Play dates? Overnight visits? Vacations? What kind of ideas do you have?

The SAP was put together so that kids could have their tools in one place so they can just grab their SAP and go. Knowing that they have tools they are comfortable with to help them manage their needs while they are away from home will give them confidence.

The great thing about the SAP is that the bag is an authentic military bag but it is also a hot item for kids and tweens. The tools inside can be used by your sensory child to manage their needs, but their friends can use those tools too because simply, they’re cool. The SAP isn’t going to make your child stand out from their peers and neither are the tools in it---that is very important to kids especially as they get older. Mostly, the other kids are going to be trying to grab the tools and use them themselves!

If a parent is going to have the bag I would make sure it was always in the car or have one for each car so that no matter where you are taking your child you always have those tools with you to help your child cope. Another great thing about the SAP is that kids can take it anywhere---to the library, shopping, running errands, on vacation, to Grandma and Grandpa’s, sleepovers, camp, wherever their lives take them. I always encourage parents to help their child use the tools in the beginning and try them in many different situations to find out where each tool can work best for their child. Once your child knows what to do and how to use these tools, they can stow their gear and be ready for whatever comes their way!

What other things can we find on your website? Resources? Other items for sale?

We have resources for those who have or know children with Autism, SPD, ADHD, and for military families. Of course, these kids aren’t the only ones that have sensory needs. Children that have physical limitations due to medical reasons or disabilities and those that have Downs Syndrome also can have sensory issues. Even children with no underlying medical issue can have SPD and the resulting effects on a child with unrecognized SPD can mimic the symptoms of Autism, ADHD, and other neurological disorders. It is very important to me to raise awareness about SPD; left undetected, the child will act out their frustrations or withdraw into their own world.

All of the tools inside the SAP are available for purchase separately and we also have some great new products like Brain Noodles and the Original Fortamajig. Be on the lookout for more great new products coming later this fall with the debut of the custom SAP!

Sherri you are a true inspiration to all of us moms out there struggling to keep our kiddos regulated each and every day! It is a great reminder that each of us can spread Sensory Awareness and make the world better for all of our kids. It has been my pleasure having you here. Thank you.

Thank you so much for having me, you are helping many parents with your blog--It is an honor to be a part of it!


Ok, now for all of you reading this, Sherri has graciously offered to GIVE AWAY a Sensory Assault Pack to one of my lucky readers (I know, how cool is that?). Here is how you can win:

1. You will need to join this blog (if you haven’t already) and
2. Post your answer the following question as a comment to this post:

What tools are most helpful to your child in managing their needs and what kinds of products do you still see a need for?

OK, once you have joined and answered, you are officially entered. The contest will run 2 weeks and will end at 7am PST on Friday, September 18th. Sherri will have the honor of narrowing down the best 5 answers and then we will select the final winner by RANDOM drawing. Please remember to CHECK BACK to see if you won!

So now that your minds are full of Sensory excitement, get typing!