Chynna has been nice enough to share some of her time with us (between writing SPD books and parenting four kiddos!) and also is giving away a FREE book to one lucky reader. And I have to say--this book is a must read for any family parenting a child with Sensory Processing Disorder that has ever felt alone or like no one believed them. So read a little about Chynna, her family, her journey and her new book and then make sure to enter to win your own copy.
Welcome Chynna. I am so happy to have you here on my blog—it has been a long time coming!
Hi Hartley! I’m so excited to be here. You are so right: It has been a long time coming. I can’t wait to get started.
Then let's just jump right in! You have recently released your memoir, Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey with Sensory Processing Disorder, chronicling your drive to help your daughter Jaimie through her diagnosis of SPD (which you buy here). Congratulations! Start by telling me a little bit about yourself and why you felt compelled to share your story?
You know what? It wasn’t something I decided right away. The book basically began as journaling—a way to deal with the emotions I felt about not understanding what was wrong with my baby. I didn’t understand why she reacted to us the ways she did. I didn’t understand why my touch made things worse. I didn’t understand what was wrong with her so I never knew what I needed to do to calm her. She tried telling us—I knew it. But we just couldn’t interpret what she tried telling us. That frustrated and scared me.
Once I got over the highest hump in our journey, I swore that I would do what was in my power to ensure that other parents never had to feel the pain, isolation or confusion I did. I felt compelled to…give back.
My story is only one of many but if it can make other parents going through it feel less alone or feel inspired to plow forward with their own journey, it’s worth it.
There are so many things that I can relate to in your book, your SPD journey and just in your life—but the one thing that I think sticks out the most is your dedication to finding help. Being turned away is all too common for parents with SPD kiddos—what kept you motivated to keep looking?
Jaimie. I knew in my heart that something was wrong…that she needed something. We just needed someone to listen to us and tell us what it was. I watched my little miracle girl slip into her own little world a bit more each day and it killed me.
I have always been a person who, when someone tells me, “No way…you can’t do that…” I work my butt off to prove them wrong. Every time we heard, “She’s ‘just spirited,’” or “Don’t worry about it, Chynna. She’ll grow out of it soon enough.” it sparked inspiration in me to keep going. Of course it hurt when you met up with barriers where people didn’t see what you did or when they didn’t believe you. But the worst part was not having the information to prove them wrong. That’s the main thing, besides Jaimie of course, that kept me moving ahead. I knew if I could figure out what was going on and learned about it, I could make others understand. Information and knowledge is a powerful thing! The more I knew, the more I could make others know and that, I felt, was the best thing I could do for Jaimie.
Like Gabriel in my family, your daughter Jaimie is the oldest—in my life it has been challenging to give everyone the time and attention they need with Gabriel still requiring so much hands on care. You assume that the oldest will be more independent by the time younger siblings come into the picture. For kids like ours, that isn’t the case! How do you balance being there for Jaimie with taking care of your other (DARLING!) three kids?
What an amazing question! Well, as you know, my kids mean more to me than anything. And it can be very difficult giving them all the attention they need/want. at the very moment they need/want it, when one has such high needs. It’s all about balance. It’s knowing what you can handle before spreading yourself too thin (and BELIEVE ME…it took me a long time figuring that out!) What I do is include the other kids in some of Jaimie’s activities.
We have a Sensory Space built in our basement with a climbing wall, tramp, swings and all sorts of other stuff. I usually try working with Jaimie on some of her activities while letting the other kids play around us. She usually has her headphones on but if things are too hectic during her day (which they often are…Jaimie is a Master at holding everything in then explodes later on!), I find other things for the other kids to do then go back and forth.
When Jaimie is at school in the afternoons, I have “Mommy Time” with Jordhan (our 2nd oldest). Xander (our son, “The Boy,” as he calls himself) and Sophie (our youngest) get a lot of automatic Mommy Time because they are both still so young. Xander has A LOT of his own needs (eg: Speech issues, behavioural issues, sensory issues and others we’re still investigating) so, often, I can help him calm down while doing Jaimie’s Sensory Diet routine. He calms almost instantly with swinging or weights and Baby Sophie is willing to sit with me and cuddle.
It’s really hard sometimes but I’ve learned tell myself that my first “job” is my kids—everything else is secondary. Then it’s okay! If my kids aren’t happy or healthy or Jaimie’s totally out of sync, then I can’t do the other things I need to or want to do anyway. If I give them the time they need when they need it—then give myself the time I need too—it all balances out.
Some days I get TONS of work done; other days my house is a disaster and deadlines are looming my attention is needed elsewhere. But if my kids are happy…and ‘organized’…then everything else works itself out. That’s what I find, anyway. =o)
I was very moved by your husband’s dedication to Jaimie even when she was unable to be physically connected with him—no hugs, no touching and not even allowing him to say “I love you.” It literally brought me to tears, more than once. I think that this process is harder on our husbands then we give them credit for. I think the last article I read said something like the divorce rate is like 83% for couples with special needs kids. How have you and Steve been able to come together and parent Jaimie even without him being able to be as involved as he (and you) would like?
Steve is an amazing man…truly. He’s so strong. It bothered him so much in the earlier years. Today, he jokes about it but I know it still bothers him from time to time. Communication is what keeps us parenting together. Honestly, that’s so important.
We take time every day, even if it’s just five to fifteen minutes, to reconnect with each other. What’s bothering you? How was your day? What are you feeling today? You know, stuff like that. Then we talk about the kids. I have to be the “Front Person” with a lot of things so not only is he rejected by his daughter, he also misses out on all the therapeutic ways to help her! But I find when I keep him “in the loop” about what’s going on with Jaimie, he feels brave enough to try opening the door to her. “Mama told me that you had trouble at recess today, Jaimie. Did you want to tell Daddy about it?” Even if she screams, “NO!” he tried…and she knows that. And that is essential.
Steve does his own things to show Jaimie he understands what’s going on with her and that he wants to help out: He built her a climbing wall in our basement (and that was no simple task!), he built her three different kinds of swings, he rearranged all of our junk so that we could dedicate a specific area to her Sensory Diet…he’s amazing. So all these wonderful things he’s doing show Jaimie that he cares so much about her and her needs and is doing is part to help her. One day she’ll see that.
Your book is going to provide many families with reassurance that they are not alone. I truly feel that is one of the most important things we in the SPD Community can do for one another—spread the word that Sensory Processing Disorder is out there and affecting millions. Do you have more projects on the horizon that you can share with us?
Thanks so much for saying that, Hartley. That means the world to me. That was the entire purpose of the book…to help other parents out there feel less alone. Honestly, I almost didn’t publish it. I was scared to have our “stuff” out there. But I was encouraged to put it out because it would get into the hands that need it the most and that’s phenomenal. You are so right, Hartley: We need to reach out to one another so we can raise awareness about SPD together. Many voices together can make more noise, and make more people pay closer attention, than one on its own (But if you have a really loud voice, you can do A LOT on your own too! LOL!). So keep voicing out, parents. It truly matters!
I do have a couple of other projects I’m working on, thanks for asking! I have a reference book I’m writing focusing entirely on the Sensory Diet. It’s like a parent’s perspective with the expert insight you need. The tentative release date for that book is January 2011 but I’ll keep you posted. I think I might focus on my fiction projects once this latest book is finished. (I have a thriller, a YA novel and another memoir about my mother shelved that I plan to bring out once my plate has emptied a bit!)
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me—and more importantly, THANK YOU for sharing your Sensational Journey with Sensory Processing Disorder! If you would like to learn more about Chynna’s work, both in print and online, I encourage you to check out her website at www.lilywolfwords.ca. While you are there, take a minute and sign up to receive her FREE newsletter, it is filled with great information, interviews and even the occasional giveaway. I highly recommended it for anyone parenting a child with Sensory Processing Disorder.
Thank you for having me, Hartley. Keep doing what you’re doing too…you are making such an amazing difference in the SPD Community!
Photo: That is Chynna and her three oldest babies--with little Sophie pictured "in utero". : )
Now for the free part! Chynna is giving away a copy of her heartwarming memoir "Not Just Spirited: A Mom's Sensational Journey with SPD" to one lucky HLW3B reader.
Here is how you can win:
1. You will need to follow this blog (publicly through Google located on the top of the right column) and
2. Post a comment sharing a part of your own journey--with SPD, or ASD, or Adoption or whatever it is that can inspire those around you. As Chynna said, our voices are stronger together.
OK, once you have joined and commented, you are officially entered. The contest will run from Thursday 1/14/10 to Saturday 1/23/10 and will end at 10pm PST.
The winner will be selected by Chynna (based on your amazing comments!) and I will post it no later than Monday 1/25/10.
Good luck to all of you and a big "Thank You" again to Chynna!