Interview with Chynna Laird and SPD Book Giveaway

I am pleased to be speaking with a wonderful author and fellow SPD mom, Chynna Laird today on HLW3B.

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 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!


Mickey said...

Wow, I'm the first one?? Anyway, our journey with autism began last July when we received our first foster placement. She's four years old and is non-verbal autistic. She has come along way in the last six months with the help of her preschool teachers and her GFCF diet. The GFCF diet changed her life and ours. We saw a big change within 10 days and we can see changes if she eats the wrong thing. We are working on sign language and picture communication. I'm a follower and I love your blog.

Hartley said...

Yay! The first comment is from a mom with the tri-fecta (like me) -- foster care, adoption and autism. :)

Thanks for commenting (and reading my blog!) Mickey,

Caitlin Wray said...

Hartley your blog was one of the first resources I found on the web after the recent diagnosis of my 6 year old son. I have found the info on your blog tremendously helpful. Chynna you were recently one of the first people to introduce yourself to me on the sensory street yahoo group (I'm your fellow Winnipeger)! I am really looking forward to reading your book, even if I don't win it :) I recently read an old chinese proverb that says "Fall down 7 times. Get up 8." To me this sums up so succinctly the struggle we and our kids go through - success is getting up the 8th time. Thanks for all the work you both are doing to help move SPD into the light.

Hartley said...

Hey Caitlin!

I am so glad to hear you found my blog useful! I don't see where you are following my blog. In order to be entered into the contest you have to be a public follower. You can click the button on the right top of this page.

I signed up to follow your blog--and encourage others to do the same. :)


Chynna said...

Hi Mickey and Caitlin!

So sorry it's taken me all morning to reply to your comments. We've had a crazy day so far. =)

Mickey, what an amazing thing folks like you, and Hartley, do--opening your home to children in need. That is an incredible thing. I used to work for the Alberta Foster Parent Association and saw first hand the amazing difference a loving, safe home does for these kids. AWESOME! We also found changed in diet helpful with our Jaimie (we follow Feingold!) Thanks for sharing your story.

Hi again, Caitlin! Sensory Street is an amazing place and I'm sure you'll get some useful information there. SO sorry about the mix up with the SPD Canada link. I don't think I had enough coffee that morning. ;D Thanks for commenting and, hopefully, we'll 'see' more of you soon.



jennifer said...

I would love this book.
MY daughter has SPD and has been crazy since the holidays....sigh

Chynna said...

Hi Jennifer. OH, dear. The Holidays are always tough, aren't they? I find that taking things slow, taking lots of calm-down breaks, getting outside (even when it's REALLY cold!) and sticking to regular routines, especially bed time, seem to help a bit.

Good luck, Jennifer. =)


Roosterruler said...

It always encourages me to read about the experiences of others with SPD.

I'm 19 and I have SPD. I was diagnosed when I was 18. I don't have it majorly, but enough that I had a very difficult childhood.

Reading about others with SPD is good for me, I think. My parents never knew how to deal with it and still don't know much about it.

There were just all these little, odd things about me. I was told to deal with it, but I couldn't. I didn't understand how others could. Now I know that there is an answer to all those "quirks" I had.

I'll continue looking for resources and reading the stories of others. It might make me cry sometimes, but I think it makes me feel stronger, overall. Understanding is power.

Chynna said...

Roosterruler, thank you so much for sharing your insight. Your words touched a personal note with me because not only am I a Mama to a little girl but I often felt the way you decribed when I was younger.

Good for you for researching and learning all you can. THAT'S how you can inform others and continue the process of spreading awareness.

"Understanding is power..." I say that alot myself. =)

You are inspirational. Continue with your're doing great things. =)


Caitlin Wray said...

Thanks Hartley - I was having technical trouble with my google account last week and couldn't tell if I had successfully become a follower - I think I have now. Thanks also for checking out my blog, I 'launch' in a few days :)

Anonymous said...

Great article. The more we put ourselves our there, the more folks know that they are truly not alone. :)

Heather said...

I'm not the trifecta, but I am a mom through adoption of a kiddo with SPD. In our case, she's a major (and I mean major sensory seeker. She was dxed at 3.5, though we'd been seeing signs (not that we *knew* they were signs at that point, never having heard of SPD) since she was an infant. Once we heard the term and started reading up on it, the light bulb went on - Ooooooh, so *that* is why she was doing that all this time. :-)

I'm happy to say that with good OT, a sensory diet in place at school and home (we fought hard and have managed to get a 1:1 aide for Kiddo both last year in K and this year in 1st grade through her IEP), and other SPD-related living, like monitoring her diet (no artificial food colorings, highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners and as little sugar as possible, etc) and sticking to a pretty strict routine, our daughter has progressed by leaps and bounds since she was first diagnosed. She is much better able to transition and to calm down now, at 6.5, then she was at 3.5. Not that it still isn't a challenge or that she's "cured" or anything, but improvement is always great to see. I just dread what may happen in a few more years when puberty and hormones kick in.............

Thanks for the chance to win Chynna's book! (I became a follower of your blog the day I discovered it, Hartley! :-) )


Hartley said...


You're pretty close to the trifecta...let's see...a sports metaphore for two of about a "Double Double"? Yep, you are a Double Double. :)

It sounds to me like you on a very similar path to us! We were in the same boat at 3.5. It is an amazing feeling to see that OT (hard work and adovocating) works to make things easier for our kiddos, huh?

I am the food nazi at home--no fake anything. Especially dye or HFCS. That said, it WORKS. Glad you have found it useful with your kiddo too!

Thanks for reading Heather. :)

Heather said...

Oh yes, being the food nazi does work, but it sure can be less than fun, like yesterday when my daughter was at a birthday party and Mean Mommy took a knife and scraped all the neon-colored frosting and sprinkles off the top of her cupcake before letting her eat it...

It makes *such* a difference though, that I'm totally willing to be Mean Mommy as often as required.

That is another thing where the older she gets, the more she understands about SPD and *why* I'm being "Mean Mommy" over certain things. She will automatically check with me before eating something that might be questionable, and I've heard from her teacher and aide that she'll refuse something outright if she's unsure if it is "safe" for her. That's my girl! :-)

Hartley said...

I scrape frosting at parties too--and Gabriel knows not to eat things as well. Gabriel isn't allowed to eat ANYTHING that is supplied by the school. I am right there with you!


Chynna said...

Hey, I had no idea there was a name for it but...I guess I'm on the Food Nazi Train too. There is much scraping, throwing out of candy and all sorts of Evil Mommy stuff here too.

When I can see a difference in Jaimie MINUTES after eating something sweet or 'fake', it tells me her body can't deal with it. She gets mad at me but she's actually at the point where she'll tell others, "I can't eat that."

I don't feel bad anymore. =)

Good luck, Heather!!

Our Family's Spot said...

My son, Isaiah, was officially diagnosed this past week with high functioning autism. In a way, Isaiah is lucky to have the severe food allergies that he does - he is already on a gluten-free,milk free (both caesin and whey), preservative-free, dye-free diet because of his numerous food allergies (all of which lead to anaphylaxis . . . so they are completely excluded from his diet). I'm so glad that we haven't seen the negative effects these foods have now that we have the autism diagnosis. During an anaphylaxis reaction (or a regular allergic reaction), it's amazing to see what those mast cells (histamine-producing cells) have on his brain (behavior and such).

I love how you have dedicated your blog to helping others understand what our kiddos are going through - understanding is key.


K D said...

We are still waiting for our "official" SPD label, but have been told by our local autism group that he has it. He's 9 years old and the more I read - the more I have the light bulb moments. He doesn't do well with transitions or disappointments and was sent to the principals office all day Friday for threatening to kill the guidance counselor. Thanks to both of you for all the information.

Sasha said...

Found your blog via your comment on mine. Having two kids with SPD- both with different issues- has been such a challenge. I teared up when I read about Jaimie being unable to be physically connected w/ her dad because that was exactly what I went through with WC. I was the one doing all the research and work, yet she wouldn't let me help her/be around her at all. So heartbreaking. We've made great strides in the last two year and I'm happy to say I got to read bedtime stories to her just the other day.

Misty said...

I can't wait to read your book. My daughter was just diagnosed with SPD a few months ago. Since then we have moved 2000 miles away from my family, my husband has been away at training for his new job for 6 months, and I have spent a lot of time laying on her, massaging her, squeezing her, and trying to "convince" others that SPD even exists. Temper tantrums are a nightmare. Don't know if I can wait until the contest is over. I may be going a little crazy here myself.

Chynna said...

Misty! I'm sorry if I missed your comment. Have you found any help/assistance--for your daughter AND yourself--yet?

Let us know how, or if, we can help you okay?