There have been times as a parent when I have wished for a T-shirt that says something like the following: "No advice wanted."
"Advise me at your own peril."
"Warning: Any more advice may make my head explode!
Most parents receive lots of advice from other people. Parents of kids with special needs, however, often feel completely flooded with all the suggestions professionals, doctors, teachers, family members, and friends provide on an almost constant basis.
I know I have, and at times it gets more than a little annoying, especially when the advice is unsolicited or from someone who doesn't understand SPD. Worse still is when the advice comes from a perfect stranger.
Despite my sometimes defensive attitude towards advice, I have received some over the years that has proven quite valuable.
Hands down, the best piece of SPD parenting advice I have ever received came from my mother, a woman who, until my nephew and son were diagnosed, hadn't ever even heard of Sensory Processing Disorder. Still, she is supremely supportive and seems to have some really good SPD instincts.
My mom has always been a list maker, so I guess it was inevitable that she would advise me to write things down. After Danny was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, my mom advised me to keep a journal so I could determine what was going on with him, what was triggering his meltdowns and what interventions worked.
And she was right, which came as no surprise to my mother, who insists her advice is always spot on. And really, it usually is, though there is no need to tell her I said that.
With some paper I stored on the kitchen counter, I kept track of when and what Danny ate, what sensory activities we did, how Danny behaved in different situations, and how much sleep he got. Anything that could possibly contribute to his sensory regulation, I wrote in the journal.
Over time, I started noticing trends, like how Danny almost always acted up when there was music on the stereo. I realized that if he didn't get some good exercise, he was much more likely to react adversely to disruptions to his routines. I also noticed that he could concentrate longer after heavy work, and that he handled transitions better when we started using a picture schedule.
I probably would have made many of these observations without keeping a journal, but I think I figured several things out sooner than I would have otherwise, all because of the journal. Writing down our schedule and activities helped me be more aware of the many factors that either helped or hindered Danny's sensory regulation.
After a few months, I discontinued my journal. I had figured many things out and didn't feel like I needed it anymore. But in the following years, every now and then, I would start keeping track again so that I could figure out why my son's behavior had changed.
I treated it as detective work, and was amazed when my journaling would uncover sensory problems that I had never thought of. Before recording our daily activities, I didn't realize that whenever the baby cried, Danny started acting really hyperactive, often laughing maniacally. I didn't realize that sitting on an exercise ball made his speech and developmental therapy go much more smoothly. And I sure never connected that Danny acted strangely when foreign smells were in the air, such as when I was cooking a curry dish. In short, I made connections that led to changes in our routines, changes that made life much easier for my son. And definitely easier for me.
It doesn't take much: some scratch paper and a pencil will suffice. And don't worry about writing in complete sentences or spending hours on describing your day. Short phrases are probably more than enough to provide you with the necessary information.
If you are anything like I am, you may be completely overwhelmed right now, especially if your child has recently been diagnosed. The idea of adding one more chore to your list may seem impossible, but trust me, journaling, in the long run, will make your life simpler. You will be amazed at the information you glean by this simple exercise. Information that will ultimately help your child navigate this sensory land mine we call life.
And even if you are a veritable SPD expert, journaling can bring you much needed insight when your child's behavior is perplexing, which let's face it, happens all too often with SPD kids.
What about you? What's the best piece of parenting advice you have ever received?