Picky? Puhleez!

This will probably be my 2nd biggest blog post to date. It’s going to offend some, but hopefully educate others. This post is long overdue, but especially needed in the “picky eating” community. Tread with caution. This post will consist of my own words, but it’s the thoughts and overall experiences of my 7 year old daughter, B, and may other children like her who have challenges eating everyday foods. I will also be standing up for the “picky” eater parents who struggle with their own issues regarding this topic. Stepping into my big girl panties…

Picky eater. That word offends me beyond belief. I know it’s all over the internet. Many books, articles, and blogs have been written on the topic. Yet, picky eating doesn’t even begin to describe what my daughter and many other children like her deal with on a daily basis. It goes WAY beyond picky eating. What these children deal with, is almost a phobic reaction/response in the way their bodies deal with food.

B is finally old enough to explain, in limited words, how the whole eating experience impacts her. When a food is new, she can’t physically and emotionally handle how it looks and smells. Taste is a whole different level. If/When people push her to try a new food (keep in mind, we haven’t done this for YEARS), she explains that her body freaks out. She would cry and want to run away (her own words). She starts to hyperventilate and her body goes into fight or flight mode.

We did try the Sensory Oral Sequencing (SOS) Approach when she was younger, and while the program did definitely help her learn to experience and accept new foods without the initial fear reaction, B started putting up emotional road blocks after a few years. We’ve since started trying the Division of Responsibility Method (DOR).

How can I tell the difference between picky and extreme? It helps that B has a younger sister. Her sister is what I would describe as a finicky eater. Unlike B, C ate all kinds of foods as a baby. She ate meat, sandwiches, fruit, veggies, yogurt. All kinds of foods. Around 3, she became more selective about what she would eat; however, she is still a major carnivore. She will eat sausage, hamburgers, brats, hot dogs, turkey pepperoni. She’s even tried and liked grilled chicken breast with a side of ketchup! Meat is a texture that is very difficult for selective eaters to tolerate. It’s can be chewy, tough, fatty, grizzly. C’s never had an issue with this.

The other major difference is that C will try new foods when other kids around her are trying something. This is a HUGE difference between “picky” eaters and kids like B. B was in daycare at the age of 2, and the teachers would comment all the time on how she would NEVER try something just because the other kids did. C when comfortable (and not pressured) will eat many things. One of her newest experiences at snack time was trying applesauce in a pouch.

So, after stepping on my soapbox about B’s experience vs. her sister’s experiences what words do I used to describe her eating habits? I prefer the term selective eater. She is very particular about the foods she accepts. Most of these kids are. For B, foods are dry and crunchy in texture. Rarely wet and chewy. Is it a matter of semantics? Maybe, but when selective eaters, like B, are judged and lumped into the “picky” eater category it makes my blood boil. There’s a definite difference. Keep that in mind as the holiday’s approach. Using the word “picky” eater around mom’s of kids with selective eaters will send us through the roof. Only, we’ll grit out teeth and put on our smile simply so we won’t make a scene at the dinner table 🙂

Now, here’s where I’m REALLY going to step on some toes. The thing most parents of selective eaters cannot STAND is reading Facebook post after Facebook post and article after article about “healthy” eating.

If your child is considered failure to thrive or only eats 3 foods TOTAL as an infant/toddler, we couldn’t care LESS what kind of foods they are. Well, really we probably wish they are super healthy fruits and veggies, but let’s be real here….they’re freaking eating! They tried a new food! They touched it! They smelled it! They asked to take a bite! The truth is…we celebrate any and all food successes. That includes McDonald’s french fries ya’ll! That includes the time my daughter ate and liked a processed oatmeal cookie from the grocery store.

Believe me, during SOS feeding therapy, we exposed her to many healthy food options. Carrots, celery, yogurt…and because they have a wet or ribbed texture she couldn’t even attempt to adopt them into her everyday diet. So forgive me if you cringe at the fact that my daughter LOVES Ritz crackers with peanut butter and chips and homemade sour cream dip for dinner.

As parents, we want our children to ENJOY their eating experience as a whole. After all, our society is all about social eating. If we can’t accept what they are willing to eat, how are they ever going to feel confident enough to go out to a restaurant and enjoy time with their friends and family. Who cares if all B will ever eat when she goes out to restaurant is a plate of french fries? I certainly won’t. I’d much rather she be a part of our family laughing and sharing stories at the table in a setting we all enjoy than expecting her to eat a plate of pasta (she’s never tried a noodle in her life).

Again, as the holiday approaches, think twice before offering advice or commenting on the type of foods so and so brought for their kids. We know what we’re feeding them. We know 99% of the time it’s not “healthy” or organic and that it’s probably genetically modified. We also know that it took our child 3 years to even lick that item, or touch it with their fingers. We celebrate the fact that they are eating SOMETHING!

Give parents a break and stop judging. Tis the season of thankfulness and good will toward men. Please remember that when you’re visiting families who have kids with selective eating disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism, or any other special needs.

**For anyone who has a selective eater here’s the goal of the DOR method courtesy of Skye, author of “Mealtime Hostage.”

“The goal here is not to teach your child to eat a wide variety of foods. The goal is to teach your child to enjoy eating. Once your child enjoys eating, they will naturally explore different foods from different food groups all on their own and in their own time.”

You can check out Skye’s amazing blog at http://mealtimehostage.com/ and also on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MealtimeHostage for more information

Credit given to Ellyn Satter for the creation of The Division of Responsibility Program http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/

Posted in Feeding Difficulties, Parent Support | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Clothing Wars

I’d like to think I understand B’s extreme sensory challenges when it comes to how clothing feels. Then I have mornings like this morning…and realize I am extremely intolerable and like every other parent out there just want her to wear what I pick out.

I admit it. I lose my cool over this issue way more often then I should. After all, I refuse to wear a shirt that fits too snug or a sweater that’s too itchy. How’s that any different for B?

This morning B didn’t want to wear the shirt I picked out. I had an immature mommy moment. I replied with, “Fine. Pick out what you want to wear from now on.” Only it wasn’t what I said. I used the “tone.” You know what tone I’m talking about. The one I used, but in that extremely mad and irritated voice.

For kids with sensory processing disorder, tone and inflection in our voices can really stress them out. Many times, they are more sensitive to EVERYTHING and that definitely includes our tone of voice. I failed to remember that as I growled out what I said. Her tears and the sobs followed. Honestly, the way I reacted, I can’t blame her.

The shirt she wanted to wear is this bright, totally adorable owl shirt that we bought when school first started. See the featured image of this post. At the time I bought it, I failed to recognize how much it would shrink (Darn you China). We bought it in a size 7. My bad! She tried it on today and when she lifted up her arms it showed her belly. She hates when shirts do that. She feels they are immediately too small when that happens. Like all of us that no longer fit into our favorite pair of jeans, she was mad. She whipped the shirt over her head and threw it onto the floor. More sobbing ensued.

About ten minutes later I was able to ask her what she was really upset about. See, most kids with sensory processing disorder cannot articulate how they are feeling in the moment. When you ask them, they will either ignore you completely or shout out, “I don’t know!” When she was able to rationalize, she explained that she just loves this shirt and now it doesn’t fit her anymore. That and she was just having a really bad morning.

So what does every parent do when their child’s heart is broken over something? You try to replace it. Unfortunately, the shirt is now on clearance and only comes in a size 4/5. The good news…she picked out a new shirt (That I seriously can’t stand, but I pick my battles), in a size 8, online. Oh, and even though we couldn’t get the owl shirt in her size…we did manage to find the owl shirt as a pajama set!!! I will say that just made her morning 🙂Winter deer Owl PJ's

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Mommy Melt-down Moments


I’ve taken a long hiatus from blogging. Too long. The good news is most days have been pretty awesome, but then there’s those days that take us to the brink of our own mommy melt-down. The “Calgon take me away” moment. The “I can’t wait until my kiddos are in bed so I can unwind with a giant glass of wine and watch brainless, tacky t.v shows” moments. Tonight is one of those moments.

B’s been having a VERY difficult time relating to her sister lately. There are 2.5 years between her and her little sister. Growing up, the two of them have always been the best of friends. They play really well, confide in each other, and share in one another’s successes. Within the last 6 months or so, B’s overall tolerance for her sister has changed.

Don’t get me wrong. B loves her sister with a fierce protectiveness. However, the last six months she’s become “bothered” by her sister’s constant attention. C is her sister’s shadow. She loves B with complete and total devotion. She wants to do everything with her. I guess most “oldest” siblings feel the smother effect and go a-wall from time to time?

The biggest issue I have is the way she deals with it. She talks down to her sister quite often. She complains anytime she has to play longer than 10 minutes with her. She sulks quite often. She doesn’t want to share her toys with her (mind you she’s 7 and knows how to share). She comments how C gets everything and because she’s in school she gets nothing. She’s gone from being the loving, happy-go-lucky big sister to a sulky, bored, whiny sibling.

Tonight I tried to talk to her about it, and she went into melt-down mode. Her emotions are so sensitive and it’s hard to know if that’s just her old-soul personality, or if her sensory system causes creates a flight response. She always has such a difficult time coming back down and calming herself. I have to hold her, hug her tightly, and rock her gently for 20+ minutes until she can settle.

The most frustrating part for me is that when I asked her why she’s acting out this way (towards her sister and her sourly attitude) she can’t give me an answer. When I ask her if her body is okay in relation to her sensory issues, she says, “No. Not really.” When I ask her what we can do to help her, she still can’t articulate what she needs and that bothers me. I want her to be able to advocate her needs as she goes through school. I want her to be able to articulate her needs and challenges. When does that change?

I keep wondering if she needs to see a counselor to talk through her emotional struggles and challenges, but I don’t want her to have a complex as she gets older. The complex where she sees something “wrong” with the way God created her. We love her 100% for the way she is, but that doesn’t mean living in this world isn’t difficult for her. Maybe this is just normal sibling rivalry, and I’m reading more into it than I need too? If anyone has an insight or feedback I’m all ears. To my readers: thanks for sticking around after my blogging break. I appreciate each and every one of you navigating along with me while dealing with your own parenting journeys.

Posted in Parent Support, Sensory Challenges, Siblings | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Back-to-School Blues

School’s back in session. “How’s it going for B?” you ask. “I underestimated the back-to-school blues and challenges.” I reply.

Most of us parents cannot wait for back to school. Structure, routine, and normalcy. Who wouldn’t want that? What we sometimes forget is how challenging it can be for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder. Transitions, last-minute changes to the routine, new clothing to get used to, social awkwardness, fear of failure (aka the need for perfection), weather drill chaos, assembly noises…the list goes on and on.

For kids with SPD, these everyday experiences lead to emotional meltdowns. Specifically at home. The hard part about that is, a lot of the time, our kids hold it together at school. Especially when given the proper sensory tools to get through their day. An exercise ball? Yes, please. A wiggle cushion? You bet! Noise cancelling headphones? Absolutely. Snack/lunch sent from home? Of course! Gum, chewelry, or the Ark Grabber? Couldn’t go without.

You see, when given the proper tools our kiddos can hold it together much better at school. That combined with the emotional need to “fit in” with their peers…makes  some administrators and school staff question if our children really have the sensory challenges we see at home. I can honestly say I’ve thought, more than once, about bringing out the video camera. One time I actually did. Mostly to prove to myself that I wasn’t crazy. She absolutely did have full on meltdowns at home.

That being said, we’ve been dealing with a lot more emotional stress at home. “B” is starting to recognize that her body responds differently from others. She also realizes that she needs specific tools (like her therapy brush http://wp.me/p1Wc6a-N) to help her get through her day. So do her peers. They think they’re being helpful by reminding her, but she’s annoyed that they constantly check to make sure it’s been done.

She realizes that her feelings/challenges about food make her different from others. She’s starting to vocalize it too. Yesterday at breakfast, she became very upset that her sister is able to eat the same cereal over and over (her sister is a picky eater, but not a selective eater). I explained that she doesn’t get sick of eating the same thing over and over. B knows she does. She still considers this very unfair and it leads to meltdowns. She knows smells and appearances of foods do not bother others like it does her. She also knows she wants to try new foods, but just can’t bring her body to physically go through with it.

This morning she could FINALLY change her newly pierced earrings. She was so excited! Until I tried to pull off the back of steel. She is extremely sensitive to pain and that stopped that idea right there in its tracks. It also caused her plenty of emotional distress since she wanted to wear her new purple earrings from Great Grandma super badly.

Her sister’s crying bothers her again. Even the headphones aren’t helping as much as she wants them to. Fear of bugs and bad weather is causing trouble sleeping. She wakes up with nightmares at least 2-3 times per week.

We think OT might need to come back into play on a weekly basis again. Her therapist warned us her emotional stress might escalate after school began. She mentioned that it happens to a lot of kids with SPD. The expectation put on them in the school hours leads to a lot of meltdowns at home. At home they are comfortable and loved unconditionally. It’s their safe place to release.

B has been getting a lot of extra deep squeezes lately. That along with jumping rope, head stands, jumping on the trampoline, taekwondo, and swinging seem to be her sensory activities of choice right now.

So, in honor of Sensory Awareness Month (October)…please remember that just because you don’t always see a child with physical challenges doesn’t mean that our kids aren’t struggling. They are holding it together at least 7.5-8 hours per day. That’s some pretty awesome self-control. Keep in mind that parents aren’t making these things up. We aren’t looking for sympathy. Simply said…a little kindness and understanding go a long way 🙂

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Respect the Rules

Everyone knows that kiddos with sensory processing disorder live by rules and routine. As a parent of a kiddo with sensory challenges, you learn to always respect that. If you can’t respect that, than you warn them with PLENTY of advance notice. Every once in while though, even though you know what you should and should not do, you either forget or test the boundaries simply because you like to torture yourself 😉

I made the HUGE mistake of pushing B too far Tuesday night. Everyone knows about B’s eating issues. This is one aspect I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I do not mess with. So then…what the heck was I thinking?

We’ve been very relaxed at meal times over the entire summer. No pressure, no intricate food discussions, no cooking projects. Low and behold, no meltdowns.

I decided to eat a fresh peach for dinner that night. After devouring the delicious summer fruit, I asked C and B if they’d ever seen the pit of a peach. I cleaned it off and C touched it. She felt how hard it was. B was immediately uncomfortable. I mentioned that she didn’t have to touch it or look at it. She did smell it, but didn’t really want to. I’m almost positive she did it for me. I then went on to say that maybe in a few days we could “learn” more about it.

Her initial response was a very emphatic, “I don’t want to touch it. I don’t want to look at it either.” I reminded her she didn’t have to do anything until she was ready. The entire scene went spiraling out of control. She turned into a crying mess. “I don’t want to ever learn about it.” Then, “I’m just not ready to learn about any new foods!” At this point I realized I went to far, but I couldn’t undo what had already been done. “I don’t want to cook new foods either!” Complete the scene with a sobbing, hyperventilating 6.5 year old.

I know no parent is perfect. I know I’m going to trip up and make mistakes. However, this eating thing is my biggest downfall. My greatest challenge. I think I’m encouraging her. That I’m broadening her horizons. Deep down I know that what I see as encouragement…she sees as pressure and control.

I don’t really have a point to my post other than that I realize I need to let go and accept who she is. I need to accept how she eats and even what she eats. I need to understand her sensory challenges and how they impede her specific food choices. I need to stop pushing and analyzing. Instead, I need to show her my unconditional love and support. Tomorrow’s another day, and today I must respect her rules.

Posted in Feeding Difficulties, Sensory Challenges, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Sensory Delight and Sensory Flight

It’s been way too long since my last post. I apologize to my followers, but honestly since January 2013 things have been going great. Meltdowns were almost non-existent. B’s sensory challenges were easily managed. Eating was what it was. She wasn’t eating a bunch of new foods, but every once in a while she would try a new food. Even her OT said she was doing extremely well. Therefore, nothing new to report 🙂

Then summer happens. New activities, weather changes, vacations, barbecues, spur of the moment trips to anywhere…I’m sure you catch my drift.

Summer for B was one of the best times to focus on her sensory needs. She enrolled in a summer school arts and crafts program. Despite all of the different texture mediums (Paper Mache for example) she absolutely LOVED the class.

She started piano lessons. My husband’s cousin, who plays the piano beautifully, tutored B over the summer. B struggled in the beginning (learning the notes and remembering where they were on the piano), but given time and practice she’s learned to love playing the music.

The biggest sensory investment we made this summer…was Taekwondo. We had heard from so many different people how much Taekwondo helped them build their confidence, encourage individual success, not to mention the physical awesomeness that helps many kids with sensory challenges. I reached out to my OT friend Miss Angie Voss (Angie Voss’ Website) who described specifically why Taekwondo could be a great sport for our kids. Here was her response: “Taekwondo provides a significant amount of proprioception via joint traction and compression as well as the core strength needed to maintain the different positions. Proprioceptive input is also achieved through all of the different movement patterns, static and dynamic. The front kicks and punches provide a powerful dose of  joint traction to all of the joints of the arms and legs, as well as the body requiring to engage almost every muscle of the body.  Proprioception is very calming, regulating, and organizing for the brain. Taekwondo also provides vestibular input via balance and constant shifting of posture and position, which is also regulating for the brain. From an environmental standpoint, Taekwondo is structured, typically not too chaotic, and organized. It’s also known for following a very specific routine and process at each session. This in itself can be very regulating and soothing for our sensory kiddos.”

I knew there was a reason why B absolutely LOVES going. She is getting so many of her sensory needs met in a simple 45 minute session. She especially enjoys working on her kicks, blocks, and punches. Because of the sensory input she receives from her Taekwondo class (in addition to her at home sensory diet), we’ve decided to scale back her OT sessions to only once a month.

Vacation, on the other hand, was a bit more challenging for B’s sensory system. In the grand scheme of things, I couldn’t blame her. We stayed at multiple different places (hotel, condo, and our Aunt’s vacation home). We ate out a lot! Mot of the time there was very little on the menu that she was willing/able to eat. We were in the humid, hot (but beautiful) sun almost everyday. We had no real set agenda, and I’m sure it took a lot for her to go-with-the-flow.

Vacation successes: We went to IHOP for breakfast one morning. She loves pancakes but will only eat them with my cousin’s homemade blueberry syrup (it’s amazing). We didn’t have that with us, so I had to improvise. They had pancakes with banana slices (which she loves) and strawberry syrup (the kind they put on sundae’s). I told her she liked each of those things separately, and I was asking a lot for her to think about trying it. She decided she was willing to give it go. She tried it and LOVED it! Same with the waffle fries that they serve EVERYWHERE down south 🙂 She was finally willing to try them at one of the restaurants and thought they were great. She even said we could buy some frozen ones for home!

She swam in salt water. A completely different sensory experience than your typical Midwest swimming pool. Salty, giant waves, sand sticking to every part of your body. She handled it like a champ.

Vacation hiccups: The spiders and bugs. Oh, the spider and bugs. They say everything is bigger in the south. It’s true. Needless to say, sleeping was a huge struggle for B. She would have trouble falling asleep, and wake up at least 3 times each night. She was petrified of the bugs (particularly spiders).

At the family reunion, our cousin’s boyfriend made a fantastic dinner spread. We had a meeting room in the hotel, and we couldn’t wait to eat. B, however, found the smell of the grilled meat to be beyond obnoxious. She refused to step in the room and was perfectly fine playing out in the hallway. That is, until we had to take a family reunion picture. Her little olfactory system couldn’t deal. She had a total breakdown. She cried and cried and wanted nothing to do with coming into that room for pictures, yet wanted to be in the picture. Thank goodness for my awesome mom who was willing to hug her, and give her possible suggestions. She also educated those who thought she was simply having a bratty tantrum. All while I stood there helpless. See, I had forgotten her Scentsy pig. She carries it with her when she’s around extremely unpleasant odors. I absolutely should have remembered the pig. She ended up taking a clementine with her and smelled that during the pictures. I’m pretty sure the picture will document her overall feeling that night (clementine right in front of her face).

Now that we’re back from vacation, summer is officially coming to a close. That means school is starting. That means we must get back into B’s sensory routine. Morning jumps on the trampoline, playing hopscotch, swinging in her IKEA swing, hula hooping, jumping rope…the list is endless. I can tell we’ve been a little too lax this summer because she’s having more meltdowns at home and she’s having a lot of personal trouble with her younger sister. I’m hoping that once her sensory diet is back in full swing these things will help set her body and mind at ease.

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. May each one of your children’s school year be a success. Remember to embrace the new, work through the challenges, and lean on the people you know will support you.

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A Word of Thanks

My parents are awesome! I really do have the best parents around. My mom doesn’t smother; yet she loves deeply. My dad encourages. They always go out of their way to let my siblings and I know how proud they are of us. How much they love us. They’re no different with their grandchildren. Their love overflows and it shows. It shows after a long weekend at Nana and Papa’s house. They reluctantly came home with us tonight. I know. Heartbreaking right? 🙂

Actually, sometimes I take them for granted. I forget how much they love and support B and her sister. They really believe in this sensory stuff! I’ve come across so many people who don’t, and it’s refreshing to watch people who truly “get” it.

Tonight my husband and I went to pick the girls up from my parent’s house. B was acting pretty antsy; like she needed a really good dose of sensory input. My mom told me they worked on a few sensory activities downstairs this weekend. They have a giant family room that has nothing in it. Believe it or not, it was B’s perfect sensory playground.

We went downstairs. My mom had a giant exercise ball, and they tossed it around. B used her body to block it. She dribbled it like a basket ball. She rolled it and tried to jump in front of the ball to stop it. She rolled on the ball and tried to maintain her balance. She laid backwards over the ball, twisted her body, and tried to sit up without using her hands. She hopped from one end of the room to the other. The room was SO open, she could have done anything she wanted!

I was secretly touched that my mom would go out of her way to make sure B was getting the sensory input she needed while she was there. I never asked her. She’s just a terrific sensory Nana! She can read B’s signals as well as I can. Here’s another example. She knew that the kindergarten class in church was too new and scary for B; instead, she walked her and her sister to the children’s church where B stayed comfortably the entire time!

And then there’s my dad! He’s gone back to law school and found his way into the world of Special Education. He’s jumped head first into the world of IEP’s, advocacy, schools, and families of kids with special needs. He “gets” it too. He is always eager and willing to learn about kids with special abilities and challenges.

Mom and dad, if you’re reading this, I just have to say thank you for standing by us during all the challenges and uncertainty. For believing in us when we though no one else did. For accepting B for the awesome girl she is. For embracing individuals with SPD and other challenges. You guys are amazing, and we love you with all of our hearts!

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The Road Not Taken

It’s been too long since my last blog post. After a few months of a hiatus, it’s like I’m starting over. Only this time it’s not all bad news. At least it shouldn’t be. Why then do I feel like the first verse of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” sums up what I’m about to write?

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”

We’ve come to that point in the therapy world where we have to make life-altering decisions. One that affect us (financially more than anything) but affects “B” so much more. We’ve taken a 3 month break from food school. B’s therapist went on maternity leave back in October. I’m going to be completely honest here. I haven’t really been following through with her food program here at home, and to be honest she hasn’t really regressed. She also hasn’t made a ton of forward progress either. So it’s here we have to decide. Do we keep up with the program, or do we kiss her therapist for all her hard work and say goodbye?

Actually, lunch in the cafeteria has been fan-flippin-tastic! She knows when she needs to move and asks the lunch lady when needed. The rest of the time she tolerates the food and smells so much better than my husband and I ever imagined! At home, things are a different story. She continues to need the candle lit for various smells. She has to sit in the chairs at the table away from everyone else. She continues to have about 10 foods she’ll eat consistently. Of course, she has made small attempts to taste new foods (like the caramel apple cookie she tried at our family’s Christmas event). Oh, and after much reassurance, there was the time she tried the red/green salsa chips which tasted exactly the same as the ones she normally eats (she was totally thrown by their colors). However, we’re still stuck on the same 10 foods.

“Food chaining” is one of those terms you hear a lot in the “resistive eating” realm.  Food chaining is where you try to get your child to branch out and introduce new foods that build on the characteristics and properties of the foods they currently eat. For example, B eats Tyson chicken nuggets. Food chaining would be trying a couple of different types of chicken nuggets. Once she accepts those, you’d move to chicken fingers, then chicken strips, then chicken patties, and finally work your way towards non-breaded chicken. For resistive eaters, it’s often times more complicated than that. Especially those with sensory challenges on top of eating issues. B has issues with certain textures, tastes, and appearances; so, even the slightest difference in chicken nugget brands cause her to turn up her nose and refuse to learn about them.

It’s this challenge that puts me back on that road. I stare ahead. I wish I could take them both. I wish I could see years down the road. Which one equals fear-from-food freedom? Do we continue to pour large sums of money into this program that has given us positive glimpses into mealtime frustrations, or do we continue to let her grow, play, work on her sensory diet in hopes that she will eventually “mature” out of her fear of eating? Does one road lead to a lifetime of picky eating? Does the other lead to a love of food?

I know Robert Frost’s answer. Take the road less traveled. We’ve done that, and while it has given B some tremendous coping strategies; it still hasn’t led us to where we want her to be. However, without food school B wouldnt’ be where she is today. If therapy were free, this decision would be so much easier 🙂 I do plan on talking to her therapist about my concerns, but ultimately we (her parents) will make the decision on which road she’ll take. We only hope and pray that the road we choose is the better path for B’s future.

Posted in Feeding Difficulties, Sensory Challenges, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Social Isolation

“Third grade. Everyone’s food in their lunches is disappearing. I am their target. I run out of the room crying when they tell the teacher I am the culprit. I hide in the athletic closet. I cry and wait until my 3rd grade teacher finds me, wraps me in her arms, and tells me everything will be okay.”

“Eight grade. I walk up to the front of the room and drop my math paper in the appropriate basket. I come back to sit down in my desk. The boy behind me pulls my seat out from under me, and I fall back on my derriere. I run to the bathroom and cry in the stall. I come back and sit in the principle’s office (attached to my classroom). I hear my teacher giving a commanding speech. I am not a doormat. I’m not to be treated like one. We do not walk all over her. Embarrassing moment # 936.”

These are my grade school/middle school experiences. Not B’s, mine. As you can tell, grade school wasn’t the most positive social experience for me. I never quite fit in (Not exactly sure why either. Probably because I moved to the school in third grade vs. kindergarten). I was the target of many cruel jokes. I had very few true friends. School was very socially isolating for me until high school.

Why am I telling you all this? I’m sharing my stories to identify another one of my greatest fears. Fears that I don’t want to project onto B. Fears that I need to work on and learn how to control. My 2nd greatest fear for B besides eating is feeling socially isolated from her peers.

I never knew how to handle the social situations. Instead of standing up to my bullies, I ran. I hid. I kept journals of my inadequacies. I don’t want B to go through the same isolating experiences I did, and with that I need to step back and ask my friends and family for help.

Tonight I told B a made-up story. She loves made up stories. She likes you to think you’re making them up, but she’s really telling you the details and you’re just retelling her the little tidbits out loud. This story she actually let me make up myself. It was about a turtle who lived on the beach. Marvin had lots of beach acquaintances, but very few close friends. Marvin felt lonely. It was after I made that comment that B came back with, “Sometimes I feel lonely too at recess when no one wants to play with me.”

I seriously go into “flashback” mode. My heart beats a little bit faster, my tongue gets tied, I rarely know how to respond to comments like this. I know I’m over-thinking it, but I remember how I felt in her shoes and don’t want to say/do the wrong thing.

Be went on to tell me that she asks the other kids to play, and they usually say, “No.” and she walks around the playground by herself. Is she embellishing? Maybe. Is she seeing things from a different perspective. That could be too.

I do plan on calling her teacher tomorrow and getting her take on things. B is extremely sensitive and tends to over-analyze things or see things differently. I remember when she was in preschool. She went on and on about how no one wanted to play with her, and she didn’t have any friends (This was the first week of school). I talked to her teacher who informed me that she was playing fine with kids in her class. Sometimes the kids were busy doing their own thing and didn’t want to stop what they were doing to go play with her. B perceived this as them not liking her. Ahhhh…my sensitive, old soul.

I know teasing/getting picked on is a fact of life for all kids. I just need to learn how to handle it appropriately without projecting my fears onto her and without going overboard. If any parents have any advice for me, please feel free to share. This goes for all parents. I appreciate any and all feedback more than you know  🙂

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Nervousness Never Fades

“Everyone had bologna around me at lunch today.” Spoken by our sensory, orally, and olfactory defensive 5.5 year old when she got home from school. I asked her how she handled it. “I plugged my nose.” While I’m proud of her for using her coping skills to ward off the offensive, I’m also a teeny bit worried that she’s not advocating for herself the way she should. I reminded her that she is allowed to ask one of the lunch ladies to move if she can’t handle the smell/appearance of certain foods. I’m not exactly sure how well it sunk in.

I have to admit I’m a little bit nervous. B’s feeding therapy that we’ve been a part of for the last 2.5 years will be run from home, by me, in about a month. B’s fantastic therapist is going on maternity leave from October through January. While therapy was only once a week and now only every other week, she still pushes herself further with her therapist than she does with me.

I’m a teacher. Teaching and instructing is part of who I am. I should be able to do this, right? I don’t know why, but this type of program intimidates me. Maybe its because I suck at cooking. Ask my husband about the time I started the oven on fire (dropped a hot pad in the oven trying to get dinner OUT). Ask B about the time she requested cookies for school and asked if “Daddy” could make them because mine don’t taste quite as good. I accept that my cooking/baking skills are flawed, but when food school encourages cooking with your child it becomes not only intimidating, but also tedious. *Insert fake smile here* I know I need to suck it up and encourage B to create, create, create. I have to say the other frustration is knowing that we’ll cook and bake, and 90% of what we make will go uneaten. I HATE wasting food (Blame the former generations for the comment, “Think about all the starving children in Africa!”). Food school encourages playing, talking, and learning about your food, but not necessarily eating it (until the child is ready). I can only eat so much; therefore that leaves a lot of scraps left over (and unfortunately we don’t have a dog).

I have to remember to introduce new foods while integrating the “still learning about” foods. I guess I need to make myself an organized list or something to keep  myself from losing my mind 🙂

Then there’s the process of introducing the new foods. We turn our foods into toys. We play games, we look at our foods like a scientist studying amoebas under a microscope. We smell them and even touch them when we’re ready. These thing happen if B’s having a good sensory day. If not, we may only complete step one: looking.

I should be able to accept the small baby steps. After all, I noticed even the tiniest of baby steps when I was teaching my students. I celebrated each and every success and milestone. Why then do I dwell on the fact that we can’t even get her to try a new type of chicken nugget or a new brand of cereal? We can’t send a closed-faced sandwich to school. It has to be open-faced. That she’ll only eat split top wheat bread. She will only look at a sausage link if it’s inside a plastic baggie. I get so caught up in the little things.

Don’t get me wrong, I know she’s made progress. It’s just hard to look back at 2.5 years of feeding therapy yet, she still doesn’t meet enough qualifications to graduate from the SOS food therapy program. My heart just breaks that I can’t make eating easier for her.

I sure hope that I can work with her as successfully as her food therapist has over the next few months. I’m going to try and blog about the journey as we work through it. I’m going to try and pick myself up, pray, and focus on my purpose. God picked me as B’s mom and saw me as one of her lifelong teachers 🙂

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

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Life is But a Dream

You know when you’re in a deep sleep dreaming that fabulous dream where the location is perfect, you’re in love with whatever or whomever you’re dreaming about? That particular dream from which you don’t really want to wake up and experience the dose of reality that’s about to hit you in the face when the alarm clock goes off in about oh…three minutes?

My husband and I are living that dream so far. It’s been two weeks since B started Kindergarten. The painstaking anxiety both her and I felt about that first day of school has past, and the dream just keeps on going. She’s doing so incredibly well! She’s excited to go off to school every morning. She has access to whatever sensory tools she needs throughout the day (water bottle, gum, therapy brush, deep pressure touch, dry and crunchy snacks, noise cancelling headphones, and wiggle cushion). She hasn’t had one, noticeable (I say noticeable because she masks her sensory issues pretty well in most social situations) melt-down at school in the last two weeks. She comes home excited to tell me all about her day.

We’ve only had a couple of small discussions about lunch in the cafeteria. Both were smell-related problems. The first day she had to move away from someone eating a hamburger. The second time she told me she had a hard time smelling the pizza. She’s been getting really good at figuring out solutions to her sensory challenges. I asked her what she thought we should do about it. She said we should try smelling the italian spices in small doses at home so she could work her way up to handling the smell of pizza at school. I was pretty impressed.

I did make a mistake though. Since she hadn’t mentioned a lot about the smells/appearances of food in the lunchroom, I assumed everything was fine. Another strike out for mom. B wanted us to light a candle at home to help her with the smell of mashed potatoes. I pointed out that the smell of them didn’t bother her at school. I also reminded her that she doesn’t have candles at school. She came back with, “The smells bother me, I just don’t tell!” Big punch in the mommy gut. Despite those minor setbacks, school has been great. Her teacher has nothing but positive things to say and no more phone calls to keep me on the up and up about how she’s doing (they’re not needed).

We have seen a few emotional hiccups at home, but that’s to be expected. She’s feeling especially jealous of all the 1:1 time her younger sister gets while she’s at school. She’s been a bit more emotionally needy when she gets home. She cries very easily and needs some rocking and deep pressure snuggles to help her emotional radar return to its center. Nothing we can’t handle 🙂

She’s even trying to eat some new snack foods. This is where I have to focus on the positive and remind myself that even snack foods are better than nothing. She tried some cinnamon toast crunch at school, some cheesy curls at church, and she’s still working on chewing and spitting out nuts. I try not to get bogged down with the other things…like how she used to eat red apples, but since we’ve introduced green she’s decided that only green are tasty (same w/ grapes). Then there’s the fact that we still haven’t found one other protein food that she’ll eat in addition to the few she eats.

Focusing on those few things would mean that I have to wake up from my dream and face reality. I’m enjoying this dream too much at the moment; therefore, I’m going to snuggle down a little deeper and revel in the growth B’s made in the last month or so. At some point, that alarm will go off, reality will set in, and I’ll have to face the other moments head on. So, for now, I’m going to dream a little while longer…

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The Sensory Moments that Get Me

As a parent, do you ever have those little moments that just get you? They break your heart, they annoy you, make you insane, make you laugh, and at times they make you sob uncontrollably. Ask the same question to a parent of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder or other sensory issues, and I can guarantee that those moments are personified times 10 with emotions running high seven days a week (That’s right! Some weeks are “forever” moments. Nowhere close to “little.”).

As hard as I try to stay positive in the face of SPD, I find those times when certain circumstances take my breath away. It’s like a kick in the gut. Last week for example…We were invited over for a cookout at our Pastor’s house. For those of you who don’t know B’s greatest sensory challenge is eating. She has only 5 proteins that she’ll eat consistently, one vegetable, a handful of fruits, and about 10 dry/crunchy foods (aka her junk foods). Back to the cookout. There were at least 30+ adults there and 15+kiddos running around. We got there and B refused to go inside without holding onto me. She hid behind me and barely made eye contact or spoke to anyone for the first 20-30 minutes. She played by herself on the swings for a good 10 min and then came inside to get something to eat. That’s when she spoke up. “Mommy, I’m not used to being around so many people.” There it was. Like a balloon that someone let the air out of. I had a moment of, “Damn you SPD!” It was written all over her face. The overwhelming look. The “I can’t process all this stuff coming at me” look.

The eating challenges stare us in the face every, single day. The other aspects/challenges of SPD are a lot more random. Those are the days that throw me for a loop. I had another moment the other day when I was teasing her. She asked if she could have ketchup with her chicken nuggets for dinner (mind you she ALWAYS gets ketchup with her nuggets). With a grin on my face I teasingly said, “I don’t think so!” Her response was so literal. “Why can’t I have ketchup?” I had to explain I was teasing, and she came back with, “I just don’t like teasing. When you say things, even if you’re teasing, I think they’re real and you’re really going to do it.” Another slap on the wrist for mom.

It took an OT explaining that teasing is another one of the sensory/social cues that develop much later for our kiddos before I recognized that we are responding to her all wrong. She understands what the word teasing means and understands that people may say things with a smile when they’re teasing, but her brain simply can’t process it the way it’s supposed to.

She also loses it when her little sister starts to cry. This never used to bother her, but all of a sudden she goes into melt-down mode and cries out, “I’m not going to listen to this! Please stop!” I’m still getting the hang of remembering all of her sensory tools too and of course when her sister starts crying it’s usually when we’re in the car, and the headphones are sitting at home on at dining room chair! Strike two mom.

These are the days when I just want to sit in the corner and cry. I can’t imagine what this unpredictable world is like for her; yet, half the time I don’t have my own house organized. How am I supposed to organize her little sensory world in a way that makes sense? Sensory tools, occupational therapy appointments, food therapy appointments, groceries for the therapy, Integrated Listening therapy, brushing therapy, sensory input over the course of the entire day…the list continues.

I’m open to hearing I’m not alone. I know so many sensory parents have their frustrating moments. I just want to let you know that I hear you. I read your blogs and your personal Facebook posts. I’ve talked to some of you privately. I’ve chatted with a couple of you on the street. We are all kindred spirits for at least we all understand each other. Hugs to each and every SPD parent, caretaker, grandparent, or anyone who deals with the ins/outs of kiddos sensory challenges on a daily basis.

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Mental Preparation

Last week B attended Vacation Bible School (VBS) at a local church for five full days. Of course I was nervous that she’d be gone from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. every day that week, but she was over the moon excited to see friends she hadn’t seen since Sunday School ended in May.

My nervous mama mode kicked in on the first day. B arrived and was her usual shy, reserved self. Give her twenty min. of warm up time, and a teacher/counselor that loves to hug, smile, and talk and she’s all yours. That day the day camp counselors were busy completing check-in tasks. B walked over to a friend who was holding hands with another girl. B said, “Hi.” but her little face was crushed to see that her friend was busy entertaining someone else.

More kids came and sat down and not one of the girls came and sat next to her. My heart skipped a beat (and broke a little) when she came over to me and buried her face in my lap asking when VBS was going to start. I knew she’d be okay once things got started, but I also had that moment of “Is this what her first day of Kindergarten is going to be like in less than a month?”

The rest of her week at VBS went very well. She knew two of the camp counselors and she latched onto them like glue. She was talking to the other girls and participating in all of the activities! She even made it through lunch without much direction from me!

Lunch in and of itself was a HUGE accomplishment! As some of you know, B has a VERY difficult time with certain smells, appearances, and tastes of many different foods. I am dreading Kindergarten simply because she mentions how she doesn’t want to eat in the cafeteria. Especially on pizza day. So, to my surprise, she took it upon herself to sit at the end of the table on the day that another child brought summer sausage in his lunch. She took it upon herself to plug her nose when everyone at her table was eating bologna sandwiches (Was it kosher? Probably not, but she didn’t have to physically leave the table or sit somewhere else). I was beyond excited for her! Excited that she learned a few coping skills all on her own! That she didn’t isolate herself from everyone else. Pretty proud mama bear moment for me 🙂

That being said, we did get a few glimpses at what we may encounter once she starts kindergarten. While she held it together at school, she had some difficult days at home. One morning she was so pokey I lost my cool and raised my voice. I told her she wasn’t listening and she burst into tears. The tears didn’t stop until we got to VBS and they continued as sniffles at VBS. We’ve noticed now that every time her 2.5 year old little sister starts crying she covers her ears and yells, “Stop crying, please stop crying, I just can’t take it!”

She’s also been CRAVING some serious deep pressure input. She’s been squeezing my arms and legs extra hard lately, hanging on doors, and jumping all over us. She’s also having issues with personal space. She needs reminders that not everyone likes someone yelling “Boo” in their face.

So what’s next? I’m so grateful that I had this week of VBS to prepare myself mentally for what’s ahead. I called B’s school principal and set up a meeting BEFORE school starts so that we can meet and talk about her sensory diet. The things she needs to set her up for success and not dealing with the repercussions after she starts. We’re going to get a 504 in place for the accommodations needed at school. I met with her kindergarten teacher and supplied her with the book “Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals” by Angie Voss. I tagged all of the sensory signals B displays so she would know exactly how to respond to B’s needs. I’m prepared to rev up the sensory input before and after school so she feels in control of her body. I’m prepared to give her the down time she needs when she gets home. If she needs 15 min. in the swing, pillow cave, or squish box, you better believe I’ll give it to her 🙂 I’m prepared to be “B’s” best advocate. To encourage, support, and celebrate her. All of the new things she’s going to learn. The new friends she’ll make. The new skills she’ll pick up.

After all, that’s what we as parents are called to do. To encourage our kids to be themselves. To demonstrate to others that our kids are unique and awesome. To let their tender spirits shine no matter what. We are their voices at the beginning stages of their journey. At times we have to be their voices in the middle, and no matter what we give them the love, understanding, and encouragement they need. To treasure our kids as the blessings they really are.

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Trust Your Instincts

It’s the middle of summer. The time when parents are out there swimming with their kids, visiting indoor play areas, taking trips to the library, going out for ice cream, meeting other parents for playdates, going on vacation, sending their kids to Vacation Bible School…the activities are endless!

Then, there are the trips to the stores. Where everything screams “Back to School!” Backpacks, school supplies, lunch boxes. All of a sudden the anxiety sets in, and I start thinking, “It’s right around the corner, and there’s so much to do to prepare B for school!” It is only the end of July right? I know for some of you school starts in August, and it is literally right around the corner. School around here though doesn’t start until September 1st. The thought of school shopping in a week or two (because if I wait until the end of Aug. there will be no supplies to choose from) makes me cringe.

Why all the worries? Why all the fears? I think as a parent of a child with sensory processing disorder it’s easy to get caught up in the “What if’s?” I want only whats best for B and Sensory Processing Disorder is such uncharted territory. Believe me, I’ve been doing my research, and I’ve found information from some extremely valuable sources. However, it’s so easy to get caught up in the future and the uncertainty. It’s so easy to question your decisions when you don’t have a manual that tells you the right answers 😉

About three weeks ago, B mentioned how worried she is about eating in the cafeteria at school. We also hit a bit of a road block in food school. Instead of assessing the sensory components related to what was going on…I got caught up in the “fix it” syndrome. I had been given some advice about how B was displaying symptoms of anxiety and that certain types of therapy can help alleviate the anxiousness.

Of course she’s displaying symptoms of anxiety! She’s growing, she’s starting a new school this fall, and our summer routine is all over the place! When your world is spinning out of control, you try controlling what you can. If you can’t control it, you begin to worry and show signs of stress/anxiety.

Being the worrier that I am (and against my better judgment), I decided to look into these two different types of therapy. After meeting with one of the therapists, who didn’t really understand the sensory component from a practical standpoint, I came home feeling frustrated, alone, mentally exhausted, and clueless as to our next step.

It was after a much-needed vent session with a dear friend, that she pointed out how I needed to trust my instincts and stop listening to all the people feeding me with “quick fixes.” She explained that I do have people on my side. My mom (aka my rock) who always supports our decisions no matter what. Who has dove in with both feet to learn any and everything she can to help B and others like her. My husband who listens with both ears open and offers suggestions when he has them. Who wrestles with B to give her deep pressure. Makes smoothies with her to work on the food/eating skills. Questions therapies that cost thousands of dollars with no guarantees. He stands by and jumps in when I need a break. I also need to remember the sensory mamas out there who offer their support and encouragement whether I’m feeling overwhelmed or excited.

As for the others, I don’t need to answer to them. I need to trust my motherly instincts and accept “B” for who she is. Stop pushing and stop obsessing. She’s such a blessing to our family. She’s taught me so much love!

So, with that…I’ve decided that I’m going to listen to what my gut has said all along. I’m going to increase and rev up the sensory diet at home and back way down on the eating program. We’re not pursing any additional/new therapies at this time. Heck, it’s summer…and we still have an entire month left here! I want B and our family to enjoy it to it’s fullest before she’s off to full-day kindergarten. There’s plenty of time for the other stuff. Right now, I want to focus on my girls being “kids” and enjoying their summer. 🙂

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Forgetful But Not Forgotten (Food School Routine…Edited)

I realized that I completely forgot to mention the “older” sensory kiddos in my Food School Routine post. I blame it on the heat 🙂 It’s been a pretty warm summer here so far (and honestly I’m probably one of the few that LOVE it). So please forgive my forgetfulness, and let me add just a few more ideas about the food school routine and how to approach it with the older kids (around five years old+).

Most of the routine should stay the same. https://sensoryspeak.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/food-school-routine/. Warming up sensory exercises, washing hands, setting the table, warming up mouth exercises, serving themselves, the clean up routine; but the actual meal program activities may need some tweaking.

  • Play lots of games. Older kids tend to be a little bit competitive. The enjoy playing games and they enjoy winning. Knowing this, it’s time to create games with your food. Play tic-tac-toe with the peas, eeny meeny miney mo with your potatoes (B plays this a lot. Whoever touches the food item last answers a specific question. E.g. “What is your favorite movie?”). Make up a board game, laminate it, and use your food as markers to get across the board. The key is to keep it engaging and fun.
  • Look at food from a food scientist perspective. Focus on discussing the properties of food. Talk about how the food looks (round, brown, bumpy, wavy), how it feels (smooth, rough, scratchy, sticky, wet), how it smells (be descriptive good doesn’t really describe how an item smells, e.g., “Peas smell like the garden.”), and finally what it tastes like (DO NOT force them to taste. If they are not ready, talk about what you think it tastes like). It’s important to focus on this step in detail. A lot of kids with sensory issues have difficulty recognizing the senses without mixing them up. B would comment that peas smelled green. Well, we know that peas can’t SMELL green.
  • Create fun experiments with food they are learning about. Food coloring is great for this. Turn pudding different colors. Mix different foods together and talk about the new texture it made.
  • Probably the most natural step. Cook with your child. Don’t force them to do anything they’re not comfortable with, but start with baby steps. Have them press buttons on the microwave, turn on the stove (with assistance of course), press the button on the blender (wearing their noise cancelling headphones if needed) and work your way up from there. Let them frost cookies with different color frosting, knead dough, help make fruit smoothies, make a new popcorn recipe for you (sprinkling with various types of cheese), making you a taco salad….you get the idea 🙂 It’s important to remember that this step is simply about COOKING the food. There is no expectation to eat it once they’ve finished unless they are ready. Cooking is one of the easiest ways to engage kids with food and talk about the properties of food without feeling threatened.
  • Allow them to help you menu plan a meal for one day during the week. Everyone eats the food that is picked out by your kiddo. If they are comfortable going along to the store, great! If not, just ask them to pick out some of their favorite (preferred foods) and look at the outing as a mini vacation 🙂
  • Create a horizontal rating scale on a sheet of paper from 1-10. Have them rate a new food somewhere on the rating scale (one being a food they can’t stand and ten being a highly preferred food). Write the new food names near the number chosen by your child so everyone can keep track of their overall impressions/progress. You can ask them to re-rate a specific food after they’ve tried it a few times.
  • Don’t forget the positive progress chart. Older kids can also come up with an incentive of choice. Reward them each and every time they try or interact with a new food.

I hope this helps give you some helpful hints/guidelines for the older kids as well as the younger kids in my previous blog post. I’d love to hear your feedback or answer any questions you may have. Have fun and remember it’s okay to play with your food 🙂

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Food School Routine

I’ve had quite a few parents ask if I could share the type of routine we use with B before each meal. I decided to go ahead and write up a blog post that does just that…only in more detail than how I usually explain it (Although if you ask my immediate family, they’ll probably say I went into as much detail with them as I’m about to do here :)) Keep in mind I’m no expert. I followed a program created by our food school therapist and tweaked it to fit our lifestyle and B’s personality. If you find this information helpful, I strongly recommend you contact a Speech and Language Therapist or Occupational Therapist certified in the Sequential Oral Sensory Feeding Approach. Please don’t hesitate to contact me on my blog or on Facebook if you have any specific questions about anything I posted.

Warm up activities to prep the sensory nervous system–>
• Jump on hoppity hop, climb stairs, jump in/around/out hula hoop, complete furniture obstacle course, jump on trampoline, crawl through tunnels (just some of many examples of things you could do to warm up the body prior to meal time).

Every day Meal Routine–>
• March, skip, dance, wiggle, slither, hop (whatever suits your fancy) to the bathroom. Sing a song on the way if she enjoys it. We like to sing “We are the Dinosaurs” by Laurie Berkner, but feel free to change it up. Wash/dry hands.
• B helps set the table. Sets plates out for everyone (including her extra learning plate), utensils, cups, whatever she’s capable of doing. This does NOT include food items.
• Wipe/wash table. This is great heavy work activity (we don’t do this because we have a tablecloth on the table).

Warm up mouth with following types of activities–>
• Blow bubbles, puppy bites (place washcloth at front and back of teeth and have B bite down hard on cloth while you try to pull cloth towards you). Have B imitate various shapes and faces you make using her mouth, lips, and tongue.

Mealtime Participation–>
• Served Family Style. Depending on comfort level, B serves herself various items. Items are placed either on her plate or her learning plate (foods she’s not yet comfortable to eat). Each dish gets its own serving utensil (no cross contamination). If she is uncomfortable about serving herself, give her proper language, “What can mommy/daddy do to help you?” Put on her learning plate if she’s unable.
• Always have two preferred foods (foods she likes) at every meal. Each person at the table should take even a small amount of B’s preferred foods. Then, she doesn’t feel left-out because she’s eating something different from everyone else.
• Never have more than 5 TOTAL foods (preferred and non-preferred) for each meal. More than five foods can be too overwhelming.
• Eat without interruption for the first 15 min. of a meal (save some food to interact w/ at the end of the meal).
• Play with foods among all family members (preferred foods first). Pretend chips are sail boats, the ketchup is the lake, chicken nuggets are trampolines…whatever strikes your fancy.
• Start talking about non-preferred foods. The way they look and how they feel/smell. Play games. We’ve played “hot potato” with hash brown patties and “guess where we’re hiding the peanut inside our mouth” (tongue, cheek, front teeth, back teeth, etc…).
• Never force B to interact with a non-preferred food if she’s not ready. Instead, encourage dad and sister to play with you while B watches. She will engage if/when she’s comfortable.
• Remember the hierarchy ladder–>Look, touch, smell, snake taste (tip of tongue), hold in mouth, bite with front teeth and spit out, bite on back teeth and spit out, chew repeated times in mouth and spit, and spit/swallow. You may have to break it down into even smaller steps if needed.

Clean up Routine–>
• Encourage B to spit all items (preferred/non-preferred) items into a special bowl after each meal. If she’s not comfortable with putting in her mouth and spitting, let her blow or dump it off her own hand. If she’s really uncomfortable, let her blow/dump it off of your hand.

* Remember that sometimes you will need to make changes. For example, B cannot stand the smell of hotdogs at the table. So, we move her learning plate all the way in the middle of the table vs. near her. We also might put the hot dog in a plastic bag on days when the smell REALLY bothers her.

*It can be challenging, but she absolutely picks up on tone of voice. Be careful to use positive, encouraging language even when frustrated.

*Never force B to interact with a food she’s not ready to. This will cause an immediate fight/flight or shut-down response. If she’s stressing out, back down. It’s better to do too little than too much and cause regression.

*Use a progress chart to help encourage trying of new foods. Create a chart. Come up w/ a really strong incentive (key=STRONG incentive). B picked going to see a movie of her choice with her Godmother. Give a B a heart (sticker, stars whatever works) each time she works up the hierarchy ladder with a new food (look, touch, smell, snake taste…etc…). Don’t threaten with the chart. Only use it as a positive approach. If she refuses to smell a new food that day….then she just doesn’t get a heart. No need to point it out. Only recognize the hooray’s!

*Record each new food she tries in a journal. Write the food name in the journal and write numbers 1-10 under the name. After number 10, write the phrase “I know how to eat it!” Give B a star each time she eats that new food. According to B’s food therapist, it takes at least 10-20 tries before she will have any idea whether or not she actually likes a new food.

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It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night….

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a down-in-the-dumps post. I try to be as positive, as it almost always lifts my spirits, but like everyone else I have my extra hard, extra bad days. The days when you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this again?” or “Is it ever going to get any better?” Today I threw a giant pity party complete with streamers, horns, and cake (but really only the frosting and NEVER chocolate) and just vanilla ice cream 🙂

Food school was a challenge this afternoon. “B” was especially interested in debating with her food school therapist today. When she was presented with a new food, she almost always made comments like, “But I’m not going to stick it in my mouth.” or “I’m not going to touch it.” B tends to use words as a source of comfort or escape. It’s her way of getting herself through an uncomfortable situation. She’s done this since she was an itty, bitty toddler. She 100% does this all the time at home. She will say things like, “You can put it on my learning plate, but I’m not still ready to learn about it.”

I fried up some mini turkey meatballs for food school today. B was a little uncertain when she looked at them here at home, but thought they were some type of hash brown so she didn’t put up too much of a fuss when I put them in the food school bag. When she got to food school, however, and found out they were meatballs…she went into immediate shut down mode. She refused to touch them or have any interaction with them whatsoever! When she did touch them during the clean up routine, she burst into tears (in spite of our awesome words of encouragement).

B’s therapist and I had a heart to heart after B went to play outside with her sister and friend. Here’s my heart on a plate for all of you to see: I feel like after 13 months of therapy she should be much further along than where she is. Don’t get me wrong; she’s made progress, but it’s been so limited. She eats five proteins, but they turn into three when packing her lunch for school this fall (peanut butter, yogurt, and smoothies). I’m so worried she’s going to burn out on her major source of protein…peanut butter. I know I burned out on spaghetti growing up after eating it EVERY Monday night 🙂

Here’s what I didn’t share with any of you. On Friday, B had her end of the year school picnic. Of course the picnic foods of choice were hot dogs, hamburgers, and brats. B’s least favorite food of all…meat (any kind). There were picnic tables outside, and B went off to sit by herself on the grass because she couldn’t handle the smell of the entrees. All her little friends wanted to come and sit by her, but she moved herself away. Breaks my heart 😦

It especially breaks my heart and throws me into a fit of rage when people still respond (they don’t really say it out loud as much as their body language suggests it) with the, “You just need to be a little stricter with her,” or “She definitely knows how to manipulate you two.” Do these people really think we like throwing thousands (yes thousands) of dollars out the window just because she’s manipulating? I know I’m not supposed to care what these people are saying, but I do (and thanks for letting me get if off my chest).

Today B’s therapist brought up the uncertain professional “Neuro-Behaviorist” (in the sensory world its very rare that a behaviorist understands how the sensory signals are part of emotional component of the brain). Her therapist and I know that B is an incredibly emotional creature. In fact, a lot of kids with sensory processing disorder tend to be more emotional than others. Her therapist believes that B response isn’t manipulative in nature, but more anxiety based. She feels her response is almost like a phobia related to food. Therefore, even if her body is prepped and ready (sensory-wise)…her brain isn’t. Her brain is still telling her she’s extremely afraid of food and can’t physically move on to the next step. In other words, she might need a behaviorist to help her move past the emotional response with food. B’s therapist actually does know of a behaviorist who is very familiar and works with many kids with sensory processing disorder. While that’s good news, I feel so incredibly torn with another possible therapy/therapist thrown our way, more money spent trying to figure things out, skeptical of the sensory/behavior approach used together…you get the picture.

Wow, what a vent! If you’ve made it this far thanks for hanging in there with me 🙂 While the future is uncertain, I also know I have some great support systems out there. I have God on my side, an awesome family, a great network of sensory mamas out there, and some terrific friends. One day at a time…

“I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

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A Sensational Day!

As B gets older I find myself watching her grow, change, and become more independent. She has an impressive imagination. I love listening to her tell me about her dreams every morning. I can only assume while she’s taking a minute to “remember” exactly what it is she dreamed about that she’s thinking up some impressive story and changes the details as she goes along 🙂 She asserting her sense of independence. She can buckle her own car seat (Don’t worry. I always double-check it.). She can brush her own teeth and even put the toothpaste on the toothbrush (Something she hadn’t mastered until recently.)! Today she even wrote her name for the first time without any physical assistance or verbal reminders.

While it make me *sniff* just a tad to see she’s growing up, it also is somewhat of a relief knowing that she’s going to be so ready for Kindergarten this fall! I remember worrying and fretting over all the things I thought would hold her back. Little did I know, I was really the one holding her back. I was the one going over all of the limitations/situations that might affect her future. That might overwhelm her sensory system.

I need to give her more credit. She’s an amazing kid who loves to please and is eager to learn. She enjoys her sensory exercises. She loves going to food school. She cannot wait to spend time with her Occupational Therapist every Thursday. She’s working hard to read her bodies cues and vocalize her needs when she recognizes them. Her hard work is definitely paying off. Remember how my last post https://sensoryspeak.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/sweet-sucesses/ mentioned the slow, baby steps she takes each and every day to help her body meet its sensory needs?

Today was it. Today was a SENSATIONAL day in regards to one of her biggest challenges. New foods. I’m seriously going to mark this day on the calendar. Simply so we remember that all of these baby steps lead somewhere 🙂

B had food school this afternoon. Before we started, she went and jumped on the therapists trampoline and swung in her teardrop swing (http://www.amazon.com/Ekorre-Swing-hanging-hammock-outdoor/dp/B002XPNMFU). This totally prepped her body and woke up her sensory system. B had her best day of food school EVER! She took a bite of every single food (can you tell I’m excited)!!!! Keep in mind though, she’s allowed to spit food out (This helps prep her sensory system for actual chewing and swallowing when her body is ready.), but she managed to eat a Danish pancake (only eats homemade pancakes)…just in case you have NO idea what a Danish pancake is (I didn’t either): http://danishpancakes.com/. She bit and spit a blueberry waffle, a hash brown patty, fresh blueberries and took a sip of blueberry pomegranate Gatorade!!! She was in such a good mood throughout the entire session too!

Not only was she sensational in food school today, but this afternoon she tried a dry cherry and loved it! Tonight she bit a salted almond, ate a frozen orange juice ring pop, and tasted my peanut butter and banana ice cream pop! I could seriously cry I’m so ecstatic! Those of you who have followed us over the entire 5 years of our journey and the last 13 months of our OT/Food school journey know how monumental this is for B 😀

We will continue to work on her sensory diet at home in hopes that she will have more SENSATIONAL days like today! Oh, and for those of you who have followed and continue to follow our journey THANK YOU. It means so much to have you in our corner 🙂

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Sweet Sucesses!

It’s the little things in life. Sunshine after 3 days straight of rain. Snuggling with my girls while we watch their favorite movie and munch on some popcorn. Brand new tires on my 04′ Corolla (The old ones served us well for 7.5 years.). A phone call from my sister over in Afghanistan. Watching my husband fold laundry and wash the dishes (Believe me he knows how much he’s appreciated :)).

For us, eating and interacting with food has become a MAJOR part of life. Yet each step of the food ladder is minuscule. But…without the baby steps, we wouldn’t be celebrating the small successes that we have noticed over the last 13 months. B went from eating about three foods consistently at four years old to looking at, touching, smelling, and even chewing peanuts! She’ll drink fruit smoothies. Eat fish sticks, devour popcorn, snake taste (using the tip of her tongue) the outside of a grape tomato. Last week at food school, she touched and smelled grilled chicken!!! This is the same little girl who used to gag and cry over grilled chicken anywhere near her plate.

Without all of the baby steps and sensory activities we’ve used to prep her, her success would be much more limited. I look back and see how far we’ve come. She may not eat macaroni and cheese or pizza, but she’s slowly building her confidence. She’s recognizing that food doesn’t have to be scary all the time. She’s realizing that it can be fun to cook and play with food.

I think one of the biggest reasons she’s made such gains is because of the overall mantra of her “food school” therapy. She isn’t expected to interact, play with, or eat foods unless SHE’S physically and emotionally ready. Forcing her to eat, made her body jump into immediate fight/flight mode. She would simply panic and there was no reasoning/rationalizing with her. She started to see food as a threat. Physically and emotionally. Even now we keep telling her, “You can learn about this food later; when you’re body’s ready.”

The other aspect of her overall success is combining sensory activities/strategies with food therapy. She jumps in her hula hoop to warm her body up. She bounces on her hoppity hop before she comes to the table. She practices blowing exercises to warm up her mouth before she eats. She can wear her noise-cancelling headphones when noise becomes too overwhelming at the table. I’m even thinking of adding a Thera-band to the bottom of her chair to keep her body busy while she’s eating (Check out the following OT blog for a description and picture of what this looks like http://therapyfunzone.com/blog/2010/11/letting-feet-stay-busy/).

We also started a heart incentive chart with her. She knows that this is simply a positive chart where we record when she’s learned something new (or completed a new step) about a certain food. The steps are simple. First, is looking at the food with our eyes and describing it. Second is touching it with hand/fingers. Third, is smelling. Fourth is snake tasting (w/ front of tongue). Fifth is touching it to teeth. Sixth is putting it in mouth and spitting out. Seventh is chewing and spitting it out. Eighth is chewing and swallowing. As you can see there are many steps to learning about a new food. Each time she completes one of these steps ON HER OWN, she gets a heart drawn on her chart. Right now she’s working towards a movie goal with her Godmama 🙂

It’s so important that we celebrate the little things with our sensory kiddos. It’s so easy to get lost in the never-ending world of melt-downs, obsessive type behaviors, guilt, frustrations, food, and therapies; but we need to remind ourselves that without the teeny, tiny, baby steps…we’d never take a step back and see the big picture. The picture that showcases that they are making gains; however small. For kids w/ sensory challenges these steps are HUGE, MAJOR accomplishments. Sweet successes!

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Oh that Smell…

We live in the country. Not just a little bit in the country, but far enough out that it takes us 15-20 minutes to drive anywhere. The grocery store, preschool, my hair salon, restaurants…it’s at least a 15 minute car ride to civilization 🙂 I grew up where it took 20 minutes to get anywhere so for me driving is just second nature. I have to laugh when people go on and on about how far I drive to take B to preschool (it’s only 18 min. one way). Oh, and the absolute horror that I would even think to drive back home, and put B’s sister down for a nap only to drive back again and pick B up 😛

The biggest issue I have with driving right now are the smells we deal with on the way to driving anywhere, but especially preschool. We pass at least 6 farms on the way to school. Spring, fields, and cow farms=a lot of strong-smelling manure. Sorry, but it’s true, and it’s torture for B’s sensitive little nose. She will hold her hand over her face the majority of the way to school and then ask me when it’s safe to smell again. The manure smell, the “dead skunk on the road” smell, and other mysterious odors I can’t quite identify drive the poor girl crazy!

The smelling issues do not end while we’re driving. She has issues with smells everywhere she goes. I remember one day when I went to help a friend organize her house. She was cooking a cabbage recipe in her crock-pot, and B could barely stand it. She exclaimed, “Mommy, her house stinks!” She held her nose the entire time my friend and I talked. She also had a bit of an issue going back there. She was afraid it always “smelled” stinky like cabbage. She has gone back, but only after I convinced her that her house doesn’t smell like that on a regular basis 🙂

Smells paired with food is especially hard for B. When her sister eats a hot dog for lunch or dinner, she physically leaves the room and waits until the smell is gone before she’ll eat her own lunch/dinner. If she cannot stand the smell of a certain food, you can bet she won’t taste it. Most of the time she won’t look at either without going into fight/flight mode. She even requests us to brush our teeth after we eat something she can’t stand to smell.

From a sensory perspective, smell is a tough place to get stuck. We all know that when something smells bad to us our bodies can make us feel physically sick to our stomach. It’s the same issue with B. Only her smell sense is over-the-top intensified. Her over-responsive sense of smell is constantly making her feel threatened.

Of course, her other senses cause issues too. Texture, temperature, taste, but smell is one of the hardest senses to work on. At least in my opinion. Most of us either like a smell or we don’t. If you don’t like the smell of something, it’s hard to condition our bodies and brain to like it. After talking to B’s food school therapist and OT, we’ve learned that her entire sensory system is often times mixed up. She’s proved this to us a number of times. One night she was eating the egg-whites of a hard-boiled egg. She really likes the whites. On this particular night, she ate it and decided it TASTED like mashed potatoes. Here’s the interesting thing. B has never TASTED mashed potatoes! So, how would she know it tasted like it? She wouldn’t. I did SMELL the egg whites, and they (oddly enough) did SMELL similar to mashed potatoes. It was like her brain was playing a trick on her senses and causes her to recognize it as taste vs. smell.

We had another instance at food school a couple of weeks ago. She was playing with chicken sticks. She kept complaining about how they smelled (and to B they probably did have a small odor), but she wasn’t asked to smell them. She was only to touch and play with them. When it was time to clean up, she got close and blew the chicken stick off of the therapist’s hand, but refused to blow them off her own hand. The smell was the same both times. It never changed, yet she couldn’t handle the “smell” on her own hands. Again, her brain wasn’t registering smell the way it should.

The cool things is we are going to start working on her sense of smell. I’m not exactly sure how much it will help her, but we’ve got to try something! We are going to go out and buy smelly makers, smelly stickers, scratch-and-sniff books, and work w/ different extracts and oils. Her therapists and I are thinking that the reason she keeps getting stuck (in regards to eating) has a lot to do with how her body is feeling (organized vs. disorganized) and how it’s processing smells. It appears that when B likes a smell (like strawberry) she feels that the food is somewhat safe and is more willing to play/interact with it. It seems oddly familiar to her. Like how a newborn identifies their mother. Smell is a powerful sense, and I’m hoping that this is another baby step in the right sensory direction.

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