Our Journey Through Occupational Therapy: SENSORY DIET

Since we posted our first blog about Our Journey Through Occupational Therapy: The Diagnosis, we received a great number of responses and support from friends who have had similar experiences. We’ve heard from people who have used occupational therapy and also received recommendations from people that did not use therapy but offered tips and practices that might be helpful for Lady C.

We thank you! Community sharing was the main goal for this blog series.

As it stands, Lady C is still seeing her occupational therapist on a weekly basis. The therapist has provided us with feedback and also a plan of action including a “sensory diet” to assist.

What’s a sensory diet?

Occupational therapists use the term “sensory diet” to refer to a planned and scheduled program of sensory activities designed to satisfy the nervous system’s sensory needs throughout the day.

We received a sensory diet that will help Lady C for the following situations:

  • “Proprioceptive Experiences” for when she is overwhelmed and needs to be calmed
  • Hand strengthening
  • Encouraging Hand Dominance
  • Visual Motor Skills

Here are the some of the recommendations we received and many of these things we already do – we just do them more thoughtfully now – hope they help someone else!

PROPRICEPTIVE EXPERIENCES

These activities are also known as heavy work activities and can help improve focus and attention and improve body awareness:

Pushing and pulling

Crawling or wheelbarrowing

Holding or pushing the wall

Using playdoh

Squeezing bottles

Kneading dough

Stretching

Giving tight hugs

HAND STRENGTHENING

These activities help to build hand strength:

Crumpling paper into a ball

Using squirt toys

Use clothespins to hand things (for pincer strength)

HAND DOMINANCE

These activities are key for Lady C because she switches hands quite a bit- Using her left hand to write and switching to the right for other activities. 

Stirring batter and holding bowl with other hand

Using helper hand to stabilize paper when writing

Picking up small objects with chopsticks

Pouring sand from one container to another

Scissors activities

VISUAL MOTOR SKILLS

Playing board games

Doing Mazes

Tracing and coloring pictures

Doing word searches

PLEASE SHARE ANY OTHER SUGGESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE – LOVE HEARING AND SHARING WITH YOU!

Next up for the blog series – how we integrate the sensory diet into our daily routines.

cbe45eb1329a0403b836ea54fa3092f3

Black History Month: Kiddie Good Reads

wpid-20150216_131504.jpg

It’s Black History Month and we’ve come across some great children’s books this year from the library. All of the books are focused on learning about slavery in ways that a child can consume.

Here are three books that we’ve enjoyed.

Henry’s Freedom Box

Henry’s Freedom Box tells the true story of Henry Brown, a slave who mailed himself to freedom in a crate box. The book does a great job of addressing the destruction of family ties during slavery and its psychological affects on slaves. Also, the illustrations by Kadir Nelson – a phenomenal illustrator, are beautifully done.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom

Juneteenth is the celebration of the emancipation of African Americans in the United States. On June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas received the announcement that the Civil War was over and that all slaves were now free. In All Different Now, children learn about Juneteenth through the eyes of a little girl who views the world as different after learning the news about her family’s freedom. The book includes a glossary of important dates and historical information which is helpful to continue discussions with the children.

Follow the Drinking Gourd

Follow the Drinking Gourd is a good story that introduces the underground railroad and highlights the collaborative effort that was the backbone of the institution. It discusses how the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” provided slaves with the tools and directions for escaping to the North and introduces you to characters, both black and white, that were integral in the Underground Railroad network. The book had a rhythm and repetition that children will enjoy.

These are our Black History Month Kiddie Good Reads – please share yours!

cbe45eb1329a0403b836ea54fa3092f3

Our Journey Through Occupational Therapy: THE DIAGNOSIS

Fidgety.

    Uncoordinated.

Muscle Weakness.

            Lack of Body Awareness.

Sensory Sensitive.

                     Sensory Seeking.

These were some of the words that we heard from Lady C’s school occupational therapist last fall that has led us on the path of occupational therapy, something that neither of us had heard about until last year when we decided to enroll our left handed daughter into a handwriting class. If you are like us and need a little primer – here’s what we first found on Wikipedia about occupational therapy:

Occupational therapy (OT) is the use of assessment and treatment to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of people with a physical, mental, or cognitive disorder. Occupational therapists also focus much of their work on identifying and eliminating environmental barriers to independence and participation in daily activities

From an early age we noticed that Lady C held her body with little core control, ran a little slower and awkwardly, had trouble balancing on one leg… little things and it is something we always made her Pre-K teacher and now kindergarten teacher aware of and we discussed it. At first, we thought we might be focusing on it too much because on the reading, vocabulary and social skills spectrum, Lady C was off the charts, independently reading at the age of two and holding conversations with grown ups very early – perhaps we wanted her to excel at physical development and motor skills too quickly.

But – it’s something we’ve monitored closely and for the past few weeks, she has been engaged in occupational therapy once a week in order to help her build body awareness, build muscle strength, improve motor skills and continue to improve her handwriting skills. In addition to occupational therapy, we’ve also gotten her more engaged in activities that build strength: karate, ballet and gymnastics.

It has been humbling and overwhelming to realize that your child needs help and that you have to ask for it.  There is so much to learn and deciding to blog about this was not easy because it admits out loud that something needs to be “fixed”.  Coming from a generation where a fidgety and uncoordinated child would just be marked as clumsy and distracted, most of the time the “solution” was … THEY WILL JUST GROW OUT OF IT.  Now, occupational therapy is a growing field and early intervention at childhood is being used more and more these days to help with body awareness issues and motor skills development… so we are navigating the mines and plan to share what we are going through in case it helps others. Perhaps, we will get some help too! We hope so…

We plan to share the high and lows, our “sensory diet plan” and how it’s going and we hope that if there are others out there with children in occupational therapy or thinking about doing it – that we can engage in a dialogue and conversation through this series of blogs.

More to come! If there are particular questions you have or things you want addressed please let us know in the comments.

cbe45eb1329a0403b836ea54fa3092f3

Daddy confessions.

I had decided to use this forum to air out some of my dirty laundry. I have some confessions to make and I think I should ask for forgiveness from our readers… Le Sigh…here I go…

I hide from my family sometimes. 
Now I don’t mean that I go out for milk and return 3 months later. Or say that I’m going to hang out with some friends and then don’t return for 6 years. Nothing crazy like that. I hide in my kitchen!
I…I…ummm…errr…
Wash dishes!
See we have a traditionally formatted house so if I’m in the kitchen then I can escape for 5 minutes to reset my brain! And even though washing dishes is my MOST HATED chore, it’s a perfect reason to escape to the man cave…ummmm …I mean the kitchen. I’ve heard my wife hides in the bathroom but who am I to judge!

I assassinate balloons.
My kids LOVE balloons. I mean, if there is a helium filled orb in a 1 mile radius, these girls go crazy!  I, on the other hand, DESPISE balloons! Just call me the Grinch of Inflatable Objects. So when balloons get to the house, overnight they seem to lose their ability float! It’s like they all develop a tiny leak at the base of the knot and within a day they’re completely flat! It’s soooooo weird! My kids can’t figure it out and neither can I. I think Aisha is onto me though.

I have opposite views about snow.
Here is my Lady C’s reaction to snow:
“YAAAAAAY!!!!”
Here is MY reaction to snow:
“@#$^&”)@&@^%$!!!!!” 
She thinks about snow angels and going down the slide into the backyard into a pile of fluffy snow. I, however, think of shoveling, scraping, salting the pathways. AND I hate the cold (you may remember I’m Trini!) so snow is a reminder that I don’t live in the tropics any more!  I make every excuse not to go outside, including, but not limited to, “It’s too cold outside”, “The snow is too wet”, or “Daddy’s back is killing him”! Almost none of these excuse are ever actually true. Don’t judge me. I suck it up at least once a season and go pretend like snow is cool.

I lie about batteries.
Inevitable a noisy, annoying toy makes its way into the Greene house and of course, it will be the girl’s most favorite thing…and the reason for multiple headaches on my part. Fortunately, most of the toys run on batteries which means that they eventually die. That’s where my sinister actions take over. Rather than replace the batteries, I put on the saddest voice I can and say, “Oh nooooo! The blah blah blah toy is BROKEN!! Let’s put it over there with the rest of the ‘broken’ toys. So sad!” Shhh…this plan is flawless…for now.

I know. I know. This make me a horrible father. I hope you all can forgive me. However, I am sure you have some stuff that you have to confess too! I can’t be alone…I hope!

cbe45eb1329a0403b836ea54fa3092f3

Oops…my bad!

We teach our kids a lot of lessons:

  • How to tie your shoes laces.
  • How to eat properly at the table.
  • The value of play and exercise.
  • What is the proper way to be a Jets fan.

One of the most important lessons that we teach our children is taking responsibility for your actions. In our house, Lady C ALWAYS has a reason why the thing that just happened “wasn’t her fault”:

 “You stopped me before I could do the right thing.”

“I didn’t mean to but Grandma made me do it.”

“I thought you said to do it.”

“So-and-so did it so I can’t be blamed for my actions.”

Just a few weeks ago, I stopped her from spouting one of her many excuses and said,

Just own up to it and say I’m sorry. Don’t blame someone else for your actions!

Good advice…so I thought.

Until recently, when I realized that I wasn’t following myself!

I had done something wrong (as we husbands are prone to do) and immediately I started spewing a bunch of excuses (you know: the tools of the weak and incompetent, used to build monuments of nothingness? Yeah…those!). All of a sudden I heard the words that I had told my daughter coming from my wife’s mouth… to me. Jarring. In that moment, I realized a few things:

Sometimes we need to listen to our own advice/lessons. Children can make you revisit the basics of human behavior because they’re at the starting blocks of their life. The lessons they’re learning should still be important to us but we forget sometimes.

Watch your actions: you’re kids are watching. I know we hear that all the time but most of the time we’re talking about really bad stuff like drinking, smoking, or domestic violence. It applies to bad habits like making excuses too. Now, I don’t know that Lady C sees that from me and copies it, but now I will be conscious of it.

Be easy on your kids: they’re still learning. Sometimes I get frustrated that I have to say the same thing over and over again. After a while you should get this, right? Well clearly, some things stay with us all of our life and we have to keep working on it. If I’m still hammering away at it, it stands to reason that it’s an even more difficult concept for a kid to grasp!

Have you ever had to take a step back and take your own advice? What did that look like for you?

cbe45eb1329a0403b836ea54fa3092f3

The Marriage Journal: Free Therapy

Almost minutes after our feature in Ebony magazine, we had folks inboxing us and commenting about the article and in particular, there were questions about the reference to our marriage journal. It was a very quick mention in the article but people want to know more about it.

CaptureSo here is the scoop on the marriage journal. First, it was an idea that was 10000000% stolen from another couple. Can’t remember who it was but pretty sure it was stolen from a member of Chocolate Brides, an online network of women of color started by radio personality, Kesha Monk.  The women on Chocolate Brides share experiences and advice in marriage, love, family and parenting. Anyway – someone mentioned doing a marriage journal and we jumped on the idea because it’s cheaper than therapy. (Side note: if you aren’t part of a network of people that support love and marriage, well, get you some, whether online or in life, marriage is a flower that needs plenty of sunshine. End Side Note).

At the beginning of each new year we post our marriage resolutions. All of the things we would like to change or do differently and acknowledging the things that work. Putting it on paper, having it serve as a consistent reminder of the growth we desire. After that, there are no rules to the marriage journal other than to write when we want to write. We write anything from short notes to long complaints to thank yous. When someone writes in the journal they need to leave it on the pillow for the other person to see. It actually makes you giddy, like you are getting a love note passed down in high school *butterflies*. We look forward to seeing that journal on the pillow unless it is following an argument…

wpid-20150203_070133.jpgThe truth is – the journal is not as filled as it could be – wish we took the time to write in it more and that’s actually one of our resolutions for the year because we like doing it when we do it but sometimes… LIFE.

So – that’s it – marriage journal. Stolen idea and now shared with you. If you have other ideas about free and quick marriage therapy please do share, and be prepared for us to steal that idea too!

cbe45eb1329a0403b836ea54fa3092f3