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.

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Black History Month: Kiddie Good Reads

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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!

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Tricking Your Kids Into Eating Healthy: Spinach Fritters Recipe

Lady H used to eat broccoli like it was going out of style. Plate after plate after plate but for the past month or so she has completely rejected it and any other vegetable for that matter. It has been a battle. Not being newbies at this game, we used the usual strategies – hiding food under rice or other things she likes, mashing things up really small, here comes the airplane games – and we are always met with

EEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWW NASSSYYYYYYY SHOOOOOOOOO!!!!

When Lady C was the same age she also rejected veggies and we used smoothies to get those nutrients in her body. All her smoothies featured frozen broc or spinach and avocados (super fruit) to make them creamy. She loved them, still does. Even though she helps make them with avocado and swears she does not like avocado, she drinks. every. single. drop. So, we made Haiden a smoothie. We gave it to her in a cup and she took one look and said:

EEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWW NASSSYYYYYYY SHOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Ok – so that didn’t work. We remembered she used to love Spinach bites from a local restaurant so we made Spinach fritters – super easy recipe:

One package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained

2 Table spoons of flour

Two eggs

Chopped Onion

Garlic

Cumin

Salt and Pepper

(and any other seasoning you might enjoy)

Mix in a bowl and spoon into boiling oil

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These joints were good. So good! When Lady H saw them she said… oooo cookie and grabbed one. We got excited. She took a bite, looked at it and:

EEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWW NASSSYYYYYYY SHOOOOOOOOO!!! 

Sigh, welp! We had to hide carrots under her mac and cheese. She didn’t like that one bit when she realized it but we got some in her!

Back to the drawing board… Despite the failure we still blogged about this because the fritters were actually good and it might help someone else.

If you have other thoughts about getting the kiddo to eat veggies… please post below!

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Horsing Around Central Park

Happy New Year everyone! The GreenEs have been a little quiet in “Blog Land” during and after the holiday season but we welcome you back and wish you all a great 2015!

As you know if you are a regular reader – the GreenEs love to explore our CityE! This weekend we did something that mama GreenE hasn’t done since she was 5 years old, the other GreenEs have never done, and if the Mayor of New York City has his way, no one will be able to do in New York City again – a horse and buggy ride through Central Park!

Late last year the City Council introduced a bill that would ban horse and carriage rides and there will be a vote on it in the coming months. The Central Park horse and carriage rides have been a long standing tourist tradition in New York and a romantic setting (though, I’m not certain how smelling horse poo is romantic) – so there has been a bit of debate about whether or not this bill should pass. In any event, we had some time on our hands on Sunday afternoon between going to the circus and a birthday party (the GreenE schedule never stops) so, we decided to do a carriage ride through Central Park together as a family.

The driver was incredibly nice – he let Lady C feed Midnight (our horse). He gave us a warm blanket and took a few pictures of usry=400

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He (the driver, not the horse) pointed out some tourist attractions in the park, including locations of famous films and events. Although we are from the City and were not too far from our daughter’s school we enjoyed all of the information and learned lots of new facts about the park.

It was a nice way to spend 20 minutes and it reminded me of the horse and carriage ride I took when I was young – I still remember it.

Should there be a ban on horse and carriage rides??? I’m just not sure. There is something classic and beautiful about going through the park via horse drawn carriage but I will say that I shuddered when we made a U-turn around a New York City bus… eek! Whether it remains or not – all of the GreenEs can say – they once had the experience of Horsing Around Central Park! Although Lady H won’t remember… we’ll show her the blog.

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Light Painting: Cold Weather Fun

I am not a fan of cold weather.

If left to my own devices I would get home, get into some sweats, and binge watch Sports Center. But I don’t have a choice in the matter do I? Why not, you ask? Because we live with…
Miniature Humans!!!

Kids do not care about the weather. They want to go outside.

Can’t go outside? Fine! What fun thing can we do INSIDE, daddy!?!

Welp, since I’M not going outside, the challenge is always to find interesting things to do inside.

Let me clarify: Interesting to both of us! If either of us becomes bored with the activity, it’s a wrap!

So I have a Pinterest board of cool stuff to do with a 5 year old but then it dawned on me; why not use what I am passionate about.

Photography!!

So far we have done stuff like a photo shoot with her Barbies and practicing taking portraits. This time I wanted to try something different and her light up toy from Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular gave me a great idea: Light Painting. It was perfect since the sun goes down at like 4pm these days!!
(How rude! Come on, Mr. Sun! Put a full day’s work, why dontcha!)

Here’s how it works:

  • First you need a camera….duh. (You can do this with both digital  and film but for younger kids, you might want to use a digital camera so you can show the results right away.)
  • But you need one where you you can control the shutter speed OR the ability to leave the shutter open for as long as you press the button.
  • You will also need a light source. A small flashlight will do but spinning lights and sparklers are great once you get the hang of it.
  • Next, you need a room that you can make completely dark. Any random light will comprise your image.
  • The next step is to set the camera up on a steady base. A tripod is best but a table or tall chair will work just fine.
  • It helps to be wearing dark clothes but it’s not necessary.

Now you’re ready to paint!

Step 1 – click the shutter

Step 2 – move into position and turn on or ignite your light source

Step 3 – start making shapes like you’re drawing figures in the air.  Any shape will do and you can start and stop lines by turning the light off.

Step 4 – close the shutter or wait for the time to elapse.

Step 5 – enjoy your work!!

Here is what we did in about 10 minutes:

First I tried to make an “H” in a circle but I was to high…IMG_6076

Then I went for Lotus Flower type design!IMG_6077

The Lady C tried her hand at it…
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Lastly I made a house with chimney smoke!IMG_6079

Like I said. It took 10 minutes but it was a ton of fun that we can do again easily.

What indoor activities do you love the most?

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