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Friday January 19 , 2018
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Special Needs

3 New (to me) Sensory Tricks and Other Faves

By:  Annie Eskeldson

I take a lot of pride in providing my children's therapy. It's been a long, mostly lonely yet always fulfilling, road requiring research, an enormous chunk of finances, die-hard determination, focused follow-thru, and lots of life-style changes.

After nearly ten years, I have quite an education in occupational therapy, speech therapy, and sensory integration and feel confident working with my kids and hey! the proof is in the pudding! 

Until I feel insecure...

Awhile back, I started worrying, "am I doing all I can for Izaiah?" Big doubts from someone who is known for advocating for parents to provide their own therapy! 

Defeated, I lined up speech and occupational therapy from a private provider in our city. After some evaluation, the speech therapist decided against working with Izaiah until after some OT. 

So, off to OT we went. We are doing sensory integration and so far, we haven't done anything I can't/don't already do at home. But, I have learned 3 techniques to help soothe a brain which abnormally processes sensory input aka SPD (sensory processing disorder.) I want to share them with you.

Therapeutic Brush

1. Brushing. I purchased the therapeutic brush (left) from our OT for $2.50. I start at the top of the arm and while pressing down firmly on the brush, I move from the shoulder to the fingers in one, slow, stroke. Repeat 10 times, then do the other arm. 

For the legs, I start at the thigh and brush down to the toes. Brushing can provide up to 4 hours of sensory relief!  This brush is unique in that the harder you press, the softer it feels, so you do need to press down firmly so it doesn't hurt or tickle. *NOTE if you are dealing with eczema, do not 'brush' during a flare. If you have eczema you may not want to do it at all.  ** Do not use on palms of the hands or soles of the feet.

Joint compression at the elbow

2.  Joint Compression. With my hand on either side of a joint (the elbow is shown here) I gently push the two sides toward the joint, then I gently tug away from the joint, compressing and releasing, pumping, for a count of five. In an organized fashion, I usually start at the shoulder and move down to the elbow and wrist. For legs, I do hips, knees, and ankles the same way.  Laying down is a great way to do this too. 

When the joints compress, they releases fluid to the brain that is very calming. All the light bulbs went off in my head when I learned this because my guess is the same thing happens when our children jump all the time. The spine, with all its vertebrae, is releasing large amounts of fluid as our children jump, quickly providing relief from overwhelming sensory input. Smart cookies, aren't they?!

Use a chair with arms for safety!

3.  Spinning. Using an office chair with arms for safety, I spin Izaiah at a rate of 1 rev/2 seconds (if you are counting out loud, 1 thousand one, 1 thousand 2, at the count of one, your child will be facing away from you. When you get to the count of 2, your child will be facing toward you.) I do 20 revolutions in 40 seconds for him to be sufficiently dizzy. If you do not get to the point of dizziness it can cause hyperactivity instead of calm (yikes!) so be sure to spin enough to 'fill' that tank.

To determine your child's 'dizzy point' check the eyes for nystagmus immediately after spinning. Nystagmus is a physiological reaction in one's eyes when the body is stopped suddenly from spinning. During spinning, the eyes adjust to keep up with the environment as it flies by. When the spinning suddenly stops, the eyes bounce quickly, back and forth, horizontally, as they readjust to stopping. A person is officially dizzy when nystagmus happens. I tried spinning Izaiah at 1rev/2secs for 20 seconds and he did not reach nystagmus. So, I doubled the amount of spins and time. Sure enough, the same rate for 40 seconds did the trick. Your child may need much less. If your child does not enjoy spinning, do NOT do this.

Remember, not all kids will like all of these methods, they might only like one or two of them, or perhaps none! If they like it, you know you are filling up that sensory 'tank' but if they hate it, you need a different type of sensory 'diet'. 

It cost a precious penny to learn these precious few things but I am overjoyed at my new tools and at being taught correctly. It was a confidence boost to learn that we are doing everything we can do at home and I'm  reassured in my belief that parents can and should  provide their own therapy while not being afraid to seek out help if needed.


Sleeping Single in Her Full-Size Bed

By:  Annie Eskeldson

A common problem parents endure while raising energetic children on the spectrum is the lack of sleep. Mysteriously our little angels only need a wee bit of shut-eye, while we zombies parents are desperate for just one good night.

I'm elated that Ashi has started going to bed all by herself. Now, before you get jealous, please know that I have spent over 6 years going to bed with her at night, every night, without fail.  

Rather than risk complications of meds or battle rigid night-time routine and clocks, I decided to just go to bed with her.  Simple, right?  I became her personal teddy bear with a heartbeat.

All those years ago, it took forever for her to nod off and I'd dare baaarely move to sneak out! Most mornings the cricks in my neck let me know that once again I had slept all night with her.  

But, over the years, she drifted to sleep faster and faster and finally, at age 9, she's been telling me she's tired and ready for bed, even if I can't join her. I almost have to pinch myself to make sure it's real!


Autism Awareness

By:  Annie Eskeldson

Autism Awareness month pounces in like a lion then pads out like a lamb. We didn't do anything special this year. No parties or activities; no blue light bulbs. With two autists at home I'm already very 'aware' especially this month which has been tough, but I'd rather write about what I think is awesome about autism!  Here's my list:

  • Simplicity. This started with eliminating sensory triggers, needless fanfare, parties,  celebration and their expense and extended to people who were not supportive of us.  We haven't raced or rushed in years. I love the way autism has helped us learn less is more.
  • Honesty. Autism brings an extra special innocence to our kids as they have no motivation to lie.
  • Trust. We validate our kids, no matter how quirky they are. They trust us to support them and have their best interest at heart.  They know that wherever possible we will put all of our efforts towards their goals.
  • Love. Our kids are exceptionally affectionate, kind, and gentle. Today, Ashi tells me often that she loves me. Izaiah who is still non-verbal smiles at me now and is very generous with his hugs and cuddles.

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