The Best Defense is a Good Offense…

All of life is about growing and changing.  Even as adults.  Maybe especially as adults.  The more experiences we encounter, the more we realize the need for change.  Obviously, we could float along at the status quo, but would we ever truly be happy or see success if we did that?  No, of course not.  As a parent, I feel like I’m constantly pulled between the needs of my children and the wants of my own selfishness.  And there’s no way around that – we are as humans selfish beings.  We have the opportunity to lay aside our selfishness to serve others, but we often don’t chose to… or at least find that process difficult.  Call it my humanity, but giving up what I want for my kids is just crazy.  And yet, it happens.  Day after day.  Because God puts within a parent a heart of service.  Whether we want it or not, we have this amazing desire to do whatever it takes to help our children succeed.  To the point that we often forget who we were before they came along, and lose track of our interests and hobbies for the sake of becoming merely “Becca and Grayson’s Mom.”  As a mom, we give and give and give.  All day long.  Our pitcher constantly gets poured out to water these little beings we are raising.  So what are we doing to refill the pitcher?

I think so often we as moms get so wrapped up in our kids and their needs that we forget about ourselves.  When this happens, our pitcher of water starts to dry up.  And when the pitcher is empty, how can we pour anything else out to help our kids?  We feel tired, dry, depressed, frustrated, and yes, even angry.  Anybody with me on this?  I bet you are.  Because I know that I’m not the only mom who has ever felt the weight of the final straw.  I know I’m not the only mom with regrets.  Those “oh how I wish I hadn’t said that” moments.  And when those moments start turning into frequent events because your pitcher of water is constantly dry and you just don’t have anything else to give to your kids, it’s easy to start feeling hopeless and helpless – and stuck.  Like there is no other way to live but with a dry pitcher and feeling anger and depression pressing in on all sides – like you are some sort of human waffle being burned on all sides and formed into a shape that you don’t want to be.

Ya’ll, I’m here to tell you – IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY!!!  I recently took a class on how to combat mommy anger, and the biggest thing I pulled from it (other than the concept of GRACE, which I’ll mention later) is that we as moms need both offensive AND defensive strategies to help combat our anger.  So I wanted to share some of mine with you to maybe give you some ideas.. and I also wanted to encourage each of you to take the time to go through this seven day course.  It really will change the way you interact with your kids!

Offensive ideas:
-Take the time to tidy that one area that you’ve been putting off for whatever reason… because just walking by that area has been adding to your stress unknowingly.  It’s amazing how just FINALLY tidying up our mudroom has reduced the anger in my life!  I never realized that that out of the way place was causing my anger meter to start higher with the kids.   (You’ll learn all about your anger meter and your personal triggers when you take the course!) But now, when I walk through there, I’m not constantly thinking “oh I’ll get to that someday.”  Because day after day of thinking that builds up to a LOT of stress.  Ya’ll, when I cleaned it out, I found the Easter egg hunt plastic eggs from LAST Easter.  I found a Christmas present that was supposed to be exchanged.  I found shoes that haven’t fit the kids in over a year.  I found last summer’s half empty bottle of sunscreen.  It had been building for a LONG time.  I also found those library books that we (yes, even still) need to return…

-Find a comforting scent for your home.  Whether you are into candles or Scentsy or DoTerra or YoungLiving or any other such thing, it doesn’t matter.  Having a scent in your home that refreshes you is just such an incredible and powerful thing.  It might also help your kids!  You might talk to them about what scents they like and let them have some input.  It could be that you’re already using a scent that puts THEM on edge and you don’t even realize it!

-Plan to have ME TIME every day.  I prefer to have mine first thing in the morning before the kids get up, with my quiet time.  (I love Hello Mornings – you should check it out!)  It’s amazing how committing that time to begin the day with me and God has made me start out refreshed.  Instead of crawling out of bed depressed and dragging about all the chores I have to do, I start my day by greeting the Son and watching the sunrise!  Nothing better.

Do these offensive strategies fix it all?  No.  Because as Alicia says in her course, anger isn’t going away.  And my main triggers are my kids and their behaviors and words.  So that’s where those defensive strategies come in (which really, they can be offensive too… you’ll see why)!!

Defensive ideas:
-Adult coloring is the latest and greatest craze.  And ya’ll, I have fallen into it hook line and sinker.  It is WONDERFUL!  When I am upset with child behavior, I can say “ok – we BOTH need to take a time out.  I’m going to choose to color while I take my time out to calm down.”  Sometimes I allow Becca to sit on her car rug and play ALONE with the cars.  It calms her just like coloring calms me.  (note: coloring is a very active process for her that excites her and also causes stress.  But when she is upset and playing with cars, she either sits or lays on her tummy on the rug, rubs the rug with the palm of one hand, and drives the cars repetitively back and forth on the same spot.  This gives her the sensory input she needs to calm her down incredibly.  Obviously, for many kids, coloring would be calming as well, and playing cars might be too much excitement.  Know your kid!)  Offensively, I love to color in the evenings after a long day to de-stress so that I sleep better, which thus starts me off on a more well-rested day the next day.

-Food is an addiction for many Americans.  It’s why so many of us are obese.  Alcohol is also a very dangerous addiction.  I have found that I used to defensive eat before I started the Best Body Countdown back in January.  (Read about my weight loss journey here.)  Thankfully I’ve never defensively drank.  But, I have discovered that coffee is a very benign addiction that calms me considerably.  On days when I’m just frustrated out of my mind with the kids and my anger is about ready to bubble out of the pot, I make a pot – of coffee.  The world can swirl and spin out of control around me, but that moment of standing at the coffee pot and sipping the first sweet sips of hot relief are freeing.  It’s a moment that I can close my eyes and just escape.

-Another way that I have found to escape and calm myself down is to duck into the pantry and read the daily verse from my morning Bible study again and say a quick prayer.  Like literally taking two minutes (sometimes less) to run away and hide.  Offensively, I figured out that I was regularly ducking out around 4:00 each afternoon, so I set an alarm on my phone that goes off daily at 3:45 to remind me to go ahead and step out and reset my mind before it becomes a defensive need.  I also love using that quick moment away to look up the verse on my YouVersion app and make a photographic reminder of the verse using their easy photo/verse maker.

Obviously, I have discovered these things over time, and they are what works for me.  They might not work for you, or you might need to modify.  I HIGHLY recommend that if you are struggling with anger, or even extreme frustration, that you take the course and come up with your own combative strategies.  (I’d love it if you’d share them in the comments below!!)  You’ll also learn how to approach your emotions, how to voice them, how to offer yourself grace, and so much more.  Don’t think that offensive and defensive strategies are all the pieces to the puzzle… you’ll have to take the course to get the rest of them. 😉  (Yup, I’m an affiliate, so your purchase helps out our family, as well as yours!!!)

Click on any of the text links, or click the photo below to learn more!

Our Penguin Unit

Throughout this post there will be a variety of links.  Some will be to other websites or files for you to download.  All sources are credited where necessary.  There will also be affiliate links which will be denoted with (aff link).  When you choose to click on these links to purchase items, I make a tiny % of the sale profit off of that item.  That goes to helping keep this blog alive.  Thank you for your purchases.

So of course this blog post wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of back story.  I’ve said previously that I’m great about setting goals, but not so great about putting the nose to the grindstone and actually making them happen.  But this year that is going to change!  Because I’ve switched my focus from super long term objectives, so short term monthly objectives.  Especially when it comes to school at home.  Becca’s love for learning is voracious. She keeps me on my toes at all times.  She constantly is begging for more activities, more books, and asking more and more and yes, more! questions.  Since having her own dictionary and LOTS of other non-fiction reference books in her room the questions have backed off a little bit, but not entirely.  She just can’t learn enough, fast enough.

I used to stress out thinking that homeschool needed to look like me sitting down with her all day and actually doing instruction time.  All day.  Boy doesn’t THAT sound like a nightmare with a child who has SPD and has to move ALL. THE. TIME.  Except when she doesn’t because she needs to be wrapped tightly in a blanket and suck on her finger.  But then this fall I read a book that truly changed the way I think about homeschool.  I realized that what it looks like for somebody else isn’t going to be what it looks like for us.  And that is OK!  (Thanks again to Alicia Michelle from Your Vibrant Family for your encouragement and support every step of the way!  I believe I CAN do this homeschooling thing as long as I have to!  Which I not-so-secretly hope is not very long!!)

Anyway, I discovered that I can plan a STACK of activities for Becca and we can sit down and do them in an hour, or an hour and a half.  And then we are done.  I’m now realizing – that’s ok!  We go at her pace, I tell her what activities we’ll be doing, and she selects which order we do them in.  She gets to take breaks between them if she so desires, and play with learning games, engineering materials, etc.  (All of her breaks are STEAM breaks of some sort.)  When she is done, we take a STEAM break (want some STEAM activity ideas?)…  Then we get back at it.  All the while, Brother can play in his room on his own, and is perfectly content since it’s no more than an hour and a half time block.  (Yes, I am blessed!)

So back to those goals – I decided that it was time to do a thematic unit from start to finish.  And actually finish.  So I gave us two weeks.  Which was a perfect time frame.  She goes to Mother’s Day Out a couple days a week, and we often don’t do “school work” on those days, though sometimes we do.  Just depends.  I like having the flexibility to let her be three and a half, while also letting her brain be whatever age it happens to be that day.

learning about penguins

So the past couple of weeks we have been learning about penguins.  I first told her we were going to make a mystery picture to find out what we were learning about.  Granted, this took a little bit longer than her attention span, but I kept it exciting for her by asking her which block to color next, and we traded off who colored and who read the letter/number combos, and who found the right block to color.  We got to a certain point on it, and the light bulb came on!  “We’re gonna learn about penguins!  Like in my Magic Treehouse Book Eve of the Emperor Penguin!” (aff link)  She was so excited she was literally jumping up and down in her chair.

We sat together (she often sits in my lap while we do school) and talked about all she already knew about penguins (which was actually a good deal) and then we both came up with some questions we wanted to answer about them.  I wrote down what she dictated to me on one of the graphic organizers, and then we talked about another way to organize our thoughts – with flaps.

graphic organizers

She really enjoyed the flaps, which I cut from one file and attached onto another.  (Hey, teaching is all about getting creative, right?)  All of the files I used will be linked in a list below.  All were found on teacherspayteachers.com as freebie files.  Later in our study, we talked about how we can also organize our thoughts into a web format.  She decided that for her, she prefers flaps as her method of thought organization.  She especially liked having the definitions of the penguin vocabulary words behind a flap, so that she could easily just flip and see the one she wanted to see.

coming soon

You might have seen this picture if you follow my page on Facebook.  This was one of her favorite parts of the unit of study.  I modified her old Antarctic Habitat Box to be just rock salt and white rice (less messy), and she not only got to have free play time with the penguins and their blue activity tray (aka water), but she also used the penguins (want to get your own set? Click here – aff link) and her penguin word bank sheet to sort and classify them.  We pulled a few prey and predators from our ocean habitat box as well.  She enjoyed acting out the food chain in her habitat, pretending the penguin ate a fish, and then a leopard seal ate the penguin.  Morbid?  No.  Not at all.  She is fully immersed in how the animal kingdom functions.

penguin reference guide

Then, we took all of the worksheets we completed and compiled them into a book.  She drew her version of a penguin on white card stock paper for the cover, and I even stapled onto the back cover her story book that she dictated to me.  Not only does it serve as a mini-portfolio of her work, it’s also a great reference guide for her in the future.  She is so proud to have it on her bookshelf in her room.  (And she took it to Mother’s Day Out to show her teacher and coordinator!)  We also wrote on the back cover the title and author of the two reference books we used (Penguins by Emily Bone, and Nat Geo Kids Reader – Penguins aff link).  We also listed the YouTube video we watched to learn more about a crèche, and the fabulous online resource of the New England Aquarium, where we saw amazing penguin pictures (we found them when searching for “molting”) and learned more about penguins in captivity.  It was important to me that she start learning the importance of sighting her references when she does research.  We didn’t go into formal sighting rules, just listed them so they are credited and we could go back to them in the future.

And now, to give more credit where credit is due, here are the links to the files that I used from TPT.  Again, they were all freebies, so I can share them with you, but please realize that these are NOT my creations – each creator has a page within the file that gives her credit for her work.  And each of these files is WONDERFUL!  I’m so thankful for a resource like TPT to find fabulous content for our projects!

Penguin Mystery Picture Graph

Penguin Word Bank 

All About Penguins

Flip Flap Fun

Penguin Pre-Writing Fun

Did you like this post or find it helpful?  Please comment and feel free to share on social media!  I’d love to see how you’ve used these ideas to help your own students!  Follow my Facebook page here.  Check me out on Pinterest here.  And now also on Instagram!

Christmas Activities

I debated about how to do this post – if I should put everything separate so it doesn’t seem overwhelming, or just put it all together.  I decided it’s easier to reference later if it’s all together… and honestly, if I wait on some things until later, you have less time to do them with your kids!  So… get ready.  I’m about to bombard you with a bunch of fun ideas – the first several will be great for even your little toddlers, and the rest will be geared toward your older kiddos.

Many of these activities I have stored in little plastic bags and all inside a storage box (in fact, the same box that once held our Apple Activities).  But a couple of them are ready at the window any time one of the kids wants them.  The great thing about the activities in the box is that while Becca is working on her activities, she can select something from the box for Gray to do, to appease his desire to do what she is doing.  She can also interact with him on his activities, and I love watching the tender moments they share (which usually come right before a snatch-grab-cry-scream fest HA!) together when working on a project.  If you have a toddler and an older child, you know how hard it is to find something they can both do either together, or to keep the little one occupied while the older one does something different.  This box of activities seems to be my best effort yet in this department.. and is about 80% effective!   So, here we go!  Let me know if you try any of these with your kids!  I’d love to see you share pictures on my Facebook page, as well!

sticky window

The Christmas Tree Sticky Window is super simple to make – just draw a Christmas tree onto a piece of clear contact paper, and then attach it to your window with tape – so that the sticky side is out.   Then, cut various shapes out of felt or other fabric (so that they won’t adhere permanently) and let your kids decorate the tree over and over again!  While Becca enjoyed this activity at first, this is definitely a Grayson favorite.  He LOVES standing at the window and moving the shapes around.  Of course, he also loves to carry the shapes all over the house and leave them random places…

shape identification

This felt Christmas tree was a busy bag I made a few years ago at a MOPS meeting – simply by cutting shapes from various colors of felt.  It’s a great activity for the kids to do together – Becca loves to tell Gray the names of the shapes and their colors.  She likes to make patterns of ornaments – he likes to throw them in the air and watch them rain down around him.  Either way, they are happily occupied.

writing coloring

In an effort to provide activity for Gray AND Becca in the same box, I have a couple of Christmas coloring books and some blank paper that either of them can enjoy, but I also have magnetic Christmas words that Becca can spell, and then write in her bare book (I found a bunch of them in the Target dollar section at one point this summer!).  She also has two rhyming word wheels that she can practice with and write the rhyming words in her book.  Gray loves that he’s “writing” with crayons while Sis is writing too.  He feels so big and important, and it shows!  We just have to watch that he doesn’t run around with a crayon sticking out of his mouth… he has that tendency.

geo shapes

We have some really fun building materials – you could use anything you have laying around – Legos, Duplos (for your little hands), building blocks, marble runs, whatever you  have.  Challenge your little ones to build a Christmas tree out of the supplies provided!!  Looking for more STEAM Engineering ideas?  Click Here!

reading retelling

We have a play Peanuts nativity set (affiliate link – thank you!) available on our low window sill for Becca to retell the Christmas story anytime she’d like.  Gray also enjoys playing with the characters, and he loves to sit and listen to her act out the story.  I also provided in her Christmas activity box Jan Brett’s Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends (affiliate links – thank you!) books – along with a tiny stuffed ginger baby that she can read the books to, and then use to re-inact the stories.

christmas treeNot an activity for Brother, Becca LOVES making Christmas trees of various designs using green popsicle sticks, red buttons, white pom poms, and one gold one for the star on top.  She has come up with some of the coolest, and also weirdest designs.  Some look like trees, and some, well… don’t.  But she is having a blast, it’s a great sensory activity for her that really allows her imagination and creativity to go wild.

fine motor

Becca struggles with some simple things like getting dressed, and in order to strengthen her hands and fingers to work on those little things like putting on socks and shoes, I try to find lots of fine motor skill practice activities for her.  I had some green colored pasta leftover from one of our habitat boxes, and also have some little Christmas jewelry pieces that I put in some little containers and let her string onto pipe cleaners to make bracelets and necklaces.  She LOVES it, and it’s great practice.  I even made an extension to this that stays in her room for holiday play – mini ball ornaments that she can string onto pipe cleaners.  It’s fabulous for her, and I’ve seen just in the past couple of weeks her fine motor skills making some great improvements!

star math

I programmed several index cards with a variety of patterns and addition/subtraction/multiplication story problems, and had her use these little star cards to solve them.  She even said “I wish all math was fun like this!”  So we’ve started using the star cards for other kinds of math too.  You could use anything you have around the house – scraps of paper, fabric, cut pipe cleaners, Legos, Duplos, crayons, etc.  Hands down, using manipulatives makes math more fun!  (And Mr. Gingerbaby even got involved in the math, too!)

more math

Becca has always struggled with seeing the importance behind having any numbers beyond 20.  She can count to 100 now with ease, but just really doesn’t see the point.  But she does love a good challenge, so I cut some 100s grids into lots of funny pieces, and she really enjoys putting them together.  I also took her sensory box from last Christmas and stepped it up a notch.  She loves playing with it with her balance.  She has discovered that the shiny and matte ornaments do not weigh the same as each other.  She has weighed the cookie cutters that are also in the box, and loves to scoop and pour the rice/split peas into and out of the balance.  She gets so excited when she makes them equal, and loves trying new combinations to see how much she needs to equalize if one side has more ornaments, etc.  I love seeing her creativity come out in this simple hands-on sensory activity, and I love to see her enjoying math.  She’s measuring with her measuring cup each time, and getting better at recognizing the values, etc.  Seeing her enjoy math is so good for me – I’m not a fan of math at all… so I try hard to make it really enjoyable for her so that she will love it.

What Christmas activities do you have going on in your house?  We are also doing daily advent activities, reading lots of Christmas books, and watching lots of special Christmas shows.  I’m hoping we can get out to look at Christmas lights sometime soon as well.  It can be such a crazy time of the year, but when we remember to stop and focus on the Reason for the season, it is all worth while.

May God richly bless you and yours this Christmas!  I look forward to hearing from you on Facebook, and I look forward to starting the new year with some new resolutions and some new post ideas!!  Do you have something you’d like to see me post here on my blog?  Send me an email!  I’d love to hear from you!

 

The Farmer’s Market – 2 More Ways To Play

farmer's market

You might be wondering what on Earth I’m doing talking about our Farmer’s Market set again (for the millionth time between the blog and my FB page), and what on Earth does it have to do with SPD… maybe I just mis-categorized it, right?  WRONG!  Check this out, ya’ll.

Becca is constantly playing with our Farmer’s Market Set (affiliate link, thank you!), and Grayson is too.  But today on her own she said she wanted to do something different.  This first game was totally her idea.  She got one of her brother’s baby food spoons and carefully practiced picking up each fruit/veggie with the spoon and carrying it to the correct color bucket before dropping it in!  She was so serious and concentrated the whole time!  I was really impressed!

Then, when she got tired of that, she threw the fruits and veggies EVERYWHERE.  Ugh.  So I made a game out of cleaning up, and she actually played it about 4 times!  We’d throw all the fruits and veggies out all over the foyer/dining room.  Then I’d hand her a random color bucket, she would read me the color name, and then I’d start counting down from 10 to 0.  She was racing around like a cute lil chicken with it’s head cut off!  Going nuts!  She was soo excited!  HA!

We had so much fun with these two simple made up games, that I knew I had to share them with you.  They were perfect to get her calm and centered, and then to let her run around and bend over and back up over and over in a quick period of time.  Her need for proprioceptive input is so great, and often leads her her getting in “trouble” because she just can’t control her body’s need for activity.  So racing around to pick up all of one color was an awesome input for her, and her brain had to really stop and think about what color she was picking up.  She forgot a couple of times and had to look down and read the bucket again.

So, if you’re looking for a way to occupy kids on a rainy day, or simply a way to keep your “seeker” fully engaged, these are a couple of really fun activities.  Truly, this set should be on every toddler/preschooler/early elementary schooler’s list for Christmas!!

Let me know if you have any questions – I’m happy to help! 🙂

Teaching Self-Regulation

In an attempt to get back to regular posting, I’m starting a new Tuesday Series.  It won’t be necessarily every Tuesday, but my goal is that MOST Tuesdays I’ll be writing about SPD and helping kids that have sensory processing issues, as well as some “From the Heart” type-posts about our own journeys with Becca and the struggles and victories we’ve had.

When I worked on my master’s degree and had a professor who was majorly into brain research that wanted us to do a lot of our own research on the brain and the way kids learn, I was highly intrigued.  But I had no idea how much I would use that information with my own daughter.  God has a way of planning things out for us that we don’t even see or understand until we’re down the road.  I started gaining the head knowledge then of how truly different each individual child is.  I mean, I knew it, because I had experienced it all of my life, but I sort of grew up having an “us” and “them” mentality.  I fit into several different types of “us” groups, and sometimes the people I was grouping myself with mentally were also part of the “them” group in another way.  So I knew we were all different, but it really finally clicked when I became Grayson’s mom.  Having two kids that are so much alike but are truly NIGHT AND DAY different made me finally realize.  Neither of them are anything like ANY child I’ve ever met before.  And I taught a lot of kids.  I babysat a lot of kids.  And that’s when it started to really sink in.  We truly are ALL unique individuals.

And some of us have abilities that others don’t have.  Some of us can smell with our noses.  Some of us can sense the material that something is made from just through one simple touch.  Some of us can hear the smallest change in tone and therefore recognize any musical instrument, or tell you if the ice maker is malfunctioning.  Some of us can take apart something and immediately put it back together – the right way.  Some of us can walk.  Some of us can read a book and retain all knowledge for the rest of our lives.  Some of us… some of us… some of us… we each have special talents and abilities that others don’t have.  It could be viewed that not having a certain ability is therefore a disability.  Or, it could be viewed that having a certain ability that is more sensitive than maybe some others would also be a disability.  I would challenge those who say that everyone is gifted to then also say everyone is disabled.

I’m learning to teach Becca that she is unique.  Yes, she is special.  Yes, medical professionals might look at certain sensitivities or lack of sense that she has and call her disabled.  Yes, educational professionals might look at her IQ and mental capacity and call her gifted.  But the term “disability” and the term “gifted” (or combined, calling her “twice exceptional” or “2E”) don’t define my girl.  She has so many facets that make her who she is- my diamond in the rough.  We’ll be talking about many of those facets in this SENSORY TUESDAY series.

Teaching her to self-regulate is the hardest thing we struggle with daily.  So if you came into this post reading the title thinking I was going to have the magical perfect answer for every parent on how to help their kid self-regulate, I’m sorry for disappointing you.  I believe every child I’ve ever met has some sort of difficulty with self-regulating.  Whether they want to sit in front of a tv for hours and not move, or if they are addicted to sweet junk food, or if they are simply a kid who enjoys not following directions just to get a rise out of mom or dad, self-regulation is HARD.  But it’s an important part of learning how to appropriately live in the adult real world.  So here are some things I do with my sensory child daily to encourage the appropriate growth in this self-regulation area.

  1. I help her regulate her responses to change by giving her warning signals.  We do a lot of counting.  Not the whole “count to 5 or else I’m going to…” But, we count from 60-90 aloud when she is supposed to finish up on the potty.  Or from 30-60 when she needs to finish up brushing her teeth.  Or from 100-125 when she needs to finish up in the bath tub. I verbally clue her in “ok, so we’re going to count from ____ – ____ and then it’s going to be time to____.”  Sometimes she responds with a “no!  I don’t want to.” Which is perfectly normal, but not acceptable.  I begin counting anyway.  If at the end of the counting time she’s decided she’s not going to obey, then we go through whatever discipline is appropriate for the situation.  (I’m not about to coach you on how your discipline your child.  That’s your deal.  Mine is mine.)  I also help her regulate when we are leaving somewhere by counting down from 10.  When we get to 0, we high five each other and “Blast off” to our next location.  I do count down from 10 for behavior issues as well, and it works to give her time to make the correct choice, and when she obeys, she gets to give me a high five at the 0, and I congratulate her on making the right choice.  If she doesn’t obey, we take different measures, which again, are our own.
  2. Another way to help her self-regulate is by having a quiet place available for her.  I wrote a post about that a while back, which you can read here.  If we are away from home, it’s still important sometimes that she have a quiet getaway.  I offer her that opportunity by simply saying “do you need a quiet break?”  She will often take me up on it.  It happens a lot in the grocery store – especially when it’s not our normal time to shop and she is out of sorts with the number of people and the volume of the store (esp since our store is currently undergoing renovations and there are lots of loud construction tools such as electric drills).  She’s now so used to taking a quiet break at the store that she’ll even ask me for one (hello self regulation!!!!).  It’s not always convenient, but I try to make the time to step into a quieter area of the store, hold her head to my chest, and cover her other ear with my hand.  I count slowly in my head to 45, and then I give her a kiss and we move on.  Just taking that moment to step away and let her center herself with the sound of my heartbeat seems to really help her a lot.  Again, it might not work for every child, but for a child with auditory defensiveness, this is HUGE, and helps her to realize that a)I appreciate her verbalizing her needs appropriately b)I acknowledge her needs c)I have supported her needs adequately.
  3. Routine is another great way to establish self-regulation.  Becca is very used to the routine that she watches tv pretty much exclusively in the afternoon after her nap time, and she is allowed to watch three 20 minute shows.  She can choose which they are (she’s on a Magic School Bus kick at the moment), but she knows the routine.  When the second show is over, I tell her “this is the last one” before the third one starts.  She has learned that that’s all.  When we are done, we are done.  And she rarely ever asks to watch another show.  She knows that tv time is done for the day.  That’s just an example of what we do.  Obviously I’m not saying you need to do that in your house, but it’s an example of a routine that she is very used to that helps her to self-regulate in a way that keeps her on track – she is used to the routine, so it doesn’t become a fight, and she isn’t allowed to just indulge so far that she becomes a couch potato.  In the same way, we set a timer when we go outside to play, and she knows that when the timer goes off, it’s time to go in.  Having those routines established helps relieve stress on my part because she knows to expect it so there’s no reason to fight it.

Self-regulation and adaptation is super challenging.  I certainly don’t have all the answers.  But learning to adapt to our surroundings and adequately regulate our needs is a vital life skill that ALL of us have to learn.  The sooner, the better.  I would venture a guess that for sensory kids finding that balance of regulation is much more challenging… So we as parents of sensory kids need to find ways to encourage them when they DO make the right choice, and to help them realize what would be the right choice in the current situation if they’ve missed the mark.

I’ve found that I hear many parents tell their kids “use your words”… But then they just get mad at their child and say “no” or “don’t do that.”  We want our kids to tell us WHY but we don’t tell them WHY.  Granted, I realize that part of obedience is just doing what you are told- with or without reasoning behind it.  But for a sensory kid who can’t see past the fact that they are scared in the current situation, and then mom is mad at me for some reason, they need mom to stop and say “I realize that ____ is probably bothering you, but I need you to do ____ and your choice to not follow my directions is really frustrating me!  We need to ____!  Hurry up!  How can I help you get this done?”  I have discovered with Becca that using words to explain my feelings has caused her to start using words to explain her feelings.  Which is so valuable!!

So, while it doesn’t solve all the problems, I think that giving warning signals, providing an escape, following routines, and parental verbalization of feelings are keys to the many doorways that can block the path to success for a sensory kid.

What works in your family??  Please share!