Adoption Interview

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Power of the Sensory Diet

In my last post I mentioned that I was having some pretty bad back pain. Well, it ended up being because my SI joint (sacro-illio joint AKA my pelvis) was out of whack. It's something that often happens to pregnant women (no I am not pregnant), but can happen for other reasons as well. I ended up seeing a physical therapist who put the joint back into place and taught me some exercises to help keep it there. Alas my joint decided not to cooperate and came out several times in the two weeks leading up to our vacation. Eventually the PT taught Kyle how to tell it was out (as if I couldn't tell by the pain!) and what side to treat and then how to put the joint back in place. I managed to have a great vacation with my joint firmly in place the entire time thanks to Kyle putting it back into place the night before we left for our cruise. Ok, so this really does relate to Hannah's sensory diet. It's just taking me awhile to get there. Anyway, it's extremely painful so I didn't do a whole lot the weeks leading up to our vacation and I had tons to do the last few days before we left. The plan was to take Hannah over to Evelyn's house the Friday before we left and Kyle and I would finish any last minute stuff we had to do. Well, there was A LOT of last minute stuff to do and I spent that entire day doing stuff and Hannah's sensory diet was left unmet (that's putting it nicely). We did pretty much NOTHING off of her diet. I warned Sarah that her sensory needs hadn't been met when I dropped her off at their house that afternoon and I knew that things might be a little rough, but I guess I had forgotten what life was like BEFORE the sensory diet entered our lives. I just didn't realize exactly how much it was helping Hannah. Now we know. We have definite confirmation that therapy is working and a HUGE incentive to keep up with the program. Poor Sarah, Jason, and Evelyn (and Hannah too) paid the price for us learning that lesson. Hannah had several serious meltdowns (not your typical toddler tantrum, but a sensory meltdown) where neither Sarah nor Jason could even touch or speak to her for a long period of time. Sarah, being the wonderful friend that she is, had listened closely to all my jabbering about Hannah's therapy and the techniques we were learning to bring her out of and head off meltdown so she fortunately knew the right things to do and was able to bring Hannah out of it and fend off another meltdown for significant periods of time throughout the night. I shudder to think if this had been preschool, Sunday school, or just some random babysitter. My little girl was treated with compassion and respect and given the tools she needed to recover instead of disciplined for something she could not control. Another thing we learned from this ordeal is that Hannah is beginning to realize when she is uncomfortable (often before she's too far along the meltdown ladder) and starting to self regulate. This is WONDERFUL news and the entire point of therapy. The goal is that by the time she reaches elementary school she will be able to keep her self regulated by doing items off her sensory diet independently while she is at school both before and while she is noticing that she is getting overwhelmed. Maybe, just maybe, this will be a reachable goal.

Also at therapy we found out that Hannah has very flat feet and over pronates. Her DT has recommended that she be evaluated by a physical therapist to see if we need to take her to a podiatrist. This is apparently part of the reason why Hannah runs so funny. Hannah's therapist also recommended that Hannah get a weighted blanket to help with her sleep issues. Mom is attempting to make one for her since they are very expensive to buy and not nearly as expensive to buy the stuff to make one. Hopefully she will be successful. If not, we'll just have to buy one because we are willing to do whatever it takes to get Hannah's sleep problems straightened out since they've been such a struggle for a very long time.

Preschool seems to be going well. Hannah knows pretty much all the kids in her class now. She has shown some parallel play at times, well at least she has gone over and played at the same activity table as another child which is a big step for her. Some days Hannah doesn't want to talk about school at all and answers every question we ask her about what she did with "I don't know." Then on other days I get the play by play version of all the preschool drama. She tells me who hit who, who cried, who missed their mommy, who spilled their juice, who got in trouble and why, etc. It's pretty interesting to hear what all goes on in those two and a half hours and to see exactly what all she notices.

Lately Hannah's been expanding on her "connection making" quite a bit. She is no longer satisfied to simply turn an I, H, N, or 9 around and tell me what other letter or number it looks like. Now she finds approximations of letters and numbers in the environment. Pavement markings look like an A, the geese flying made a V, the telephone pole is a T, her sandwich with several bites out of it looks like an R, the window is an H and an 8. She also likes to connect what things sound similar or look similar. For example, she was playing in a clothes basket and lost her balance and fell over. The basket feel on her back while she landed on her knees. She looked at me and said, "I look kinda like a turtle." We've never pretended to be a turtle or used laundry baskets in any other way other than as laundry baskets so she came up with that totally on her own. All of her observations are nearly always preceded by the words, "It's kinda like . . ." I'm growing to love the sound of that phrase because I'm always curious to see what she has discovered.

Hannah has two new games that she really loves to play. The first one is Memory. She was given a miniature set of Memory cards while we were on the cruise ship from the youth program and when we got home I taught her to play it. I'm not sure why I was surprised that she caught on so quickly or that she was good at it, but I was. Except for the fact that she tries to help the other person find their matches too when she knows where it is, she has a firm grip on the rules of the game and is most definitely better than I am. It's a bit humbling to be beaten by a two year old when you aren't trying to let them win! Her other new favorite game is hide and seek. While she LOVES this game, she doesn't have a clue how to play it. She peeks when I hide and always hides in the same place when she hides and once I finish counting and say, "ready or not, here I come!" she comes running straight at me from her hiding place! It's pretty fun to play with her though because she almost never tires of it.

Hannah continues to love riding horses. Over Labor Day she finally rode the horses at my parent's house for the first time. While riding Julie, the pony, the dogs were being obnoxious and bothering poor Julie. She began to canter to get away from them. Hannah was not really sure what to think about cantering at the time and wanted to get off, but after the fact she continues to tell me about how she galloped on Julie! Going along with her first time cantering a horse, Hannah also got her first kiss several weeks ago. We were at the mall play place doing one of Hannah's therapy sessions and when Kimberly (Hannah's therapist) arrived we pointed over to Hannah who was hiding on a bookshelf instead of playing. Kimberly went over to try to coax her out and while she was over there another little boy who was the same age as Hannah came over and started mimicking Hannah because he wanted to play with her. At one point he leaned across the divide of the shelves and kissed Hannah on the forehead! Kyle and I both missed it! I was bummed. I would have loved to have seen Hannah's face when some person (particularly a kid) she didn't know kissed her.

Academically, Hannah has been hard at work. Lately she's been obsessed with spelling words. If she knows how to spell them, she will do the honors, but mostly she thinks of a word and then asks me to spell it over and over. Going along with the spelling is wanting to also write those words. She can write many letters independently now so she asks me to spell words and then she writes them down letter by letter. If she doesn't know how to write a particular letter in a word she asks me to spell then usually I can coach her on how to do it by just verbally telling her the order of the strokes. The letters S, G, and Z remain sources of frustration for her even with coaching. One day I thought I might introduce Hannah's birthday, address, and phone number to her just for fun. She of course memorized her birthday that same day (I think I've already told you that), but has been working on her address and phone number ever since. She finally had a breakthrough this week and has since said her address completely from memory and independently multiple times. I feel safe saying that she has now mastered it. Now, she won't always give it on command-not because she doesn't know it, but because she likes having the power of refusing to do something, but I at least like that she knows it in case she were to ever get lost. The phone number is still a work in progress, but that's ok. If she has her name and address I figure that is all that is really important at this stage in the game. Another thing she has really gotten into lately is cutting and pasting. She's working hard to fine tune her scissor skills which are a huge source of frustration for her at the moment. She is totally into doing "projects" as she calls them which is basically coloring something, cutting it out, and gluing it onto something else. She's been so obsessive about it the past week that I am quickly running out of age and skill appropriate ideas sine I'm not crafty at all. So, if anyone has any good ideas for toddler cut and paste projects then please pass them along to me because I could really use the help!

Even though Hannah has not been interacting very much with the kids in her preschool class or gymnastics, or random kids on the playground, we have seen gigantic improvements in her interaction with the two kids that she spends the most time with-Evelyn and Addie. Hannah has actually been consistently playing WITH these girls. Not just parallel play, but real honest to goodness play! Hannah has even been the one to initiate some of this play although usually it is one of the other girls. Kyle and I have been amazed at the improvement we've seen. We really hope that this will eventually generalize to other kids, but at the moment we are simply thrilled that she is actually interacting in an age appropriate manner with her close friends.


Anonymous said...

Hi Natalie! Great to read an update. Walter also has flat feet and hyperpronation. He saw a podiatrist and now wears arch supports in his shoes. The doctor wants to do surgery at age 6 to place an implant to correct it. We're not sure what to do, so I'd be curious to follow your experience. So keep me posted!

Also, I just want to say that it sounds like Hannah is doing very well with her social development. Parallel play is expected and typical at age 2. Walter is almost 5, and parallel play is still the most common form of play at his preschool. He and most of the other kids are playing together now too, but really it's such a slow process and it's all fine and good. So just know that I think Hannah is developing very age appropriately in that area, despite the hyperlexia. Walter also has some social issues and is sooooo shy around other kids. It's all ok!

I want to hear more about your cruise!

-Lora Richardson

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh at your description of playing "Hide and Seek" with Hannah. Benjamin also loves to play "Hide and Seek" but he TELLS me where to hide and then starts counting. And when it's his turn to hide he does the same thing, comes running out to "get" me before I can find him!

Cindy Huff
IAC Alumni

monica said...

I have several 4 year olds in my preschool class who are still working on getting from parallel play to interacting with each other. It sounds like she is doing fantastic.

My kids at school love to cut pictures out of magazines and glue them onto paper. It's great for their fine motor skills too and they love it! Sometimes I give them a goal: cut out red things, people, animals, whatever and other times I let them just go for it. They also love just gluing buttons or "jewels" to paper with a glue bottle. We have the "a dot is a lot" rule and they have sheets and sheets of construction paper with things glued onto it.

Other things my preschool kids love that are crafty based, they are 4: water color painting, play doh (sometimes we make it and it's fabulous for fine motor skills) making bead necklaces (we use yarn with a piece of tape on the end so it goes through the beads easier) or you can put beads on pipe cleaners, cutting cutting cutting, ((This week K. said "I love my scissors")) painting at the art easel, shaving cream play.

Another thing we've been doing that is a hit and I think it's so funny is sorting. I started with colored beads and an old fashion plastic ice cube tray. They sorted the beads by colors in to the trays. Then we moved on to sorting: dried beans, crayons, matchbox cars, buttons, animals, etc.... by all sorts of characteristics.

You're way ahead with bday, addy and phone number too. We're working on those and it's tough. I have realized that many kids are learning parents cell phone before home phone. If they need a parent, that is usually what they need to call first. The home number is important too though in case of emergency.

Just rambling away..... preschoolers are my favorite subject!! :)

~monica (IAC)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for dropping my blog, Natalie. Your Hannah does sound like a "typical" Hyperlexic. She'll be reading before you know it. Chee started out just like how you describe Hannah is and she was reading quite well by the time she turned 3. Have you read the book Reading Too Soon by Susan Miller? You can find it on Amazon.

As for cutting and gluing, I give Chee magazines and have her cut out pictures of animals or shirts or things that are red and glue them on paper.

She's behind in her fine motor skills (writing) so I try (but am not very diligent about it) to get her to write the names underneath.

I will add your blog to my reader. I'd like to hear more about Hannah's Sensory Diet. I'm always looking for new ways to incorporate sensory stuff into our daily routine.