Sunday, August 30, 2015

MIDDLE SCHOOL PRAYERS REVISITED, REVISITED

I take it all* back. I am terrified.

Universe, please watch over and protect our bumbling, quirky, not-so-grown-up, growing up children as they head back into the fray.

Thanks and love,
Full Spectrum Mama

* http://fullspectrummama.blogspot.com/2015/08/middle-school-prayers-revisited.html

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

LEAN IN, SPD STYLE

Picture my physically adept daughter sitting at the dining room table. She is leaning back in her chair with her feet up on said chair. I remind her that feet are not allowed on chairs at the dinner table. She removes her feet...but somehow manages to retain the exact same lean, with an expression of utter disdain and indifference.

Now picture me sitting at a different table, working in the faculty lounge of the local community college. You will notice – but I will not, at least until my neck pain tells me something is off, several hours in – that I am sitting at an extremely awkward angle.

 
                           Figure I – Awkward and Ultimately Injurious Angle of Seatedness, Not Noticed

Those of us with sensory processing differences may find ourselves in a myriad of awkward and uncomfortable situations/positions because of our divergent vestibular and proprioceptive systems, the systems that tell us where we are in space and how our movement and body location relates to what is around us.

Whereas my daughter Z’s balance, movement, and self-awareness in space are appropriate and allow her to do things in healthy, if sometimes snotty, ways, I fear I’d be barely able to function without my many, many years of ballet and yoga.... G’s study of Tae Kwon Do has done similar remediation for his vestibular, motor, and proprioceptive functioning.

I was uncomfortable sitting there at a random angle from the table, but I am so used to feeling awkward that I didn’t even wonder why, or take steps to address my discomfort, until my neck pain began to eclipse my concentration. When the normal smells and lights and sounds of daily life hurt your brain, what’s a bit more pesky input?

Becoming aware of these goofy and discomforting phenomena is the first step in trying to devise ways in which to avoid actually harming myself. But here’s the thing: mostly, I don’t even know I am doing things “differently” until something lets me know – another person (“Hey, [FSM], why don’t you put on a sweater, since you are shivering?” “OHHHHH! Great idea!”), or actual pain...

What other things do G and I do like sitting at wide angles to tables? I don’t even know. Probably plenty! Do you know a wide-angle sitter? A curb-tripper? A walker-into-walls?

Love,
Full Spectrum Mama


Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop -- a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it's like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo! Want to join in on next month's Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

MIDDLE SCHOOL PRAYERS, REVISITED

As people and as parents some of us are lucky enough to have a perfectly generous level of empathy for others as well as a balanced perspective on events. Others of us learn to understand others’ feelings and have perspective on our own lives the hard way(s).

Last year saw G’s heretofore good grades plummet, but he was accepted and happy at school. It was clear that G had chosen, consciously or un- to put all his energies into that realm of his life that had for so long been an area of suffering. For a “typical” parent with an academically gifted kid this would be a disastrophe but the perspective and experience I’ve gained (kicking and screaming) about my kid show me that a decline in grades is a small price to pay for the gains he’s made in confidence and self-esteem.

By the end of last year, G’s team had begun to identify effective strategies for executive function and focus in order to improve his academics; and I am very much hoping we can bring more balance between the social and the academic this year in 8th grade. That’s going to be a tall order, but at least I am only mildly terrified this year. (Sure last year was a social success, but there can be so much drama in middle school, for middle-schoolers of all persuasions, and peer-group rejection is so common.)

Here are two posts I wrote around this time last year, in case they are of use to any readers:

            This one is about my deep terrors for my son as he entered Middle School:
                        MIDDLESCHOOL PRAYERS 

This one is about trying to find other kids who might be extraordinarily challenged entering Middle School:
                       TEAM FRIENDLY FACE 

And here’s an inspiring thought from a VERY WISE Dad I know and love, from his facebook page (posted with permission, lightly edited for anonymity); it helps me remember that I know my child and I know what he is capable of...:
Happy birthday to my son [name]. Apologies for this post, son, but “I had to say it.” The year that he was age 3 I was on lecture tour. In Indiana he was the only black child in childcare. After my talk a teacher said, “I’m sorry to tell you, sir, but your son is slow.” The next week in New Hampshire a different childcare teacher said, “Wow! Your son is brilliant.” I’d already played a significant role helping parent my three much younger brothers and [name] is my second son. I knew he was blessed. Now he has a bachelor’s from Princeton and both a Ph.D and J.D. from the University of Virginia. At no point did I give permission to some stranger to define my child (or his 3 brothers). If you’re a parent, grandparent, teacher, friend... I suggest you follow the same route. You have to nurse greatness to find greatness.

Obviously, blessings and greatness come in all stripes and do not necessarily mean academic blessings and/or greatness, but I plan to nurse the academic aspect of my son better this year, along with his great heart -- and I plan to make sure the rest of his team does the same.

Wishing all parents and students and teachers and staff many blessings for a smooth transition into this next school year. People who are already fully-equipped for school should not be posting that on facebook and making the rest of us feel inadequate.

Remember, if we do not believe in – and nurture! -- the unique greatness of our loved ones and children, who will?

Love,
Full Spectrum Mama




Tuesday, July 21, 2015

MORE OR LESS

We’re more and more aware that our sensory sensitivities are intricately interwoven with our mental, emotional, physical, and neurological proclivities. This holds equally true – in very different ways – for my son and me.

Just as I often suspect I feel “too much” as compared to others, I think too much as well. Here’s an example: I was in a local coffee shop, reading a sign on a muffin: “Uni        Corn Muffin,” it read, with the “Corn Muffin” part all typed and official and the “Uni” handwritten.

I began to consider this puzzling marker...Did it herald some sort of prestigious, single-source, locally-farmed corn? Just one particular type of corn, a Silver Queen or Butter n Sugar perhaps? Or were they referring, trendily, to “uni” as in sea urchin?

I definitely didn’t want that!

“Um...what does that mean?” I asked the incredulous cashier, pointing to the sign.

“Unicorn?” she said, with pity.

Oh.

Pardner asked me not long ago, “When do you decide to put on lipgloss?”

I think he expected an answer along the lines of, “When I don’t have any on.”

I, however, gave him a very long, involved answer, touching upon the vicissitudes of being a ghostly-looking white person, what sorts of textures there are in lip things, the many, many sensory and chemical qualities that can be wrong with various lip-related products, what makes for a good lip gloss, and, most importantly, how incredibly painful it feels for me when my lipgloss wears off in even a tiny part of my lip...


                                              Figure I – Amount of Dry Lip That May Lead to Crisis

There’s a potential world of pain in a dry lip, and I say this as someone who bears the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis with nary a whimper (rheumatoid also brings me raynaud’s syndrome, which adds to dry lip – help!). I say this as someone who has lived quite a life and is amply endowed with “perspective.” I am pretty butch...but don’t leave me stranded without my chapstick. Burt’s Bees original, to be precise, with the Lip Shimmer on top.

Some of you will be reading this aghast. Indeed, I might be called an over-thinker, and/or an over-feeler by many, be it regarding muffins, lipgloss, or just about anything else. Others will be nodding along, having experienced life with sensory processing differences.

I am not saying people with high physical sensitivities necessarily have high emotional ones, just that our physical, emotional, neurological, intellectual, and all other “parts” are so intricately related. Sometimes our “parts” complement each other – and sometimes they exacerbate each other. We notice and feel and think and so on, more or less, more and less, more and more, less and less....It’s part of who we are.

Take my G, he’s a smart, caring, and thoughtful giant little dude, but, as I have mentioned before, he wouldn’t notice if there was a pound of schmutz on his mouth. In sensory processing lingo, he’s an “under-responder.”


                                    Figure II – Putative G Mouth: Yes to Schmutz, No to Crisis/Cleanup

Perhaps partly because of this less-sensitive-to-irritants way of being, G is so relaxed and natural about life. He’d read “unicorn,” no problem. He has a carefree heart. He feels a lot, but his feelings, so far, are remarkably positive. In contrast, I have to work pretty hard to stay upbeat, because of all that’s literally weighing on me. Being more sensitive overall – an “over-responder” - has a lot to do with this need to make quite an effort just to function at times.

G’s executive functioning is almost non-existent, and I know this, along with some social differences typical of neurodiverse persons, as well as non-noticing of schmutz (and other hygiene issues), will bring him many, many challenges in the years to come. But how about his EQ (emotional intelligence)? Off the charts. What balance and wholeness this seems to bring him!

Just yesterday, G pulled his socks on over soaking wet feet without screaming. In fact he was smiling and chattering while he did so. How liberating would that be? I wouldn’t change either of us  – and I am not crazy about the judgy aspect of terms like “over-“ and under-responsive” – but I do find our differences fascinating. I watched him doing this little thing I could never do, and I marveled at the range of ways of being whole, at how our mores and lesses -- RATHER THAN MAKING US MORE OR LESS -- make us, us.

Love,
Full Spectrum Mama



Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop -- a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it's like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo! Want to join in on next month's Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!


Monday, July 13, 2015

THE LIEBSTER AWARD

My friend Kelly Dillon, over to the Eating Off Plastic, has kindly nominated me for The Liebster Award!



This award was created to grow the love amongst bloggers, and so I shall pass it on, as politely yet firmly demanded.

THE RULES OF THE LIEBSTER AWARD:

1. THANK YOUR NOMINATOR:

Thank you, Kelly Dillon. I remember the first time I fell upon your blog, I was AMAZED – no other word – by how gifted you are as an artist and by your terrific sense of humor. I feel truly honored that you nominated me!

 

2. ANSWER THE QUESTIONS GIVEN BY THE NOMINATOR:

1. Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?
Books or movies?
No fair. Both! If forced over a pot of boiling oil to choose I’d go with the latter.
2. What’s your zombie apocalypse survival tool?
My glasses! So I can see?
3. If you could be one animal for 24 hours, which one would you be and why?
A cat. Oh, to be sooooo self-satisfied, and cozy!
4. If you had to choose between living 200 years in the past, or 200 years in the unknown future, which would you choose?
The future. Since science will surely soon find a way in time to way extend my kids’ generation’s lifespans, I want to make sure my son is not riding motorcycles and my daughter is running an only partly evil empire, and also check that she is supporting my son in the style to which he has become accustomed. I cannot choose the era you say? Bah.
5. I have 5 apples, I gave one to your friend, and then I gave 3 to you. Finally, I gave you 1 apple. How many chickens crossed the road?
4.
6. Name one food and one beverage to consume for the rest of your life.
OOOH.
Water – so dull but true.
BiBimBap – Korean rice dish with lots of vegetables on a hot stone pot. With chocolate considered a veg.
7. Number of Pixar movies that made you cry?
ALL.
8. Speaking of, name your most favorite Pixar movie.
Up. In my all-time top ten for sure!
9. Respond to the following statement: “Last week, Japanese scientists explaced – placed – explosive detonators at the bottom of Loch Ness to blow Nessie out of the water. Sir Court Godfrey of the Nessie Alliance summoned the help of Scotland’s local wizards to cast a protective spell over the lake and its local residents and all those who seek for the peaceful existence of our underwater ally.”
Shhhhh!
10. Meow?
Meep.

3. NOMINATE OTHER BLOGGERS:

As I just this morning commented on one of these very blogs, we don’t always share the exact same language, beliefs, or views on life, but the words of these people comfort and uplift readers, and help them to constructively confront challenges and injustice nonetheless. These are the bloggers who make me laugh and cry and think and hope every visit. They’re also extremely good looking. Please visit these wonderful blogs:

Eating Off Plastic (Is that allowed? It would be a genuine top choice!)

4. CREATE TEN NEW QUESTIONS FOR YOUR NOMINEES:


1. On a scale of 1-10, how seriously do you take yourself? (How do you feel about that?)

2. Let it go or get it done?

3. All-expenses paid vacation with free and actually effective childcare, where appropriate/necessary: what are the details – where, what, etc - for you and yours?

4. What is the thing you worry about most?

5. What is your favorite thing about yourself?

6. Off the top of your head, what are your four best-loved books?

7. Same for movies?

8. Three last meals, breakfast, lunch, dinner (this includes dessert, duh): go!

9. What do you miss from the past?

10. What are you looking forward to today?


And so go the four rules of THE LIEBSTER AWARD. Nominees are welcome to accept and pass on the award following these tenets, or to decline for whatever reason, knowing they retain my undying, slobbering admiration.


Again, huge thanks to Kelly at Eating Off Plastic for thinking of me!

Love,
Full Spectrum Mama

Thursday, July 9, 2015

TRASHY


Summer is here and the Full Spectrums are, one might say, less productive than they might be. It's been all kids (and lots of fun, truly) all the time since school got out and there hasn't been a whole lot of writing time, but I did manage to pick up a "People" magazine today. All in the interest of research, of course. 

Now I love a trashy magazine as much as the next person, maybe more, so I was stunned in my relaxing reverie to read this headline: "Heros Among Us: Crusading Against Autism." Against my better judgement - I Was trying to relax! - I read this piece on, guess who, Autism Speaks. Apparently, what Autism Speaks does is "restore the spirit and hope that autism tried to take away." 

With all due respect to a wide range of families and situations, I very much beg to personally differ with that assessment !

I managed to quell the kiddos long enough to write this letter because I wanted to, you know, Speak:


Re: "Crusading Against Autism"
To the Editor:
Are you aware that many autistic people are able to read? In fact, many are avid readers.
As a mother on the spectrum with an autistic son, I was deeply saddened to see this headline. I will NOT be keeping this issue in the house, in case my dear boy, who is perfect just as he is, happens to fall upon this article. I would never, ever want him to feel that he himself is seen by some as something to be fought against, or someone who takes hope away. 
Sincerely,
Dr. [FSM]

Love, 
Full Spectrum Mama