Monday, March 21, 2016


Dear Persons,

We only have so much energy in life. In my last post, THE FULL BUCKET, I wrote about what happens when that energy is all used up. Choosing your battles is one way to ensure you avoid getting so drained that you are no longer able to function well...

This year, I will give two simple examples from the Full Spectrums: Armpits versus Teeth, and Grades versus Manners.

Choosing your battles doesn’t mean you abdicate any discussion of or efforts toward other areas of life – it just means you reserve your mightiest strength for those areas that seem most deeply important for yourself and/or your loved ones.

Here are two choices I’ve made for us:

Middle schoolers stink. Even with deodorant. Especially if you start with the crunchy granola natural stuff. We are on the Old Spice Ultra-Chem Turbo Level by this point but it only gets applied, shall we say, intermittently. You see, my G has very, very little interest in hygiene. So if I want to be sure he is doing something hygiene-related, I have to supervise.

I stopped brushing teeth with G about a year ago, trusting that he would take responsibility for this important matter. We found out the hard way last fall – when he had to go under general anesthesia to have a tooth pulled --  that he was not ready to brush his teeth alone. Now we brush our teeth together again, with him leading. Ten brushes in each spot. This is non-negotiable.

Sure, I ask G to put on deodorant and ask him if he has done so...but with my limited time and energy, sometimes deodorant doesn’t happen. Tooth brushing does.


How many talks do your children really want to listen to? Z is one of those people who is able to excel at anything she cares to excel in...So her consistently getting all threes (“meets grade level expectations”) on her report card is...unexpected. Sure, I’ve talked with her about this – quite a bit.

But I reserve my most heated, heartfelt talks for the area of what I call “real manners” (i.e. the manners that are about kindness and respect, not the right fork). Because Z has grappled with an attachment disorder since she came home, she’s always had issues with feeling she doesn’t have enough, and with control. These factors come into play frequently when it comes to sharing and treating others with basic respect.

I know Z is a tough cookie who will always make her way successfully in the world, so I don’t lecture too, too much on grades and hard work. But for her to feel good inside -- and for others to feel comfortable around her -- she needs to learn to act with “real manners” in heart and mind. This, like tooth brushing, is non-negotiable, so I save my heartiest lectures for this subject.

Because I am not at her all the time about certain other stuff (grades, etc.), we are both able to be more fully present in this important, healing arena.

We are all works in progress. It matters that we take a little time to see where our efforts can be most effective – and to ponder what we most value.  This can vary, of course -- the key is to take a step back and determine which battle you will choose.

The next and final anniversary post will be the most popular, putrid  post of the year: THE COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT!!! We at FSM are a leetle behind this year on account of because life, so there’s still time to get your COMPLAINTS in!

Thanks and love,
Full Spectrum Mama

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


 I’ve seen a bucket metaphor here and there, used in different ways, across neurodiverse  communities. I recently shared it, in its OVERLOAD/OVERWHELM form (there’s also a form that’s related to goodness, happiness, and loving/kind acts), with Full Spectrum Grandmother, who found it very useful, so I thought I would share it here, too. It’s by no means original with me, but it’s been super-helpful in a variety of contexts.

When your SENSORY (as always, I include emotions and other mental states here as well, as feelings) BUCKET is full, you feel on edge, about to spill over.

You can’t take on more (tasks, responsibilities, activities), or even take in more (information, stimulus, social cues) effectively; in fact, more, in just about any form – even positive – is simply too much.

I think of my toughest years in graduate school, when I was reading super-dense materials at all times – and reading trashy mysteries the rest of the time. I didn’t have the brain space for anything more demanding.

Now that I have a family and work, my bucket is more Full than ever. One of the top bucket fillers is my smartphone! Back in the day, emails and phone calls were limited to very particular times, and texting didn’t even exist. Now we are on – and presumably accessible -  24/7. Dealing with “special needs” bureaucracy, family and personal health issues, finances, running a household, and teaching a high needs population at the community college where students face huge challenges every day just to get an education...I know you all have your lists, but that’s mine: what fills, and sometimes – often - overfills, my bucket.

This is important: it’s not just hard, bad, or stressful stuff that fills your SENSORY BUCKET – it’s anything that’s stimulating and absorbs (rather than rebuilds) your energy. This holds especially true for people with SPD (sensory processing differences). For me, these positive, yet absorbing bucket fillers include great times with my children and Pardner, cultural outings, fascinating classroom discussions, travel...

It’s genuinely helpful to be aware that my SENSORY BUCKET gets Full, and to have a visual for this concept, because when my bucket is Full I tend to feel hopeless, desperate. I melt down internally, by feeling useless and getting profoundly overwhelmed and unsure how to do the next thing, and the next...

I know what I need to make room in my bucket: long walks, yoga practice, lengthy bouts of gardening, meditation practice, reading time, creative time, above all, time alone. Oh! And regular (weekly? {monthly?? [yearly???]} massages! Haha.

But let’s look at a more realistic scenario: my son G. G tends to shut down when his bucket is Full. This is his own expression of meltdown. He will stop listening, stop getting anything done, retreat. After a very Full day of school and activities, my sensory-sensitive son needs, from what I can see: extended time alone sorting through his Pokemon cards, And he gets it. And it really soothes and balances him, makes room in his SENSORY BUCKET for the next day’s interactions and experiences.

People with sensory challenges often need to rest their brains.  We also need to feed our hearts and souls. What do you and/or your loved ones need to create room in your SENSORY BUCKETS? Are there little things you can do, step by step?

For example, realizing that every day I would tell myself I would practice yoga at home before school pickup “after I got everything done,” and that every day I would never be left with any time to do so, I have just started (on the days when that’s possible) taking a quick walk after school drop-off when I get to wherever I will be for that day - before I “get everything done.” It’s not yoga, it’s improvised...yet that little bit of self-care makes a bit more room in my bucket so the “everything” seems more manageable. A week or so of these walks has created enough spaciousness to enable me to write and draw this post – which would not have been possible last week, trust me!

What can YOU do for yourself and/or your loved one(s)? A breath? A break? A tiny shift or change? Recognizing and acknowledging a Full SENSORY BUCKET is a great first step!

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!

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