How to Plan Your Day for Success

How to Plan Your Day for Success

Intro to How to Plan Your Day for Success

I know that no one has needed to tell you that you are crazy busy!  Which makes sense because you have a lot on your plate!  You wear a lot of hats to make everything possible for your own life, your child’s life and your family’s life, as a result. 

Keeping everything organized and being proactive can make a huge difference.  For starters, it can be the difference between just surviving. Feeling like everything is out of control versus. On the contrary, planning can also make you feel like you are accomplishing your goals. Being intentional with your everyday life. 

Sometimes just taking the time to plan can feel overwhelming. That is why I invited Amanda to the podcast.  I just know that she is going to give you encouragement and inspiration. She will also give you tips and tools for how to plan for success.

She will share her journey with her daughter. As well as, managing all of the therapies and appointments that she had.

#stressmanagement, #specialneedsplanner, #organizedmomma, #parentingautisticchild, #autisticparenting, #stressedparent, #autistmmomma, #autismlife, #spd, #parentingspd, #autismpodcast, #sensorypodcast, #stressreduction, #selfcare, #autismmomsrock, #autisticparenting, #autismlife, #autismfamily, #autismfamilylife, #differentnotless

Meet Amanda with The Glory Days Planner

Amanda Cunningham is a special needs parent and advocate. On 2017 she gave birth to her daughter Aurora. At the time of her birth, Amanda found out that her daughter had Down Syndrome. After months of overwhelm, she created a daily planner designed for her unique needs. In November of 2018, The Glory Days Co was founded and their signature daily planner was released.

Since then, 2,000 special needs parents have used their tools to feel equipped in the role they’ve been called to. It’s Amanda mission to encourage the caregiver and bring attention to families like hers.

Recommended Book

You’re the Girl for the Job: Daring to Believe the God Who Call You by Jess Connolly

Connect with Amanda at:

@theglorydaysco
Theglorydaysco.com

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which is Autistic. Learn more about her here.

Self Care Strategies that are Possible for any Mama

Self Care Strategies that are Possible for any Mama

Self Care Strategies Intro

You are in for a treat today!!  Michelle is a super sweet mama. She is about to share tons of amazing thoughts, ideas and resources.  There are truly nuggets in this interview for everyone and you are not going to want to miss it! 

She explains how she went to the Autism Center of America and was surprised at how they started by teaching her about mindset first. As a result, that changed everything for her!  Michelle then intentionally began to learn about self-care practices and realized how she had been neglecting her self-care. 

She learned how to become intentional about making sure that she was taking care of herself to create long-term solutions.  So often, parents of Autistic children end up dealing with chronic stress and it is so important to learn how to get out of the stress cycle.  I can’t wait for you to her why it’s so important to complete the stress cycle and what you can do to do just that!

#stressmanagement, #parentingautisticchild, #autisticparenting, #stressedparent, #autistmmomma, #autismlife, #spd, #parentingspd, #autismpodcast, #sensorypodcast, #stressreduction, #selfcare, #autismmomsrock, #autisticparenting, #autismlife, #autismfamily, #autismfamilylife, #differentnotless

Meet Michelle

She is a mama to three spunky kids, with two on the Autism spectrum. Most days, you’ll find her with a cup of coffee in one hand, surrounded with piles of unread books (and half-folded laundry) when she’s not chasing her herd of not-so-tiny humans in her backyard or at a local beach. She’s a certified mindset and mindfulness coach. She helps mamas ditch caregiver burnout through holistic self-care practices, build authentic friendships through the Sisterhood, and balance work/life/play.

Recommended Book

Burnout by by Emily Nagoski PhD

Connect with Michelle at:

Website: https://autismmomlife.com
Instagram: @michelleslach

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which is Autistic. Learn more about her here.

Your Child Has Autism….Now What?

Your Child Has Autism….Now What?

Recently, I had someone tell me that their child was just diagnosed with Autism. They just felt like, ok…, now what? I started to think about it and realized this was something really important to think about and talk about. How are you supposed to know what to do when your child is diagnosed with Autism? Especially when you are feeling a bagillion emotions. So I stopped and put some thought into this….This is what I came up with.

There are so many parents out there that are in one of these 2 situations when their child has Autism:

  1.  You are aware of your child’s difficulties but they do not yet have a diagnosis for them.  Maybe you are on the waitlist for an evaluation or you have just started to suspect specific difficulties that your child is having in comparison to his or her peers.
  2. Your child has been evaluated and given a diagnosis and you either
    1. Don’t know where to start or…
    1. You have tried some things, but you are not quite sure if they are the right things and if you are on the right track
#childdevelopment, #autismchilddevelopment, #parentingautisticchild, #autisticparenting, #autistmmomma, #autismlife, #spd, #parentingspd, #autismpodcast, #sensorypodcast, #stressreduction, #selfcare, #autismmomsrock, #autisticparenting, #autismlife, #autismfamily, #autismfamilylife, #differentnotless

Where ever you are with your situation, there can be so many emotions.  And often times there are a lot of emotions happening all at once.  Maybe you’re feeling feelings of fear, anxiety, or guilt. 

Maybe you are feeling ill equipped, angry, or frustrated.  If we are being real, sometimes we might even feel embarrassed when our child does things that is not expected behavior or when we feel judged by family or friends. 

Maybe in some ways, if you did just get a diagnosis for your child, you are feeling a sense of relief that now you know your child has autism.  A relief that your suspensions and gut instincts were validated.  No matter what, all of those feelings can make anyone feel overwhelmed.  In a place that can make it hard to know where to even start. 

Just so you know, you are not alone in these feelings…I hear about how other parents in the same situation are having those exact same feelings too.  ALL….THE….TIME… yet, when we are going through them ourselves it can feel like a lonely place.

To be perfectly honest, I still have these feelings at times and my son is 12 years old.  Those feelings of being overwhelmed were by far the most when he was younger, but I find that I still have them even now.…I definitely know that IEP meetings are a big trigger for me. 

It’s during these meetings that I seem to sit in all of the emotions of if I am doing enough to help him and all of his difficulties are all placed in front of me at the same time.  At least this was true until the last year or so…now I recognize those thoughts that led to the emotions that weren’t really serving me and am learning how to encourage myself and focus on the important things. 

When I say I am learning, I truly mean that…it really is a journey.

So this leads us to what I wanted to focus on today….we are in one of the two situations that I talked about initially, we are having 1 or more emotions that I mentioned above, and we just need some direction about where to go and what to do.

I have some great news for you though!

The good news is that there are steps that you can take that will make a huge difference in you life and your child’s life.  But don’t forget that your situation is unique to you and your child, no one will have the exact same journey as you will. 

I don’t want you to think of this idea like you are along on this journey, because that simply is not true.  I do want you to realize that you will have to problem solve and adjust as you are on your journey.  I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to be on a search for a manual for your child in the piles and piles of resources that are out there. 

I don’t want you to have shiny object syndrome, by just running after every possible intervention and trying to do it all.

But, I’m not just going to tell you what not to do.  I am going to tell you what to do instead.  For simplicity, I grouped these ideas into 3 steps.

3 Steps When Your Child Has Autism

1. Sit with your thoughts.  

I think too often we just want all of our hard emotions to just not be there anymore….We all have our different fixes.  Sometimes its eating chocolate (I should raise my hand to this one for sure), sometimes its shopping, sometimes it’s spending too much time on social media….the list could go on and on. 

We don’t usually have a difficult time trying to avoid those hard emotions.  But I cannot stress enough how important it is try to understand what feelings you really are experiencing and trying to understand them.  Like I have already previously stated, this is going to be ongoing, but it really will make a world of difference in how you parent your child and how you manage stressors in general. 

With this said, ongoing self care is ABSOLUTELY necessary.  I really cannot stress this enough!  Please check out other episodes about managing stress with this podcast and there will be more coming in later episodes about this because it is such a huge thing…and why it has to be a first step.

2. Be intentional. 

Figure out what the resources are in your area AND have an honest look at your weekly schedule.  Don’t forget that it is a marathon, not a sprint.  You will need to prioritize.

3. Educate yourself! 

Observe your child and see things through their eyes.  Learn from any of the professionals that you are bringing your child to.  Ask questions.  Ask for resources.  Pay attention to what they do and why.  If you aren’t quite sure why they are doing something, ask!  Start reading and taking classes.  My favorite books are: Autism Breakthrough by Raun Kaufman, Uniquely Human by Barry Prizzant, and The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz. The very best thing that you can do for yourself and your child is to empower yourself.

Make sure to grab my free audio training by clicking HERE to give you an idea of how to build some developmental activities into your day when you are ready.

To really sum up everything in terms of my thoughts about where to start…it would really be to start with showing love to yourself by making sure that inner coach in your head is cheering for you and letting you know that you totally got this (because you do) and to embrace the amazing child that you have. 

All of their characteristics are what make them a special, unique and amazing individual.  Welcome to an amazing journey of parenthood that will push you outside of your comfort box and grow you in ways that you never could have imagined!

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which is Autistic. Learn more about her here.

The Importance of Outdoor Play with Angela Hanscom

The Importance of Outdoor Play with Angela Hanscom

You guys are in for a treat today!  I seriously can’t tell you enough about how excited I am for this interview that you are about to hear.  The importance of outdoor play is so so very important!  Listen in to hear all of the benefits of outdoor play. 

The truth is, our kids are not getting outside nearly enough and it is affecting them more than many of us recognize.  When it comes to our children with Autism and sensory difficulties, I honestly think that getting them outside is even more important! 

This is a must listen and the best part is that getting our kids outside more is totally doable.  Thinking of how our kids can play and spend more time outside is the perfect sensory diet. 

I love this quote by Alfred Wainwright, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”.  When I heard this quote, it really made me realize that outdoor play could be a year-round thing.  That no matter what part of the country you live in or what season it is, getting outside could be a real possibility. That we didn’t just have to wait for the weather to be perfect. 

Long story short, now is the perfect time to understand all of the benefits of getting outdoors and to start making it happen.

#outdoorplay, #childdevelopment, #autismchilddevelopment, #parentingautisticchild, #autisticparenting, #autistmmomma, #autismlife, #spd, #parentingspd, #autismpodcast, #sensorypodcast, #stressreduction, #selfcare, #autismmomsrock, #autisticparenting, #autismlife, #autismfamily, #autismfamilylife, #differentnotless

Meet Angela

Angela J. Hanscom is a pediatric occupational therapist and founder of TimberNook—an award-winning developmental and nature-based program that has gained international popularity. She is also the author of Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children. Hanscom has also been a frequent contributor to The Washington Post and was the recent recipient of the SBA Small Business of the Year award in 2019.

Make Sure to get her Book About Outdoor Play:

Balanced and Barefoot by Angela Hanscom

Recommended books:

Free to Learn by Peter Gray

You can find Angela at:

www.timbernook.com
https://www.facebook.com/TimberNook.Camps

Also check out her Ted talk at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXLaoDucF0k

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which is Autistic. Learn more about her here.

Interoception: Is This the Missing Link to Understanding Your Child?

Interoception: Is This the Missing Link to Understanding Your Child?

Ever wonder what feeling hungry and being rigid and inflexible have in common?  How about meltdowns and having empathy for other people?  Well, today we are going to talk about connections.

So, last week we talked about sensory diets, why I don’t use them, and what I do instead.  Check out that episode if you haven’t had a chance to listen to that, because when I was finishing up that episode, I briefly talked about this idea of interoception.  So today, I wanted to dig into this idea of interoception a little bit more.  Specifically, what it is, how it can affect our children, and what we can do to help build their interoception.

The Autism & Sensory Parenting Podcast, #interoception, #sensoryprocessing, #spd, #autisticchild, #autism, #autismtreatment, #autismresources, #autismmomma, #autismmom, #autismeducation, #sensorykid, #sensorychallenges, #notjustautism, #autisminfo, #sensoryregulation, #sensorymeltdowns, #autismanxiety

What is interoception?

So, let’s start at the beginning.  A book that I really love about his topic is called Interoception, The Eighth Sensory System by Kelly Mahler, MS, OTR/L. So let’s review all eight sensory systems, real quick, shall we:

  1. Tactile system (touch)
  2. Auditory system (hearing)
  3. Visual system (sight)
  4. Gustatory System (taste)
  5. Olfactory System (smell)
  6. Proprioceptive System (body awareness)
  7. Vestibular System (balance & movement awareness)
  8. Interoceptive System (internal awareness)

In Kelly Mahler’s book, she states “interoception allows us to “feel” our internal organs and skin and gives information regarding the internal state or condition of our body.  For example, the interoceptive system helps us feel many important sensations, such as pain, body temperature, itch, sexual arousal, hunger, thirst, heart rate, breathing rates, muscle tension, pleasant touch, sleepiness, and when we need to use the bathroom.”

Interoception, The Eighth Sensory System by Kelly Mahler, MS, OTR/L

Many of you might already be thinking of things that your child has a hard time with.  For example, maybe they don’t seem to be able to tell when they are thirsty or it has taken them longer to be potty trained.  Maybe they don’t seem to be able to know when they are tired or when you think something should have hurt, they don’t even seem to notice.

Whatever might be the case for your child, having a better understanding what it might feel like to be them and knowing what you can do to improve this system can be very helpful.

What if my child does not have good interoception?

The part of the brain that receives all of this information from our “insides”, so to speak, allows us to answer the question what is going on with my body.  Understanding what is going on with our “internal world” helps us to know our emotions and how we are feeling.

Let me explain this concept a little more.  Think about how you know how you are feeling.  For example, when I’m anxious, I know because I can feel my heart start to race and my breathing will be shallow.  My muscles, especially my upper shoulders, will feel very tight.  My mind will have racing thoughts.

If I had a hard time feeling those things, how would I know if I was anxious?  How would I know what to do to calm myself down?  When would I know that I needed a break or should ask for help?  The answer is I wouldn’t, so then it is really no surprise when our children go from what seems like 0 to 100 at a flip of a switch.  When in reality, they were having a difficult time managing the situation for a while but most likely couldn’t even tell until they were in a meltdown. 

meltdowns, autism, sensory processing, interoception

What does this feel like for us?  Frustrating!  Why doesn’t our child just ask for help?  Why can’t they tell me when they are hungry?  Also, why do they not seem to have an activity level that seems to match that of the situation.

When it comes right down to it, our interoception plays a huge role in how we self-regulate. 

Or rather how we keep an internal balance or even keel.  It’s when we get clear signals and understand the signals from our body that we know how to act.  Without this ability, we would have a hard time knowing when to stop or start an activity that would make us feel better or what action to take.  Either that or our child might develop very maladaptive behaviors like hitting or head banging attempting to get their body to feel better.

In the book Interoception, the Eight Sensory Sensory, Mahler also explains that if you have poor interoception you will have a hard time being able to follow your intuition.  So if your child tends to be very logical in their thinking you may be starting to understand why.  But, being so logical about everything takes a ton of energy so what do so many of our kids do to deal with such a zap of energy?  They prefer sameness and have a hard time keeping up with a super-fast conversation that others might be having.

Now let’s think about how having decreased awareness of what are body is feeling leads to having decreased ability to keep an even keel which leads to not being able to feel our emotions which leads to having to be logical about everything which would then lead to not understanding other people’s emotions.

We feel empathy for other people, because we know how if feels for us to feel the same way.  If we don’t know how they feel we have a very difficult time understanding what they are dealing with. 

Now let’s go a step further and talk about how important it is for us to understand the different between harmful touch and a social touch.  There is more than one system involved here, but the interoceptive system plays a huge role in this.  Understanding social touch helps us to bond with others and to from relationships.  It helps us to enjoy those relationships. 

How can I improve my child’s interoception?

So, I think that it is about time that we talk about what we can do to help our children improve their interoceptive system if a lot of this is ringing true for your child.

I am going to share basically two different approaches that you can use here.  One is more for immediate use and the other is an approach to improve the systems function.  Also, I am talking about these with the assumption that doctors have already ruled out any medical concerns.

  1.  Use strategies to help them with specific goals that you might have for them. 
    • Schedules: Let’s look at the example trying to help your child with potty training.  You might observe when they seem to have accidents to figure out a pattern and then just have them go to the bathroom based on those intervals. 
    • Build-in regular breaks: Maybe you observe that they usually have meltdowns after doing a difficult task after 10 minutes.  You might decide that it would be better to take a break after 7 minutes, for example, and do things that are very calming.  Then after they have had enough time to relax their bodies you would return to the activity.

There are a lot of examples for this area, but essentially, I want you to think about one goal that you have for your child.  Then start thinking about what might make it easier or simpler for your child.  Ultimately, you want your child to be successful.  Once they experience success, then you can think of what your next baby step might be. 

Now let’s start talking about how we can improve the information that our body receives that this system.

  1. Do mindfulness activities if you can.  I love Sitting Like a Frog or mediations apps that kids can listen to.  Also, gonoodle.com has some great relaxation activities as well.  My son has always loved the one where he gets to pretend that he is melting.
  2. Start naming what you notice about your child.  For example, you might say, “your shoulders seem really tense” and/or “your heart feels like it is beating really fast.  Then you might say, “when my body feels like that sometimes I feel angry”.   
  3. Use an oximeter or something that can measure heart rate (go low tech if you have to and just feel your heart).  Have fun experimenting with what makes their heart rate go faster and what makes it slow down.  Have them guess what might change their heart rate if they can.  It might surprise you with what they think.  I love pointing out that they can do things that help control how their body feels too.  You could use his same concept with their breathing.
  4. Squeeze and relax.  Have them squeeze their muscles really tight and then relax.  Have them do this several times. 
  5. Go through different parts of their bodies and work on identifying what is going on in each body part.  For example, pay attention to their lungs, heart, brain, muscles, and stomach.

These are just a few ideas, but if this is something that you really want to delve into even more I definitely recommend you getting Kelly Mahler’s book.  The other thing I really want to mention here is that it is completely possible to improve your child’s interoceptive system.  Our brains are amazing and changes can and do happen!  But keep in mind that these changes do not happen overnight.  Think baby steps and that understanding what is feels like for your child is key. 

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which is Autistic. Learn more about her here.

Sensory Diets: Why I Don’t Use One & What I Do Instead

Sensory Diets: Why I Don’t Use One & What I Do Instead

What is a Sensory Diet?

Stating I don’t use sensory diets is obviously a controversial topic. But is something that I think parents need to hear and to think about.

Sensory diets are a term that has started to get used a lot with kids that have sensory processing difficulties. This includes those with Autism.  Contrary to how the name “sensory diet” sounds like, it has nothing to do food.  But it has everything to do with giving your body or your child’s body sensory activities throughout the day. 

Essentially, sensations or information that our body receives from our senses is the “food” for our body’s nervous systems.  Sensations or sensory information is what our brain and nervous system needs to develop.  The better our brains and nervous system can process and organize the information; the easier development can take place.

Sensory diets is a series of activities that you can do at home.  Essentially, it is a routine of activities. Occupational Therapists will often assist with developing based on the needs of your child.  A sensory diet is a proactive approach to help your child feel more relaxed. It also helps them meet the demands of the day with greater ease.

An Example of Sensory Diets

#sensorydiets, #sensorydiet, #autismintervention, #autismpodcast, #autismsupport, #autismresources, #autisticchild, #spd, #sensoryprocessingdisorder, #occupationaltherapytips, #spdparent, #autismmomsrock, #autismlife, #differentnotless, #autismfamily, #autisticlife, #parentingautisticchild, #parentingautism, #sensory, #sensoryneeds, #regulation, #calmingstrategies, #autismcalmingstrategies

Let me give you an example of what sensory diets might look like for a child.  Perhaps this specific child has a vestibular system. Meaning that child is not processing movement and position in space very well. This might cause them to have a hard time waking up in the morning and calming down before bed. 

Also, maybe they are a very picky eater so mealtimes are often very stressful.  Using the information that would be gathered during an Occupational Therapy evaluation to better understand the child’s neurological system.

The Occupational Therapist might recommend the child bounce on a therapy ball first thing in the morning to wake up. Maybe do animal walks to the table before meals and jump on a trampoline in the afternoon. Then take a relaxing bath with calming music. After bath, when drying them off, maybe they would recommend deep squeezes by using the towel.

Making sure that your child gets “food” for their individual nervous system is a great way to be proactive and to help your child.  So then, why do I say that I don’t use sensory diets?

 Why I Don’t Use Sensory Diets

Let me start off by saying that I think the idea of using a sensory diet can be super useful! If you are using a sensory diet for your child, I am not saying that you shouldn’t be.  If something is working, please, by all means, keep doing it!

I just simply have realized from my experience, that I had to find something more doable for me. Being an Occupational Therapist that works with kids and being a mom of an Autistic child gave me this insight.  It’s sort of like translating something from theory to actual use. 

Realizing that the idea seems great on paper and incorporates sound evidenced-based information about how our neurological systems work and how to use sensations to affect how we feel.  So, then you get all set to do it and as a parent, you struggle because life is still happening and you have lots of things that you are also trying to do. 

Then when it dawns on you that you aren’t following the diet, then you beat yourself up.  It’s basically the exact same thing that many of us do when we are trying to do a food diet.  We think it sounds great because it does, but then we try to follow the plan for more than a day or two and we have a really hard time when we are in a hurry or tired or whatever else gets in our way. 

Add in having a child or multiple children that have more needs than other kids and I think that too many parents just give it up altogether and/or beat themselves up when they feel like they fail.

The other reason that I don’t use a “sensory diets” is because our days and our lives change constantly.  Some days are more stressful than other days, so my child might need to do more activities or more quiet time some days and not many other days. 

Also, the amount of sleep that my child gets each night varies a lot too.  This can make a huge difference in how he handles his day, even if it does seem like a less stressful day.  Having a set routine doesn’t seem to accommodate these changes and day to day fluctuations in the real world.  At least, from my experience.

So, to summarize these are the reasons I don’t do a “sensory diet” with my child and I don’t set up “sensory diets” for the families that I work with.

  1. Trying to follow through on a plan in the midst of everyday life is really hard because every day is different and there are tons of things that can happen to throw off routines.
  2. I don’t want to set up myself or the families are work with to feel like a failure if they can’t keep up the perfect sensory diet for their child consistently
  3. I recognize that not every day is the same for our children.  In fact, it’s not even close to the same.  What they need on certain days and at certain times is going to fluctuate.  I don’t think that we should feel like we have to force our child to jump on a trampoline at 3 pm if at that moment they just want to snuggle or they are still trying to recover from a meltdown from a long day at school.
  4. Just like with any food diet, too much of even a good thing can cause problems.  We have to understand our child and how their nervous system works so we can know how to respond and support our child.  Our kids can be very surprisingly sensitive to sensations that we really take for granted.  So, maybe 10 minutes on a swing is just right, but 15 minutes on a swing our child is all out of sorts for the rest of the day.

What I Do Instead of Sensory Diets

As I thought about the answer to this question, I realized it actually is a hard question to answer.  I started to realize that the changes that we have made to support my son are such an integrated part of our lives and days that very well might even not realize it anymore. 

Like I had said previously, I love the idea of a “sensory diet”, because of the focus on giving our nervous systems (or our child’s nervous system in this case) food to help it develop. 

So, I had to think how I could help my child get the information that he needed without setting myself up for failure and making sure that I was able to get the things that I needed to get done in my day done.  All while making sure I was taking into account my child’s nervous system and changes that happen within a day, week, and month.

Figuring out what this could really look like for my son and for our family really has been a journey and something that I am constantly tweaking. 

With that said, I realized that we needed to treat adding the extra sensory activities into his day and our day had to be a lifestyle change.  Not something that we added to our plate, but instead just a different kind of plate.  I had to make what we did feel natural.

Here’s How I Got Started

  1. To be honest, the very first thing that I had to do was to start by simplifying my schedule.  I realized I had added way too much on my plate.  If I am overwhelmed, I am not even able to pay attention to what my son needs, much less have the time to do anything about it.  If you need some more ideas or thoughts on how to do this you might want to check out episodes 3 and 24.
  2. Then, I just started to make it a non-negotiable to get outside every day whenever possible as much as possible.  Getting my kids outdoors meant working on their balance. Maybe, we walked across rocks or on the edges of the curb.  It encouraged us to practice using a scooter, throwing a ball for our dog, or climbing a rock wall at the park.  Hiking and swimming are great ways to help their bodies get stronger. Those activities also give information that is very organizing to their nervous system.  The fresh air and sunshine just puts us all in a better mood and gave us the ability to run and laugh together.  Even if it’s only for 10 minutes in light rain.  Quite frankly, I already had enough decisions to make and needed to limit my decision fatigue.
  3. I started to make sure that I was aware of how my son was doing throughout the day.  I didn’t just wait for a meltdown or for him to be struggling.  Being proactive is always way easier than trying to deal with the reaction.  I thought about what his tells were.  For example, for my son, when he starts to lose focus, I know that we need to do something to help his body feel better.  Trust your parenting instinct on this one!   Essentially, it ALWAYS goes back to understanding your child, not just trying to look for and find the perfect formula.  It turns out all of our nervous systems are different and so doing what worked for someone else, most likely will not work the same way for you.  If you want some ideas on how to observe and understand your child better, definitely check out episode 13 and 15. 
  4. If I started to see a pattern, then I started to think how we could change how we did things we were already doing.  For example, I started to add in a lot more cold smoothies through straws (check out sensory processing episode 8) as part of our mornings.  We read books at night laying on our stomachs or rocking in a rocking chair.  He takes hot baths with Epson salts and uses a weighted blanket.  Things that I know my child really enjoyed helped relieve stress for him, and ultimately gave him what his brain needed to be more organized and better able to participate in activities. 

Time To Be Real…

Honestly, my son still has days that he struggles with handling his stress levels and feeling grounded.  I am not always in a space to be paying attention. Sometimes his behavior is telling me he needs something. But, I miss it.  Life gets crazy sometimes, often more times than not!  I think I have just finally gotten to a place where I am able to give myself grace.  Or at least that I am recognizing the importance of handling my own stress. So, now, I can help him learn how to understand his own body and its needs better.

For the purpose of this episode, just start to think of how you can help your child get the sensory information that they need to engage in activities the best that they can.

But, ultimately, my goal has been to help him understanding his own body better.  I want him to understand how he can pay attention and understand his own body.  Understanding what is going on inside of our own bodies is really a whole other area of development and a system we call the interoception system. 

Really understanding what interoception is and how to help our children have better awareness of their own bodies is really a different topic and information.  Almost always, our Autistic children and sensory kiddos have a hard time with this. And why we do have to think about how we can help them manage the things they encounter in their day that are stressful for them…….

But, if you want to learn more about this definitely do a search on interoception. I loved this book.

I will end this episode with these thoughts…

Think about what your life is like. How you can start adding in some more outdoor play for your child.  Don’t forget to think outside of the box here. 

Think about what is relaxing for your child. How you can build that into activities that you are already doing.

Take care of yourself so you have the ability to be proactive. And to notice when your child has had too much of an activity or might need more activity.

Just remember, you totally got this!  You know your child better than anyone else. Trust that gut of yours and think about what is actually doable for your family.  Not just what is working for someone else or what you are being told that you need to do.  There is no magic formula or system, so you do you.

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which is Autistic. Learn more about her here.

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