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Posts Tagged ‘sensory child’


Meet Luke. You’ll be glad you did.

Posted in Bits and Pieces, Music and the brain

This arrived in my inbox the other day from one of our Kindermusik moms, Melissa. I read it, and by the middle of the email, I had tears streaming down my face. I have never had a story about one of our Kindermusik children touch me quite as much as Luke’s. Enjoy!

My child is special.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking, ‘your child is special too’, but my child is REALLY special.  Luke is a special needs child.  In short, he was born with brain damage.  He has developmental, fine and gross motor, and significant speech delays.  One thing that Luke is not delayed in is his love for music!

We started Kindermusik with Luke when he was 2.  As we sang during Luke’s first class his teacher, Beth, explained how holding the different sized egg shakers encouraged different motor skills.  I felt a pang of emotion shoot like lightening through me.  “This is perfect for Luke”. 

We played with items with different textures, something Luke’s physical therapist had suggested just weeks earlier.  We drove cars on different body parts, played games, and of course sang and danced!  I knew right away that Kindermusik going to be great for Luke. 

After that first class I buckled Luke in his car seat, drove about a quarter of a mile down the road and began to sob.  I was (and am) SO thankful that Luke has this opportunity to nourish and support him in such a fun way.  I immediately turned my car around and went back to the Kindermusik class. 

Miss Beth saw my tear stained eyes and gave me a big hug before I could even share anything with her.  Once I found some composure I briefly shared Luke’s condition with Beth and told her what her class means to us.  Here she is, just doing her job, like so many other Kindermusik teachers but she is actually helping to HEAL my child…and expand yours!

For most of Luke’s first round of Kindermusik he was typically just along for the ride.  He didn’t have the fine motor skills to play many of the instruments, his sensory issues made it difficult for him to transition from playing to being held quietly during cuddle time, he doesn’t have the ability to talk so singing along was out, he didn’t make any sounds at all for that matter, also, he couldn’t sit still for story or rolling a ball back and forth, and he didn’t mimic so he wasn’t quite developing thru watching either.  I pretty much held his hands, literally, throughout every exercise and activity, manually supporting his hands and fingers in participation. 

Despite all this, Luke LOVED Kindermusik.  He began to get excited when we’d pull into the parking lot for Kindermusik, squealing, smiling, and kicking his legs in excitement!  Then one day, as we left class I put Luke in his car seat.  I sat my keys in his lap while I buckled him in and he took my keys, put them between his legs, and put his arms up and out to his sides.  Luke was mimicking!  Luke was trying to play!  Luke was thinking in his sweet little brain:

Jingle, jingle, jingle, go the car keys.
 Jingle, jingle, jingle, go the keys. 
Lost them, lost them, where are the car keys?” 

I couldn’t wait to tell Miss Beth…and everyone else for that matter!

Luke is now three and in his second week of his second round of Kindermusik.  Now Luke zips around the room yipping and squealing.  He had class this morning and did 6, count them 6, new things in those precious 45 minutes. 

First, Luke attempted hammering his rhythm sticks!  He switched his grip around until he was able to hit the top of one stick with the other like he was hammering in a nail.  No hand-over-hand, he just did it!  He knew he did it too!  He made sure I saw him and I could see the pride in his smile.  I felt that lightening bolt of emotion shoot through me again. 

Next, he noticed that I had put the top of the tone bar back on upside down.  Noticing this is huge. Next, he tried to problem solve by turning the bar over.  Of course his logic was flawed, but for a little boy without a frontal lobe, attempting to problem solve is huge! 

NEXT, Luke allowed me to hold, embrace, and rock him during the cuddle part of class!  I think he even enjoyed it!  After this we played with balls.  Luke still couldn’t sit still or roll the ball but he did something unexpected, he caught the ball, a few times!!!  I’ve never seen him do this before and, since he has an older brother, balls are big things in our house! 

Also during ball time, he saw a classmate sitting on her ball and bouncing on it…what did Luke do?  He mimicked!  He put that ball under his little tush and tried to sit on it!  He couldn’t balance well enough to do it but he tried…I almost cried! 

Lastly, when class was over, Luke “eagerly awaited” his hand stamp.  His version of eager waiting is standing up an inch from where I’m sitting and pointing with a limp wrist at Miss Beth stamping the other kids.  I escorted him up front and he got his stamp.  That’s not new, what is new is what happened next:  he pulled up his shirt up, along with the sensory leotard top he wears, stuck out his belly, and gently patted his stomach.  HE wanted to have his tummy stamped like some of the other kids and, in his own way, he TOLD me this!  Talk about leaps and bounds!

Another thing we’ve noticed since starting Kindermusik is that if Luke is “playing” a musical instrument with his hands he may, on rare occasion, vocalize.  In a sweet, soft, broken, purposeful whisper we’ve heard him sing:  “ahhhhhhh”,  “oooooooooh”, and “ooouuuuuuu”.  He is always the first to notice that music is playing: in the car, at the mall, on a commercial, anywhere.  He is drawn to it. 

If Kindermusik can have such an impact on my special needs child, just imagine what it is doing for your child!

If you ever get the chance to meet Luke you will know immediately that he’s special.  You may not even notice that he is handicapped because you’ll be so mesmerized by his hugely gregarious smile and his eyes shooting darts of love at you more accurately than one of Cupid’s arrow. 

-posted by Melissa, Momma to Luke, who says that there is indeed something special about Luke, and her family is SO thankful that he has the musical therapy of Kindermusik harmonizing with them to help heal him.


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Things We Love: Soft – Dress up without the drama.

Posted in Bits and Pieces, parenting, Things We Love

A friend and fellow Kindermusik Educator in Canada (the one our beloved Miss Katie is teaching for while her husband is in grad school), recently sent me this great link to an online clothing store called Soft – clothing for all children.

Here’s a bit more about the company:

Soft was founded in February 2007.  We began a two year market research process and one year sample development and testing phase, and finally launched our first collection in Winter 2009/10! We are a research driven company, therefore we continue to test samples on children with a variety of sensory needs and a range of tactile sensitivity–to ensure that the clothing we manufacture will eliminate the most common complaints we hear from parents and children. No more morning meltdowns, no more spending hundreds on clothes your children refuse to wear.

Many children are extra-sensitive to the texture and feel of clothing. Soft® is the first line of inclusive clothing designed with the needs of all children in mind, including those with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, and tactile defensiveness/sensitivity. We use flat seaming and seamless construction for extra comfort, 100% of the softest combed cotton and our specially developed Soft Sensory Blends , wide collars, encased elastic waistbands, printed labels (tagless), custom fits, and much more.

Created by a Mom and Special Education teacher, our goal is to design clothing that can enhance social skills, sensory organization, concentration, by addressing unique sensory needs, but without sacrificing personal style and self expression.

What is so different about Soft?
More than 1 in 150 children have sensory needs that are largely unmet by the children’s apparel market today. Soft is about to revolutionize children’s apparel. We are the first inclusive and universally designed line of clothing geared toward children with sensory or tactile sensitivity, a common symptom of Autism, Aspergers, and Sensory Processing Disorder. Soft is designed and constructed considering the needs of all children, particularly, sensory sensitive dressers.

Soft provides comfort and style for all children. After conducting over two years of in-depth market research, we learned a lot about what parents want and what children like. We have incorporated that feedback to create stylish and comfortable clothes for the people who need it most. We use:

  • Flat seaming totally seamless construction throuought (for extra comfort)
  • Soft high quality cotton (combed, bio-washed and pre-washed for extra soft and smoothness)
  • Wide collars (for a roomy fit)
  • Encased elastic (waistbands that don’t pinch)
  • Printed labels throughout — printed with water based ink (for a smooth non-plasticy feel that won’t itch)
  • Vegetable dyes, natural enzyme washes, and water based digital prints (to protect against allergies)

-posted by Miss Analiisa, who likes their simple and easy refer-a-friend-offer, and can only imagine the relief that Soft Clothing will bring to frustrated parents and children everywhere.

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Rob’s Disorganized Brain

Posted in Child Development

A couple of days ago I blogged about how we taught Rob to put together simple sentences by lots of repetition and modeling. I promised to tell you why that worked. So, here we go.

How the brain processes information
Anything that we hear, see, feel, touch, or taste in our environment is called a sensation. Sensations are picked up by receptors (located in our eyes, ears, skin, muscles, etc.) and are changed into electrical impulses that travel through the nerve fibers to the brain.

Electrical impulses travel from one neuron to the next via “bridges” called synapses. An infant is born with most of the neurons he or she will ever have. (About 12 billion of them!) However, at birth, there are very few synapses between the neurons.

Every time a child has a “sensory experience” (is exposed to things like light, touch, sound, movement) new synapses are created. The more of these neural connections a person has, the more capable of learning he is.

Once inside the brain, the electrical impulses are sorted, organized, combined with other pieces of sensory input and then put to use. Over 80% of the nervous system is involved in processing or organizing sensory input. It’s a very complicated process.

Behavior and learning are the visible expression of the invisible activity going on inside the brain. When the visible expression does not produce the outcome we expect, (in Rob’s case, he couldn’t answer “My name is Rob”, even though we knew he knew the answer) we know that the neural messages are not crossing the synapse “bridges” they should, but are getting lost somewhere.

Forming strong synapses
As the neural messages are forming new pathways across the synapses, it takes about 75 millivolts of electricity to get the brain’s neurons to fire. In order to form strong neural pathways, an activity must be done repeatedly. (Which is why children naturally like to read the same book, sing the same nursery rhyme, or play with the same toy ad nauseum. They are creating well-formed synapses.) Eventually, the energy required to fire a brain’s neurons is significantly less.

Additionally, the brain likes and looks for patterns – it doesn’t have to work as hard when it recognizes a pattern. Patterns are also one of the brain’s primary ways to process new information – it looks for information it already knows to “make new information fit.”

A disorganized brain
During the first 7 years of life, a brain’s primary job is to process and organize sensory information. When sensations are not being well-organized, it’s like a traffic jam inside the brain. Language is one of the more complicated functions of the brain, and so more neurons are required to transmit the messages.

It is very common for children with sensory integration disorders to have language development problems. Remember, behavior and learning are the visible expression of the invisible activity going on inside the brain.

Pam (Rob’s Speech Therapist) thought that Rob had some sort of auditory processing disorder – which in its simplest definition means that his ears and brain didn’t coordinate.  He couldn’t be tested until he was school-aged, so we didn’t know for sure.

However, Pam did know that if we could model the language patterns (over and over and over again), he could learn them. I know now we were somehow helping the synapses to form – we were helping his brain to become organized. And it worked.

Are we done yet?
I was hoping that speech therapy would fix whatever was wrong. I was pregnant with my third child by this point. I was homeschooling my oldest, going to speech therapy twice a week, running a new business (Studio3Music), and throwing up multiple times every day. (For 9 long months.) I didn’t have time for all of this!

But there was still something not quite right. I was horrified when one day Pam suggested that maybe Rob would do well in a “special-needs” school. Her gut instincts told her we were missing a piece to the puzzle, but she didn’t know what it was. She then suggested that we have Rob evaluated by an OT. (Occupational Therapist), as he seemed a little “floppy”.

Now seriously, I thought OT’s were for people who had had strokes or bad car accidents. So I turned to a trusted friend – the one person other than my husband who knew Rob almost as well as I did – Miss Allison, Rob’s Kindermusik teacher. At this point, Allison didn’t know much about sensory integration (she sure does now!), but she knew a lot about kids.

Rob was doing a 5 day Kindermusik camp that summer, and was just moving up to the next level – where  attended most of class without me. He was having a very had time with this transition, but we were working through it. I’d hand him over to Allison with a kiss and a hug, and then listened to him howl from out in the hall. (But this is a very important part of the development process, so we worked through it. By the end of the week, he was transitioning just fine, and loving being with a peer learning group.)

Allison said that when I handed Rob into her arms, she expected that he would go stiff and fight her, as a child his age would normally do. But instead, he would go floppy. Based on that little piece of information that matched what Pam said, we made an appointment with an OT. We had no idea what to expect.

­-posted by Miss Analiisa, who will introduce you to the wonderous Miss Vicki next time.

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Two word sentences – at last.

Posted in Bits and Pieces, Child Development

I’m going to dedicate some time over the next couple weeks of blogs to the continuing story of Rob, my sensory child. If you’ve missed the first two, click on the “sensory child” tag at the bottom of this blog and you’ll find them. I’ve gotten many emails from parents who’ve sent the first two along to friends who are struggling with your sensory children. I’ve spent countless hours on the phone with Kindermusik moms who are walking along the same journey. Know that you are not alone. I hope these blogs give you hope, encouragement, and even some helpful information.

I told you in the last post that deep down inside my momma heart, I knew something wasn’t quite right with Rob. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was obvious that his speech wasn’t where it should be. I asked around and by divine appointment (because I literally don’t know else how to describe the series of events that enabled us to find and get an appointment with her), we landed in the office of Pam Marshalla.

Rob at just over 3 years (and big brother Nathan) around the time he started speech therapy."Get off me!" would have been a good first 3-word sentence.

Pam has been an SLP for over 30 years. She is also an author and well-known international speaker and teacher. We walked into her office, which was full of toys and other wondrous things. What she didn’t do was any formal testing; what she did do was just get down on the floor and begin playing with Rob, conversing with him all the while.

Later I asked why she didn’t do any testing. She said that she’d been an SLP so long that she could pretty much figure out what was going on by being with the children and relying on her intuition. She was right.

Now this was a child (as you remember from before), that strung syllables together in really long sentences that we mostly didn’t understand, or only the first or last words were intelligible. But they were obviously sentences; they had words and inflection. We just didn’t know what they meant. The words were somehow jumbled up or squished together in the middle.

Pam knew that if she could just get two word sentences out of Rob it would be a start. And wonder of wonders, she did! “Plane flies.” “Truck broken.” “Stop, car.” We were unbelievably thrilled. And the next week more two word sentences came out. In fact, she told us she wished she had videotaped Rob. Never in her 30 years had a child improved so quickly!

We thought we found the solution to Rob’s “issue”. (Whatever that was.) As time went on, Pam told us she thought Rob had some sort of Auditory Processing Disorder, but he had to be 7 before they could test him.

Rob knew the answers to the typical questions one might ask a 3 year old. “How old are you?” I am three. “What is your name?” My name is Rob. But somehow, he couldn’t take the words what is your name apart in his brain, and re-arrange them into the spoken words “My name is Rob”.

I spent weeks modeling these sentences to Rob. “What is my name?” My name is Mommy. “What is your name?” “Now, Rob says”:  My name is Rob. Slowly, it began to work. Next time, I’ll tell you why.

­-posted by Miss Analiisa, who can look back now over the four intense, very expensive years of therapy and see that it was so worth it.

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Is there something wrong with my child, or is this normal?

Posted in Child Development, parenting

As promised, here’s the start of our story of our sensory-child, Rob. But we have to begin with my oldest, Nathan.  Nathan was just-turned-three when Rob was born. Nathan was a high-needs baby (though I didn’t realize it until years later), who wanted to be carried all the time, napped for only 20 minutes at a time until he was 9 months old, and never got the hang of independent play.

Nathan didn’t really talk until he was 26 months old. Then he began to speak in paragraphs. I’m not kidding. At 2 ½ he was discussing the purpose of umbilical cords with full medical terminology with my OB. Seriously. By the time he was three we were told he had a 10,000 word vocabulary. A typical 3 year old has 200 to 300 words.

There were days (many of them!) where being Nathan’s mommy left me totally exhausted. Lawrence Kutner, a well-known child psychologist said, “The fundamental job of a toddler is to rule the universe.” I swear that if we had let Nathan onto the internet, he would have located at least a small country to run.

Rob at just turned three.

Everything was different about Rob. It was a relatively easy, 5 hour delivery (no drugs!), his Apgar scores were 9 and 10, he was absolutely gorgeous, he slept well, ate well (though he did have a clear preference for all foods crunchy – though more about that later), and was so content and easy-going.

He said his first words, “Jack cat”, at 9 months, exactly as Nathan did. His first sentence at 11 months was “I love you”. To the cat. Exactly as Nathan did. And then we had some more words, but that was about it.

Rob was my happy go-lucky little boy who played well on his own, didn’t fuss a lot, and was pleasantly quiet to drive with in the car. He charmed and flirted his way into many people’s hearts. But by the time he was 2 ½, I realized that although I could understand him, other people couldn’t. But I figured that was “normal” 2 ½, not “Nathan-normal” 2 ½. Rob and Nathan were already like oil and water (they still are!), so I thought that maybe Nathan was just an “advanced” orator, and Rob was simply a typical child.

You know how when you are at the grocery store or bookstore, people start asking your young children questions like, “What is your name?” “How old are you?” Well, by the time he was three, people were asking Rob those questions. And although I knew he knew the answers, he couldn’t tell them. Rob NEVER liked to perform on cue. So was this just “normal Rob”?

There were times when he spoke long complicated, entirely understandable sentences. And many other times we could just understand the first and last words. And other times he simply pointed to what he wanted.  I began to look around for a well-recommended speech and language pathologist to have him evaluated.

Shortly after that, I was confronted by several people who said that they were going to hold an “intervention”. Because Rob had “every sign of autism”. These were people who had not spent a lot of time with Rob. I was angry. I was furious. My heart was deeply hurt. How dare someone label my child? I knew they meant well, but I was still mad. And I just knew Rob wasn’t autistic. (And dragging up all those emotions 5 years later is really, really hard. Which is why I’ve been writing this post for the last week…)

But what was going on? Was there something really wrong? Deep down inside my Mommy heart, I knew the answer.

-posted by Miss Analiisa, who says that if you miss a blog installment of this story, she’s got them tagged as “sensory children”.

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