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A common challenge for many rigid, anxious, and distracted kids is the tendency to be All or Nothing thinkers. This can be experienced in many ways – with their emotions, social experiences, rules, and with tasks. When you constantly live in a place of All or Nothing and Right or Wrong – it can be easy to become hyper-focused on perfectionism and rigid expectations of external experiences become the norm.
The first step towards changing any behavior is becoming aware of current behavior and then examining what other responses exist outside of our usual response map. For our sensory kids, this means exploring the space between All and Nothing – the Middle Space.
THINKING IN THE MIDDLE SPACE
Here’s an example of a simple map to help visualize and work through the new THINKING IN THE MIDDLE SPACE options. Before a known All or Nothing experience, sit down and fill out the 3 different ways that the situation could be handled through the All Lens, the Nothing Lens, and most importantly the MIDDLE Lens. This Middle Space will often have several options to explore, options that might not naturally occur to our sensory kids. Once you explore a few of these All or Nothing experiences through the Middle Thinking lens, you can try to practice them in real life situations. This helps our sensory kids have a visual map of Middle Space responses and also give us parents a map to help guide our sensory kids through a situation with verbal prompts around these new Middle Space alternatives.
* Paper and markers or word processor.
* Pictures or images that represent All, Nothing, and Middle.
* Picture Images Options: Take your own pictures of your real life tasks, pictures from magazines, stock photos, or image software like Boardmaker – http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-software/ , Picture Exchange Communication System – http://www.pecsusa.com/ ,Do 2 Learn (can sign-up for an annual membership on Do 2 Learn!) – http://www.do2learn.com/ , or Smarty Symbols Image Club (monthly membership) – http://smartysymbols.com/
* Can laminate and use a dry-erase marker for easy re-use.
* Could also make a simple, on-the fly visual using a notepad.
By creating a simple visual to help sensory kids make space between the All and the Nothing, they can begin to experience Thinking in the Middle. By helping them observe current behaviors and identify new ways of moving through an experience, we are helping them building new response habits. This is Sensory Organizing and this is meeting our sensory kids whenre they are today. Simple changes for more peaceful and empowered days ~
Our MOST important job as the parents of sensory children is our job from the sidelines. We are the lead Cheerleaders for Team Nice and it’s a big role. Here are the Top 5 Team Nice Cheers:
* SHOWING UP IS A BIG WIN
We know the world is overwhelming to you. You often manage big feelings that don’t make sense and a body that doesn’t always do what you want it to do so when you show up each and everyday, that’s already a Big Win.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE EFFORT NOT THE OUTCOME
We know that simple things can often be harder for you. We witness how hard you work each and every day to show up and learn despite many external challenges. We are amazed by your effort.
* SMALL VICTORIES = BIG VICTORIES
We have come to learn how important small victories really are! A mastered task, an expression of a big feeling, taking a social risk, or a focused work session are big wins. You are amazing.
* YOUR WAY IS AS GOOD AS MY WAY
We have come to realize that we’re not all that different from you. We have a way of doing things that we think is valuable and important and so do you. We stand on the sidelines with verbal cues and visual guides to support your journey as needed. But our main job is to value your way as much as our own.
* YOU CAN DO IT
When we believe and say “You Can Do It”, it means today and everyday. We know that, just like everyone else, you are doing the best that you can everyday. And somedays it’s a much harder journey than others. We won’t give up – we know you can do it today and everyday.
We also know that we’ll have hard days too and we’re going to need to be our own cheerleaders and say the TEAM NICE Cheers to ourselves. But that just helps us understand that we’re all connected and all in this together. If we can learn these cheers for ourselves, we’ll be even better at cheering for you.
So let’s give three Cheers for TEAM NICE – here’s to Effort, Small Victories, and You ♥ ~
Mealtime can be a challenging time for many sensory kids. This can be due to attentional issues, fine motor challenges making utensils difficult, or Sensory Processing Disorder that brings challenges with the texture, smell, and taste of many foods. Melissa Desrochers, a mom and an owner of a day-care business, saw a need with her own picky eaters at home and through her profession. She also notices that these same picky-eaters loved eating off toothpicks and Pick-Ease was born!
Here’s why I think Pick-Ease are such a powerful mealtime tool:
The Power of Choice
Rigid, anxious, and distracted kids can have a tough time with transitions especially if it’s a transition to an undesired task like eating for the picky eater. With Pick-Ease, giving a picky-eater a choice over what color / character Pick-Ease they would like to use can be a huge support for getting them over the hump.
The Art of Distraction
Sometimes, sustained focus at mealtimes is tough for our sensory kids and bringing in controlled distractions can be a big support. Having a collection of Pick-Ease to use throughout the meal can help bring fun into mealtime all while helping our sensory kids stay engaged and on-task.
The Gift of the Fascination
As we know, bringing in a fascination into any experience can be a huge support for many of our sensory kids. With 12 different character choices, every child should find a Pick-Ease that supports a love or fascination.
As we know with many sensory kids, taking away one frustration often changes the whole experience. At mealtime, fine motor weaknesses and sensory sensitivities can leave our sensory kids prone to a low-frustration tolerance and to being easily overwhelmed by all the stimuli coming at them. With it’s big grip and chunky handle, Pick-Ease takes way the fine-motor frustration at mealtime which inevitability lessens the impact of the other sensory input.
For me, Sensory Organizing is about learning ways to reduce the stress from daily experiences for my sensory child so we can have more moments of real connection. Mealtime can be a challenging experience for many sensory kids. Pick-Ease can soften this experience for our kids and allow for better eating, sustained focus, and more fun. Simple tools for more peaceful days ~
For more about Melissa Desrochers and Pick – Ease, go to https://www.pick-ease.com. Check out her Facebook page for up-to-date product information and fun food ideas – https://www.facebook.com/PICKEASE
The journey of special needs parenting can be filled with uncertainly and stress. You can find yourself constantly trapped in a place of regret about decisions / experiences from the past or constant worry about your child’s future. This can leave many of us experiencing daily life with depression or anxiety – lacking any hope about what might come. Of course, there are many external tools to support our child’s journey – specialized therapy, social tools, visual supports – all things that can be an amazing support on our special needs parenting journey.
But what about a tool that changes us from the inside out? What about a tool that changes our internal perspective about our external experience? What about a tool that changes our mindset, gives us a new way to meet the uncertainly of special needs parenting? What about a tool that gives us space to examine the here and now with hope and possibility? Herein lies the power of “THE GIFT OF MAYBE: Finding Hope and Possibility in Uncertain Times” by Allison Carmen.
As one who has always believed that small changes reap big impacts, “THE GIFT OF MAYBE” is the little gift that keeps on giving. This book is a perspective game changer. Allison Carmen, a life coach and business consultant, has created a tool can help you shift your mindset about everything. As someone who is a multi-modality learner, “THE GIFT OF MAYBE” is filled with Taoist stories, real-life client examples, visualization exercises, mini-meditations, and Maybe-mantras. It allows you to experience and then absorb this new reality from many different angles. MAYBE starts from a small place but quickly ripples out to all of life’s experiences. It can work anywhere or anytime an experience or feeling has you trapped in stress or anxiety. “THE GIFT OF MAYBE” teaches us how to be open to life’s possibilities from a place of hope instead of a place of fear.
The Power of MAYBE in my life right now:
MAYBE my child’s current struggle holds a hidden gift – for him and for me.
MAYBE when my child can says “I can’t do it this way anymore”, I can be open to a whole new way that is even better than I imagined.
MAYBE when I ask for parenting help, I’ll get to feel the love and support I have in my life and the love and support for my child.
MAYBE through my child’s challenges, I can begin to accept and understand my own challenges with love and understanding. MAYBE this is his greatest gift to me.
MAYBE I can learn to meet all uncertainty with hope.
MAYBE today is all I need to live fully and joyfully.
Sometimes, our rigid predictions of how life will be for our special needs child (and for us as parents) is the biggest hindrance there is. “THE GIFT OF MAYBE” gives us a new internal mindset for meeting the uncertainty of daily life. It gives us ways to create mental space for new possibilities and leaves us open to new outcomes. “THE GIFT OF MAYBE” is that parenting tool that can change everything because it changes us ~
For more information about “THE GIFT OF MAYBE”, about Allison Carmen and her great work, check out her website – http://www.allisoncarmen.com
“THE GIFT OF MAYBE” on Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/The-Gift-Maybe-Possibility-Uncertain/dp/0399169539/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
Thanks to Perigee for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
Many of us come into sensory parenting with limited hands-on experience living with and supporting rigid, anxious, or distracted profiles. For many parents, one of the hardest pieces to journey through is learning how to live with and support strong emotions. The goal is not to be “in the strong emotions” with your sensory child but to be able to “be with” or “next to” your sensory child’s strong emotions in support.
Here are a few strategies to help you learn how to be with, not in, strong emotions:
– STAY IN OBSERVATION MODE
You know when you are watching a friend’s child and you find yourself in this great space of being able to observe and react without judgement or feeling? That’s where you need to be when your sensory child is in a place of strong emotions. Take a step back (physically and emotionally) because this emotional space is what allows you to be truly supportive.
– HAVE THE CURRENT LIST OF “POINT OF NO RETURN” TRIGGERS
Know the current list of “no return” triggers for your sensory child. There’s usually 2-3 things that, when emotions are high, will push your sensory child over the line. It can be sensory input that is overwhelming, certain verbal prompts, or tasks that are hard for them on a good day. Just know what they are and try to adopt an “off-limits” approach to them in periods of strong emotions.
– SOMETIMES GIVING IN = TRUE SUPPORT IN THE MOMENT
This can be the hardest shift for us parents. We have been raised to believe that giving into kids is wrong – that the parent is always right. But for sensory kids living with strong emotions, new rules do apply. Most likely, if your sensory child has gotten to the place of strong and unpredictable emotions, it’s too late to discuss, compromise, or negotiate. Letting your sensory child have what they need in an explosive episode can be the only thing that stops the spiral and gives your child the footing they need to get in control again.
– STRONG EMOTIONS = CALLING OUT FOR LOVE
Though it looks different when it’s anger or explosive behavior (especially in tweens or teens), strong emotions are no different than the child who has fallen and hurt themselves physically. We would have no problem helping a child who is physically hurt and it’s really no different than helping a child with strong emotions. If you need to cut out and frame a picture of a young child crying to help you remember this idea – do it.
– FOCUS ON SMALL SUCCESSES & TAKE AWAYS FOR THE NEXT TIME
Learning the parenting road of strong emotions takes practice – LOTS of practice. The important thing is to take a moment after an intense experience with your sensory child to acknowledge what you did better this time. Maybe you controlled your own emotions, maybe you were able to give your child space, or give them what they needed in the moment. Progress is in this arena can feel small but it actually REALLY BIG. So take some time to acknowledge it.
– KNOW THAT WE ARE ALL THE SAME
When it comes right down to it, we are the same as our sensory kids. When we are going through our own struggles, we just want to be loved and understood. When our sensory kids are in a place of strong emotions, they just want love and understanding. We might be on different roads but we’re all working towards the same goal. Remember that.
Strong emotions are real for many sensory kids and their families. With a few key parenting shifts and lots of practice, we can learn how to be with our sensory children and their strong emotions with love and understanding. Small changes with strong emotions for more peaceful days ~