Sensory Processing What?

We had a busy, busy summer being introduced into the world of childhood development experts.  For my family that had never been to anything more than an annual pediatrician appointment, with a side of naturopathy to tackle a food intolerance this was a whole new world.  We started down this path, when we were looking for some reasons for why our smart, happy boy continued to struggle with reading, despite lots and lots of school & home interventions.  We started with one small appointment — an “occupational therapy evaluation”…. our knowledge, our list of appointments and our monthly delivery with new books from Amazon grew from there.

As I write the post (my notes in parenthesis) are either the example that’s relevant to my kids, or the way I asked the dr/therapist explain it to me in plain and easy language.

Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Disorder ~ we’ve come to learn that kids (and adults) can find just about any of the 5 senses a challenge.  Could be your sense of taste is under (eating wildly spicy food) or over developed (chicken and rice).  Or it could be your sense of touch is over developed (can’t stand labels on clothes, won’t stay under a scratchy blanket, that seems just fine to others in the family).  But it also extends into senses I don’t think a lot about such as:

  •  Proprioceptive Processing – having to do with our understanding of where we are in space.  There’s nothing like watching a occupational therapist ask your child to close their eyes and touch their nose… and learning that that’s an impossible task
  • Vestibular Processing – fancy way to say balance.  Some groups think of this as it’s own disorder all on its very own.

With sensory integration issues, there are a wide range of symptoms (depending on your child), and a millions different ways to address them.  We started our quest of knowledge on the disorder with:

I needed these foundational materials to being the process of understanding what sensory processing issues were all about.  For us it explained a lot of weird symptoms — lots of bruised shins, falling out chairs, running into other kids and being surprised they were knocked down.  There’s a great mom blogger over at Growing Up Gish; she describes it this way: “We were so relieved to finally have some answers, and the more we learned about SPD the more it all made sense.”   If you read her description of her family’s journey to the world of SPD, it’s completely different from our family’s.  But that’s the nature of the disorder, and words she expressed were exactly what ran through my mind: relief, finally, it all makes sense.

So our first occupational therapy appointment introduced me to a lot of new words (common you’re trying to tell me that you know what proprioceptive is?), and was a good starting point to figure out what’s going on with my son.  As thorough as the OT evaluation was, it didn’t cover everything.

One of the other ‘odd’ things we’ve run into at our house is the complete inability to catch a ball — tennis ball, baseball, basketball, you name it.  But it turns out that issue is for another day and another post:  the developmental optometrist.

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Key to health: Just Eat Food

I follow a couple of health blogs and regularly devour the health page in the Globe&Mail.  I am forever reading about some ‘new’ vegetable, bean or berry that will be good for my health.  For years this has simply been interesting information thatI’ve filled away in my little brain.

This summer you’ve no doubt seen the campaign warning us about salt.  It turns out that packaged foods (i.e. the stuff made in a factory by companies trying to make money) have a high sodium content in order to preserve shelf life and camouflage lack of flavour. Duh!  Of course that’s what salt is for.  That’s why Europeans were so excited to start trading for salt and pepper – to improve the flavour of bad or bland food.

As far as I can tell, your best bet is to simply eat food.  Real food, not from a package, not from a factory, just food. It doesn’t have to be complicated food as suggested in the latest ‘enzyme diet’, just regular old fruits, vegetable, whole grains, lean protein.

Born to Exercize?

I think some people are hard wired to exercize and others are hard wired to do other stuff.  That’s not an excuse for those of us that fall into the later category.  Everyone needs to get their daily exercize.  It simply seems to me that some people crave it.

When I think of some of my neighbors (yes that’s plural intentionally) that are biking 60-120 minutes each way to work.  That to me says born for it (or crazy, but usually I go for the charitable built for it thought).  Then I read about these ladies at Squeeze It In and I thought – born for it.  Who thinks of this kind of stuff?  Yes, I’m chopping peppers for a salad, but let me do some leg lifts while I’m at it. This reminds me of pre-natal class whee they encouraged everyone to do their kegel exercizes when ever you found yourself waiting – at a red light, in the grocery store, at Tim Horton’s.

 This is good in concept, but isn’t your brain already in gear?  If when I was standing in line at Loblaws my brain said “oh… looks like I’m going ot be waiting in line for a while”, then maybe I’d say to myself: why don’t I do so isometric ab exercizes while I stand here? Instead, my brain is wondering:   if the kids fall asleep on the way home, will I have enough time to cut the grass before they wake up?  did I get the positioning right in the presentation for work?  did I remember to pick up milk?  oh yes… it’s here in the cart.  take that finger out of your nose (these last two parts are usually spoken aloud).

So clearly, I’m not ‘born to exercize’. I work at it.  And I shouldn’t make too much fun of the squeeze ladies, as my former colleague with the best bicepts and tricepts of everyone I know works out with soup cans.

Coupons & Other Bargains

I love a bargain.  I love to use coupons.  I don’t use them very often, but nevertheless, when I can get $3 off a package of diapers or laundry detergent, I’m pretty happy.  My biggest challenge with coupons is the same one I have with bringing my own bags: getting them out of the car and into the store.

My usual source for coupons is as mix of Canadian Freebie blog, Save.ca and random stuff that comes in the mail.  The trouble, with these sources, is that they are not often coupons for brands I usually buy.  They are coupons for big name consumer packaged goods.  Hence, I was so happy to learn about ‘The Healthy Shopper’.  These guys have coupons for all sorts of green, eco friendly, or just plain stuff I like.

I’ll still have trouble remembering to bring them into the store.  Perhaps I should store them in the re-useable bags.

Top 10 “Safe” Sunscreens

I was happy to see that Mexitan, the brand of sunscreen that graces our shelves, is on the list of “broad spectrum protection with fewer hazardous ingredients”.  Who needs the extra stress of discovering that the cream you slather all over your kids every day is in fact harmful.  Yikes! 

Most of the sunscreens on the ‘recommended list’ are physical sunscreens.  This means that the ingredients that provide sun protection do so by creating a physical barrier between you and the sun.  Most sunscreens contain smaller particles and are absorbed into the skin and provide protection at a chemical level.  The trouble with the physical sunscreens is that the barrier is a barrier, not as cumbersome as trying to get my kids to walk around with parasols, but they do look like little albino kids running around.

Check out the list and see where your sunscreen falls!

Saving Money & Still Having Fun

There are so many fun things to do in the summer, both indoors and out. But as you have no doubt already noticed, most of them cost money. I started thinking about this after we paid $17 ($15 family entry + $2 parking) to go to the Herb Fest. It wasn’t even my money (thanks dad!), but I didn’t like the feeling that I/we had paid $17 so that people could sell us stuff (turns out the Herb Fest is mostly sales stalls).

This is why I love the library (see yesterday’s post), but the library is not the only freebie out there:

  • My guys love the splash pads. Run by the City of Ottawa, you can find them in almost every neighborhood. If I remember to bring along some bubbles then we are set for a whole morning/afternoon.
  • Shakespeare in the Park: We haven’t tried this one yet, but I think it’s going to be a riot. There are only two weeks of performances yet, so get your fix now.
  • Picking berries: this has worked well for us from +18 months. There’s definitely more eating than picking at 18 months, but by the time my guy hit 3, he could fill up a berry basket all on his own. Strawberries are the easiest to pick, but it’s nice to go to a farm that has other selections at their farm store, so you can bring home a bounty. Here’s a quick summary of local u-pick farms
  • Kids Sports: We live close to a local soccer field. It’s a great venue for baseball games, soccer games, ultimate and even the occasional cricket match. There’s no need for me to pay to see a game, when it’s just as much fun for my guys to watch kids that are 10-15 run around. Not to mention that my guys can run/walk/crawl and generally entertain themselves along the sidelines. The kids on the field love to have someone that’s not mom and dad cheering for them.
  • Nature Walks: I wish we did more of these. When I’m at home and thinking about what to do for the day, it always feels like this is a big deal to plan. But that’s entirely not the case. You can start at any point along the NCC path system and have a great walk. If you want something a bit more rugged, you can go to any NCC nature conservation area (such as: Stoney Swamp, Green’s Creek or Mer Bleu) and go for a trail walk. There’s no need to lug your gang all the way up to the Gatineau’s to enjoy nature in Ottawa

This is by no means an exhaustive list. What are some of your favorites?

Family Triathlons

I’ve written about the Kids of Steel triathlon program before, but this recent article caught my attention, as I can just picture my little guy encouraging his brother in the same way the kid profiled in the article does:  come on, hurry up, let’s go.

There are plenty of local kids triathlon groups out there, including:  Ottawa Kids Tri and Toronto & GTA: Tri Kids Triathlon Series.

Heck there’s even a whole community of people that chat and discuss their family’s triathlon exploits at the aptly named: Triathlon Family.