Sunday, November 5, 2017

In the face of tragedy, we need a different plan...

We have had a very busy and exciting weekend, and all of us are lacking in the sleep department. "No songs, no books, Mommy" my son said as I finished getting him into his pj's. I asked him if I could at least rock him and he said "yes." So we sat in the rocker and did just that, rock. Eventually, I stood up with him still snuggled on my chest, and he fell asleep. He's almost 3 now, so that just doesn't happen very often anymore.

A child's breath changes when they fall asleep, so I knew he was asleep before I asked Brian to look. Thumb in his mouth, his body was relaxed and heavy. I could have stayed there forever but his sister called so I took one more deep breath of his scent and placed him in his crib, taking a moment to be thankful before moving on to her.

I said good night to my daughter and went downstairs to spend a few free moments catching up on Facebook. I was caught off guard. Another mass shooting. More children dead. More lives forever altered. I am glad I asked my son if it was OK to rock him tonight. I am thankful that I took the time to do so. We don't know in this day and age what is going to happen. The man, like others before him, attacked a church. Each week we take our children to a church, so that they can learn the values we hold dear. The people today were just going about their lives in a sacred space.

So in the wake of another tragedy, let's change the conversation. Let's not turn it to gun debate or who qualifies as a terrorist, let's dedicate this moment in time to a better discussion. Let's concern ourselves with the arduous task of getting people to care about their neighbors again. Let's dedicate time and money to recognizing and providing assistance to those who are struggling with feelings of isolation, abandonment, fear of the unknown and loneliness. Let's not provide those same people with access to extremist groups, websites detailing how to pull off attacks and movies/television that depict events like this. Instead, let's surround them with resources to help them feel supported and cared for.

In teaching we are told that some of the most difficult students are the ones who are in the most need of love. What if we looked around us and acknowledged the humanity in each person we pass on a daily basis, maybe we could prevent the next attack. Maybe, I would be able to tell my children "I love you very much," every morning when I leave for school without stifling the urge to say it another time just in case something happens today. We have to do something. This can't be come normal. Something has to give. We need to be the light in this world that is becoming darker by the second. It is our choice, and I chose to act. One hello, one hand shake, one shoulder to lean on or one "I hear you." might make all the difference in the world. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Network Spinal Analysis

Subluxation: a distortion in your body that interferes with your health. That was a new word for me. Prior to arriving at the chiropractor, I had been unaware the word even existed, yet, here it was. It was sitting near the bottom of the glossary page in the chiropractor’s folder right before vertebra. This word would become the center of our world for the next few months and I am relieved it did.

Our family has been living and breathing the world of Network Spinal Analysis Chiropractic Care for the last four months. After the initial tests, we were made aware that our daughter did not have a curve in her neck, that her lumbar spine was curved in the wrong direction (this usually takes seven years to happen), and several other physical ailments. The conversation did not stop there. We were asked about Sophie’s diet and given pointers on foods that could be causing inflammation in her already tense body. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed. We already can’t eat dairy in our house, now grains too?

We were told she would need to visit for entrainments twice a week for 24 visits. During the entrainments light pressure would be used at the ‘Spinal Gateways’, the term used to signify key access points to the nervous system,  to help the body heal and return to its proper alignment. We were told this was not a normal recommendation for a child but Sophie’s subluxations were so severe, a rigorous approach was necessary. After turning over all of our “summer fun” money to the office, we began a journey that was worth every penny. 

I will be honest, I was very skeptical of the whole process at first. I wasn’t sure if this was going to help Sophie at all, but we were desperate to help our child progress and several other friends with sensory children had seen marked success after seeing a network spinal analysis chiropractor. The academic in me turned to research and I found quite a lot of information on the topic. Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) was developed by Dr. Donny Epstein in 1984. It is practiced in the United States, Europe, Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand. One article, in particular, documented how Network Spinal Analysis helps improve concentration in students who are labeled as ADHD (see Chris Lucks et al. case study for the complete research findings). This was also listed in the handouts we received during our first visit. I also learned that  NSA is part of a larger approach to healing called Reorganizational Healing or ROH. In this approach to healing, a disease is not viewed as something that has to be eradicated and then set aside but an opportunity to reevaluate your body, grow from the experience and ultimately heal yourself. If done correctly, you walk away from the event stronger, healthier and wiser. This information was very interesting to me but I needed to see it with my own two eyes before I was a true believer.

So I went, questioning if I was seeing a change in Sophie because I wanted to make it worth the money or because something was actually happening. It took Sophie several visits to even lie down on the table. We had entrainments sitting up and with her lying on my stomach. Progress with Sophie can be painfully slow. I will tell you one thing, the first couple of visits ended with her wound up like a top running around the waiting room. Her nerves were definitely talking! Eventually, we made it to the large room. NSA chiropractors believe it is beneficial for people to have entrainments together. Often times our doctor will work on one patient, give them time to rest, and visit another person, and then return to the first individual. During one of Sophie’s rest times, I watched a woman have a network wave. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. Spinal waves occur when your body releases the tension and the spine is free to reorganize itself back to a healthier position. It is incredible to watch. What was even more amazing is that the doctor applied pressure and then stepped back while the body released and realigned. From that point on, I was all in.

In 24 visits Sophie regained the curve in her neck and a more stabilized pelvis and sacrum. At the suggestion of our chiropractor, we have made a few nutritional tweaks to Sophie’s diet and are happy to say she and her newly aligned gastrointestinal system are now medicine free. Her knees are also thanking the chiropractor because the realignment of her cervical spine has improved her balance, preventing her from losing coordination in even during the most sensory overload experiences. She still has some muscle weakness that we will continue to support but we are now able to visit the doctor’s every other week instead of twice a week, which makes our bank account very happy. I now recommend this form of chiropractic care to anyone who complains about an ache or pain in front of me. I truly believe it has helped Sophie’s body heal so that all of the great work she is doing with her Occupational Therapist can really take root. Call me a believer. If we had more money, I would sign everyone in my family up to participate.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

House Rules

Silence is never a show of support. But in the light of all of the horrible events that are occurring both in the United States and the rest of the world, I feel I am beginning to run out of useful things to say. I am shocked. I am horrified. I am appalled. I am deeply saddened for our broken world. The educator in me is always looking for a solution, something to help this not happen again. So here is my humble suggestion; I think our country and the rest of the world need to sit down, have a family meeting and create some house rules.
Our house rules started because my children were in week six of summer vacation and had spent way to much unstructured time together. They had begun to fight, hit and be mean to each other. Out of frustration, I had begun to yell. One day I looked around my house and thought, is this what I want for my children? The answer was no. So we sat down in front of our fireplace with a piece of paper and a marker and had a talk.
What I discovered that day was that my children inherently knew how they should be behaving. They knew the kind of person I wanted them to be. Our house values were in line, we just needed to take the moment to be reminded of what mattered and recommit to our common purpose. So we created four simple rules and consequences.
Rule 1: We listen when others talk.
Rule 2: We play together and take turns. What we have is ours and not mine.
Rule 3: We talk in calm, quiet voices.
Rule 4: We help each other.
And then we signed the paper, committing to spending our days trying to do right by our family. Since my children are small, I added an incentive to our new rules. Every time they are caught being good, they get to put a bead in the jar. Eventually that jar will be filled and a reward will be earned. Right now they are so excited to do good so that they can see the physical result and look at how that one act of kindness is helping fill a previously empty jar. They have returned to the kind, helpful versions of themselves and the tenor of my house has changed.
As I sat and pondered all the horror that is currently occurring in the world, I couldn’t help but think that every community needs to sit down and make some house rules. We need to be reminded of the things we should be doing and then have someone catch us in the act. Daily on Facebook and in the mainstream media we are negatively reinforcing the horrible acts of violence people are committing all over the country while thousands of good deeds go unsung. Let’s give our children examples of the goodness that still exists in the world so that they have something to follow, the shoulds instead of the should-nots. Let’s positively reinforce the right instead of reinforcing the wrong. So that if our children accidentally open our Facebook feed they will see that kindness, openness, fairness is newsworthy and evil deeds are worth looking at twice.
Mr. Rodgers said “When I was a boy and would see scary things on the news my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers- so many caring people in the world.”

Maybe if we all made our house rules and day by day added beads to our jars, we could change the world for good. Our current approach is certainly not working so maybe it is time to sit down with our pens and papers and try something new.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Funny Similarities between the Renovation Process and Living with Sensory Processing Disorders...

Raising a child with sensory processing disorder is like spending your entire life renovating a house. Renovating a house is a huge undertaking; it can sometimes be really messy and ugly and occasionally, your work uncovers a rare gem that would never had been discovered if you hadn’t started pulling back the layers of wallpaper in that &@#^ dining room!

Having lived through several renovations in my adult life (all of which were taken on by my husband and not myself) I think I am an excellent source to make this comparison. Renovations begin with the stage I like to call, “the lofty goals time period.” During this time period the renovator looks around, makes a lot of notes and says to him/herself “yeah, I can do this! This will be a piece of cake!” The renovator creates a timeline for the project, presents it to his/her spouse/partner/whatever and says “this will be way better and cheaper than if we hire someone!” The partner is sceptical that this project will turn out the way it is being sold but her loved one’s enthusiasm sways her and in a show of support she says “Ok! Let’s do it!” When our daughter was diagnosed with SPD my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Now that we know what this is we can fix this.” “We’ll get this under control and be on our way to a blissful child raising experience in no time!” Our friends told us “She’s so smart, she’ll only need an IEP for 6 months!” A year later with a new IEP, additional services, glasses, other diagnoses, I can’t help but look back at my naive self and shake my head.

Enter stage two of the renovation or what I like to call the re-evaluating your plan and timeline stage. At this point you have pulled down the wall paper in the dining room only to find there are four more layers and you think…”no one would really notice if I just paint over this right??” This is the stage where you tell your very pregnant wife that the baby’s room might take longer to prepare than you thought and promise that the baby and your mother in law will have a place to sleep before the baby arrives. It is at this time that the non-renovating partner looks around the mess in his/her house and thinks “Why the h--- is this taking so long? It can’t be that complicated?” You begin to consider giving up and just hiring someone to do the job. Is the sense of accomplishment really worth all of this hassle?

This renovation stage involves a lot of research, trips to Home Depot, calling friends and possibly other handymen to help, lots of late nights and an abundance of cursing. In our parallel SPD world, this is the time  that occurs after you have your diagnosis and your child is set up with services. Quickly your providers beginning to notice things and all hope of this processing being a quick detour off the child rearing path you always planned for are shot. The professionals begin to comment on her eye tracking, notice that she doesn’t cross the midline and ponder on the fact that the behavior they witness at home is not what they see in the therapy session. You begin to get frustrated so you buy books and read every page. You join online support groups, searching for help and as a last ditch attempt to put the picture of your child completely together you start seeking alternative therapies. And then one day you find yourself at a very Eastern medicine workshop holding jars of herbs buying into what the nutritionist is saying and you stop and look around and think, never in a million years did I think I would end up here!

Finally comes the home stretch. This is the most satisfying stage of a renovation. (It is also the time in our life that usually coincides with a move to a new home and new projects.) You have done your best, you have asked for help with the aspects of the project you couldn’t do yourself and you are generally pleased with the results. You know that soon there will be another project that will absorb your nights and weekends but for one brief moment you pause and admire your work and pat yourself on the back. For a sensory processing parent that occurs when your child achieves something two months, two weeks, or two days ago he or she couldn’t do. When your therapist looks at you and says he/she can’t get over the progress your child is making and how far she has come. When the warmth of pride and tear inducing joy bubbles up inside of you and you begin to let yourself think that maybe everything will be alright. We have all been there and while we know that more than likely tomorrow or the next day will contain a setback of some level, for one moment we can step back and look at our beautiful child and appreciate the hard work that has been done to help his/her light shine bright.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

There Might Be Lobsters

One of the best parts of parenthood is imparting your love of great literature onto your children. There is nothing better than watching your children fall in love with a book and beg to hear it again and again until they have the whole thing memorized. It's even better when the book they are currently obsessed with is one you adore too. Enter There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Laurel Molk. It is a story about a fearful dog named Sukie, her continually exasperated but patient owner and Sukie's pet monkey Chunky Monkey. Told through the voice of Sukie, you begin to understand how anxiety works and how amazing it feels when you are forced to overcome that fear and do something that truly scares you. Sophie and I have read this story many times this week and it has been the basis of a lot of great conversations as she conquers one of her own great fears- the swimming pool.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Network Spinal Analysis

A year ago Sophie was only able to have a pixie haircut. She had to have short hair because there were spots all over her head where she was bald. It just wouldn't grow. Then last July the pieces began to fall into place. We uncovered her lactose intolerance and she began to eat. Slowly her body responded to the changes and began to get the nutrients it so desperately needed. Hair began to grow.

November came and she finally had access to OT and PT services that brought balance to her always out of kilter body. She no longer needed to pull her hair in order to relieve her anxiety. The bald spots began to fill in.  We hadn't figured out all of Sophie's pieces yet but the world was becoming a less scary place.

Two months ago, a fellow SPD mom messaged me about the wonders of chiropractic care and nutrition response testing. I found a chiropractic office that did both and we began the next step in our journey to support Sophie.

Today I divided Sophie's whole head of hair in two and gave her pigtails "like Abby Cadaby." She wore a short sleeved shirt with itchy wings and grinned from ear to ear. She has been waiting for years to have those pig tails. I may have shed a tear as I looked at her. All I could think was, "look how far we've come..."

We are now firm believers in Network Spinal Analysis Chiropractic care. It has changed our life for the better. I have decided to spend part of my summer collecting information on and writing about this particular branch of chiropractic medicine. I hope what I post will be helpful to everyone and especially those families who love someone with SPD. We will always have tough days but when I look at how much hair Sophie has grown in one year, I know we are on the right path.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A PSA from your friendly neighborhood choral music teacher...

Hello there! It’s me! The person you instantaneously tell your music horror stories to the minute you learn that I have a university degree in the subject! Even the adults who work with my children preface every singing activity with “don’t listen to me- I have a horrible voice.” I want you to lean in close and listen very carefully- you don’t!  Gasp! Believe me when I tell you, the ones who are apologizing for their instrument, usually have no reason to do so. Here is where the problem lies. By yourself, you actually have a great voice! The out of tune rendition of “Happy Birthday,” that ends with an apologetic shrug and a frantic glance around the room to make sure no one recorded it; has little to do with the quality of your voice and everything to do with your ear not being trained to match another person’s pitch. Great singers listen to each other; amazing singers listen to everything and use their ears to strengthen the technique they have worked so hard to achieve. There are very few people in this world who couldn’t become great singers with a few vocal lessons and a lot of singing in groups.

But here’s the thing. Singing is like weight. Your children don’t notice you have a flabby belly until you point it out and they don’t realize that you can’t sing like Lady Gaga until you flag your flaws. I am no Indina Menel but I love to sing and do it as often as possible around the house. And guess what, my children could care less! My kids ask my husband and me to sing their favorite songs and then they joyfully join in! So sing! Don’t let any child know you are less than perfect- teach them what a release it is to belt out your favorite songs in the car, while washing dishes or changing diapers. Why is this so important? Well, singing, like exercising, has health benefits. I would quote the stats from any number of peer reviewed music journals but I can hear you over there thinking “well, they have to say that, it’s their job!” so instead, I found an article in a magazine most of us are familiar with- Prevention. It says that singing “helps you to bond with others and make connections,” that it is thought to “improve your heart rate variability or the amount of time between heartbeats” and most importantly “helps curb snoring and may help people with asthma.” If you don’t believe me, check it out!

Whatever you do; sing frequently. The more you do it, the better you will get! Don’t wait until karaoke and several adult beverages are involved. It may help your health, it may make your children more confident in their own abilities and it will certainly guarantee that the music educators like me aren’t left singing alone.