(1998) “Turn on the Lights!” — Review by Chris Hughes Bridgeman, PhD

Review by Chris Hughes Bridgeman, PhD

TURN ON THE LIGHTS!

Published in The Post, the newsletter of PNPIC (Parent Network for the Post-Institutionalized Child), January/February 1998.

We have two children that became part of our family by adoption. Our son was born in Romania and spent several months in an institution with a persistent respiratory infection. We were surprised by some of the issues our son presented. The sound of a lawn mower several blocks away was enough to drive him inside the house. He would “jump out of his skin” when touched lightly. He asked for the labels to be cut out of his shirts. He used a lot of effort holding up his body.

Hmm, were such behaviors irrelevant or significant?

Our children were fortunate to be Carol Kranowitz’s students at St. Columba’s Nursery School in Washington, DC. She and Karen Strimple, the school director, helped us to understand that sensory [processing disorder] might be affecting our son’s behavior. Because of their expertise and sensitivity we were able to get help for our son and ourselves. It has made a huge difference in our lives.

Now, Kranowitz has written a clear, well-organized handbook that demystifies sensory [processing]. Using it, you can strengthen your child’s ability to navigate his or her world. If you have an “out-of-sync” child, you can search all over town for help, or you can sit down with this book and in a few hours emerge as a much better advocate for your child and as a more savvy consumer of professional child development services.

Kranowitz’s book bridges a gap in the existing literature between dense academic writing and simple overviews. It is a great tool that can help you leverage energy, money and time. When I read it, I felt as if the author turned on the lights in a dim room.

Kranowitz defines sensory [processing disorder] as the inability to process information received through the senses. “Dysfunction happens in the central nervous system, at the head of which is the brain. When a glitch occurs, the brain cannot analyze, organize, and connect – or integrate – sensory messages. The result of sensory [processing disorder] is that the child cannot respond to sensory information to behave in a meaningful, consistent way. He may also have difficulty using sensory information to plan and organize what he needs to do.”

Sensory [processing] problems act like a hidden tax on a child’s development. To explain this, Kranowitz provides clear examples of the special “near senses”: tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive. Her checklists and tables make it easy to understand a child’s behavior patterns. She maps out strategies for home, school and typical overload situations. She has created a very helpful appendix with descriptions of the underlying neurological concepts including excellent drawings by illustrator T.J. Wylie. The detailed glossary, alone, is worth the price of the book. Readers will find resource lists of helpful organizations and other reference material as well.

No matter how wonderful pediatricians are, it is unlikely that they are fully knowledgeable about sensory [processing]. If one professional can’t help you, keep looking and give the adults in your child’s life a copy of this book. (Have them read the endorsements of Dr. Brazelton, Dr. Greenspan, Dr. Healy, and Dr. Silver!) You can help educate those adult authority figures who will have subtle and major influences on your child’s self esteem.

One value of this book is the framework for nurturing children that is the subtext of Kranowitz’s writing. It reminds me of the respectful attitude of observation, investigation and theory integration that characterized Dr. Jean Piaget’s work on the cognitive development of young children. Piaget became intrigued by his own children and forever changed the world of education by what he learned. Like Piaget, Kranowitz has taken her daily observations of young children and, fueled by her desire to reach even the most confusing child, created a book of enormous value.

Every parent knows “that look” – the special glow a child gets when fully engaged in the moment. Carol Kranowitz’s book will turn on the lights so more children can shine.

(1998) “A Winner!” — Review by Tricia and Calvin Luker

Published in The Support Report, A Newsletter for Families with Unique Children (A Publication of SHARE Support, Inc.) (August/September 1999)

As the mother of a child who lives his life in polar opposition to most of society’s norms, I am constantly scanning the literature to make him feel better about himself, and equally importantly, to make me feel better about his future. I didn’t have to scan multiple chapters of Carol Kranowitz’s informative book to know that this was a volume I would read, underline, reread, quote, and ultimately idealize.

The front cover states, “If your child has been labeled with words like difficult, picky, oversensitive, clumsy, or inattentive… there may be a new explanation – and new hope.” Hope is a commodity I constantly seek to replenish. After all, I am the mother of the child who walked off the soccer field at age six, while motivated members of his peer group were scurrying up and down as though their lives depended on it. “Mom,” he asked, “What is the point of this?” The same child refused to join any line initiated by a teacher, insisted on placing periods after every word in a sentence because, “We stop after every word, don’t we?” and divided much of his classroom time between balancing precariously on his chair like a clumsy acrobat and picking himself up off the floor after the chair had succumbed to the pull of gravity.

So when Carol Kranowitz talked about Sensory [Processing Disorder], I listened.

I learned how children with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD) have problems developing the ability to process information through their senses. I learned about the exquisite subtleties of sensory processing difficulties. I began to understand how my child could look fine and have superior intelligence, but still be awkward, clumsy, fearful, withdrawn, and hostile. I developed new hope and compassion for my son as I learned how [SPD] affects children’s behavior.

Kranowitz teaches parents to recognize Sensory [Processing Disorder] by including case histories and checklists of common symptoms. She describes the senses in a clear and thorough manner, and explains how to tell if your child has a problem with the vestibular or proprioceptive sense. But most of all, I welcomed the author’s optimistic appraisal of children who may seem out-of-sync with their environments. To parents who wonder if their children will become out-of-sync adults, she says, “Your child has a good chance of developing into a competent, self-regulating, smoothly functioning grown-up if he or she receives understanding, support, and early intervention.”