(2002) Review of The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Maureen Bennie

Review by Maureen Bennie

Director, Autism Awareness Centre Inc.
www.autismawarenesscentre.com

Review of The Out of Sync Child Has Fun

Carol Kranowitz, a former preschool teacher, made us aware of sensory integration dysfunction in children in her first book The Out Of Sync Child. After the success of that book, she then came up with hands-on ideas to help with sensory integration dysfunction. The result is The Out of Sync Child Has Fun, packed with interactive games and activities to help integrate the sensory system for children ages 3 to 12.

If you haven’t read the first book or need a reminder of what sensory dysfunction is, Ms. Kranowitz devotes the first chapter to what it is, the types of dysfunction, and what SAFE activities are. SAFE stands for S= sensory motor, A= appropriate, F= fun and E= easy. All of the activities in the book follow the SAFE principle. There are no expensive materials to buy and the materials are easy to make, some requiring basic sewing, cooking or carpentry skills.

Each activity includes the following information: developmental age which is not the same as chronological age, a list of materials needed, what to prepare, what you can do as an adult in the activity, what the child can do (these are suggestions only), how to vary the activity, the benefits of SAFE activities, coping skills if the child is having difficulty and needs your help, and sometimes there are tips from mothers and what they have tried.

Ms. Kranowitz also outlines the do’s and don’ts of the program to ensure success. Her suggestions such as incorporating the child’s interests, do activities outdoors whenever possible, begin where the child is developmentally, and letting the child “do” are all common sense ideas, but it is surprising how often we stray from these basics for success. Another group of easy tips are called the Seven Drops, again common sense but good reminders. For example, drop your voice even when the child is loud, drop your body and get down on the physical level of the child, and drop the batteries – put away those electronic toys and gadgets and let children use their bodies.

The SAFE activities are organized into two groups: sensory systems which encompass touch, balance and movement, body position, seeing, hearing and smelling/tasting and sensory related skills comprised of oral motor, motor planning, fine motor skills, and bilateral coordination.

Because this book is well laid out and easy to follow, anyone can use this resource effectively such as educators, occupational therapists, educational assistants, speech pathologists, therapists, and parents. One great idea is to leave a copy of this book inside a teacher’s desk for a substitute teacher because there are so many mini lesson plans within the book. The SAFE activities are also fully inclusive and can be enjoyed by all children. There is an excellent cross-reference chart in the appendix which lists each activity, what sensory systems are involved, and what age they are suitable for. The glossary of terms, recommended materials, suggested books, and websites are helpful too.

The Out of Sync Child Has Fun is a timeless classic that will provide years of activities as the child grows. Because of the flexibility of these simple activities, one can increase the level of difficulty as the child develops. No resource library is complete without this affordable and user friendly book.±

(2001) Taking Care of Yourself When Your Child Has Special Needs

Unpublished – Written for the now-defunct clubmom.com, August 2001

Before takeoff, you buckle your seatbelt and listen to the flight attendant review emergency procedures. You hear that if the oxygen masks drop, you should adjust your own before assisting your child. Likewise, if you are on a lifelong journey as a special mom, you must care for yourself so you can effectively care for your child.

Self-care, however, requires TLC (Time, Liberty, Cash), resources often in short supply. Kathy Vestermark, mother of four, cherishes time for herself. “I gain stamina to advocate effectively for my child with multiple disabilities when I take time to do those things that ensure my self-preservation. Easier said than done!” Kathy adds, “My husband often reminds me to do something for myself. It’s hard not to give endlessly to others – especially to my son. I worry that if I relax my efforts, so will he.”

Psychologist Griffin Doyle, PhD, comments, “Parenting a unique child is a most difficult adjustment.” Coloring the parents struggle often is their guilt about not possessing sufficient emotional resources to match their internal image of an ideal, all-courageous parent. “Parents who respect, admit, and work through their guilt or other agonizing feelings truly are caring for themselves,” he adds.

Also, self-care can be a priceless model of self-esteem for the child to emulate. Balancing your needs with your child’s is the ticket. Here are suggestions from moms who achieve this balance:

1) Exercise daily. Donna Keating, whose five-year-old daughter has sensory processing disorder, says, “Usually, moms assume the task physically and emotionally of the child. It zaps every part of you. Exercise is so essential to relieve everyday stresses. I stick to my work-out schedule and rarely feel guilty about taking time out for myself.”

2) Volunteer for groups that are needier than you. Sorting clothes at Goodwill or serving soup at a shelter, you may feel less self-pitiful.

3) Take classes. Nanette Bevan, mother of three boys, one with Down syndrome and one with spinal muscular atrophy, says, “Pay for a course and go.” Nanette crafts glass and silver jewelry. Learning new techniques or working in the studio, she is in the flow. She stops worrying about her sons’ problems and returns home refueled.

4) Listen to soothing music. The Mozart Effect recordings and Nourishing the Caregiver (available through www.SensoryWorld.com) are produced specifically to relieve stress and restore order. A loftier idea is to get the piano tuned and make music.

5) Talk to someone, besides your husband. If you talk only to him, Nanette advises, you ll probably keep bonking up against each other over the same issues. A sympathetic friend or relative can be a lifeline, especially if the person shares your sense of humor. Consulting a psychotherapist is also extremely worthwhile. Donna comments, “When your child has special needs, you spend every waking moment thinking and planning to stay ahead. Moms require quantities of support that a spouse, relative, or friend can’t easily provide. On days when the light at the end of the tunnel seems nowhere in sight, I find some relief networking with moms with similar children.”

To find a support group, visit websites related to your child’s disability. Many have message boards for sharing concerns, information, and even belly laughs.

6) Seek respite care for an afternoon, evening or weekend, at home or a licensed facility.Finding respite care is challenging. It can be cost prohibitive, and providers may be scarce. Perhaps your local government can guide you to grants to help you meet the costs. Groups that provide respite care, sometimes free, include:

• Local chapters of national organizations that offer Parents Night Out, such as Easter Seals (www.easter-seals.com)
• ARCH National Respite Network (919-490-5577 or www.archrespite.org/respitelocator)
• Campus Ministries or public service groups at colleges, where students may gladly volunteer to baby sit for kids as special as yours
• Hospitals and Red Cross chapters that train providers of children with special needs

7) Nurture good babysitters. Amy Cunningham, whose son’s visual dysfunction lowers his tolerance for new people and situations, advises, “Once you find good babysitters, woo them. Treat them like honored family members – and pay them well. Do whatever it takes to ensure their return.”

8) Barter time with similar parents of similar children. If you are single, maybe you can watch your child and other kids simultaneously. A babysitting co-op may also work well. To locate one, consult neighbors, community newspapers and bulletin boards.

9) Think positively. Amy says, “I take better care of myself, my son, and everyone else I love when I not only accept what is, but also acknowledge the secret, sweet, up side that makes my life seem divinely designed.”

When you find the time to care for yourself, you will see your family’s spirits soar. Buckle up, and let’s go!

 

(2000) How Does Sensory Processing Disorder Affect Learning?

Posted on SPD Foundation’s website (May)

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is not classified as a learning disability, but it can certainly hamper a child’s ability to learn. To illustrate, here are stories about two preschoolers whom I taught in my music and movement room at St. Columba’s Nursery School in Washington, DC.

Robin, 4, is over-responsive to touch sensations (she avoids them). Larry, 3-1/2, is under-responsive to movement (he craves it). Let’s look at these intelligent, healthy kids with an eye on how sensory issues are not only getting in their way now but may also interfere with learning and behavior in the future.

ROBIN

Robin has Sensory Over-Responsivity. She avoids being close to other children and shies away from adults, too. The possibility of being accidentally touched by them makes her extremely anxious. She also avoids messy play. Touching fingerpaints, mudpies, sand, playdough, glue, and bubbles makes her very uncomfortable–even threatened. Therefore, she scoots away from her preschool classmates when it’s time to sit on the rug for a story. She refuses to participate in art projects. She resists sitting at the science table. “I hate science,” she says, turning her back. “It’s yucky.” She avoids cooking and “gooking” activities in the classroom. At snack time, she becomes upset when a drop of juice spills on her skin or even on the table.

Robin likes to dance, but not if the game is Ring Around the Rosy, because she doesn’t want to hold hands in the circle. And not if the song is about whirling leaves, and the musical game is to hold a real leaf and twirl around the room with it. She likes to sing, knows all the words, has a good sense of rhythm, and enjoys chanting rhymes. But when offered rhythm instruments to accompany the song, she shoves them away. She crosses her arms and tightens her lips.

Now, rhythm instruments aren’t messy, are they? They’re not slimy or sticky or smelly. But Robin refrains from touching them, anyway. Unlike her curious classmates who are eager to explore objects in their environment, she just says “no” to picking things up and examining them. She disdains putting on dress-ups, playing with hand puppets, and drawing with crayons. Churning ice cream? Making snowballs? Picking up worms on the sidewalk? Washing doll babies? Pouring sand from one container to another? Finger painting in shaving cream? No way.

Robin is missing many concrete, hands-on experiences that are necessary for abstract learning later on. She is also missing making connections to other children. Tactile overresponsivity gets in Robin’s way, physically, socially, emotionally, and yes, cognitively, too. As she gets older, learning may become increasingly tough. If she hasn’t handled many different objects and toyed with many different textures, she may not understand concepts such as hard and soft, wet and dry, heavy and light, prickly and smooth, sticky and slippery, fragile and enduring. She may be mystified by challenges to estimate an object’s size and shape, weight, and density. She may struggle to make sense of math, science, and art. Expressing herself in words may be limited, because of her limited experiences and participation in the world around her.

For the moment, her teacher is aware of Robin’s tactile dysfunction and has found some ways to entice her into the play. For example, she invites Robin to come to the art table when only one or two children are working there, so Robin doesn’t feel crowded and anxious. She offers Robin individual finger mittens (snipped from vinyl gloves) to slip on her fingertips. She keeps a bucket of water nearby for Robin to rinse her hands immediately after she touches something objectionable. She lets Robin sit at the head of the snack table, so other children have less chance of grazing against her.

The teacher’s accommodations do help Robin for now. But what do you guess may happen when Robin goes to kindergarten and the great beyond? Will she be able to work in groups with other children, as expected? Will she be competent manipulating scissors, rulers, compasses and pencils? Will she function smoothly in the big, busy classroom?

LARRY

Larry is an impetuous daredevil. He does not appear to have much sense of how to protect himself. You might see him scrabbling up to the top rung of the jungle gym (where other kids know instinctively not to go) and leaping to the mulch below. Bam! He lands in a heap and scrambles to his feet, covered with mulch, grinning.

More, more, more.

Larry always needs more movement experiences and needs them to be more intense than other children’s. For instance, he craves rotary movement on the tire swing. Whereas twirling for a few minutes satisfies most children, Larry spins hard and fast for 20 or 30 minutes. Should his teacher invite him to play Duck-Duck-Goose or to go on a treasure hunt, he says, “No, thank you. I just want to spin.” Spinning is his favorite activity. The teacher respects his needs and lets him spin, although she worries that he is missing most of the activities that his classmates enjoy.

Off the tire swing, Larry runs everywhere, but stopping is hard. He trips and falls often. His teacher says, “Larry is like the Titanic. Throttles wide open, full steam ahead!” He frequently bumps and crashes into his schoolmates, pawing them to the ground for a bit of wrestling.

One day, The Gingerbread Man is the program du jour in my music and movement room. First, I tell the story on the felt board. During the story, the children shake jingle bells and sing, “Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!”

Larry is impatient: “Let’s go! Let’s go! Finish the story!” He doesn’t want to sit; he wants to run, run, as fast as he can.

His classroom teacher gently restrains him, applying the OT technique of deep pressure. She sits behind him, straddles her legs around him, squeezes his knees to his chest, and rocks him. The pressure and rhythmic motion are soothing. He closes his eyes and begins to tune in. Now he sings the Gingerbread Man’s theme song along with the other kids.

Meanwhile, I conclude the felt board story and show the children how the room is set up for the playlet. On the bare floor, all around the rug, a large circle of masking tape indicates the road. At one point on the road is a red paper stop sign. The idea is for the Gingerbread Man to run once around the rug and then halt on the stop sign. The other characters in the story will chase him, but never actually catch him.

As I point out the other props, the children watch attentively. They are so invested in the activity that they ignore Larry, who has wriggled away from his teacher’s embrace. While his classmates are learning how to enact the story, Larry places his forehead on the rug and pivots his body around his head.

Now each child gets to choose a part to enact: the Old Woman, the Cow, the Pig, the Fox, etc. Larry jumps up and clamors to be the Gingerbread Man. “I know this story,” he says eagerly. “My Mommy reads it to me all the time.”

Larry is a good listener, that I know. Even when he’s twirling or rocking, he can still pay attention to what is said or sung. But is he a good visual observer? Can he use his eyes to focus and attend? We’ll see.

The playlet begins. Larry knows the story and song… but not the significance of the red stop sign on the floor. He wants to participate… but can’t plan and carry out how he is supposed to act and what he is supposed to do. I repeat the information, and he says he understands… but he still has trouble stopping. I hold his hand and run beside him… but he still has trouble stopping. “Larry is doing it all wrong!” the Horse complains. “He’s messing us up!”

Larry is confused and unhappy. He falls in a heap on the rug. His classroom teacher sits nearby and rubs his back while the other children enact the story several times, until they’re satisfied.

Will Larry succeed in elementary school?

(1999) “A Great Start” — Review by Lee Pennington Neill, PhD

Published in Sensory Integration Quarterly, a publication of Sensory Integration International, Inc. (Spring/Summer 1999)

Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A., has done us all a favor in writing The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Integration Dysfunction. I think the title is inspired. Ms. Kranowitz should be very proud of her accomplishment, because she has helped many parents who previously approached their child’s teachers and doctors with “gut feelings” that something was wrong, but with little support for those feelings. She has done a fine job of explaining sensory integration for parents and teachers.

While I may not agree with every explanation or recommendation, I am glad to have this carefully written reference. There is plenty of information shared, a healthy index, a much-needed glossary and some excellent referral sources. The questionnaires offered will help educate users and recipients as to what behaviors may relate to sensory integrative dysfunction.

Dr. Larry Silver, who served as a board member for SII, writes a compelling introduction to the book. His statement, “We need to remember that behaviors are a message, a symptom, not a diagnosis,” should be posted in every classroom and doctor’s office in the country. I believe that educators in particular, but also professionals in ancillary fields, will benefit from this resource…

This is the first comprehensive book about sensory integrative dysfunction for parents and teachers, and it’s a great start. I hope more books follow. I will recommend this book as an accompaniment to Dr. Jean Ayres’ revised and updated book, Sensory Integration and the Child (2005, www.wpspublish.com ) and to the audio cassettes, Making Sense of Sensory Integration (2004) and Teachers Ask About Sensory Integration (2005) (www.SensoryResources.com ).

(1999) “Optimistic Appraisal of Children” — Review by Marcia Rubinstien, M.A., C.E.P.

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.”

(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.”

(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.