(2002) Wisdom from a Preschool Teacher

Posted on Child.com, September

A mother tells me how excited she is about her toddler’s “educational” computer game. Just click the mouse and presto – one, two, three oranges bound into a bucket. Click again, and they reappear, one, two, three. Isn’t that a fabulous way to learn counting? What is my opinion, as a preschool teacher?

“How about giving him a bucket and three oranges?” I ask. “Then he can touch and hold them, smell them, toss them, and enjoy a real experience.”

“That seems so old-fashioned!” she says.

Old-fashioned is right! And often, old-fashioned is better. Times change, but children don’t. They still need the good old experiences that kids have always relished. They need to run and play outside, take risks, and try again when they stumble. And they still need thoughtful, available parents.

Want to raise a confident, competent child? The kind of kid who loves to learn and play? Who actively participates in the world around her? Who thinks independently while still considering others points of view? In 25 years of working with young children and their families, I’ve found these 10 tips most helpful for raising can-do kids.

#1 Provide concrete experiences. Children are sensory-motor learners. Sensory-motor means that sensations come in, and motor (movement) responses go out. Thus, playing with an orange engages most senses and encourages the child to try different motor responses. She can squeeze and sniff it, roll it across the floor or around in a pie pan, play catch with you, and maybe peel, section, and savor it. Many physical, hands-on activities like these nourish the brain.

You can enrich your child s play by providing meaningful sensory-motor experiences. For example, furnish footwear to play “Shoe Store.” Your child can: Sort shoes by shape, size, texture, and how they fasten(laces/Velcro/buckle). Sequence them (sneaker, pump, boot; sneaker, pump, boot). Seriate them according to size. Try them all on. Box and stack them. Be the “customer” and “salesperson.”

Hide the videos. Ban TV. Jane Healy, PhD, of Colorado, an educational psychologist and expert on brain development, advises that children sit before an electronic screen no longer than 30 minutes a day. Video time deprives children of the sensory-motor experiences that build healthy brains and bodies. A Chinese adage says: “I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.”

#2 Get physical with your child. “Everyone needs 12 hugs a day for optimum emotional health,” claims a wise colleague. Hugs are therapeutic – not only emotionally, but also physically. Research shows that at-risk infants who are cuddled are more likely to thrive than babies who are not. While you’re at it, roughhouse with your child – especially your girl! Baby girls arrive with the same physical requirements as boys. Every child needs to move through space.

So, get on all fours and play Horsey. Play Up and Over: hold her hands, let her scale your legs, and flip her over and down. Play Helicopter: hold her at the waist or underarms and swing her through the air.

Learning and active movement go together. For instance, the first time your child plays Horsey, she may feel unsteady. She must judge how to stay balanced, how hard to clench her knees, and how not to choke you! Subsequently, she’ll be more confident and relaxed because she has integrated countless body-brain connections. Someday, she ll generalize these lessons about balance and body position when she mounts a real pony or bicycle.

#3 Get his muscles moving. Fine, or small, muscles, which mature gradually, control the hands, fingers, toes, lips, tongue, and eyes. To encourage small muscle development, first you need to get your child’s big muscles working.

“Every child must organize large muscles before concentrating on complex small motor skills,” says Patricia Lemer, Executive Director of Developmental Delay Resources, a nonprofit organization dedicated to healthy alternatives for children with special needs. “Before sitting and writing, children require many opportunities to climb on ladders, toss balls, and paint broad strokes while standing at an easel.”

For little kids, think big: large Legos, foot-long trucks, life-size baby dolls, thick paintbrushes, chubby chalk and crayons. After preschoolers practice manipulating big toys and tools, they can graduate to smaller ones, such as Matchbox cars and watercolor brushes.

Get your child’s eyes roving. Play flashlight games, such as chasing each other’s beamed zigzags on darkened walls. Lob beach balls back and forth. Play tetherball and pingpong. Lie outside on summer nights and watch fireflies. Point out things in the distance. These visual exercises help young eyes track moving objects, change focus from far to near, and function as a team.

Get your child’s tongue wagging. Play mouth games with your baby: mimic the ways you curl, shake, and poke your tongue. Stretch your lips in great Os and wide grins. These games strengthen speaking skills.

#4 Encourage critical thinking. Wonder and hypothesize together. Why do melons float and potatoes sink? What may happen if we run out of gas? What snack will Grandma serve? Asking, “What do you think?” may elicit profound insights. Kids give thoughtful answers when we ask thoughtful questions.

Suppose your child is curious about a cartoon his schoolmates discuss. You’d prefer to read stories, but he wants to watch TV. Relent; in the long run, watching a short, mindless show is less damaging than feeling left out by classmates. Seize this opportunity to guide him into thinking critically. Critical thinkers are not complainers, but people who evaluate situations with discrimination and care.

Watch the show together. Later, ask questions: Would the hero make a nice friend? How does he treat less powerful characters? Does he have a plan, or just let stuff happen to him? When things go wrong, does he use his words to solve the problem? What helps him succeed – fancy equipment or his own wits?

Do not accept “Dunno.” Get an opinion!

#5 Let your child speak for herself. You and your daughter go to the ice cream parlor. The familiar clerk says, “Hi!” Your daughter freezes. Before you jump in with, “Say ‘hi’ to Mike,” give her time to respond. A child capable of speaking may simply need a few extra beats.

And suppose Mike inquires what flavor she wants today, and she just stands there. Don’t give the answer yourself; you may not know your child’s preference. You weren’t asked the question, anyway. Producing “language on demand” is a prerequisite for school success. A child must learn to respond to direct questions and to ask for what she wants. If you do the talking, the danger for your child is “earned helplessness.” Why should she make an effort, if you always take over? Model friendly conversation to encourage her to be responsive and considerate.

#6 Encourage good reading habits. A cartoon shows a boy holding a book. He regards his father, who is simultaneously using a laptop and watching television. The child says, “Daddy, can you read?” Take time to read. When you show an interest in books, you teach your child that reading is a lifetime pleasure. Let him catch you at it. Talk about what you are learning from the book.

A preschooler doesn’t need details about front-page news or the plots of best-sellers, but he can benefit from understanding that all kinds of challenges beset all kinds of folks. Children learn empathy from their parents. Discuss how problems may be overcome when people care about one another and work together.

#7 Champion chores. Children love and need heavy work. It activates the large muscles in the arms, legs, and torso; puts the brain in gear; and prepares them to pay attention to the surrounding world. The easier we make life for our kids, the harder their lives will be. Without sufficient motor activities, they may have low stamina, poor muscle tone, and scant experience in accomplishing simple tasks. Insufficient movement can also lead to poor sleep patterns and appetites.

Having your child help with chores is a great first step. He can rake leaves, shovel snow, dig in the garden, brush the dog, wash the car, push the stroller and vacuum cleaner, carry laundry upstairs, and haul nonbreakables (rice, plastic soda bottles, and cans) from grocery store to car and from car to kitchen.

Not enough heavy loads? Make some! Recycle those plastic bottles as Bottle Babies: fill them halfway with water, tinted with food coloring or tempura paint; tighten their caps; and hand them over. Outdoors, your child will lug them around, roll and kick them, hide them under the bushes, bury them in the sandbox, wrap them in blankets and pretend they are babies, and consider them a perfect toy.

#8 Make mealtime memorable. Sit down and share a daily meal. Dinner is best; breakfast will do. With you as a model for mealtime decorum, your child can learn self-help skills such as cutting and pouring, as well as more complex life skills such as patience, sharing, and participating in the give and take of conversation. Should conversation get stuck, ask each family member to relate one incident of the day. Or say, “Tell us something funny (confusing, scary, incredible) that happened today.” Make sure that everyone has a turn to listen and comment.

Food, like movement, is essential nutrition for growing bodies. Around the table, your child can also be nourished emotionally, so she feels a sense of belonging and learns to be mindful of the needs of others; socially, so she learns to function in a group; and cognitively, so she learns to meet challenges and plan solutions.

#9 Honor your child’s interests. Say your daughter is fond of earthworms. She rescues and carries them home in paper cups. And let’s say you hate worms. Before you say, “Yuck,” look at her face. Is she emotionally invested in these creatures? Curious and compassionate? Eager to share her thoughts with you?

This is bad? No, this is wonderful!

#10 Make fun a priority. Play helps children learn. It stretches the imagination, encourages thinking skills, strengthens motor coordination, and enhances social development. Our daily charge should be, “Have fun!” – not “Be good!” Fun, like manners, empathy, and the desire to read, begins at home. If you know and show how to have fun, chances are your child will, too. So…

  • Dress up for Hallowe’en.
  • Play make-believe games, like “I’m the kid and you’re the Mommy.”
  • Celebrate Backwards Day; eat dessert first.
  • Switch the initial sounds of words to create Spoonerisms, such as “Please heed the famster,” or, “Remember to toss your fleeth,” or “All ready for proccer sactice?” Because they are old enough to get it, preschoolers are tickled by such… nensonse.
  • Have Silly Contests. Who can crunch carrots the loudest? Blow the biggest bubbles? Invent a word to rhyme with “raccoon”? Stare into another’s eyes without laughing?
  • Make music together. Music restores order, improves communication, and is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Homemade rhythm instruments include spoons, pots and pans, oatmeal-box drums, pencil mallets, and cigar-box guitars (sturdy boxes encircled with rubber bands). Inexpensive kazoos and slide whistles can add hilarious melody. Beat a simple rhythm and invite your child to join in. Take turns following each other’s beat. Change from simple to complex, from slow to fast, from loud to soft. Making music is especially fun when you and your child actively make it happen.

Some of the most important skills your child needs at school come from lessons that begin at home. Try these 10 Can-Do Tips, and you will help get your child on the path to success.

 

(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.