Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Great Book for Understanding Kids' Sensory Triggers

Someone recently gave me a copy of Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals: A Practical Daily Use Handbook for Parents and Teachers. I love it!

This book is chockfull of practical strategies and helps explain why your child is "Afraid of the Car Wash" or "Sucks Stomach in as Far as Possible, Then Puffs it Out," or "Dislikes Wearing Shoes and/or Socks."

It's not a long, laborious read. You look at the Table of Contents, find something your kid does and then flip to the page to read a couple paragraphs about why he does it and how to help. Easy!

This was designed for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder, but having been in a preschool classroom for much of the last year, I can guarantee that this would be useful to any parent. All babies and young kids have difficulty dealing with our modern world because it is so weird and frightening!

I love the table of contents, too, because reading through it, I get a sense of how wide the range of sensory triggers are. It's nice to feel like I'm not the only parent in the world dealing with them!

Angie Voss' explanations are kind and positive. You can tell she really thinks about where the child is coming from and gives them the benefit of the doubt that they are not just "acting out" but might have a legitimate reason for certain behaviors.

Check out a copy from your library or buy it on amazon by clicking on this picture!

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Looking for a meaningful gift? Dark & Light: A Love Story in Black and White is a beautiful and insightful board book available here. All profits go towards my son's medical needs. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

How Video Games Could Teach My Kid to Walk

Dear Video Game Developers,

Wanna do something really cool and meaningful? Develop a game system that teaches my kid how to walk.

I'm not kidding.

I can clearly see in my mind a long roll-out pad for the Wii. You place the child on it and he gets certain rewards for each teeny, tiny new milestone. Study child development and see how certain leg movements are the building blocks for crawling and standing. You could have whole levels devoted to pelvic movements. The sky's the limit.

See, when typical babies are hanging out all day, they are constantly experimenting with different movements and stumble across the rewards and penalties for such movements. No baby has ever thought: "I'm going to learn how to walk." They just play around with their body until it does what it was designed to do.

The problem I'm finding as my son approaches his fourth birthday is that motivating him to roll over and crawl is immensely difficult. He is no longer a baby who is easily rewarded with something shiny — he needs a much bigger stimulus.

There is not a lot he won't do for the iPad though. He has learned a lot about sitting and hand-eye coordination by playing it — not because he is "working on" those skills, but because it is what's needed to reach his goal in the game. This is precisely what babies do when they take those first steps. They are not thinking: "I'm going to put one foot in front of the other." They are thinking: "I want to be closer to mama." Walking is simply a means of achieving their primary goal.

I know that "child development" and "video games" tend to be at odds in our culture, but I think that's precisely because they have a remarkable ability to tap into neuroplasticity. This can be bad if you are using video games to imprint violence and objectification of women, but you could also use them to quickly and effectively teach useful skills.

Take for example this woman. She is a video game developer who suffered severe depression after a concussion and the only way she found to get out of it was to create a video-game-based reward system for taking the small real-world steps to improve her life.

I know from friends with kids who have cerebral palsy but can ambulate that games on the Wii have dramatically improved these children's coordination and balance. But so far there is nothing like that for kids who are still on the floor.

We still try with Malachi's walker. We play a dance game on the X-box 360 Kinect, but he isn't really affecting what's going on and the walker imposes bizarre rules of gravity. One of Malachi's absolute favorite outings used to be going to the dance pad at a nearby mall. Look how fast he goes in his walker to get to it!

Malachi running to the dance pad! from Shasta Kearns Moore on Vimeo.

Unfortunately that was several months ago and the dance pad is now decommissioned. It was a very sad day indeed for Malachi when we found that out. 

But he remains strongly motivated by video games. His new favorite meal is Super Mario-shapes chicken noodle soup, but he rarely ate pasta before that. 

I can't imagine my kid is the only one. So, please, video game developers. If you wanna do something amazing, develop a game that helps motivate older children with developmental disabilities — several million individuals worldwide — to practice the same developmental steps that typical babies go through. I know at least one little boy who would really get into it. 

Jessie Kirk Photography

Feel free to share this post using the tiny icon buttons below and if you haven't subscribed to my RSS feedliked me on Facebook or followed me on Twitter, there's no time like the present! 

Looking for a meaningful gift? Dark & Light: A Love Story in Black and White is a beautiful and insightful board book available here. All profits go towards my son's medical needs. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Most Favorite Page on the Internet

I'm calling in sick today. This is the third day in a row that I've woken up with a migraine, which I'm desperately hoping is not a new trend. Usually I can kick it with Excedrin and it disappears for several weeks. Add to that, the boys' tummy bug came back with a vengeance last night so I need to help tend to one very tired and sick boy and one perfectly awake and energetic boy. 

Fortunately, I will not leave you, dear readers, without enlightening reading material as I have recently discovered My Most Favorite Page on the Internet. The words, the pictures, everything. I love all of it. 

Enjoy! And let me know what you think. Number 27 has always been hardest for me. Which one do you like the most?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

Have Kid with CP; Will Travel

Flying with a three-year-old is never fun. Add to that an enormous amount of luggage to keep said three-year-old upright and you have a ghastly mix.

A few days before our recent surgery trip to New York, I acquired a hand-me-down medical stroller just the right size for Malachi. This thing is pretty robust and has those metal loops used to tie it down inside accessible vehicles. I was stoked because I thought it meant that we could just roll it onto the plane, they would remove a seat, lock the chair down and then Malachi would happily play with his own tray for the whole flight.

I was wrong. Apparently most airplanes (I hear Southwest is an exception?) have zero accommodations for people in wheelchairs. The standard process is to roll yourself down the gangway to the door of the airplane. Then they either move you bodily or with a sling-like mechanical Hoyer lift into a narrow "aisle chair." From the aisle chair you are moved bodily into a regular seat, where hopefully you can keep yourself upright. Meanwhile, your very expensive and very personal wheelchair is rolled away by strangers into the luggage compartment, where things can (and do) fall on it. As you can imagine, this makes air travel unappealing for most people with disabilities. An easy fix would be to have a removable seat in the handicap aisle but it seems there is not very much momentum for that idea.

As it was, on the eve of our trip, I have to figure out how I am going to handle Malachi's seating needs, not only for the flight, but once we had arrived. Fortunately he still fits in our go-anywhere Maclaren Volo Stroller .

I love this thing so much. I don't know what we will do when he grows out of it.

Anyway, then I needed to figure out how to put Malachi in the airplane seat and what I would use for a feeding chair. I complained about these things to a local United Cerebral Palsy forum and the parents there said they've had to use FAA-approved car seats to lock in their kiddos. I knew from a previous short flight when he was 2 that the fold-down tray would be too far away from him and I was not about to strap him to a seat for five hours without something to play with.

So, here I am carting a stroller, a non-mobile 3-year-old, a car seat, a tray, a diaper bag and a backpack through the airport like a madwoman.

The flights themselves were fairly uneventful thanks to the magic of the iPad and two very pleasant seat mates. Annemarie of Vancouver and Cheryl of Portland, wherever you are, thanks for your help!

This Bambinos Tidy Table Tray is one that we got a while ago at Babies R Us. It is very handy as it snaps on directly to a table, but we use sticky Velcro to strap it to his car seat and it can go anywhere.

But wait. There's more. Because I didn't talk about checked luggage yet did I? I had a massive roller suitcase packed as lightly as I could for nine days on the road. But the real problem came from the Mulholland Walkabout pediatric hands-free walker that I brought. In hindsight, I really SHOULD NOT have brought it, but I had the impression that the doctors would want to see him in it and that it would be necessary for post-operative recovery. Neither of those were true.

Instead, I carted this very heavy and awkward thing all the way across the country and back for no good reason. At the PDX airport, the desk attendant was about to charge me luggage fees for it but then I remembered the magic phrase I had heard from another mom on the UCP forum: "orthopedic device." As soon as I said those magic words, the check in process went smoothly.

I had also heard from others that baggage carriers are not as gentle as we might like with our children's medical equipment, so I wrapped both pieces of the walker thoroughly in bubble wrap and plastered Fragile stickers all over it. Nevertheless, when we got to our lodgings on the East Coast and unwrapped it, it was clear that three of the adjustment screws had been snapped in half and a piece holding down a protective cover was broken and just dangling. Now that we are back home, I've also noticed that the metal frame has been compressed by something very heavy indeed. We are working with Delta to repair the damage.

Unfortunately, on our return flight from JFK airport, the magic phrase "orthopedic device" opened no doors. Instead, I had to explain three times to different attendants what the walker was for and why they shouldn't charge me for it. Meanwhile, my son is waiting in the car and I am getting very anxious about it. Finally a woman very rudely tells me that I need to go get him to prove that he is disabled. (WHY ELSE WOULD I BE TRAVELING WITH A PEDIATRIC WALKER??) By the time all of this is resolved, they can't figure out how to reprint my claim tickets, so they tell me they voided the transaction and ask for my card again. Sure enough, when I get home I discover they charged me twice for my one piece of luggage, so I essentially had to pay for the walker anyway. More than an HOUR after I began the check-in process, we were finally on our way.

I got through security and collapsed into a restaurant seat near our gate, with all of our carry-ons scattered around us, and had a drink. Or two.

Feel free to share this post using the tiny icon buttons below and if you haven't subscribed to my RSS feedliked me on Facebook or followed me on Twitter, there's no time like the present! 

Looking for a meaningful gift? Dark & Light: A Love Story in Black and White is a beautiful and insightful board book available here. All profits go towards my son's medical needs. 

*Updated from the original to include link to Bambino Tidy Table Tray.


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