Friday, April 30, 2010



Last night we took LM to our local elementary school for a "read aloud" night. They invite the upcoming Kindergartners to come to the classroom to hear a story, get to know each other and get familiar with the school.

It's really a great program. For typical children. For a child with sensory processing issues, for my child, its another big obstacle.

An obstacle that has been on my mind for weeks. I can't stop talking about it, stressing over it, imagining it. How can I prepare LM? What would it be like?

Well, it was bad.

There was noise, there were distractions, there were 20 typical 4 and 5 year olds sitting on a rug. And then there was LM. Pacing the room, counting and talking, trying to make sense of his world. And as much as the whole program didn't make sense to LM, LM didn't make sense to the typical parents.

Unfortunately the program is only a half hour. 20 minutes into it LM was getting better, getting more comfortable. The teacher held up the book and LM read the title, author and publisher before she could. The typical parents gasped. I forget that it's not "typical" for typical kids to be reading at a second grade level when they're in preschool.

Then they had milk and cookies. The typical kids scrambled, LM waited his turn and said "No thank you, I'm allergic" when the teacher offered him milk. The teacher looked stunned. I forget that it's not "typical" for typical kids to have had years of social skill training and remember to use their manners with strangers.

"How's your cookie, LM?"
"I think it has flax seeds"

Oh, that's right. Typical 4 year olds don't know all about supplements. Or the planets, or nouns and vowels and math and ...

Well, then it was time to go. LM hadn't made any friends, acted kind of weird, and other than sitting fairly well (on the chair I pulled out for him while the typical kids sat in the floor), I thought the night was pretty disastrous. I should probably mention that I hadn't made any friends either. I couldn't really chat, I couldn't really take my eyes off LM. So I gathered up the little man, and started to slip out the back door.

"Excuse me, LM's Mom?"

Uh oh. The principal. I was prepared with all my answers, yes, he's in a special ed. program now, yes, we've looked at your contained classroom, no, we don't think it's appropriate for him, yes, we think he can be mainstreamed with an aide (you just didn't get a good sense of him tonight I swear) ... but she didn't ask me any of that.

Instead she told me LM was exceptionally bright and I was doing a great job at anticipating his sensory needs and facilitating his progress. She reminded me to make sure that sensory accommodations are written into his IEP, and told me she looked forward to watching his progress. And I said, well, nothing. I was speechless.

And with that, LM turned around, called out "Bye everyone!" and the kids called back, "Bye LM!" Best friends? No, probably not, but it's a darn good start. So another obstacle overcome. And another member of LM's fan club. Weeks of stressing over this and it went just fine. I couldn't wait to tell Daddy when we got home, he'd be happy to know that I can stop obsessing. So I walked in with smiles instead of the anticipated tears.

"It went great!"
"Uh, what went great?"


Sensory Saturday: Weighted Backpack Capes

These are a favorite in our house! A while ago LM started filling his backpack with "treasures" and wearing it around the house. What a great alternative to a weighted vest! We definitely noticed the calming effect it had on him.

So recently we were at a play date with a whole lot of little girls. And if there's one thing that little girls know how to do best, it's play dress up. Much to my delight, LM wanted to join in on the fun. Pretend play is still one of his biggest struggles, so at first he just donned a tutu and walked around the room. (We're progressive like that!) I could tell that he was trying to calm himself and organize his thoughts by pacing the room, all the while watching the girls play. Hmmm, how could I facilitate this?

I spotted a backpack and started filling it with wooden blocks. He put it on, took one more lap, and sat down for "tea time" with the ladies. Success! But next he wanted to know if he could wear a princess dress. "Well, you could ... (as I search around for something else) but how about a super hero cape instead?" I picked up a velour baby blanket, pinned it onto the straps of the backpack, and Voila! a weighted super hero cape! LM grinned and took off to save the universe. In fact, "princess and super hero" play dates are still our most successful social interactions.

So that's the story of the backpack cape. I love it for its obvious sensory benefits, but the pretend play opportunities are endless too.

Have fun!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy People Smile

I'll let you in on a secret. I started blogging almost two years ago, and it was a huge #FAIL.

I think, like is always the case in life, timing is everything. When I go back and read those posts I see a different family. A scared mom putting on a happy face, a lost little boy trying to make sense of his world, a marriage in trouble, and a baby whose infancy was rushed just so his neurotic mother could "start seeing some milestones." Ouch. Not the prettiest picture. I thought I was holding it all together. Little did I know when I wrote the last post of that blog that my "breaking point" was just days away.

So here goes ... this is the last post of my first blog. The post that forced me to really look at the state of my family and finally seek out some counseling and get my life (and head) in order. In a way, it's the best thing I've ever done. You might think a concerned friend pulled me aside and asked "how are you coping?" or a family member gently suggested I speak with someone ... but no. When I look back, I realize it was all about this last post. Pretty amazing. Here goes ....

"So today was 'one of those days' ... I was feeling down, ... overwhelmed with life and underwhelmed with motivation. The weather was dreary, I was drearier ... you get the picture. I must have sighed loud enough to disturb LM from lining up his toys (another blog for another day) and this is how our conversation went ...

LM: "Mommy sad."

Me: "No, Little Man. Mommy's happy. Mommy's always happy when I'm with my boys."

LM: "Happy people smile Mommy."

Me: Wow. Just Wow.

So there you have it. Take it from a 3 year old with extensive social skill training. Happy People Smile."

And there you have it. Diagnosed with depression by my autistic toddler. There's one for the Psych journals, huh?

La La Later ...


Sunday, April 11, 2010

La La Love It! ... Model Me Kids iPhone App

La La LOVE It! ...

Model Me Kids Going Places iPhone App

Oh the dreaded haircut. LM has worked through a whole lot of his sensory issues, but the haircut is still our nemesis. We've tried them all ... specialty kids salons with race car chairs, Daddy's barber (but don't you want to be a BIG boy? Uh, nope.), Mommy's salon with tons of lollipop bribes, even the backyard with Daddy wielding the buzzer.

It always ends the same: A screaming kid and a lousy haircut.

As I was searching through the App store on my iPhone, I came across Model Me Kids.
Based on their DVD series, Model Me Going Places, this app is designed to familiarize children with locations that may be challenging, and to help teach appropriate behavior in these places through peer modeling. LM *loves* the iPhone and uses it every chance he can get, so I was fairly confident that this just might be a winner.

He watched the social story before we got into the car, and I used the dialogue from the video to talk it over with him as we drove to the barber. I must admit, in the past I have "ambushed" him and not told him where we were going until we walked in. Not the best strategy I know, but the hysterics usually start as soon as the word "haircut" is uttered. To my surprise and delight, LM actually walked in on his own accord. Again, I used exact dialogue to prompt him, and he sat in the chair and put on his cape with minimal fussing.

There were still tears when the buzzer started, but no full blown meltdown. We stopped once and he held the iPhone and watched the whole video again. The barber was actually able to give him a little bit of a "hairstyle" instead of the usual shave-it-all-off-so-we-don't-have-to-do-this-again-anytime-soon haircut.

Huge success! The Barber was impressed, I was relaxed, and LM? Well, the Little Man was as handsome as ever. Thanks Model Me Kids!

La La Later ...


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tales of a Literal Child

If I ever write a book about my first born, it will surely be titled Tales of a Literal Child. (I can see all of you "Aspie Moms" nodding your head in understanding) For everyone else, allow me to explain.

Now would be a good time to introduce you to my "cast of characters". Little Man (LM for short) is my oldest son. At 13 months old we began to suspect significant developmental delays. At 2 years old he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. By 3 and a half years old he was starting to talk, but only stringing 2 words together or labeling objects. Thankfully with the help of wonderful therapists, a strict sensory diet and days filled with Floortime, we now have a very bright, very interactive and very very talkative 5 year old on our hands. Bear is his little brother, a very typical 2.5 year old who loves to be his big brother's sidekick. Bear's journey has certainly been easier than LM's but he also "put in his time" as part of the Baby Sibs Project at Yale University. We travelled to the Child Development Center in New Haven once a month for the first 15 months of his life. Remind me to blog about this later as it's a phenomenal program. So those are our children, a 5 year old professor and a 2 year old Ivy League grad. No shortage of blog material in this household! =o)

I've learned to love all of LM's quirks, but my favorite by far is the literalism. From our aptly named pets, (Fish our-last-name) to his philosophical day to day commentary, the Little Literal Man keeps us laughing. I thought I'd share one of my favorites.

We were recently on vacation with his cousins, sharing a cozy cabin in the woods. This was our breakfast conversation:

Me: How did you sleep R?

R: Fine.

Me: How did you sleep T?

T: Ok, I was a little hot.

Me: How did you sleep, Bear?

Bear: *ignores me while he chows down on his blueberry pancakes* (typical!)

Me: How did you sleep LM?

LM: On a bed with a pillow.

I should note that with this dry delivery comes an underlining "Well duh? How did you sleep?" To which I can only answer, well ... On a bed. With a pillow. duh.

La La Later ...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sensory Saturday: Exam Table Paper

Who knew a roll of paper could elicit such joy? (And as much as the kids enjoyed playing with it, I'm speaking of my joy... we occupied ourselves for almost 2 hours straight on a rainy Saturday morning!) If you're not familiar with exam table paper it's that super thin, crinkly, somewhat translucent paper that sticks to your you-know-what when you go to the doctor.

The Little Man (LM) gets all the credit for this sensory play day. I brought a roll home as a much cheaper alternative to easel paper, expecting the boys to draw and paint on it. Little did I know, exam table paper is a sensory extravaganza!

LM got his grubby little hands on it and right away built a road. He started on one end of the den, gave it a push ... and voila! a 20 foot road appeared. First he carefully walked toe to toe (like a balance beam) the length of the road. Little Bear of course was quick to follow. Hey! added bonus: the paper makes a crinkly sound! I asked them if the paper made different sounds if they walked, jumped or crawled down the road. To their sensory delight, it sure did.

Those who know me know that I'm singing a La La Language song every chance I can get, and this was an activity that called for a song!
Ha Ha This A-Way
Bear is walking, walking, walking,
Bear is walking all day long.
Ha Ha this a-way Ha Ha that a-way
Ha Ha this a-way, all day long.
(hey LM - how do you want to go down the road?)
LM is skipping, skipping, skipping,
LM is skipping all day long.
Ha Ha this a-way ...
("Bear is smiling! How does he feel? Yes! He feels happy! Happy people smile!)
Bear is smiling, smiling, smiling,
Bear is Happy all day long.
Ha Ha this a-way ha ha that a-way
Ha Ha this a-way, all day long.
Whew! We walked, ran, skipped, hopped, crawled ... even rolled down our Sensory Street. I love to use this song as often as possible for a bunch of reasons. From a sensory standpoint you're getting heavy work and gross motor skills. Social interaction is encouraged when 2 or more kids are playing this together. Have the kids take turns, wait on line, follow the leader, or partner up and walk down together. I use every opportunity to reinforce emotions and social skills, so reminding LM of smiling, happy and laughing fits well here. And oh! the language possibilities with this song! This is a great one for kids at every developmental level. From CV and CVCV (consonant/vowel "Ha" "Ha Ha") combinations to introducing action verbs (Walking, running, jumping, smiling) to asking "Wh" questions (What do you want to do? Who is jumping?) ... this is one of my favorite language enrichment songs!
"Ha Ha" was fun while it lasted, but came to an end in a full blown tug-of-war battle, the paper now twisted and a boy on each end. (I'll let you in on a daily dilemma in my home ... should I be the socially responsible parent and stop this "bad behavior" or cheer them on because they've come up with another fab sensory play activity? I bet you know the answer!) I let it go on for a little while knowing that the heavy work would calm LM down. Success ... they both collapsed in a pile of giggles.
We then unrolled another 10 feet or so of paper, gave them each an end and pretended it was a parachute. The paper filled with air and billowed up with a satisfying crackling sound.
We practiced shaking fast, slow, high and low ... check back soon for some great parachute songs.
Next we took some time to explore the different textures we could make with the paper. Fine motor work and heavy work combined when we crumpled, squeezed, twisted and tore the paper.
Hmm ... now what to do with all these balls of crumpled paper? How about a "snowball fight"? Lots of fun to throw, even more fun hiding ducking and dodging. And of course, when we're through, the Clean Up song. But this isn't our ordinary clean up. Today we pulled out the wastebasket and had a paper ball toss. Never one to miss out on an opportunity to count, LM counted all 27 balls. Bear did pretty well too - joined in and counted to 12.
LM did the finishing touches and rolled the rest of the paper back onto the roll. A fine display of intrinsic muscle coordination if I do say so myself. Hooray for OT! By now we were ready for stories and naps. What a Sen(sory)sational morning!
And to think, I just thought we'd break out the crayons. Hey - we never did do any drawing! Well, there's always tomorrow.
La La Later ...


So I've finally joined the world of blogging. My friends are saying "It's about time" because several times a week I stop what we're doing and say, "This would make a great blog post! I should blog about this!" Time to just do it.

I've spent months trying to come up with a great title. "Happy People Smile" and "Tales of a Literal Child" (Don't you worry - lengthy explanations will be blogged soon!) were the front runners, but in the end, La La Language is who I am. My hope for this blog is to share resources about early childhood developmental delays and invite you to join my family's journey.

I'm eager to share experiences with parents and would really welcome professionals with resources to share. Each week you will find a sensory activity; a language enrichment song or activity; an article related to autism, adhd, sensory processing disorder, auditory processing disorder or developmental delay; a product or program review (aptly named La La LOVE it!), and a healthy dose of my witty children's antics.

La La Later ...