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Friday, June 29, 2012

One Summer Week

This week has been quite an adventure. One day we made "cloud dough" with flour and baby oil. It was an interesting texture and the kids liked seeing what happened as we added more and more baby oil. That was the day we also painted faces and dyed hair. 

One day we went to Lamb's Farm, a small petting zoo that has other activities like a train ride, mini golf, a little bouncy house. It was a beautiful day, almost chilly! When we got to the Farm, we had a picnic on the grass before we hit the activities. The kids wanted to see some animals first, so we started with the donkeys and llamas. We saw a huge piggy, lots of ducks, and goats that you can pet. Ben and Jonah loved the different animals. Ella tolerated the animals as long as I held her, and as long as the smell wasn't too terrible. She is sensitive to icky smells. Aidan stayed as far away from the animals as possible, but still participated in our tour of farm life. 

When we took the little train ride, the kids were thrilled. We've been to Lamb's Farm many times over the years, and Ben and Jonah have great memories of different times we've visited. They were especially excited to show Ella and Aidan the excitement of the train. Jonah and Aidan sat in a tiny seat behind Ben, Ella and me. Ella was sandwiched in the middle of us, and held tightly onto our knees the whole way. Aidan sat close to Jonah, but as the ride went on and the noise of the "choo choo" continued, he slid closer and closer to Jonah as he plugged his ears, until Jonah finally put his arm around Aidan. On exciting things like train rides, I am usually pretty peppy. I get really excited about things like that. Especially when I know my kids will get a kick out of something. I usually point out landmarks or funny things on the way, look for things the kids will like, make "choo choo" sounds...but that day, I didn't really have to say anything! Ben and Jonah echoed me perfectly. Every time I was about to point something cool out to the kids, either Jonah or Ben would say "Ella! Look at that duck over there! She is going into the pond!" Or "Aidan! Look at the bear over there! It's just pretend. It's a statue. Isn't it cool?" They do this all the time, and I'm always momentarily surprised to hear their voices say things that sound exactly like what I would say. Then I remember they've been living with me for almost 10 years, hearing my voice and sharing my joy for life, and hopefully learning how to teach and love others. Probably all children sound like their parents. I love it when I witness my kids being so nurturing with each other. Then I know that whatever else happens in their lives, at least they will have these skills going for them. They are good people. 

Yesterday we spent a few hours at the park the kids love. We climbed, swung on the swings, played in the water and sand, and made new friends. We got home, hot, tired, and happy, just in time to down a dinner and rush Ben to piano lessons. Another time this week we got out a plastic tub and emptied a bunch of rice into it. We played with it with scoopers and princess toys and trucks. Ella and Ben really enjoyed this. Today I copied an idea I found on a different blog about activities for kids. I got the kids outside, pulled out a whole bunch of bubble wrap and spread it on the ground. We put shaving cream on the bubble wrap along with some food coloring. Then the kids popped the squishy, colorful bubbles with their feet. They thought it was the coolest thing! The shaving cream ended up all over their bodies- tummies, faces, was great. Total sensory activity. Smell, colors for sight, texture, awesome.

One thing this week that wasn't so great was when Aidan went to his Social Skills camp at our therapy clinic today, he had a total meltdown. He's been doing the camp for a couple weeks now, his Occupational Therapist that we've known for years runs the camp, Ella goes to camp with always surprises me when Aidan has a reaction to things like this. It happened during the school year too- what seemed to me like random days, Aidan would just have a complete breakdown about getting on the bus and going to school. I don't know why this happens, I don't know what sets him off, I don't understand why Aidan struggles with things that seem to me like they should be comfortable routines. Aidan's meltdowns seem to me to be random and unpredictable. But I say the meltdowns seem random to me, because I've learned over the years that the things that set off kids with Sensory Processing Disorder are not random to them. There are specific reasons they have meltdowns, and it's not because they're trying to be difficult or get their way. Something bothers them and they can't deal with it in a more age-appropriate way, so the only thing they can do to let me know they're struggling is melt down. 

One thing I've also been thinking about in regards to my sweet Aidan is his sensitivity to noise. After talking with some other healthcare professionals this week, I think I need to investigate getting Aidan some ear plugs for noisy, anxiety-producing situations. (Places like public bathrooms that always have the loudest flushing toilets in the universe, zoos with surprising noises you can't prepare for, train rides with loud "choo choo's", the cafeteria at school, movie theaters...) I'm not sure if ear plugs will work for him sensory-wise, as far as the feeling of the plugs in his ears. Maybe after he realizes the plugs will make the world softer, he'll be willing to try them. We may try noise-reducing headphones also, we'll see how it goes. I have Jonah and Ben's 'issues' pretty figured out, but Aidan is still an enigma. I have work to do to understand what is going on with him. 

When we picked Aidan and Ella up from camp, Aidan's OT took a moment to talk to me about how Aidan had done. She said it takes some time but he does slowly calm down. He participated in some Therapeutic Listening, which we have done before at different times with various boys, and the OT said that really helped Aidan get regulated again. I was just looking into this program online again yesterday, as it's been a while since we did Therapeutic Listening and I'm looking for ways to help Aidan. The program involves special earphones that don't block outside noise. The "music" the kids listen to works to regulate the brain, focusing on getting the two hemispheres to work in unison to be more efficient. The music is distorted at times, and some CD's have different sounds like white noise or nature sounds. The child listens to the music for a certain time each day. Aidan hasn't been compliant in the past when we've tried the program, but today it seemed to work well for him. The tricky thing about sensory issues is that some days a certain thing works great for helping to minimize sensory problems, and other days the same thing doesn't work at all and in fact makes the sensory problems worse. It's super frustrating.

We finished our day off with a few hours at the pool. I think my boys are half fish. Ella felt cold despite the 93 degree weather, so wasn't too happy about swimming. We had a little dinner at the pool since Daddy was coming home late and Mommy was too tired to think about what to fix a bunch of hungry, crabby kids. It turned out to be a lovely little day   . The kids were happy eating and watching the little sparrows that come running when they see food dropping to the floor from little fingers. Aidan had gotten kicked in the mouth by someone in the pool so hard it had drawn blood, so after that "extreme trauma" he was happy to have some down time and eat cold ice cream. We ran into friends all afternoon, which made us all happy. 

Another summer day is done. I wonder what adventures we'll embark on tomorrow. 

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