quinn and i have a scrabble game going on, laid out on the table in his bedroom. he got interested in it because he “helped” me play a few words in the game words with friends (ie scrabble on a smart phone) and one time he looked over my shoulder and told me, “mama, you can spell up! u-p!”
slowly but surely, he is gaining more confidence with reading and he seems to relish all of those little quirks of the english language. he will pose questions, “carrot starts with /ck/ (saying the sound). is that a c or a k?” he delights in observing silent e’s on the end of words. it’s like he’s in on all these big secrets now, and he loves being in the know. replenishing his scrabble tiles he tells me, “mama, i have 3 vowels in my tray now. two a’s and a u.”
can you find “up”? hint: he used a blank tile for p.
now that the evaluation wave is behind us, and the swell of our ocean has calmed down, we are back to diy methods for helping quinn learn to tolerate frustration with more flexibility. i am making a conscious effort to enhance quinn’s “sensory diet,” that concept i mentioned from the out of sync child. i don’t know that quinn has sensory integration problems, though i suspect it’s like the rest of his “stuff”- it’s there in quantities too small to register on a neuro-developmental pediatrician’s yardstick. either way, i know that sensory play often seems to calm and center quinn and so beefing up his sensory diet can’t hurt and might help. (i think that is probably true of any child.)
i made myself a list of things quinn already enjoys on a sensory level. sand and water are thing one and thing two in our coastal lives. we spend a few hours on the beach each week, lately as part of my nanny job. (aside: i often get looks of pity when i tell someone of my career change from science to nannying. i know the automatic first thought is other peoples’ childrens’ fecal matter but to me it means i get paid to take children to the beach. i went into marine biology because i love the ocean, and now i get to spend time with it instead of a computer screen.) the beach is of course a full-immersion sensory experience (the sound of the waves, the smell of the salty seaweed, the feel of the sand in your toes, in your fingers, scooping, sifting and pouring, building sand castles, stacking rocks, the feel of the sun, wind, rain, space to run and gallop and spin, drift logs to balance on, and if you are only one, the taste of the sand and the feel of it crunching in your teeth! (my little charge is at that fun stage of exploring everything orally.) similar to the sand theme, we used to get a lot of mileage out of a tray of birdseed i would bring to the farmer’s market, which somehow attracted all of the market urchins to my tent for hours on end as they dug their fingers through it and filled plastic eggs to make shakers, shoveled, funneled and poured it among containers. i may have to revive the birdseed bin- which i do recommend over popcorn or dry beans, because birds will still eat it after it’s been played with. also, it is that wonderful time of year called gardening season. digging in the soil is therapy for anyone, and quinn has always enjoyed it.
what quinn really enjoys about gardening is watering. he will dip a yogurt cup into a 5 gallon bucket 431 times to water tiny seedlings, right to the bottom of the bucket, then ask me to refill it. he will hold the hose in the greenhouse and squeeze the spray nozzle for so long i usually need to put a stop to it so we don’t empty the tank or drown the plants. he will hydrate foliage using a full spritzer bottle until it’s empty, as though he is hypnotized. like his mama, he will soak in the bathtub for an hour or more, though he likes tepid water and i prefer it boiling. he has a fun time pretending all sorts of things in the water (one time recently a pink rubber duck was hermione, and she had been captured by the giant squid). he can usually be heard talking non-stop to himself, moving water from here to there, squeezing ducks to fill them up, and squirting water out again.
he doesn’t love the sensory experiences involving hair washing, cutting, or brushing, (in fact he finds them excruciating), but we have made some strides. he likes having apricot oil rubbed on his scalp, something i do at night occasionally to try to loosen the last remnants of cradle cap. he knows that means the next morning’s bath will include a shampoo, but he likes the head rub enough to agree to it. i just have to be super gentle and not get any water in his eyes at all. the last haircut he told me he only wanted if it could be gentle and fast (it hurts and it’s so boring!) so i did my best. i definitely lost style points, but on the other hand it may have enhanced his harry potter look. we just picked up a little rubber duck scrub brush, and i know that skin rubbing/brushing is a sensory integration tool that helps kids organize their neurons. there has been many a night when quinn simply will not fall asleep, but after a good backrub and dolphin story (the baby dolphin has his body parts listed and mama tells him to let each part sink into the waves while focusing on his breathing) he is out like a light. we also like to start our days, when we can, with a good 10 minute snuggle.
of course, sometimes snuggling turns more into things like steamrolling and hiding under the blankets, sometimes “being an egg” (which he will ask me to sit on) and then hatching out, other times requiring tickling. i am a stickler about tickling, i rarely want to do it, and will only do it on request and will stop at any indication it is not wanted any longer. yet, because i have done it this way, respecting his boundaries, quinn seems to crave it. usually things devolve into horseplay then, and quinn can be seen hanging upside down by his ankles from my arms, wheelbarrowing around the house, or dancing to whatever happens to be on the stereo (the other night it was the band, and the grateful dead hour dead air is also a favorite on saturday nights.)
i notice that he is interested in swinging more than he used to be. he has never been a natural at swinging, but is starting to get the mechanics of keeping himself going. he doesn’t like to go very high, but seems to enjoy the constant motion as long as it’s a gentle arc. when he finally does come off the swing after a session, he seems more grounded and flexible, speaking of neurons becoming organized. we just put a swing up in a big tree at home, from a board and some rope we hauled off the beach.
there is a putting green in the yard outside our nanny house that quinn has been drawn to, so we went to the second hand sporting goods store and got quinn a putter. i imagine putting as a skill that causes one to have to integrate both sides of the brain, as the hands have to move across the body’s centerline. the significance of crossing the midline might be very great for children with sensory integration issues. i imagine quinn’s archery practice (he does this with his dad) is great for this as well.
my little perfectionist does not want to try skipping (i wonder if he will let grammy and grampy work on it with him in a few short weeks- they are the ones who taught me!) but i got him a jumprope while we were buying the golf putter, and he has been having a great time with that. he is supremely uncoordinated at it, of course, but as he doesn’t know it (as he seems to have some indication with skipping- maybe because of the evaluation) and he thinks it is a barrel of laughs, he is happy to practice. he will jump over once and stop, then ask me “how many times now?” and then will do two individual jumps, stopping in between. i keep increasing the number as long as he is into it.
another thing quinn got to do for the first time recently was jump on a friend’s trampoline. he had such a blast! he and the friend spent a whole afternoon on it, alternating between bouts of bouncing and then periods of sitting and talking, imagining all sorts of things together. he also thoroughly enjoys yoga balls, and loves visiting the yoga studio and getting to use them. i am planning on getting him one for home. rich handed me a newspaper article about schools starting to trade in desk chairs for yoga balls, and it is said that the kids’ focus is vastly improved.
probably my favorite sensory stimulus is when quinn asks for a sandwich hug. it happens just about any time he comes into a room where rich and i are hugging. it is so routine we all know the script now. it goes like this: “make me into a sandwich! i will say, ‘don’t squeeze me too hard’ and then you squeeze me as hard as you can! ok! don’t squeeze me too hard! aurghlmph!” i like having my arms wrapped around both of my guys at once. it it the best thing i have found for organizing my neurons.