Monthly Archives: April 2012

Finger lickin’ good!

Standard

Feeding Maddy has been a struggle for us almost since we first introduced solids. Remember this face? For the longest time we just thought Maddy was stubborn. Perhaps the most stubborn baby we’d ever met (or at least running in the same league as her cousin, Logan). But, you can probably guess where I’m headed. She’s not as stubborn as we thought (though, she might still have some of that Baynton in her, it’s not nearly to the extent as we thought). Thank goodness for that!

Maddy was skeptical from the first moment when we introduced solids:

Initially, we didn’t think too much of it. I mean, after only having nursed for six months, suddenly new tastes and textures would naturally take some time to get used to. We thought over time she would get used to them and things would improve.

Boy were we wrong.

Not only did they not get better, they actually got worse. The more foods we introduced, the more she refused all foods. At 8 months, we were lucky if we could get avocado into her (avocado having been the only thing she would eat for most of her solid food life). It seemed the only thing she would happily accept were Nutrios, Mum-mums, and random baked goods I would make hiding squash, banana, apple etc. inside. As you can imagine, she couldn’t eat enough of those things to keep her full or happy.

If we tried to feed her she would cry, scream, and meltdown. Feeding had become one of my least favourite things to do during the day (along with bum changes, which were increasingly difficult as well). Unfortunately, both of those things happen more than once a day. I eventually stopped even attempting to feed Maddy dinner and waited for Eric to come home so he could take a turn with the feeding frustration (and by 8 months he was also doing the breakfast routine). My patience was so low I didn’t even try feeding her anymore (except at lunch when I was forced to because Eric was at work).

What was going on? Our OTs helped us to make sense of her bizarre and sometimes contradictory feeding behaviour. A number of things were at play here:

  • With low registration of proprioception, Maddy had no idea how close the spoon was to her (as you can’t see your own mouth). Suddenly having food in her mouth was shocking and upsetting to her.
  • With low registration to her vestibular sense, being up high is a vulnerable place, and thus, scary. This means she hated her high chair. She would fight with everything she had to not be put in it. Once in it, often she would cry non-stop and refuse to eat until we took her out.
  • She is over sensitive to textures. This means she has an extremely sensitive gag reflex. We have tons of videos of her gagging over all kinds of foods. Gagging was almost always followed by a meltdown.
  • She seems to be under sensitive to taste (she loves flavour – garlic, tabasco sauce, lemon juice).

The first thing our OTs helped us to understand was that Madeleine needed time away from her high chair. We would need to make her high chair a safe space for her before we attempted to feed her in it again. This began the first round of feeding intervention. We fed her while we held her in our arms, while she crawled on the floor with her toys, sitting out in the sunroom where she could watch the cars, in Walmart while I pushed her around in a cart, in a laundry basket, out at the park, and sometimes, in her baby carrier.

This allowed feeding time to not be meltdown time. Maddy wouldn’t cry when we fed her. And, she started eating avocado again! We also stopped feeding her with her spoon during this time. Instead, we fed her by hand… dipping her Nutrios and Mum-mums into avocado.

During this first stage of intervention, her high chair became a fun place. We would use some of the techniques our OTs taught us to help let Maddy feel her body and calm her, and then we would put her into her high chair to play. I would put toys on her tray, blare music, and sing and dance like a wild woman. For the most part this has worked. Sometimes Maddy is fine in her high chair (and initially, we only put her in her high chair to eat if she had just had a bath as the proprioceptive stimulation would put her in a good place). It’s variable though, and we just follow her lead. If we see she’s having a hard time in it, she’s taken out immediately. No more crying in the high chair allowed.

The next thing our OTs helped us to understand was that Maddy had to be in control of her feeding. If she was the one bringing the food to her mouth, she would have a better sense of when it was coming in. Remember how I said she got worse with the more food we introduced? This was because the more food options we had to give her, the less likely she was able to predict (and prepare herself for) the incoming food. A surprise taste or texture was not a pleasant experience for her (or us!). Allowing her to have control over her food would assist with this problem as well. I mean, it was messy, but it worked.

As you can see, we would also dip her toys into different foods so that as she mouthed them, she would be exposed to different foods. Her puréed foods were mixed with Nutrios to give her something to grab onto.

During this time we also had Maddy explore spoons, allowing her to control when and how they entered her mouth.

We used this intervention for several weeks. It helped to broaden Maddy’s food repertoire. She now will eat: avocado, chickpeas (and hummus), bananas, pears, and peaches pretty regularly. Depending on the day, she has also explored with applesauce, pasta, sweet potato, turkey, carrots, red lentils, goat yogurt, and goat cheese. There are still many things she flat-out refuses, but we keep trying to introduce new things. We still have days where all she eats is avocado, but we are definitely seeing improvement.

We had to move on from her exploration stage of eating, because she quickly learned that if she threw her food on the floor, our dog, Loki, would stay near her (he pretty much runs from her now because she loves pulling on his ears, pulling on his tail, sticking her fist in his mouth… and she loves when he nips at her, giggling non-stop).

Now we’re back to feeding her in her high chair if she’ll tolerate it, otherwise we use the techniques from the first stage of interventions (crawling, playing, holding, etc.). Sometimes we feed her by hand, sometimes with a spoon, and sometimes she feeds herself.

Like father like daughter

What are we working on now?

  • We continue to provide fun play time in her high chair with no expectation of eating so she can continue to develop a positive association with her chair.
  • We use distraction techniques while she eats (basically I blare music and sing and dance like a fool for her).
  • I use oral desensitization techniques at least once a day (a body massage to calm her followed by a facial massage with a warm wash cloth with repetitions, next I apply firm pressure to her lips, gums, and teeth).
  • We allow play time with spoons, and give her a spoon to hold while we spoon feed her.
  • When spoon-feeding her we make sure to make eye contact and verbalize food is coming, “Want more?” “Here comes avocado” “More!”
  • We still dip her toys in food allowing her to have control over new tastes and textures.
  • We offer a variety of textures (purées, chunks, smooth, gritty), tastes, and temperature (warm, cold) of foods at each meal time.

Our goal for the next little while is to reduce her oral sensitivity (ultimately reducing her gag reflex and allowing her to tolerate a spoon and different textured foods in her mouth), and to increase the number of foods she will eat. Long term, we’d like her to be able to eat with us at the table (the same foods we are eating), in a more socially appropriate manner.

We understand that this is a long process and that ultimately it will take her longer to be able to eat in a socially appropriate way than typically developing kids. For now we’ll take what we can get – a baby who no longer screams and cries during feeding time.

Pajama shorts fail!

Standard

Yesterday Maddy was having a particularly cranky day. So I took some time hidden away in my sewing nook to start a new project: pajama shorts! I thought it would be a great project to prepare for summer. I decided this would be the first time I would attempt to create my own pattern. I took out a pair of my shorts and created the pattern.

I cut out my pieces and started sewing.

It would have been a great addition to my summer pj collection…. that is if they had turned out. I didn’t get very far. I managed to get to about here:

I still needed to hem the legs and put an elastic in the waist. But, as I was holding them at this stage, I thought that something didn’t seem right, so I tried them on. Or at least I attempted to try them on – they didn’t fit.

Whoops. I made them so that they would fit my waist… neglecting the fact that an elastic would need to stretch out the waistband so I could get them up to my waist. What I should have done was stretch out the waistband when I was copying my pattern (so there would be more fabric that would fit my waist once it was gathered with an elastic). Ah well, mistakes are how we learn, right?

I think I’ll take another attempt at pajama shorts for this summer – wish me luck!

Understanding the cumulative effect

Standard

It has taken us awhile to really get a handle on ‘the cumulative effect’. When it comes to SPD, understanding this is oh-so-important if you want a somewhat peaceful and pleasant day.

So what exactly is the cumulative effect? Rather than explain it myself, I’m going to turn to an explanation that is provided in the book Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorders by Lucy Jane Miller (which, as I’ve mentioned before, is a fantastic first read for those who want to understand SPD).

A typically developing child gets a sensory message such as the big bang of Trey slamming his door, figures out the cause, and lets it go. In children with sensory-processing problems, this ability to let go of past messages sometimes appears to be impaired, leading to a “backlog” of sensation that accumulates until it overwhelms the child’s coping skills. Think of a child like LaTanya [or Maddy] as a busy office worker who has an in-basket but no out-basket. She finishes an assignment but, even after it’s done, the assignment sheet stays in the in-basket. Every time she completes another assignment, the in-basket gets fuller. Eventually she grows frustrated and finds it harder to complete new work because the pile of old work is growing precarious and she has to spend a lot of energy just making sure it doesn’t spill. At last, there’s one assignment too many. It doesn’t have to be an important assignment; it’s just the proverbial “last straw” that brings down the whole mountain. It is believed that the cumulative effect of undisposed sensory messages is what causes children with SPD to eventually fall apart over triggering events that are minor.

You can link to this section of the book here.

Now, the cumulative effect causes the child to “fall apart” as you read above. This is often commonly referred to as the meltdown. A meltdown is not a temper tantrum. Let me repeat that: A meltdown is not a temper tantrum. Simply put, a tantrum is a manipulation attempt by a child when he does not get his own way. A meltdown is a result of over-or-under-stimulation. When a meltdown is taking place, the child loses complete control and awareness. In our experience, when Maddy has a meltdown, not only can she not calm herself down, we can’t calm her down either.

Before we understood that Maddy’s “fits” were meltdowns, Eric and I used to announce to one another at the start of one: “Game over,” you know, to warn the other. At the time, it just seemed like extreme stubbornness. If we gave Maddy cold, chunky pear and she was expecting warm, puréed avocado – game over! Not only would she not eat the pear, she would not eat at all, even the avocado she was expecting. Beyond that, she would cry for the next hour or two no matter what we did. In fact, at times it would ruin her entire day.

Everything had become such a guessing game, and Eric and I were walking on eggshells trying not to upset Maddy. We had a policy: If baby is happy, don’t look, talk, move, or even breath near her. I’m being dead serious. If Maddy was sitting on your lap completely happy, and you moved and placed her on your other knee – game over!

The one thing I was struggling with, was how in the world could Maddy have a meltdown from an accumulation of sensations if she has low registration. There are a couple of answers to that. First, although she’s under responsive to vestibular and proprioception, she’s over responsive to the tactile sense. Additionally, our OTs explained to us that with low registration, it is still more stressful for Maddy trying to register and interpret her senses. Too much stress = accumulation = meltdown.

So, how do we deal with the cumulative effect? We are working on developing a sensory diet for Madeleine with our OTs. We already have a huge list of things we can (and do) do with her daily. Some of them help Maddy meet some of her sensory cravings, some are helping to desensitize her to sensations, and some are used to calm her. We always use our calming techniques before we do something that we know will be difficult for Maddy.

What we’ve learned is that the most important time to do Maddy’s sensory diet is when she is happy. This is so, so important, because once she’s unhappy it takes one hundred times the effort to get her back into a calm, happy place. We learned this hard lesson once after a family gathering at Eric’s parents. Maddy was so happy and pleasant, and so we just let her be. Big mistake! The next day she was monster Maddy…. and not in this cute way:

Halloween 2011

Of course, that was our last ‘cumulative effect’ mistake. I promptly asked our OTs what gave, and they explained to me our error (thank goodness for Kora and Jamie – we’d be lost without them!).

So, what does this all mean? It means it’s exhausting meeting Maddy’s sensory needs to prevent a meltdown since she’s still at an age that she needs a lot of support from me. But, it’s less tiring than dealing with monster Maddy day-in-and-day-out. And, when we do have a meltdown, I have that much more energy to deal with it because it’s not every day, all day long anymore.

What am I most looking forward to? Maddy learning to speak so that one day she will finally be able to verbalize what her needs are and what is irritating to her. Until then, it’s still a bit of a guessing game. But we’re making progress, slowly but surely.

Finding Balance

Standard

Ah, it’s been awhile. I’m trying (and still learning) how to balance all of the demands motherhood has brought me. After a week of a sick baby, husband, and dog, everyone is healthy again (and I’m happy to report I barely caught it… just a touch of it that didn’t keep me down at all).

Two sick and tired babes

I’ve started doing some contract, part-time work from home – 10 hours a week. The project I’m helping with is just getting up and running and so I haven’t had to put in 10 hours yet. I can already tell it will be a balancing act. I’ll be using some of Maddy’s nap time, some hours after Eric is home from work, as well as weekends to complete the work. I’m so looking forward to using my brain (as slow as it is these days… sigh, mommy brain!).

This past week I’ve been doing some more reading on SPD (if you’re looking for some good reads, check out this post where I list a couple of them), some knitting, and some napping. On the weekend we celebrated the marriage of two good friends of ours and had a great time (though the 4:50am wake up call from Miss Maddykins was less than appreciated the next day, haha).

All this to say – no sewing and no blogging! I still have a little project up in the sewing room I need to get back to… and I have lots of things to share with you about Maddy’s progress. Very briefly I can mention that we can eat wheat again – yay!! We’ve also tried beef and soy (accidentally, haha) with no success. But, I’ve learned to adapt to not having those things so well that I don’t even really notice I can’t have them anymore. In fact, I don’t really eat that much wheat these days even though I can have it – habit I guess.

Hopefully I can find the balance I need this week and share some of our exciting news with you. I’m also hoping to get into my sewing room at least once this week (and I have a lot of ideas for what is coming next), so hopefully I’ll have something new to share with you soon.

 

Different kind of job, different kind of dream

Standard

Well, this week has been interesting so far. We started it off by Maddy catching the virus Eric and Loki have. We were concerned she might have her first ear infection, but fortunately, that was not the case.

Call me mean, but having a sick baby is kind of fun, particularly a sick, fevered baby. She was so calm. She would sit on us without pushing and kicking us. She even let us cuddle her!!! I mean, she was crying, and fussy, and wanted to be held… but, really – she’s like that often, so it wasn’t a negative change.

Sweet cuddles

Just to let you know how incredible this picture is… Maddy hasn’t slept like that since… ugh, last November? And when she slept with me like this at my friend Julie’s parents house, it was because she was so exhausted from a sleep strike that her body finally gave out. Really, she hasn’t slept like this on us since she was about three months old. She won’t even sleep next to us in a bed without touching us anymore (she gave that up back in January). No morning cuddles for this mommy and daddy! In fact, most nights when I’m putting her to bed I know it’s time for her crib after she’s done nursing when she starts crying and pushing me away.

Now that her fever is gone she’s still got the fussy, wanting to be held bit, but no longer wants to be held, which is her typical behaviour. I’m already secretly (or not-so-secretly) looking forward to her next fever…. and so is Eric.

Sweet little fever babe

The week took another interesting turn yesterday when I was offered a job. An incredible job. A  pick up and move three hours from where I currently live, kinda job.

I said no.

I told them how much I wanted to say yes, but that with Maddy’s therapy, I knew in my heart it was the wrong choice for our family. The timing was so far off, it’s not even funny. It broke my heart. I cried, feeling that it was a sacrifice I might not have had to make if Maddy didn’t have SPD.

Now, intellectually, I know that it is something to be proud of, to be offered a dream job. I know that if I already had a dream job I would have had to make the difficult choice of whether or not to leave it for Maddy. But it’s frustrating. It makes me wish again that things were different.

Now I will forge ahead and hope that a chance like this will come again one day at a better time. I will hope that the choice I made yesterday will mean that Maddy will thrive. I was pleasantly surprised this afternoon by the delivery of a beautiful flower arrangement sent by the individuals who conducted my interview. Silver linings.

I’ve decided to console myself by focusing on planning Maddy’s first birthday celebration (of which I’ve been thinking of since before she was born, haha). Different kind of job, different kind of dream.

Dropped stitches

Standard

Ah, those darned dropped stitches. Any new-ish knitters out there probably know how I feel. Usually, when I drop stitches, I’m terrified to fix them for fear of making the problem worse. In fact, I’ve been known to rip out several rows, or start a project over for such a simple (and apparently easy to fix) mistake.

The other night, I dropped a stitch. My normal flight reaction didn’t work in this case though. I was working with circular needles on a large project that already had hours upon hours invested in it (I started this project back in January). I was so frustrated I put the project down and left it until today.

Today I finally picked it up again and decided I would face my fear: I was going to attempt to fix a dropped stitch. I sat on the couch looking at my mistake for over ten minutes.

Before

You can see the two horizontal strands that are the tell-tale sign of a dropped stitch. Next, I watched a how to video… three times. It was clear, not too fast, and I could see everything they did. You can watch it here.

I finally worked up the courage and attempted to fix my project. I’m so glad I did… cause now it looks like this:

After

After a long day of holding a sick baby, I have learned a new skill! I think that’s the beauty in today.

Weighted lap toy

Standard

You ever have one of those days where you wake up and you just want to run away? Or crawl into a hole? You’re just so overwhelmed and tired from a non-stop week that you wish it could all go away just for one day?

That was me yesterday. I wish it hadn’t been. I was supposed to attend a bachelorette party for a good friend of mine, Catherine. She’s been a friend of mine since 2007 when we met at the University of Guelph. She’s the kind of friend that calls and says, “I’m coming over” when she reads a facebook status update that concerns her. She’s the friend that’s always surprising you by sending thoughtful cards in the mail just to say she’s thinking of you. She’s the friend that makes you laugh, even when you don’t think you can. She’s the friend that listens to you cry on the phone and offers sound and rational advice, without making you feel silly. She’s the kind of friend that every woman needs.

Yesterday I called Catherine a mere two-ish hours before I would be heading out the door to celebrate her upcoming marriage with all of the wonderful women in her life. I called her… and I bailed on her. I was scared to call her, but Eric knows Catherine. He said to me, just call her and be honest, Catherine will understand. I knew he was right, but I didn’t want to bail on a friend who has always been there for me. She squealed with delight when Eric proposed to me. She came to my bachelorette… and… well… other than myself, she was only one of two of my friends who actually completed “the list”. She offered her home, and threw me a baby shower when I was pregnant with Madeleine. I wanted to give back to her all she has given me. But… I just couldn’t.

I had no energy left in me. The thought of having to get ready, leave the house, and drive to Niagara Falls took more energy than I had left. So, for the first time in my life, I listened to what my mind knew was right for me, instead of what my heart wanted me to do. It wasn’t easy, but I didn’t go. Catherine responded the way that kind of friend would. She told me that she understood and that I needed to take care of myself.

Man, am I blessed. I am so lucky to have friends like Catherine. I will re-pay her by having an amazing time watching her marry the love of her life next Saturday.

I am already starting to feel more replenished. Maddy had quality time with daddy, Grandma, and Great Grandma. I sewed, knit, watched a movie, and just plain relaxed. I didn’t even cook a single meal.

I have been meaning to make a weighted lap toy for Maddy for a couple of weeks now, ever since our OT suggested it would be helpful. My Maddy-free time was the perfect time to work on it. I decided to make an owl… or at least use owl inspiration, as I wanted to keep it square and basic.

The whole point of a weighted toy is that it meets some of Maddy’s proprioceptive needs. It can be placed on her lap while she plays, to help her keep calm and organized. In other words, it can do some proprioceptive work so that Eric and I don’t have to. I also used varying textures so that Maddy can use it for some tactile work too.

Materials

  • Scrap material of different textures (I used flannel, a ribbed, stretch material, velvet, and a satin-like material)
  • Thread
  • Needle
  • Rice (or any other legume or grain you think would work)

Instructions

1) Cut out two squares from your main fabric. I happened to cut mine at 11.5″, but it all depends on how big you want it to be. Iron both squares.

2) Trace a heart for the face of your owl on the wrong side of the fabric.

3) Cut out the heart and iron.

4) Trace two circles for the eyes, and a triangle for the nose on the wrong side of the fabric(s). Cut out and iron if needed.

5) Using a zigzag stitch, sew the eyes and nose onto your heart. Careful to centre them properly.

6) Using a zigzag stitch, sew the heart onto the centre of one of your squares.

Note my crooked nose – first time sewing with a stretch fabric!

7) Place your two squares wrong sides together. Sew together, leaving a 2″ opening.

8) Pull your fabric through the opening you left.

9) Tape a funnel out of paper and insert the small end into your opening. Pour rice (or whatever filling you prefer – I ran out of rice so I used quinoa too) inside.

10) Using an invisible stitch, hand stitch the opening.

See how easy it is? Now we just need to get Maddy to like (or at least to not hate) having something on her legs…