One of the first things that happens when your child gets diagnosed with an involved disability (in places with good services, anyway) is your front door gets replaced by a revolving version of itself. Then you adjust to rarely ever being home without a therapist in your midst.
Next, you get to know these professionals who are teaching your child to do things that come naturally to other children—lessons that you, to your great frustration, have been unable to impart on your own. Almost immediately you realize that many of these therapists and teachers are not only extremely skilled at what they do—gifted, really—but that they are intensely special people who for reasons you might never fully understand are willing to go above and beyond their basic job requirements, sacrificing ridiculous amounts of time and energy to help your child.
Just as—if not more—importantly, they do not see your child the way everyone else does. Instead, they see an interesting, funny, quirky, human being loaded with potential. Sometimes they might even help you begin to see your child this way.
Benjamin’s former occupational therapist Atara is one of these awesome individuals we’ve been lucky to have in our lives. Not long after we started working with her we mentioned Benjamin was having a hard time falling asleep at night. That week she came over in the evening and spent a good two hours assessing and tweaking his bedtime routine. Over the next three years she taught him to ice skate, tolerate a haircut, and cope when he was feeling scared, over stimulated, frustrated, or all of the above. Oh, and then there was that time she drove around the city all day looking for the best possible material to stuff the massive beanbag-type chair she was making for him herself.
Now Atara is sharing her talent with the world at large via a sweet, colorful book, intended to help kids with sensory issues. “No Milk in My Cereal, Please!” tracks a day in the life of a boy named Benjamin (insert smiley face emoticon) with tactile defensiveness. We see how everything from getting dressed to eating breakfast to playing in the sandbox is tough for this little guy—and how it can all be made more tolerable.
While it’s intended for kids 4-9, the book is a good read for anyone who wants to understand, from a child’s perspective, what it’s like to have over-responsiveness to normal sensory stimuli. Which is basically, according to Atara, like taking something that bothers you and multiplying it by 10.
“This child’s processing system has a hard time making sense of this ‘new’ information, confirming that the info is not threatening. Nor can it filter relevant from irrelevant stimuli,” she explains. “Therefore he or she is bombarded with everything all at once. Typical situations are intense and overwhelming. A hair trimmer can feel like a steam roller, fingerpaint like you’ve stuck your hands into a bowl of slugs, and a cold floor like walking barefoot on an ice rink.”
Atara has a gift for understanding the way a wide variety of kids see and experience their environments, and I’m so glad other people can access even just a sliver of her expertise.
Order the book here, and/or enter our giveaway! Shoot an email over to firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance to win.