Archives for the month of: January, 2017

As I write this blog today, it is our typical Friday afternoon.  The great feeling that the weekend is upon us, the traditional pizza dinner (eaten in the den) and the chance to unwind from what was a busy school week for us all.  

Relaxation takes on many different forms depending on the person who is doing it.

Michael relaxes by bouncing a basketball and chatting away, about his day, Elizabeth on the other hand, relaxes by watching some television.  By herself.  Laying on the floor. Never on a chair, never on the couch.  It is what feels right to her.

We all have our own like and dislikes when it comes to listening to what our bodies and minds need through the course of each day.  And most of the time we can adjust from what we want to do to what we have to do, pretty much without missing a beat.

Example:  We may want to remove ourselves from a long, tedious lecture, but what we do is move to a new position to get comfortable, tell ourselves “only 15 more minutes”  and watch the clock.   (We may complain in our head about things or mumble a bit) but for the most part, we can manage to get through the lecture and our day.

But for those whose neurological system has trouble regulating itself…those times when we can manage by doing things like I mentioned, are the very times they cannot do it alone.  They need help to get their system to cope with and adjust to the environment around them.

Those on the Autism spectrum have sensory needs.  Those who have Sensory Processing Disorder have sensory needs.  Truth be told, we all have some sensory issues (I throw out the topic of itchy tags…anyone else guilty of ripping them out themselves?) but it is the degree to which they affect one’s day and life that makes the difference.  

There is something called a Sensory Diet, a phrase coined by OT Patricia Wilbarger.  It is a carefully designed, personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input a person needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day.

What this means is that certain sensory inputs are offered to the person in need throughout their day to help them.  Be it sounds, lights, texture and more.

Our brain receives sensory input from our five senses:  Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, Tactile or Touch. These very senses, whose input can overwhelm a certain person’s system when they are too much,  can actually be used to calm another person who has different sensory needs.

And this is where the wonderful, unique and so amazing thing called a Sensory Diet comes into play.

Some people need less noise,  others need  to hear music or calming sounds, or even to block out sounds with something like earBanz to stay organized.

Some people need lighting that is calm, like when teachers use Fluorescent Light Filters to take away lighting that is too bright.

Some people shy away from being touched and others crave touch and pressure so weighted blankets can provide the input they are looking for.  As can weighted lap pads.

Fidget toys, such as chewy necklaces, chewelry or chewy tubes, can offer sensory input to those who need to move or fidget and even for those who have a sensory need to chew. 

So many things can be used to help a person who has sensory needs, it is all about finding the right item, in the right amount at the right time.  And this is where the OT or occupational therapist comes in.   

To get a sensory diet tailor made for your child will help beyond measure.  In my opinion, it is one of the most important things.  

The OT can help make this diet. And they can decide if your child needs brushing  which is officially called the Wilbarger method.  Please read about this wonderful protocol when you can.  But those brushes called Wilbarger brushes are the things that I feel helped Elizabeth the most in her earliest years.

A sensory diet is unlike any diet that one hears about on an infomercial.  It is not one that will trim a waistline or help with cholesterol.  For those who have sensory needs, it is downright life changing.    Please search our  website to see the amazing selection of sensory items, read how they are used and please ask questions to those who work with your child or please ask questions here on this blog site.  

I can share what we did, you can share your experiences and we can help those who just started learning about their child’s needs.

I wish you a peaceful week.


5 Steps for Finding a Therapist for Your Special Needs ChildiStock_000013308707_Large.jpg

“I love Miss Liz.”

Elizabeth made that statement just earlier this week.  It was about her adaptive Physical Education teacher, turned dear friend.

Miss Liz is one of the many people who make up the current group of wonderful therapist/friends in our lives currently who we call “Team Elizabeth.”

We are so blessed to have them and all their varied expertise, personalities and gifts in our world.  But, finding them is not always an easy thing.

And this got me thinking just how hard and involved it is to find the right therapist for your child and their needs.  And trust me, our journey has had its fair share of twist and turns, ups and downs and successes and failures.

Finding a therapist is actually an easy thing.  I mean you can look therapy places in any phone book (a little shout out to those who remember using a phone book) or you can google the term and I guarantee you many, many options will show up.  But what to do next?


In my opinion, before you do anything with that list. You should make sure that the facility you are calling has therapist who  will be able to treat the disorder that your child has.  Meaning, for us, many people said they understood and could treat  Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) but when we got there I could tell that they were not really equipped to do that.  

I think calling the facility first and asking your questions is a great start. Tell them about your child and their needs. Does your child need gross motor skill help? Or fine motor?  Does your child need help with all sensory skills or input?   See how you feel after having this conversation.  If you feel encouraged then…


I did not do this step often, and it is one of the things I regret.  I think I wasted many a day trying to get things to work when a simple visit prior to bringing Elizabeth would have been so much of a better idea.

When you get there you can see how the place is laid out. You can see if it looks like a fun place with therapeutic and special needs toys or, if it is a touch on the institutional side. You can also see how the staff handles situations with the children.  Because, after all, you are trusting them to work one-on-one with your child.

And lastly, do they allow parents to observe the initial therapies?  Some places have two way mirrors to allow this and other simply put a chair near the corner for the parent.  I have experienced both vantage points on this journey and can tell you, in my opinion, Elizabeth has always enjoyed the therapy more and done so much better when I was not physically in the room.  So you will need to see what works best for your child and knowing your options will help things be more successful.


This one is not always a fan favorite for the facility as it requires some time and planning but I think this piece of the puzzle is crucial.  Getting the chance to talk to them and explain how your child works will get everyone on the same page right away.

Bring information about your child and their diagnosis, please do not take it for granted that they will know everything about any one disorder.  

All of our children have differences even if their diagnosis are the same.  So talk and share and after this time- ask yourself how does your heart feel about this person?  I have learned to listen, and listen well to my heart.  If you feel pleased or calm.  Then you know you can start your journey with them.  But if you feel any reservations, take the time to think about them.  It is better to wait and find the good fit than to start a therapy, see problems, stop the therapy and then look again.


Until Elizabeth, I never knew there were many kinds of speech therapy.

Until Elizabeth, I never knew there was school Occupational therapy and then traditional Occupational therapy.

Until Elizabeth I never knew about play therapy, music therapy, adapted physical education, therapy music….And on and on.

My point in all that is to say, that doing research and reading as much about different therapies is so important because your child’s needs will change and with every success, their needs change just a little bit.  So to know about other options and to know they are there will help you when your current “Team” needs an addition or change.


Talk to them before about the work you did with your child between therapies

Talk to them after to learn what they did in therapy and what you can do at home.

Talk to them when you have a concern.

Pretty much talk to them.

As I write this, I am listening to Elizabeth sing “Uptown Funk” with her new Music Therapy teacher.  We just started Music Therapy.  I did all the above steps and it is going really well.  But I know that therapy like life is a journey and right now our path is smooth. 

I hope the same for you.

Michele Gianetti



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