8 years ago when we got our first sensory training I was skeptic but I had plenty of energy to try this out. Yesterday when we had our 7th training (who’s counting…) I was mainly tired. Our OT is young and full of energy and it seems the more energized she is the less I’m (conservation of energy…).
This is our second child with sensory issues. She had early intervention OT till she was 3 and wait listed for another year for continued OT, and now as she turned 4 we finally got it.
During this time we created and launched SensoryTreat. For almost a year I was hoping to try out our products just as a parent, but our phones were occupied with testing new versions of the app. Finally we have an opportunity.
What is my main experience as a parent undergoing sensory training?
Well first of all my feeling was of disruption. These new tasks disrupt my days. Can I seriously commit to all these things? I guess my face disclosed some of these thoughts (I wonder if therapists could read our minds…) because our OT said: why don’t you start with twice a day. Just do the oral work before lunch and dinner.
Sounds easy, right? Lunch is kindergarten teacher so we are left with just one thing we need to do. We already have a box full of oral toys, we know what to do, we understand why we need to do it, and yet we haven’t done a thing today! The day past and I don’t recall even thinking about the sensory HW we got only yesterday…
When I did remember, it was too late, dinner was over. This is a little embarrassing. I spend most of the day working on SensoryTreat related work yet I couldn’t find 5 min to do sensory activities that’s my daughter’s OT said…
So now I’m going to set up the app. I’ve done this thousands of times during development and testing but I have never done this for me, for real!
So now I’m going to stop writing and set up my daughter’s sensory program on the app.
Oren Steinberg, parent and co-founder of SensoryTreat.
First an admission of guilt: I did not set up the app after I stopped writing the previous blog. I know I promised to, I even picked up the phone,but I have this habit when I pick up the phone I first check what’s app and text messages, then I check emails. By the time I was done with those I forgot all about the sensory app. (Big surprise…)
The next time I thought about this was only two days later when I was planning my week. I suddenly realized how embarrassing it would be if by our next OT session I will have not even set up my own app for my own daughter.
For a moment there I thought about it being my wife’s turn this week (off the hook?)
…but that wouldn’t solve the problem, only delay it by an hour when I’ll hear all about it when she comes home (not good enough…).
Okay, no more excuses, 4 days after I said would, I finally found the time (all 20 seconds…) to set up the app…
Okay, I’ve got a new habit: starting this blog with a confession. I still did not set up the app!
I know I said that I finally found the time. And I meant it. I was at the doctor’s waiting room with my son when I wrote, and I stopped writing with all intent and purpose to set up the app. But just as I was about to start we were called in to the doctor… and then, well you know, I had other things on my mind.
Well tomorrow we were supposed to have another OT session but lucky for me, this week our OT had a visit at the kindergarten. So I’m off the hook: we have no meeting and I just earned another week before having to make up excuses for my poor parenting skills. But this time i really have to get this done. I mean, we started doing some of the activities, like this morning I did a good long session of joint squeezes. But we are still missing on what our OT said we should do – half hour before dinner. Okay so now I’m really going to stop writing in order to set up and the app….
Right after I answer this call.
Yes, another confession, that call I had, that was a friend. And yes we went out for a beer and with that went my app set up promise…
In the following days I had another great excuse: I wanted a dedicated email for this and I couldn’t find the super long time it takes to open a new gmail account. Well that was done last week and yet I had to go through another embarrassing OT session avoiding eye contact when asked why we still haven’t setup our app for our own daughter. Unbelievable!
It’s not like we are not doing sensory work. I mean we do live by it. The Sensory Habit trick really gets a lot of stuff in there without having to work at it. I don’t open doors – she does, I carry much less for her, I always give extra strong hugs, we focus on hard food, and more. But this is not enough. Sensory Habits are probably good for about half the sensory activities we fit into a normal day. But what of the second half? And what of abnormal days? And anybody with a sensory kids knows these are quite often…
No, we definitely need a more structured program on top of the sensory habits. So after going to a parental coaching session I decided that was it. I ran out of excuses. I have a dedicated email, I have a written program and I have the app. I also delayed writing this blog until I got this accomplished (avoiding yet another confession…).
So, just now while sitting on the bed of my baby girl waiting for her to fall asleep was the right time! I set up the program on the app. Started with 7:30am deep pressure activities, on to oral activities before lunch that her pre school teacher is supposed to do, so I turned off the alarm for this one but kept it there so I can log what she says when I pick her up. Then I set some vestibular work around 5pm (hoping it will drive me to take her to the park), and finally some heavy work to calm her down before dinner (not that she eats…).
When my wife gets home I’ll set her phone with the same username so she will get the same reminders and log onto the same program.
So tomorrow is the first day of our newly structured sensory program.
If I thought it took a long time to setup my own phone I didn’t realize it was going to take nearly as long to setup my wife’s phone. And not for lack of trying…
First I had to find the right time. Which meant we both need to be in the same place at the same time, when she isn’t using her phone, and I remember that I need to set it up. This last one is really a tough one…
When I finally got around to do it, I couldn’t install the app on her phone because her memory was full. So first she had to download some of the movies and pictures she had on it (good for backup anyway…).
A few more days went by and then we have it! We both have the app with our little girl’s sensory program on it. Now we have no excuses for not doing the activities. Well almost no excuses… You see, a few days after we got set up I noticed I wasn’t getting any alarms for reminders when it’s time for activities. And I do know these reminders work after spending a zillion hours checking them…. Apparently I forgot that a few weeks ago I turned off all notifications on my phone. It was after a long day and another text message just beeped, followed by a what’s app message and an email. So I just grabbed the phone, straight into phone’s main settings and shut off all notifications on my phone. Obviously I forgot all about it…
So now I went ahead and turned them back on. But only for the SensoryTreat app. This way I know when I hear a beep that it’s time for a sensory activity. Because I got used to not receiving any alerts for messages and emails, I’m now checking my phone for them at my connivence, not their’s! Perhaps I could also just setup a different sound. But it’s so great not hearing my phone go off all the time. I now only hear it in the context of being a good dad. That’s an improvement considering previously each alert was a sign for my upcoming disappearance into the virtual world. I read somewhere that our kids will talk to their shrink about lack of parental attention due to phones. Well mine are actually starting to like it when the phone beeps. They know it’s time for some fun stuff…
Next, I noticed my wife isn’t getting her alarms either. So showing off my recent learning I explained to her all about Notification Center of the phone’s operating system. Only to learn that she is two steps ahead of me (as usual). She did turn the alerts on and she did so for the SensoryTreat app specifically, but she is still not hearing any alarms. So now I had to roll up my virtual sleeves, put aside my iPhone sense and navigate her Android phone to see what’s wrong. Twenty minutes later, eureka! Alerts are working but their volume is silent…
Okay, so now we both have the app setup, with the sensory program. We are both getting alerts, and hearing them. Now all we have left is to do what it says… Well almost all. Our OT wanted to see the app and how we set it up. She suggested we add another oral activity before dinner time. And with this last fix, we are now all set.
Starting the day with the deep pressure activity is nice. I actually don’t need the alarm so much because it’s something I made habit of when waking my baby girl. However the challenge I noticed is all about her morning mood. Impossible to guess and very difficult to handle. Checking for some ideas we haven’t used in while sometime helps. There are always days when nothing works. There other days however that surprising her with something new or something from the distant past is what makes the difference.
For the afternoon activity we have vestibular, motion. We placed it there because it’s easiest to stop by the park or playground on the way home and get that out of her system. But now it’s so hot outside that we had to come up with some indoor ideas. So we went ahead and bought a hammock. The only catch was I accidentally cut off some power line when I hanged it… Oh well, an electrician visit later and the hammock was all set. The hammock is really great. It has an amazing cost benefit equation. Meaning it requires very little parental effort (=Cost) for an otherwise very demanding vestibular activity with great impact (=Benefit). Funny how we always end up choosing the activity that requires the least effort from us the parents…
5 min Now Saves 2 hrs Later
This is my new mantra. After falling off the sensory-home-program wagon for the hundredth time, I realized I have a motivational issue. I know I need to do sensory activities for my kids, I even get reminders to do them from the SensoryTreat app, but often enough I skip an activity saying to myself: “what’s the big harm?”. Just like eating one small cookie when trying to keep a diet or skipping one workout when trying to get in shape.
Well true, that just like those two examples there is nothing dramatic about missing one time. Also true, that the risk is in the slippery slope that lies at the tip of this one time slip. However, unlike these two examples, the fall is sudden. If eating one cookie leads to many more cookies you’re bound to start noticing weight gain soon. It can take days and you start noticing a change. This acts as an early warning flag letting you go back on track before gaining too much weight. Similarly if skipping one workout leads to more skipping (not literally…), you’re about to start feeling sluggish and that acts as an early sign reminding you to go back to your exercise regimen.
However if skipping one sensory activity leads to skipping several, you are bound to face a meltdown that could take hours to get over and leave deep (some would say traumatic) scares on your parenting energy reserves. The warning signs are much more difficult to see and the drop from the slippery slope is sudden.
So I came up with this mantra. 5 minutes now saves 2 hours later. 5MN>2HL
And every time I’m tempted to skip this one sensory activity with one of my kids I keep repeating the mantra: 5MN>2HL.
5 min is usually not even 5 but often much less, yet 2 hours is too often much longer with a tail of residual effects. So 5MN>2HL works!
It works when I’m at home watching TV and the app reminds me it’s time for heavy work for my daughter. I know that whatever effort I need to excerpt now is much less than what a meltdown would require me later.
It works when we are on the way to a play date and I get a reminder. 5MN>2HL. Being 5 min late to the play date is nowhere near managing a meltdown later.
It works when we are in a hurry to get out the door in the morning. Even then 5MN>2HL history proves that taking a couple of minutes to jump can get us to school in time much faster than coping with a meltdown on the way.
It works when I just want to put the kids to bed and crash with a good book. 5MN>2HL: delaying my quiet time for a few minutes of strong hugs and hand squeezing, has the best return on investment available if you value your quiet time.
So 5MN>2HL works, remember that next time you have a sensory activity to do with your kid.
Oren Steinberg, parent and co-founder of SensoryTreat.