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Sensory issues – they’re not just for Maura!

24 Nov

Being Maura’s mom has meant a lot of self-discovery for me. Like, oh wow, I can totally be confrontational when someone’s giving Maura the short end of the stick. Or how hey, I can be quite good in a stressful situation, despite my anxiety.

Or – hey! Maybe I wasn’t a magnificently picky eater…tell me more about sensory issues!

Now Maura tends to be a sensory seeker – as in, she loves to touch stuff. As a preschooler, she enjoyed going to the fabric store because she could pet all the different fabrics. And I realized…I do that too.  Of course, she was also the only kid her one therapist ever saw physically recoil from Play-doh. Seriously. The therapist placed the brightly colored non-toxic ball of doh on the tray, and Maura leaned so far back away from it she nearly toppled the chair over.

It was a bit ridiculous, and we laughed. Because what kid hates Play-doh?

My kid.

Then I noticed something else – while Maura would eat just about any kind of food out there, including dog food, she refused to eat kiwi. She wouldn’t touch it after the first time going to pick it up.

“I wonder if it’s because it’s a little slimy?” I asked the therapist.

That’s when I started learning about textures and sensory seekers versus sensory avoiders.

It seems the common sensory issue are those of avoidance – the kid who won’t eat food that touches other food, the kid who feels like a clothing tag is akin to a razor blade, the kid who has to have socks on just right or else you might as well chop off his feet because it’s less torture than a misaligned sock.

These are things I was only vaguely familiar with. Mainly because I always made sure my socks were put on perfectly aligned, and I never could manage turtlenecks. Actually, most people in my family hate turtlenecks. I also can’t wear chokers, or necklaces that end at the edge of my neck, because otherwise, well, it’s all I can feel, slowly choking the life out of me while cutting off my jugular.

Not that I have an overactive imagination or anything.

I also hate heavy blankets, have to have my feet covered at night, can’t wear anything too snug without going crazy, and so on and so forth.

We won’t discuss my hatred of oatmeal, even though I like the smell of it and love oatmeal cookies. Or creamy dressings. Forget mushrooms.

No, none of that meant anything to me except I was weird and a picky eater.

Then Maura recoiled at Play-doh and refused kiwi.

And I learned more about sensory issues.

And I realized that maybe…maybe I had some too.

I still tried to write it off as my own quirkiness. That my food aversions were due to picky eating. Then one day, Josh and I went to a sushi place, and they had those little blobs of chocolate things. I wasn’t sure what they were, except they were chocolate and last time I got sushi, my daughter Miriam got the little chocolate blob things and proclaimed them the best thing she’d ever eaten while humming a happy tune.

Surely they were delightful!

Surely they were actually a form of hell that I placed inside my mouth. Gooey slimy hell disguised as chocolate.

Satan's dessert

Satan’s dessert

“OMG it’s awful!” I cried while making a ridiculous “EW!” face. I know it was ridiculous because my dear husband started laughing at me.

“Oh God!” I cried some more, trying to chew the gelatinous blob of badly textured chocolate quickly. “It’s like snot! I’m eating chocolate snot!”

What I really wanted to do was spit it out and rub my tongue with a napkin while making icky noises…but I also like to pretend I’m good at being an adult. So I found a way to swallow the offensive chocolate thing, and then gulped water down as my husband kept laughing.

And that’s when I embraced the fact that I have texture issues when it comes to food. Because I love chocolate. I love chocolate in any form, or so I thought. But not in soft gelatinous mochi snot form.

Maura did overcome her fear of Play-doh. But she also still won’t touch kiwi. I’m okay with that. And when she wants to pet all the fabrics, I’m right there behind her, petting the fabrics as well, with our socks aligned just right, and our shoes tied not too tightly.

I’m still glad we didn’t choose inclusion

5 Nov

Today, a headline caught my attention – “Let’s Get Rid of Special Education” – from the educational site, Noodle .

I’ll admit, my first reaction was an internal jolt, followed by a “no no no”. I’m not sure I’ve completely grasped the whole piece fully, as my brain sort of turned off when the writer talked about how kids in special ed don’t catch up to their peers. That special education is really separate education. Then my brain took a left turn about the studies the writer cited of how inclusion affects the non-disabled students in the inclusion classroom, that they perform better academically or that inclusion doesn’t impact them.

Well duh. Inclusion isn’t supposed to be for their benefit.

But let’s go back to where the writer first lost me – how kids in special ed don’t catch up to their peers.

Again, I want to say “Well duh! My kid has an IQ of 48. No amount of inclusion will ever cause her to catch up to her peers. Not academically.”

That’s not short-changing my child. That’s being honest about her abilities.

I’m not saying inclusion is bad. Inclusion – when done right – is good for everyone. These days though, there’s a lot of bad inclusion – I’ve seen it. Your square peg is forced into a round hole, and let’s be honest, that doesn’t work out well for anyone. And yet parents are told that the only way their child will truly succeed in life is if they’re in an inclusion program. Special schools and classrooms are seen as the devil, where kids are hidden away from the world and neglected. And yes, I know that in some cases, that is true as well. My first exposure to a special school was actually non-exposure – as in I was told my daughter was too able for it, therefore, I needed to know nothing else. It was like the dirty little secret of the school district.

But just as inclusion isn’t always great, special schools and classrooms aren’t always bad. Inclusion isn’t always the right choice, and I find it sad that some people want it to be the only choice.

My daughter benefits from special education. My daughter has been in inclusion, a special school for children with moderate to severe disabilities, and is currently in a special education classroom in a life skills program. Having education programs that’s designed for children like her has been the most beneficial for her. She’s learning at her pace and level. She is surrounded by her actual peers, not singled out.

Even better? In her current program, inclusion doesn’t mean fitting the special ed student into a regular classroom. Instead, they do what I jokingly refer to as “reverse inclusion”, where they have peer tutors (non-special ed 7th and 8th graders) who come into the special ed classrooms and work with an individual student on what the special ed student is studying. The regular ed kids are brought into their world as much as the special ed kids are brought into the rest of the school for gym and lunch and other classes.

In a way, my child is separate but still equal. She needs the separate, but she enjoys the equal. Separate isn’t wrong. Separate is sometimes needed. We wouldn’t expect someone going for their master’s of fine arts to be in the same classes as a medical student. I wouldn’t expect a student who only understood Spanish to thrive in a classroom that was taught entirely in Chinese. So why do we expect our children with different learning levels to automatically all go in the same classroom? Why do we expect my child, who is brilliant in her own right but isn’t big on academics, to partake in 6th grade math classes when she still doesn’t count to twenty consistently?

There are things my daughter can learn from her non-disabled peers, but those lessons are more on the emotional maturity level. Which is as valuable of lessons to me as any academic ones. So when she decided she didn’t want to carry the “babyish” backpack and picked out a plain aqua blue one, I went along with it. To us, a growth in maturity is a bigger deal than anything academic she could do.

I’m still glad we didn’t choose inclusion, at least not in the traditional way. She is growing and thriving in her special education classroom, just as she thrived at her special school.

And at least at our school, the “reverse inclusion” works, at least in our eyes. Because the one morning we went to drop our daughter off with all the other sixth graders for camp, a blonde girl spotted Maura and was all “Hi Maura! I like your outfit.” This girl knew our daughter and made an effort to reach her.

In a way, removing her from inclusion has made her more included in life.

No, getting rid of special education isn’t the answer. Not in our world. We benefit from it, from it’s separateness from the traditional education route. And in our case, it’s separate, but she’s still an equal.

Maura on the first day of school, blending into Seattle society with her 12th Man jersey.

Maura on the first day of school, blending into Seattle society with her 12th Man jersey.





The In-betweener

29 Sep

Over the summer, Maura picked out a My Little Pony backpack. It was what she wanted, and knowing her penchant for giving a flying fart about what anyone else thinks, I let her get it.

But something has happened since she’s entered junior high.

The My Little Pony backpack keeps getting put aside for her older, still awesomely sparkly, but solid colored backpack.

Now, her sister Miriam went to this junior high, so I know the vibe of the school. It is this amazing awesome, quirky, sort of anything goes but bullying school. Even Miriam has said “I can’t believe how awesome that school is. Everyone loved going there!” Miriam also wore her sacred fox had every day for about two years, and brought Maura’s Stitch doll to school one day, and everyone was all “OMG, Stitch! I love Lilo and Stitch!”

This is Seattle-ish. Being odd is the norm.

So I don’t think this change of backpacks came about because Maura was taunted for having a “babyish” backpack. I think she just looked around, saw what others had, and decided she needed to step up her game.

I’m also noticing this with clothes as well. Oh, she’s still wearing her My Little Pony tees. I got them off Hot Topic and saw a college girl with the exact same tee on the other day. Her clothing choices are a bit more subtle. Less girly, more tween. Less frufru, more jeans and tops. Which is a trick because jeans aren’t normally her friends as she can’t manage the button.

And oddly enough – while it’s exciting to see her catch on to these things, and mature a little bit more…I’m having a few of the same feelings that I did when her siblings went through that phase of putting away childish things. But just a few. Because unlike her siblings, I had no clue if Maura would get to this point.

In the meantime, please send gift cards to Hot Topic. I think I’m gonna need them!


Yes, that’s an 11th Doctor dress. The girl has always had style.



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