The Sensory Child Gets Organized: Proven Systems for Rigid, Anxious, or Distracted Kids
Imagine the anguish of two young parents as they notice their happy, healthy 18-month-old child regressing in his speech, hyperfocusing on certain activities, and becoming overwhelmed in playgroups. These observations and what followed for Carolyn Dalgliesh and her family became the basis for The Sensory Child Gets Organized.
This book could best be defined as a “ready reference” which starts with the definition of a sensory child. There are many behaviors, such as those mentioned above, that are common to children with sensory processing difficulties. Diagnoses within this umbrella-like term include anxiety and attention deficit disorders, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and various mood disorders.
Over time, the author realized the usefulness of structure, routine, and visual aides in helping her son get through the day. When he reached school age, getting ready for school in the morning and/or doing homework at the end of the day were two special challenges.
Using visual supports like labels on bins enabled her son to pick out clothes for school and dress himself. Before this change, clothing that was mixed together became an overwhelming challenge to him.
As age and ability allowed, Ms. Dalgliesh involved her son in the planning and setup of any changes to routine, i.e. what made sense to him, not just to her. This led to some unique visual aides (again, they made sense to him,) a defined homework space, and a scheduled homework routine.
The impact of simple changes were amazing according to Ms. Dalgliesh. Focusing on a few challenges at a time, she and her spouse gradually succeeded in modifying their child’s behavior. Trying out various techniques began at home and has continued by working with other children and families in their homes.
At the outset, the author suggests an assessment worksheet and continues with a simple but effective paradigm of breaking any challenge into manageable tasks, reducing unnecessary stimuli and supporting plans with visual aids.
Each chapter focuses on one aspect or technique that will ease tasks of daily living. In so doing the author acts as a coach to the parents, walking them through the steps of assessing, prioritizing, and focusing on selected problems in a systematic manner.
These include defining—and decluttering—special spaces which serve as refuge or functional space, quiet zones for reading and “chilling out,” and play spaces for physical activity. Structure, routines, and visual aides guide a child and help to close the perceptual chasm between home and school, daytime and bedtime, and the dreaded unstructured time of weekends, holidays, and vacations.
The aim is to move a family to successful transitions and coping behaviors. Granted, resources differ as do the abilities of each parent. Organization requires discipline. Each idea would need adaptation according to the needs of the family. Some households have a playroom; others require that limited space be shared for various functions. Nevertheless, parents can draw helpful information and ideas.
This book is useful in many ways. It teaches a parent to anticipate and plan for new or problematic situations, such as a birthday party, a trip away from home, or even an everyday task like shopping. It emphasizes the importance of communication—with other parents of sensory children, parents of “typical” children, and other family members. It offers access to networks and support for parents, siblings, and sensory children.
Throughout, there are liberal references to books and other helpful clinical resources. The final section provides additional recommendations for further reading, as well as useful products and where they can be purchased.
In summary, The Sensory Child Gets Organized provides much more than organizational skills. Ms. Dalgleish seeks to meet a critical—and often unmet—need of bridging the gap between clinical intervention and everyday life at home for the family with a sensory child.