Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Things You'll Do For Your Kids!

Like squeezing yourself into a tiny kiddie ride because your daughter needs you to do that! Oh how I love this man!!

We went to Waldameer Amusement Park today for Shawn's work picnic. Our goal was only for Zoya to be in the way crazy overstimulating environment with as little anxiety on her part as possible. We did not intend on having her try any rides as we thought that would be way too scary for her, especially with the sensory processing issues we've been working with.  I mean it took weeks just to get her to go on the merry go round at the zoo!  This "frog hopper" ride was the second ride of three Zoya went on. We would have never thought about putting her on this ride since it bounces up and down and has so much movement but we stood and watched kids get on and off the ride and after a few times Zoya reached over toward it like she wanted to go on. Shawn and I were hesitant but I could tell she was really interested so we thought what the heck. We knew she wouldn't do it without one of us so Daddy got to be the lucky one to ride with her (he picked the short straw!). We didn't really think she'd do the ride and thought we'd sit her in the seat, she'd cry and we'd walk away without going on the ride. BUT SHE DID IT!!

Shawn thinks this is pretty funny.

Zoya is thinking, "seriously you kids think this is fun? you're nuts!"

She only looked like this for the first part of the ride! I yelled to Shawn, "squeeze her" when she started getting anxious and I got a few funny looks. Our OT suggested using "proprioceptive input" (pressure on the muscles, joints, and touch receptors) when Zoya is having anxiety from sensory issues. Some things we do for proprioceptive input are bear hugs and gentle squeezes.  Proprioceptive input is thought to be good for kids with sensory processing issues because it overwhelms sensory input from physical and mental sensory stresses on the nervous system. It is also thought that proprioceptive input can help to release serotonin from the brain which helps to relax the body. This works amazingly well with Zoya!

Oh and I forgot to mention that when the frog hopper ride was done I was so excited that Zoya did it that I was jumping up and down clapping and cheering and so then Zoya started smiling and clapping too. At the end of my excitement I noticed everyone was staring, a few people with smiles. I'm still wondering if they were thinking, "lady you're on drugs" and telling their own children "this is why you don't do drugs" or if they were thinking "awww look how proud that momma is." I'm hoping for the second, but not holding my breath after doing an instant replay in my head! Like I said, the things you do for your kids! And I'd do it again! No shame!
Zoya also went on the merry go round and was as relaxed as ever! I was nervous because this ride is much longer than the one at the zoo. Zoya even sat on the horse before the ride started, but for the ride she was most comfortable on Momma's lap. Soon I have a feeling she will want to ride the horses though! She was so relaxed I thought she might fall asleep!! What a difference from the first merry go round ride a few months back where she held on for dear life and cried.

And the big rigs...sitting on Momma's lap again.

Shawn and I were very amazed at how well Zoya did on the three rides and just being in such a crazy loud overstimulating place! Zoya's biggest challenges are with sensory related activities and we have seen such a huge improvement in this area especially since starting the therapeutic listening!

So if you're like me you're wondering why some kids, like Zoya, have such difficulty processing sensory input. My thought is that Zoya's difficulty lies much in the fact that she lived in an orphanage for almost two years. I can't think of a less stimulating place to spend your early years, you know the years when your brain is developing more than any other time? I am quoting some info from THIS WEBSITE to help explain a little about children from orphanages/institutions and how that affects their sensory processing.

"All this sensory disorganization has to do with the brain's chemicals, the hormones they produce, and the effects of those hormones on the child’s ability or inability to accurately process the sensory input of touch, movement, taste, sound, smell, and sight. In an institutional setting, many, if not most of these sensory components, are missing or diminished. Orphanages are quiet places. Often the light is very dim and auditory and visual stimulation is at a minimum. Children don't get the opportunities for enough movement or touch. There is very little variety in diet, much of it is soft, and often there is barely enough food to keep a child adequately nourished. Extra-large holes in bottle nipples speed up the feeding process, but never allow the development of good sucking skills. Interaction between children and/or between children and caretakers is minimal. Beyond the orphanage window is a very small, circumscribed, unchanging picture of a world waiting to be explored by children who have no opportunity to do so. Normal cycles of need aren't rewarded with comfort. Lack of stimulation in all these sensory areas interrupts production of the beneficial hormones needed for a state of calm - hormones which are released when children feel a mother's gentle touch, see the warmth and approbation of her smile, or sense the safety of her fierce protectiveness. Instead, high levels of stress hormones flood the brains of these confined children who have rotating caretakers, causing different neural development than that which is normally seen in healthy, nurtured children. The deficits and atrophy these high stress hormone levels create cause a child's perceptions to be processed in a distorted manner. Under these circumstances, it is easy to understand why a child would be very frightened, confused, or overstimulated after institutional care.
The good news is that the brains of most children from institutional settings are plastic enough throughout childhood to be healed and made whole, even when considerable damage has taken place. It takes work. Most of the time it takes some therapy and early intervention. It always takes time, patience, gentleness, kindness, and understanding. First, we must learn to recognize a sensory disordered and frightened child when we see one. New parents need to learn how to calm that frightened child, and that child must learn to accept a state of being calm within his or her new surroundings. Once a state of fairly normal equilibrium is reached, stress hormones sufficiently reduced, and the fight or flight response moderated to low levels, young brains will begin to perceive the world differently - less threatening and more bearable. With time, the appropriate stimulation and retraining, these children can begin to process sensory input in normal or near normal ways, and the potential for a happy and complete life for that child is possible."

This is exactly what we are starting to see with Zoya. All of this stuff is so interesting to me. Zoya's sensory issues make a lot more sense to me when I remember how under stimulated she was for so long and how her brain did not make the connections that most babies brains make as a result of being stimulated....however, it is NOT too late and her brain is beginning to make those connections now and sensory activities are becoming less scary and even enjoyable for her now. I'm sure this is something Zoya will always struggle with a little but it is so awesome to see how far she has come!

I have so much more to blog about...we've been so very busy...Shawn and I celebrated our 5th anniversary on Friday and we spent Saturday camping with family. We are busy busy getting ready for me to go back to work, therapy appointments, and getting a letter and pictures together to send to Zoya's orphanage (with a family who is adopting a little one from Zoya's groupa!!). More to come on those activities!!!


  1. Such an awesome momma! You listen and follow through with your OT's input! If all parents did that it would be awesome!

  2. So nice to see your little family having fun at Waldameer! And, as always it is wonderful to see sweet Zoya progressing by leaps and bounds in the sunshine of your love. Liz

  3. What a lucky little girl Zoya is to have such a mama and papa!

    She is just adorable, I could just squeeze her little cheeks :)

    You guys certainly make a beautiful family.

  4. What a wonderful experience with daddy! Thanks for sharing everything in such detail. I have definitely learned a lot from your blog and it teaches me certain things to prepare for or watch for with Mina. It is always so helpful to read your blog! Congrats on the anniversary and so excited that someone is adopting a little one from Zoya's groupa!!! YAY!