Brushosaurus!

 

toothbrush holder

Photo: Pinterest

 

 

Quite a few of the children who come to see me have sensory issues that make teeth brushing a daily struggle. Princess and superhero themed toothbrushes are one way to make a necessary routine child-friendly and help with carryover and healthy oral-care. Another is to add a ‘toothbrush guardian’ (added bonus: this allows an inexpensive way to keep up with the recommended frequent change of toothbrushes).

To make Brushosaurus, drill a pair of holes into a plastic toy to make a handy dandy toothbrush organizer. Has been known to work just as well with magic ponies, sheep, unicorns, giraffes, and even the occasional Brushoturtle.

Brush on!

 

For The Daily Post

“A Case of Constant Disastering”

Geiger Counter

What upsets your cart? What throws you off? What drains your battery of oomph and energy? Do you get riled up in a flash but calm down glacially? Do you struggle to maintain the smallest bit of equilibrium while others seem to swim in zen-like Flow? Have you been told off for “over-reacting” and being “overly sensitive”? Does it, indeed, seem to be that e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is just too much to process, let alone appreciate and thrive in?

That is how life is for a teenager I know.

She calls herself “a case of constant disastering.”

Her days are spent in never ending rush to keep up with assignments that don’t get done because she is too stressed to focus on them because she already worries she won’t manage and then doesn’t. She feels mired in conflict with her parents who she says don’t understand why “every little thing” throws her off. She struggles to attend to all the balls she perceives are in the air and thinks are hers to juggle (only to find out later some were not, and that she’d dropped the very ones she shouldn’t have) …

Her body swings from all out anxious to shutdown and molasses-like, weighed down by overwhelm. She blames herself for both, which only feeds the shame that feeds the stress that feeds more “constant disaster.”

She hates this about herself. She wishes to be someone different.

“I wish I could be stoic,” she says. “Strong, you know.”

“But you are strong,” I respond.

She shrugs. She knows. Some days more than others.

She understand how her body’s calibrations had gotten to be quite so delicate: born very prematurely and with serious medical issues that required many painful interventions, her nervous system (and psyche) could not really process the overwhelming stimuli she was exposed to. Her reactions still mirror some of the pathways that became the foundation of her default. Of her survival formation. Her parents, too, were terrified and anxious. Oh, they did their best in love and caring, but they, too, were scared. For her. For her future. Of hurting her. Of disconnecting something. Of something worse than disastrous.

Panic was real and tangible. Babies in that NICU die. She almost did. Twice.

They were all of them scared. Much of the time.

Is it a wonder, then, that life wobbles precariously tentative, at the smallest reminder?

“But I’m not a baby anymore,” she points at lanky limbs that have long ago outgrown any crib or incubator.

“I know,” I smile.

“Now I’m just a Geiger meter,” she complains, “and my body beeps ballistic at the smallest variation.”

“Tricky,” I nod. “Also … kind of skillful.”

She pouts, but then a smile pushes a small corner of her mouth and the other corner joins in and she grins, eyes atwinkle. “Yeah, like a full-on skill at constant disastering.”

 

For The Daily Post

Grit of Will

up up and away

Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

They don’t give up.

They push on, they keep trying.

For the plainest of skills.

Simple tasks need endurance:

Every sentence’s a summit

Every speech sound’s a triumph of will.

Such tenacious young children

Built of grit and forbearance

Marathoners of life’s endless sprints

All uphill.

Oh, how deeply they teach me

The depth of true mettle

In courage, in hope to succeed.

Their indomitable spirit

Forms a marvel:

Pure resolve wrought from steel.

 

 

For The Daily Post

Tintinnabulation

multisyllabic

“I found some words with lotta syllables!” she announced and pulled a crumpled list out of her back pocket.

She and I have been working together for some time. Born very prematurely and with various – if not always visible – neurological challenges, she has had to work hard for every milestone, every skill, each speech-sound. At nine years old, she had good intelligibility in short words and brief phrases, but her clarity was still vulnerable in longer words or sentences.

“Hi-ppo-po-ta-mus,” she read, tapping syllables on the table. “Five!”

I smiled. This girl never needed prodding. Her internal motivation put most people to shame. If she put her mind to something, you better believe it that she’d go the distance for it, and then some. She wanted to be an actress and actresses needed good diction. She was going to make sure hers measured up.

“Ca-li-for-ni-ya and Phi-la-del-phi-a … both five! I-ma-gi-na-ry … five!”

She read several more words, repeating any one that lost a sound or two in the process. When she got it right, she repeated it again, insistent on perfection.

“My dad helped me find them,” she pointed to the list. “We had fun thinking them up in the car. We found lots of words with four … like ‘as-pa-ra-gus’ and ‘par-ti-cu-lar’, but not so many with five. Are there any words with even more, like … with six syllables?”

“Quite a few,” I smiled again. “Some you probably know.”

“Like what?”

“Responsibility.”

“Oh!” She whispered to herself and counted the syllables on her fingers, “yeah, six!”

“Capitalization”

“Like in writing?”

“Exactly like in writing. Then there’s: identification, autobiography, veterinarian, personification, generalization …”

She wrote each word down. Practiced saying it. “Do you know any weird ones with six syllables?”

“Hmm,” I nodded. “How about ‘discombobulated'”?

She laughed. “My grandma says that one.”

“How’s ‘extemporaneous'”?

She twisted her lips. “That’s not weird, just boring.”

It was my turn to laugh. “Fair enough.” I thought a moment. “Infinitesimal?”

“Not weird.”

She was going to make me work for it. “How about …” I winked, “mispronunciation?”

“Ha-ha, very funny,” she rolled her eyes. “Try again.”

She raised her eyebrows and waited. A moment ticked by as words trickled into my brain, six-syllabled but certainly not weird enough to qualify: visualization, spirituality, irregularity, disorganization, availability, cardiovascular. …

The room darkened as clouds passed over the sun and the wind picked up. The forecast promised thunderstorms. I was about to give up to a google search when a chime jangled in my window and with it came inspiration.

“I have it!” I exclaimed. “Tintinnabulation!”

 

 

For The Daily Post

Dish Dash

greek handbroom

She walked into the house to a flurry of activity: broom in one set of hands, brush in the other. Guilty faces. Unidentifiable smell.

“What…?”

“He started.”

“She told me!”

The woman narrowed her eyes and scanned the room. The counter looked okay. No scorch marks. No splatter on the stovetop and walls like the last time when they had experimented with tomato lava. A foot in pink sock moved in the periphery of her vision and she lowered her gaze to the floor: the toes had attempted to nudge away a white bit of something. Paper?

She sniffed. What was that smell. She knew it from someplace … reminded her of dusty flea markets. Like old ceramics. Ceramics? Ceramics!

The distance to the garbage pail was covered in one giant step, arm already extended to reveal … a heap of shards, jagged shiny white, all sizes.

To the cabinet, still unbelieving: Bowls, mugs, cups. A suspiciously bare corner.

Little feet shuffled, oh so guilty.

There were no plates in the sink. None in the dishwasher.

“What have you done?”

They spoke over each other. “He did it She told me to We had a Greek wedding …”

“…so we had to break the plates,” the younger one emphasized with more hope than conviction. Even at not-quite-four-years-old he knew he was in trouble.

As for the seven-year-old? No added confirmation was required beyond how this child who disappears whenever there’s anything resembling cleaning up, had gotten herself voluntarily busy with the broom.

She shook her head, too stunned to truly feel angry. Yet.

“Where’s your big sister?” The fifteen-year-old was supposed to be watching the younger ones. She better have an explanation!

Chins tilted in the direction of the basement. Eager to shift blame. Muffled sounds filtered through the closed door. She listened. The tune was eerily befitting.

“Doing what?”  … even though she already knew the answer.

The little one piped up. “She watching big fat Greek one wedding!”

 

 

For The Daily Post

The boy who was a girl

spiderman

“I saw a boy who is a girl,” the six-year-old noted. We were wrapping up a session and he was coloring a Spider-Man drawing he’d made.

“Oh?” I offered. I don’t always know where things are heading when children offer out-of-the-blue declarations. Instead of assuming, I try to stay out of the child’s way till they say more or clarify.

“Yeah,” the little guy added. “He is a boy on the outside but he is really a girl on the inside.”

“I see.”

He lifted long-eyelashes with an adorable ‘is-she-really-listening-or-just-pretending-to’ look. When our eyes met, he nodded in satisfaction and lowered his gaze back to his drawing. He regarded it quietly for a few seconds then rummaged through the colored pencil box. “Aha!” he announced, pulled out the silver pencil, and meticulously drew squiggly lines over his superhero’s bodysuit.

“Yeah,” the boy said, “just like Spider-Man.”

I made a noncommittal noise in my throat and he looked up at me again, eyes slightly narrowed in concentration. “Yes,” the little boy stressed, “because you see, sometimes he is a regular man on the outside but he is still really Spider-Man on the inside.”

 

 

 

 

Meddling

cherry tomatos

 

It took a full sixty seconds before she could get hold of her giggles long enough to tell me why she called.

“What’d he do now?” I smiled.

You see, she has a four-year-old and an 18 months old. Both precious. One precocious.

The preschooler omits some speech sounds and makes a salad of most others. He knows what he wants to say (and has much to impart from dawn to evening), but the production message from his brain to mouth muscles doesn’t always come through organized. We’ve been working on improving motor planning and sound production, and he’s been making steady progress. He is a studious little dude and follows instruction well enough, but what he really adores is experimenting: With his father’s shaving cream and his mother’s makeup, with his little brother’s haircut and diaper-rash cream, with words and their meaning.

“I was making him a salad,” the mom hiccupped, still not quite over her laugh-a-thon, “and silly me, I thought I could slip in a tomato.”

I grinned. Silly indeed … This boy loves some vegetables … but he is also the kid who declared “tomatoes are mean because they look like cherries but they taste yucky.”

“So, he takes one look at the plate and shakes his finger at me, saying ‘Mommy, I told you five times already. Why you meddling my dinner?'”

 

 

For The Daily Post

Whew!

shrinershospitalforchildren

 

For the child who finally got a clean bill of health, long enough into remission at last, after three bouts of cancer, four surgeries, five courses of chemo, two collapsed lungs, a resistant infection, and more invasive treatments and hospital days than one can count (though I’m sure her parents had counted. Every. Single. One.)

Whew.

We’re so relieved.

You rock, little one!

 

 

For The Daily Post