In this unscripted episode, I catch you up to speed with where we are with emotional and sensory regulation. Spoiler alert: Liliana is THRIVING. I talk about some of the big, foundational, anchoring concepts we focused on that I feel have made a huge impact in getting to where we are today.
You’ll hear me talk about:
- Whether or not I think development or age plays a factor in her progress
- The top 5 discussions, concepts and strategies that played a huge role in her growth
- Some examples of the sensory and regulation strategies we use proactively
Laura (00:00): I think that with the development of her brain, she’s now actually able to control parts of her brain and access parts of her nervous system and access the tools that we talked about for all these years when she needs them most. So the scripts, the strategies, the breathing techniques, all of those things that we have been working on and practicing consistently, consistently for four years is now solidified in her part of the brain where she can easily access it. Yes, probably because some parts of her brain has matured. So I don’t want to take away credit from my daughter and some credit from myself, from all of the work that we’ve been doing, and it really is one of those trust the process kinds of things. Speaker 2 (00:55): Welcome to the Sensory Wise Solutions podcast for parents where parents can get real actionable strategies to support kids with sensory processing disorder. I’m Laura OT and mom To Liliana, a sensory sensitive kid who inherited my anxiety and my love for all things Disney. Consider me your new OT mom, bestie. I know my stuff, but I also know what it’s really like in the trenches of parenting a child with sensory processing disorder. Speaker 3 (01:25): Okay, mom, enough about me. Let’s start the podcast. Speaker 2 (01:31): Hello Laura (01:31): Everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. Before I get started, I want to announce another free training. I know we might be confused with all of the different trainings I’ve been talking about recently, but this is a new one that you are hearing for the first time today on this podcast, and it is happening on May 27th at 5:00 PM Pacific Standard time. Again, the recording will be sent out to you. So this is my standard free masterclass that I host a few times a year. You might have heard me talk about it before. This is the Parenting a Sensory Sensitive Child Masterclass. So in this masterclass, I will be focusing on helping parents understand your sensory sensitive child’s behaviors. So if you notice that your child has extreme fears or stress or big meltdown responses that tend to be surrounding things like loud sounds, busy environments, different foods, the way that clothes feel on their body or getting their hands or skin wet or sticky or messy, then this masterclass is going to give you tools on how to support them at home. (02:43)So head to the ot butterfly.com/masterclass to register for your free spot today. Again, the link of that will be in today’s show notes. And just reiterating this is different. This is a whole separate thing than the detecting dysregulation free training that happened a couple of weeks ago. This is specific to parents of sensory sensitive kids, and if you’re wondering and you’re still not sure exactly what sensory sensitivity looks like, then you can first download my free checklist, which is the ot butterfly.com/checklist. That gives you a list of common traits and signs that you might notice if you do have a child who has sensory sensitivities. So moving on to today’s episode, which is pretty related because I’m giving you sort of an unscripted update on my sensory sensitive child who is now almost six years old. And the theme or the idea of this episode came out because I’ve been talking a lot about this with my personal therapist and a few people who have reached out to me on Instagram and some people in my personal life as well, and they’ve all been noticing, and I have as well, that it seems like we have been through, well, we are no longer in a rough patch, so maybe there will be more rough patches ahead, but we’ve had a pretty solid few months recently, and it only seems to be getting better day by day. (04:15)So people, someone messaged me recently and was like, okay, I don’t know if you’re just not showing a lot of the meltdowns. She’s like, which totally respect that, but it seems like Liliana isn’t having that many meltdowns recently. Is that the case? And I was like, you’re right. It’s not that I’ve been hiding them from you. She just really has not been having huge meltdowns to the point where it impacts my mental health or to the point where it impacts our plans and our days. And for me to be able to say that is huge. I wish I could go back to 2019 me and say, this isn’t going to last forever, which what everybody says, but you don’t really believe it when you’re really, really, really, really in the thick of it. So I actually recently saw an Instagram story because when you go on Instagram under your archives, you can see the stories that you posted on previous times. (05:19)It’s hidden to the public, but it keeps an archive of your stories. And I saw one from April of 2019 where she was having one of her big meltdowns, and this was our dark period late 2018 to all of 2019 was rock bottom in terms of my husband and i’s mental health and our capacity to parent in any functional way, I will say. And so she was having a meltdown and I had posted about it on the stories about what I had told her and a boundary that I had set. And then after the meltdown, she came up to me and asked me for a hug. And then after that she seemed more regulated and I was so impressed by that that she was able to ask for a hug. And it just made me think like, gosh, we have been working on emotional regulation and sensory regulation and setting strong boundaries and accepting all the feelings for four years now, and it’s finally feeling like it’s paid off. (06:23)And I want to be very intentional in sharing this part because some people might hear that and say, so do you think she just grew out of it? So of course she’s doing better now. She’s almost six. She developed and maybe she wasn’t neurodivergent to begin with, and she was just being a 2, 3, 4 year old. And my interpretation of it is yes, I do believe that her development, her maturity, her refinement of just the neurons that are growing in certain parts of her brain, I think that definitely played a factor in the progress that we’re noticing. But I don’t think that if I had not been doing all this work that all of a sudden she would wake up with new neurons and new ways of her frontal lobe working and just all of a sudden would have all of these regulation skills and scripts and ways to handle conflict all, I don’t think she would just wake up one day and have that. (07:35)I think that with the development of her brain, she’s now actually able to control parts of her brain and access parts of her nervous system and access the tools that we talked about for all these years when she needs them most. So the scripts, the strategies, the breathing techniques, all of those things that we have been working on and practicing consistently, consistently for four years is now solidified in her part of the brain where she can easily access it. Yes, probably because some parts of her brain has matured. So I don’t want to take away credit from my daughter and some credit from myself from all of the work that we’ve been doing. And it really is one of those trust the process kinds of things because progress is not linear. So I would like to say that since 2019, we’ve slowly been seeing an improvement in the sensory tools that she’s been using and the emotional regulation and the decrease in meltdowns have been slowly getting smaller and smaller and smaller. (08:44)It hasn’t really been like that. What it kind of looked like was it was sporadic. She would give me little glimmers of a really well-handled meltdown where she still had the meltdown, but oh my gosh, she was able to sit with me after the meltdown and breathe or after that meltdown. This time it only took her a couple minutes before cleaning up the stuff that she threw across the room, these little glimmers of hope and silver linings, they would pop up every now and then. You would think that after that all of a sudden, oh, cool. So she has that skill now. Now every time she has a meltdown, she’s going to be able to do that. No, it wasn’t like that. But all of a sudden, I don’t want to say all of a sudden, but in the past year I’ve noticed her more consistently have a lot more of these positive turnarounds, quicker recovery times from meltdowns than she ever has before. (09:46)And it just seems to be steadily now at this point, improving to the point where our baseline of meltdowns is very, very minimal and few and far between. So trust the process is my main point. If you are in the thick of it, even if your child is older than mine, maybe you haven’t been able to be as consistent or you are just now learning the best ways to parent a child who has a sensitive nervous system or who is sensory sensitive. Stick to it because it’s really easy to feel like it’s not working, but I promise you, you’re planting the seeds and you might not see the weeds grow and it gets taller and taller every time you watch a plant grow. But one day you’ll wake up and it has sprouted and it is going to be all it. It’ll be worth the work. (10:41)And I also want to say that even when you don’t feel like you notice what you’re doing is working in terms of stopping a behavior or stopping meltdowns, there’s other ways that it’s working on. It can be working so much on your relationship with your child. It can be working on your emotional regulation. It can be working on healing parts of your inner child. There’s so many positive outcomes that may not feel like they’re directly impacting your child’s behavior, but are still certainly worth the time and energy. I know the energy that it takes to parent in this way. Now I will say she still very much has a nervous system that has a low threshold for busy environments and for some tactile textures on her skin, but they’re not as impactful on our daily life as they used to be a year ago where I was searching and looking and looking and looking. (11:49)She needed to be an ot, she needed to have a therapist because this was so disruptive to our daily life. It’s nowhere near that anymore. But yes, she still gets pretty easily dysregulated. But what I’m noticing is that her dysregulation is less intense and she is more, her body and nervous system has more muscle memory for now. Self-regulating her parasympathetic nervous system. The part that is responsible for rest and digest is now able to balance out that sympathetic fight or flight signals that her body gets from some of these environments. Some of it is due to more exposure to it. So she’s had practice in regulating, and a lot of it has to do with us practicing outside of the moment for those things and giving her the scripts and tools and reminders for all of the things. So we’re cushioning her nervous system from so many different angles. (12:47)And on top of that, I really feel like her nervous system is in a way more regulated state just because we’ve been practicing and staying consistent with a lot of the things. Now, our sensory regulation plan and lifestyle may not it. It’s not as intense as some of you who might be listening who have kids who really, really need heavy work all day long and swinging and movement and touch, which they might have a nervous system that needs a lot of that. So take that with the grain of salt that we’ve found, regulation strategies that we can be proactive with that work that I’ll share a little bit of today, but it’s not as intense as what some of your kids may need. So that might have been the reason why I am so successful in consistently offering it to her. I never want you to compare yourself to me if you have a child who has completely different needs than my daughter. (13:40)So what are kind of regulation strategies that are proactive right now that has, I know for a fact have helped so much? Is deep breathing for sure. Deep breathing. So she still loves five finger tracing. She really loves. Every morning we’ve been doing this ritual that I started probably a couple months ago and it’s been going strong every day, at least on school days when I get her out of bed and we sit on the floor and she sits, my legs are long ways sitting out in front of me and she is kind of, her chest is to my chest and she puts her head on my chest and we just sit there in silence and breathe together for 30 seconds a minute. I don’t say anything. I don’t say breathe in, breathe out. We just sit there and co-regulate our breath together and it is the best feeling. (14:30)But beyond that, we’ve been doing breathing for years, years, and the key was doing it at not angry times. I am just at the red light practicing my breath, and she sees that we’re at the dinner table and I practice my breath. It’s just constant in this house. So she knows it’s part of it and it’s really, really been to our benefit that now it’s not like take a deep breath, take a deep breath, calm down. It’s just something that she knows to do and we enjoy doing that together. Another thing is she really, really does cuddles and deep pressure and squeezes, and she gets a lot of that from my husband. So they have their certain times of the day when he will squeeze her and they’ll wrestle on the bed and do all of that stuff, that’s Daddy’s co-regulation time with her. And recently she really has been liking the swing. (15:20)I have a door frame swing, so it’s easily easy to put up for people who are renters or don’t want to install any hardware. And I got that initially to teach other parents who have vestibular seekers on how to use a swing at home. And I didn’t think she would take to it as much as she has because she’s not really a sensory seeker. But I have noticed that on days when she does that in the mid-afternoon, just swinging for 10, 15 minutes, 20 minutes on there, she is very regulated and in just such good spirits after it. And so I feel like that is a huge part as well. And then the other thing isn’t really sensory regulation related, but the number one, I think driving factor to avoiding our morning meltdowns around clothes is having her sleep in the clothes the night before. (16:09)That’s it. Nothing fancy, but making that change was a huge, huge, huge, huge, huge game changer for us. So are, so some of the major proactive strategies and things that we’ve changed, I want to share with you five kind of big foundational concepts and lessons that I think that have also made a huge PA impact on her behavior and her meltdowns and all of the challenges that have come with her having a sensory sensitive nervous system. So these are the big concepts and lessons and conversations that I have had with her many, many times so that she really understands it’s not just a one and done check it off the list type thing. But these things are really, really foundational I think to her being more regulated and her being able to manage a lot of the daily things that come up. So the first one of those lessons is practicing the idea of flexibility when things don’t go your way or as planned because she is a perfectionist and she is a creature of habit and she likes things a certain way, just so routine like that. (17:30)Those are the things that regulate her. And for the most part, a lot of the things can go the way as planned. And I get that I love having a plan, but of course there are things like weather that gets in the way of plans or traffic or things get sold out at stores like so many, or you’re losing a game like all of these, playing with friends and taking their ideas. You have to be flexible and be willing to go with the flow and understand that it’s okay to feel disappointed, mad, sad, frustrated about it, but still be in control of your body. So that whole idea of needing to be flexible is something that we’ve been practicing and preaching for years, but it’s finally there and she has mastered that concept and she gets it. The second thing I already mentioned and talked about was really sticking with proactive regulation strategies and seeing me modeling and breathing constantly. (18:26)So that’s the second piece. The third lesson or concept that has helped her or impacted her behavior and her regulation at home is on me and it’s making a lot of mistakes myself, not on purpose, but just as a parent, you just make mistakes because we’re human in terms of my relationship with her and with my husband. When he and I have arguments or if I say something that may have hurt his feelings or if he says something that hurt my feelings, he and I together are modeling so much how to have these healthy repairs with people in your life that you love and care about and to still honor your feeling and express those feelings and set healthy boundaries. All of that has been so present in our life in the past six months to a year, and I’m really, really, really noticing her appreciate it and I’m noticing her really take that in and be able to apply that to her relationships with us and with peers. (19:25)And that’s been beautiful to watch as well. Another one, the fourth thing is me constantly narrating my feelings or tricky situations that come up, but in specific terms of my nervous system and dysregulation and being proactive and transparent about those needs. So let me give you an example, will be driving home and I’ll take a deep breath like, oh, Liliana, I have a lot of things on my list of things to do for work. And it’s been really, really hard for my brain to focus lately because I feel like there’s so much to do and I’m feeling myself get really cranky because I can’t control parts of my body that my heart is beating fast. I kind of have a tight tummy. I kind of get this way when I have a lot of things to do. Do you ever feel this way? I’ll kind of model that, but it’s real. (20:27)And then I’ll also sometimes say, I’m feeling a little stressed out today. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with things I have to do for work. I’m trying to control my words, but I’m feeling a little cranky. So if I sound cranky to you, please know I’m not mad at you. Mommy is just having a hard time taking deep breaths and trying to focus on one thing at a time. I’ll explain to her and I’ll say basically, heads up, I’m not in a good mood right now. It has nothing to do with you, but I am feeling dysregulated. That’s what I wish I could say. Maybe eventually, maybe when she’s 10 or 12, I could talk to her like that. But I’m basically giving, I’m narrating to her and showing to her her that I can be aware of my external environment stressing out my nervous system and that I’m about to become probably even more dysregulated as this deadline approaches. (21:16)And I know we’re about to go home right now and you’re going to have a lot of things to ask me. And so I might be cranky and be snappy, so please forgive me in advance. And that has been so helpful for us. The other day we sat down to dinner and I was starving. It was one of those days where chewing the food was taking more calories out of me than the food was providing me. It was so, it was such a task to chew and crunch this salad and I could not get satisfied or fill my hunger because I waited too long to eat. So I was cranky and hungry and she was sharing sweet facts about her day. She was doing absolutely nothing wrong, wasn’t even really loud, but it was truly irritating to my nervous system in that moment in time. (21:58)So I closed my eyes and I took a breath and I said, babe, I really want to hear all about your day at school. I’m trying to focus on feeding my body right now because it’s so hungry. I really don’t feel like talking. Is that okay? I just had to call that out. And things, moments that have helped so much. And I’ve seen her do that to me after school some days or on another day. She goes, mom, I don’t really feel like talking about this right now. It’s making me feel frustrated and and I don’t want to focus on that right now. She’s been able to verbalize that because she’s seen me do it. So that’s been huge. And then the last thing that I’ll say that has been had a huge impact on her behavior at home and being more regulated is still making things as routine and predictable as possible when they need to be. (22:50)So we got a family calendar and family calendar meaning, I mean it’s just her, me and my husband, and we don’t put my husband and i’s stuff on there unless it’s traveling and it’s impacting her. But I don’t put my work schedule on there. But it’s more for her school schedule, her aftercare routine, if she goes to on the on-campus care, if there’s a special minimum day at school, all of those things we put on there when we go to Disneyland. So she has loved being able to visually see that structure of her week and what’s coming up. And that’s helped eliminate a lot of the anxious questions where she’s like, what’s happening tomorrow? What day is it that I’m going to hear? Is it PE day today? Is it this day? All of it’s on there. And she loves to reference that. I feel like it’s such an anchor for her. (23:35)And so she loves that. And then anytime something is coming up, our routine is to explain where we’re going, who we’re going to see, what time of day we’re going at on the day that we have something exciting. I use the visual timer a lot because she still gets so excited. And she is someone who is sensitive to the way that her excitement feels in her body, that heart racing can make her dysregulated even if she’s excited. So on days when there’s an exciting birthday party to go to, I have to put a visual timer and let her know when it’s time to get dressed for the party or else she’s going to ask me all day. So basically I figured out things that regulate her and have been able to work with her as much as I can in terms of her sensory challenges, in terms of giving her the tools to talk about it in terms of accommodating the environment and our routine so that it makes her feel comfortable and safe. (24:32)And on the side, we’ve been also practicing a lot, a lot. I can’t stress that a lot on the regulation strategies at neutral times. And it’s really a mix of those two things that I feel like we’ve been so consistent in. And every time maybe a new sensory thing comes up when we have to practice a new bathing suit or any new thing that’s coming up, we have a plan, we practice it. We still use the just right challenge, which is something that I’m going to talk about in the masterclass on May 27th, which is basically breaking down a task that feels way too overwhelming and breaking it up into little tiny tasks that feel attainable and doable. But you can do that for sensory challenges as well. So we work on that together and I really feel like she is on my team at this point, and I can just come to her and say, Hey, I see that this is hard for you. (25:22)It’s hard for me too. Or I see that it’s hard for you and I really want to help you through that. Here’s the problem. We can’t keep doing this, this, and this, and we need you to start doing this, this, and this. What do you think we should be doing this collaborative problem solving has been huge for us. And I also feel like her age has allowed her to play a bigger role in that part. So if you have a child who is younger than her or maybe doesn’t have the cognitive abilities yet, depending on their age, it will get easier eventually as they get those skills. And if you have a child who feels so far away from those skills, give yourself grace. You can only make so much progress. You can only get them so far with limited skills that they have access to. (26:07)And then I would say really, really focused then on your own regulation. Therapy has done wonders for me as well. I am less triggered I think, when she does have the small meltdowns because I am just in a better place mentally to handle that. And then that’s also been a feedback cycle for how I parent her and how I work with my husband on things. And just overall, we’re in a really good place right now and I wanted to tell you to trust the process and you will. You’ll get there too. But if you want help with more of these tactics in parenting a sensory sensitive child with more of the sensory perspective and understanding how to manage and how to handle some of those big meltdowns, maybe why also they’re having those meltdowns, what that actually looks like and what it’s doing to their brain internally when they’re sensory sensitive than check out the free masterclass. It’s happening again on May 27th, 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time Recording will be sent out to those who register, and you can register at the ot butterfly.com/masterclass and the link will be below in the show notes. All right, I hope to see you all there. Speaker 2 (27:17): Bye. If you enjoyed this podcast, Laura (27:22): Please consider rating it and leaving a review, which helps Speaker 2 (27:25): Other parents find me as well, want to learn more from me. I share tons more over on Instagram at the OT Butterfly. See you next time.