Having Sensory-Aware Eyes

Thanks for the great comments on my post about Eby andVBS.  Beth left a comment that I would like to share,

Lisa, Thanks for sharing your story! You said a thank you to Karyn Purvis when you prompted eye contact with Eby. I am curious to know what this interaction may have looked like before Empowered to Connect and TBRI training. Are you willing to share that with readers?

Absolutely – I only wish we could sit down and I could talk with all of you for a few hours.  There is so much to learn and I feel passionately about it!  Anybody have a big living room and a huge pot of coffee?

Prior to learning from Karyn Purvis, Empowered to Connect, and understanding Sensory Processing Disorder, I would have been very embarrassed by Eby’s behavior. My own pride would have gotten the best of me and I very likely would have corrected him adding a twinge of shame to it all, “Eby, you know you can’t be so rough. I’ve told you this before, but maybe you just aren’t a big enough boy to come to VBS.”  Can you see it play out?  I likely would have been more concerned with parenting in a way that would seem right to the other parents than connecting with Eby and correcting him in a way that would actually teach him something.

Two years ago I had seen the acronym SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) tossed around on adoption blogs, but to be perfectly honest, I was so consumed with learning about trauma and attachment, that I chose not to delve into sensory challenges.  It just didn’t seem that important to me. I knew Eby was too rough, too loud, prone to covering his ears and screaming in response to loud noises, and a “bull in a china shop.”  He often hurt me unintentionally by knocking his head into my face.  He avoided touch, hesitated to hug, and was very volatile at times.

One day we were talking with our children’s therapist while Eby was in the room.  He wanted to show me something and as he came toward me he bumped roughly into me and hit my chin with his head.  It wasn’t a big deal, but she had noticed these sorts of things in him and suggested we have him evaluated for Sensory Processing Disorder.  She also recommended some books which proved to be very helpful.

I remember feeling that I couldn’t possibly learn about one more thing, read one more book, or manage one more appointment, but I am so glad we did.  The best gift we received was the ability to reframe our understanding of Eby’s behavior – what looked like attachment challenges or aggression was actually a response to sensory challenges. Having sensory-aware eyes helped us tremendously! Meeting his needs requires some creativity and thought, but it is actually fun because when it works, we get a big payoff.

Two more quick thoughts, I specifically mentioned touching Eby’s chin because it is a great and simple tool. The “chin prompt” is a gift from Karyn Purvis. With my own children, I touch lightly under the chin, but if you don’t know a child well or don’t know how they’ll respond, you can put your hand under the chin, but not actually touch the child. Just the proximity and suggestion of touch are also effective.

Second, and probably most importantly, one of the Empowering Tools taught by Karyn Purvis and in the TBRI training is to “give voice” to children.  It has astonishing and immediate benefits when we intentionally focus on our children and listen to them.  We can use prompts like, “Use your words.”  Karyn often says things like, “If you tell me what you need, I will move heaven and earth to meet your need.”

I’m finding that if I look in my children’s eyes, take their hands in mine, and say, “Tell me what you need,” they are initially surprised, but after a moment, they stop whining, crying, etc., and use words to tell me.  You can bet that I then work hard to meet that need and I give them loads of praise for “using their words.”

This does not apply only to children – everyone wants to be heard.  Giving voice is a tool that we can apply to every relationship we have.

That is the introduction to my post today which was going to be about how Ladybug had an amazing conversation about Sensory Processing challenges with a mother of a little girl,  but I think I’ve gone on long enough!

Have a great day, friends.  Let’s all watch for ways we can meet our children’s sensory needs – popsicles and the trampoline anyone?

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Lisa

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Captain Murdock
    June 30, 2011

    Thank you for writing yesterday about the VBS encounter. I just finished The Connected Child and am looking forward to Empowered to Connect in the fall. It has totally changed the way I look at behavior issues. I would say one of the toughest obstacles in parenting in this manner is parental pride. BTDT!

    Thanks again!

    Reply
  2. Giann
    June 30, 2011

    Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to more! 🙂

    Reply
  3. Staci
    June 30, 2011

    Thank you thank you. I have a sensory seeker, and I need to re-read The Connected Child for help in the way I communicate with him, and frankly, with all my kids.

    Reply
  4. Sharon
    June 30, 2011

    Thanks for sharing these last 2 posts-I need to get started on some more reading, and get the appointment for the evaluation that I've put off for 2 months now. I know that too often I error in my parenting b/c I let my pride get in the way-thanks for being willing to say that outloud!

    Reply
  5. Amy
    July 1, 2011

    Trampoline!
    Oh yeah…don’t know what our life would be like without it! Seriously.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      July 1, 2011

      I know – it is essential for our family! We even have a small one inside that Eby uses during the winter.

      Reply
  6. il panettiere...
    July 1, 2011

    Thank you for this (really and truly!)!

    Reply
  7. Leigh
    July 1, 2011

    I love reading your blog. We have five children, four biological and our youngest is adopted. Though we don't have the same challenges you (and some of your readers) have, we have adoption related challenges that require love, tenderness, listening, patience and growth. Growth on my part….learning that people DO see things differently and DO react differently and that sometimes, all my attachment parenting, conscious listening, reflective language isn't heard….something unique and unsettling. The lesson I learned is that I don't know the whole story and that I (capital "I") can grow, be understanding and compassionate, thoughtful and open to them as people (referring here to my sons family of birth, the adults that surrounded him) and to their story. I'm really good at listening to kids, to hearing them, to seeing them and so it took me a while to understand my own weakness. Truly being open and loving has helped open my heart even wider. Reading your blog makes my heart open too and helps me learn about other ways to help children. Thank you for sharing. Oh, and by the way, I read your blog because you have a large and lovely family too…something that seems unique AND you have grown your family through adoption, something also unique to our culture. I soak up your words like a sponge, as sometimes, all the adoption related growth I've experienced is lonely. Thank you. I am grateful to you and to your readers.

    Reply
  8. One Thankful Mom
    July 1, 2011

    Leigh, thank you for your kind comment. I'm so glad my blog helps and encourages you; in many ways, it helps me to write it.

    Reply
  9. maasfamily
    July 8, 2011

    I have a question about the eye contact. I have two children who avoid eye contact. It just upsets them more if I try to make visual contact with them. Any suggestion when eye contact is avoided by the child?

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      July 8, 2011

      I would recommend setting the bar very low and helping them work up to actual sustained eye-contact – which may take years. With Eby, I accept quick glances – he meets my eyes, but often can't sustain it. I praise him and say, "Good giving me eyes," even if it is only for a moment. Eye contact is very hard for children with sensory and/or attachment challenges. Thanks for the question.

      Reply

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