Month: January 2016

Best Ogden, Utah Park for Children with SPD

As a pediatric occupational therapist treating children with Sensory Processing Disorder, also called Sensory Integration Dysfunction, for the last 15 years in Ogden, Utah, I realized how difficult it was to find parks that provided playground equipment that facilitated more intense sensory input, especially vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (muscles and joints) input. In our age of concern for safety, it is hard to find parks with swings, spinning toys, places to climb… Parents ask me over and over where they can find playgrounds with more than just a slide. I’m on a mission to find them and post them here to help families find and use them to help their children! So, I’m starting with my favorite one in Ogden, Utah, my hometown and the city I’ve fallen in love with as an adult.

OGDEN’S HIGH ADVENTURE PARK (P.S. The Ogden City website pictures in no way come close to showing how awesome this playground is!)

This playground is located right beside the Ogden River Parkway on 18th Street and Grant Avenue. It is also just west of some yummy Ogden restaurants. Stop for some pizza at Slackwater Pizzeria or a sandwich at Kneaders Bakery. And don’t forget that Ogden’s favorite Farr Better Ice Cream is a couple blocks away on 21st Street! (The bummer about this park is there are no restrooms, so remember these locations are super close!) There is also plenty of room and many trees along the river to provide shade for a picnic during the warm months.Ogden, UT Park for Children with SPD

SWINGING!

  • traditional swings that move back and forth, most with traditional seats and a couple infant, full bucket seats with plenty of space to swing as high as you want
  •  lounging seats that swing or bounce very minimally, but may be great for those more hesitant to enjoy the movement
  • single disc swing that are suspended from one point to also allow for spinning
  • a really fun rope net disc swing that swings back and forth with room for 2-3 people to swing together, another good idea for a hesitant mover because this swing gives more stability and has room for an adult or older child to sit with her if she is nervous
  • not really a swing, but a fun double glider that 2 people can use and stand on a small platform and push yourself (or be pushed) across flattened U-shaped poles going back and forth and up higher on the ends as you push harder (My older kids really loved this!)

CLIMBING!Ogden, UT Park for Children with SPD

  • a couple set of monkey bars
  • several rope ladders
  • several children’s sized climbing walls
  • a couple tall, large rope climbing structures
  • rope bridges
  • vertical rope nets to climb across
  • vertical ropes with discs to climb on and walk from rope to rope with the disc as stepping stones
  • a cool climbing net that is a suspended bowl shape with a rope ladder to climb up and inside

SPINNING!Ogden, UT Park for Children with SPD

  • several different toys to stand or sit and spin around a pole that you pull to spin yourself or have someone push you (spinning around a single point or pole gives the most intense vestibular input)
  • angled spinning toys positioned so that a child can move his body weight and start spinning himself (Great physics lessons going on!)
  • another fun round, bowl-shaped rope net with a pole coming out from the center big enough for several children to spin in (This is has a larger radius around the center, so the spinning isn’t quite as intense.)
  • an large, angled, open, round disc supported by four poles underneath where children push to get it spinning, then jump on (This is a great toy for social interaction and problem solving with a group of children. The child development nerd in me comes out and has watched and studied social, sensory, and motor development of the children playing on this exact type of toy for hours!)Ogden, UT Park for Children with SPD

No, I won’t forget to mention there are slides also, including one tall, steep one and another small, short one. 🙂

OTHER SENSORY

The river, rocks and riverbank right next to the playground would be a good tactile experience for your child to take her shoes off, wade in the water, throw rocks, dig in the dirt… If you really wanted to make it an adventure, you can ride bikes or go for a walk to and from the park along the Ogden River Parkway.

LOVE this park! My kids and I will be going back again and again for more exuberant play and adventure! This park will always be my first recommendation for great playgrounds for children with sensory processing difficulties in Ogden, Utah. What adventures have you had at Ogden’s High Adventure Park?

If you are concerned with your child’s sensory processing, I provide personalized OT services in your own home in Weber, Morgan, Davis counties in Utah.

Wonder Book Review

I read a delightful book, Wonder, over the holidays, written by R.J. Palacio. I had a friend tell me how much she loved it and then my 5th grader told me they were reading it in class. I’ve seen it highlighted on Goodreads and Audible (my two very favorite reading apps). I needed something light-hearted and easy to listen to (I’m the biggest fan of audiobooks by Audible) during my Christmas break, so I decided to try it. I had no idea what a gem I’d found! (You can Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks here.)

Because I work with children with special needs, this book immediately grabbed my attention from the beginning. It begins with Auggie’s voice as he begins 5th grade as a new student, in fact, it is the very first time he’s gone to school outside his home. Auggie has a variety of medical complications that gives him significant craniofacial abnormalities. Auggie says, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” He has always been homeschooled by his mom because of his many surgeries and recovery periods until now. He and his family are too familiar with the reactions of others when they see his face, which is why he spent much of his childhood wearing an astronaut helmet out in public.

Some of the hardest cases I’ve worked with as I’ve seen children with special needs, are the children who are aware of how very different they are. Many of these children are very bright and aren’t fooled into thinking they fit in with their peers. They understand the expectations and norms of adults and their peers and also are very aware that they are not meeting those expectations and norms. It’s emotionally heartbreaking as you watch them work so hard to fit in, but many times you realize, they probably never will. Auggie would be an example of this. I love hearing his thoughts and emotions through his reality.

After settling into the book and getting acquainted with Auggie, I absolutely was surprised with excitement to hear Auggie’s sister, Via, to take a part in Auggie’s story! Every child with special needs is part of a family and many times we forget that larger unit and how perspectives change when you look from another angle. Siblings of children with special needs usually carry an unseen load that is rarely recognized. I was the oldest sibling in a family that had a child with special needs. Even as an adult, as I listened to Via, my own memories and emotions were echoed vividly in her voice.

R.J. Palacio continues offering realistic and different voices from childhood friends surrounding Auggie and Via. Hearing only children’s voices, thoughts and perspectives was refreshing and enlightening. We often hear too much talking from the adults and rarely listen to the children who have valuable lessons to teach us.

This is a book that I will definitely have my own children read. I want them growing up seeing many other perspectives so they are at ease building relationships with many different people. I’m so happy that my child’s own 5th grade teacher was wise enough to implement this into her curriculum already! I can’t think of a person I wouldn’t recommend this book to!

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary—the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God…or whatever politically correct spiritual representation of universal goodness you happen to believe in.” –Mr. Tushman

Thank you R.J. Palacio!

Have you or your children read Wonder? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

*I am part of the Amazon Associates Program. If you choose to buy this book from Amazon, I’d love for you to purchase it through the link on my website to help support the work I do with Yums Theraplay! Thank you!

First Grade

December 16, 2015

When was the last time you were in first grade? Lucky for me, I was there just yesterday. I’m 37 years young and still get to go to first grade. I’m also lucky enough to get the chance to just watch those bundles of energy… all kinds of energy… attention-seeking energy, excited energy, working-really-hard-to-please-your-teacher energy, frightened energy, running energy, please-come-be-my-friend energy, shy energy, I-hope-I’m-doing-this-right energy, creative energy, yelling energy, I’m-trying-to-be-so-good-but-it’s-oh-so-hard energy, wiggly energy…  Those are just a few I saw yesterday and when I go back tomorrow, I can add to that list. 

I’ve worked with children and adults with special needs in a variety of settings as an occupational therapist for almost 15 years now. My heart has always been drawn to those that are misunderstood and don’t quite fit in. Maybe that’s why I’ve been drawn to working with children with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder and other difficulties that aren’t always understood at first glance.  

This morning when I woke, I saw a Facebook post of a beautiful, full-of-love video by Emilie Parker’s mom, Alissa Parker. The video is called Evil Did Not Win. Emilie Parker was a first grader at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut on a fateful day in December 2012. I remember driving to school to pick up my own first grader as I heard the news of the shooting and I burst into sobs. I could not drive and pulled to the side of the road, sobbing for another 5 minutes. Later in the day, I learned that close family friends were involved in this tragedy. Emilie’s family still carries the unbelievable pain from that day when Emilie didn’t return home to them. I’m in awe of Alissa and Robbie’s strength, determination, faith and love through this tragedy. I love and respect these friends and would have anticipated this kind of strength and love from them by who I’ve known them to be. I pray that I might one day have the brave faith and determination they show.

I never knew Emilie, but I imagine Emilie having the creative, working-really-hard-to-please-you, energy. I see her getting lost in a blissful imagination of her own. I picture that no adult could do anything but love this little blonde, beautiful first grader.

There is another side to the Sandy Hook story that is the most difficult to talk about, that we don’t want to talk about because we don’t want it glorified and we simply don’t have answers to the questions. I 100% agree with this. But, when I go back to first grade tomorrow, I can’t help thinking about another once-upon-a-time first grader named Adam. He was the precursor of the Adam that became the horrific part of the Sandy Hook story. Because when I see the energies of those 6-year-olds, I have to believe that he had some of those same energies I saw in first grade yesterday. And I have to believe and have faith there was another option than the outcome at Sandy Hook Elementary. What turned that energy is my question? While this question may never be answered and I am not presuming to know the answer, I do believe this is an important question to discuss for all children’s futures.

This little first grade class I was in yesterday has gained the attention of the entire school. There are a few boys in that class that are already infamously known by teachers, administrators and students. Their energy is not the appreciated kind of energy in a first grade class, and their energy can hold an entire classroom and school hostage. How can this be at just 6 years old?

I wonder about first-grade Adam in his classroom, in his house, on the playground, going to tumbling class… When he showed that unappreciated kind of energy, what was the reaction of those around him? What kind of attention did he get with that energy? And from that attention, what did he learn about himself as a 6-year-old boy that eventually grew into a horrific mass murderer?

As I watch those harder-to-manage first graders, I see them searching franticly for some kind of reassurance from their peers and especially the adults. Many times it is attention, sometimes it’s the assurance that they have a sense of control over anything, other times it’s to know they will be safe, sometimes it’s acceptance.

The majority of children know how to gain attention, control, safety and acceptance because they learn well from the environment they’ve been living in. They’ve learned how to use the energy they have to feel this way. But what about the ones who haven’t?

Did Adam learn that to get attention, it had to be a bigger and bigger act to receive attention? Did he learn that the most immediate and quickest attention was when he broke the rules or hurt someone? Did he learn that the only two ways for him to feel safe was to run away or aggressively attack whatever felt unsafe? And had he learned that he really wasn’t ever accepted by any peers or authority figures for anything he did?

As I’ve worked with children with unappreciated energy for over a decade, I am reminded every day that there are no easy or perfect solutions—absolutely none. If you happen to know one of these children, you intimately know the constant, never-ending struggle. But, hopefully, you truly love this child without end and are willing to continue this struggle every day. Please never lose hope and never give up in your search to help this child feel loved with secure boundaries. Please come back the day after you’ve “given up” on this child, to keep searching and keep loving. Because this search and this fight will most likely change daily and give you more and different answers to find than the previous day. You may physically, mentally and emotionally scream and pull your hair out. Do that, and come back, knowing your hoarse voice will heal and your hair will grow back or you can start wearing a new hairstyle with less hair. 🙂

My plea to you, parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents, friends, is that you will make this first grader or any other aged-child, to feel just as attended to, in control, safe and accepted as Emilie felt by her loving parents and caregivers. I believe that we can make just as much difference with the struggling first graders as we can with Congress passing gun laws for the entire nation. There are many, many small and big solutions along the way that will make a great impact, but none of them are successful without seeing the child with love and compassion. Please persevere in memory of those 20 beautiful first graders and in the memory of an innocent, first-grade Adam.