Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dyspraxia USA Works to Raise Awareness of the Hidden Handicap

Here's a link to the press release I sent out yesterday on behalf of Dyspraxia USA:

Press Release

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Congressman Hank Johnson to Hold Town Hall Meeting on Health Care Reform

Thanks to State Senator Curt Thompson for this update:

Congressman Johnson to Host Health Care Reform Town Hall

Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia’s 4th Congressional District, proudly serving DeKalb, Rockdale, and Gwinnett Counties cordially invites you to his 2009 Health Care Reform Town Hall.

The event is scheduled for Monday, August 10, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Georgia Perimeter College Clarkston Campus, Cole Auditorium/ Fine Arts Center, 555 North Indian Creek Drive, Clarkston GA 30021

Scheduled Panelists include:

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson
Moderator: DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson
Michael Young, Grady Hospital CEO
Dr. Sandra Ford, District Health Director for DeKalb County
Dr. Arthur Kellermann, Emory University

Congressman Johnson and his staff will update the status of health care proposals. A panel of health care professionals and advocates will discuss reform. The final hour and a half will be open to the public for questions and comments.

DIRECTIONS: Georgia Perimeter College 's Cole Auditorium and Fine Arts Center is at the corner of North Indian Creek Drive and Memorial College Avenue in Clarkston. Driving south on I-285, take the East Ponce de Leon exit toward Clarkston, exit 40 -- turn left. At North Indian Creek, turn right and take it to Memorial College Ave ; take a left. The Cole Fine Arts Center is on your right. Driving north on I-285, take a right at the Memorial Drive exit, exit 41. Turn left on Rockbridge Road, right on North Indian Creek Drive and a right on Memorial College Ave. The Cole Fine Arts Center is on your right.

For more information, call Andy Phelan at 770-939-2016 or visit

Day of Remembrance and Healing at National Shrine of St. Jude

Today is a Day of Remembrance and Healing at the National Shrine of St. Jude for all those affected by cancer.

The Claretian Order who run the shrine are there praying to St. Jude for intercession on behalf of everyone suffering with cancer, their friends, and their families.

Here is a message I received from Fr. Mark Brummel, Director of the Shrine of St. Jude:

May the Lord bless you and keep you and all those you love, especially those affected by cancer. Throughout today’s liturgies at the National Shrine of St. Jude, we will pray in a special way for all those who suffer from cancer. I invite you to join us today, and on the first Wednesday of every month, as we call upon St. Jude for the healing of cancer. Please send your special intentions for healing and remembrance of those affected by cancer to the Shrine today.

Join with them in prayer today.

We pray together:
God of healing mercy, in Jesus your Son you stretch out your hand in compassion, restoring the sinner, healing the sick, and lifting up those bowed down. Embrace us now in your loving care, particularly those afflicted with cancer, for whom this intention is offered. May the Spirit of Jesus bring us all health in soul and body, that with joy and thanksgiving we may praise you for your goodness, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Preparing Your Child with Dyspraxia or Sensory Processing Disorder for School

Beginning a new school year can be very exciting for most children and their families. New school supplies. New clothes. New friendships. New teachers. There’s a lot to look forward to.

For children with Developmental Dyspraxia or other Sensory Processing Disorders (Sensory Integration Disorders) and their families, back-to-school time can hold an entirely different set of thoughts and emotions. It’s a time that can be fraught with fear, anxiety, and other negative feelings.

With a little planning and effort on your part, you can calm your own fears and help your son or daughter enjoy a smooth transition from summer fun back into the classroom.

I’ve talked with a number of parents, educators, occupational therapists, and family therapists to cull their best and most effective ideas for preparing your child with SPD/SID and have compiled them here.

For Makasha Dorsey, the mother of Justin who will enter Kindergarten this month, it was extremely important to establish the fact that her family was in control of Justin’s SPD, not the other way around. She and her husband spent the first year following Justin’s diagnosis with SPD closely monitoring their son’s behavior to find out what some of his specific issues and triggers were. She says, “Like most children, he likes to know exactly what's going on and when. Therefore, we use social stories, calendars, and daily schedules to help prepare him for school.”

Before classes begin at Justin’s elementary school, Dorsey scheduled a meeting – without Justin – to meet his teacher and get his schedule of daily activities. During the meeting, she took photographs of the school, Justin’s classroom, his teacher and her assistant, the school principal, the hallway, bathrooms, and the front office, which she then compiled into a social story called Kindergarten. During the week prior to the start of school, Dorsey will use the story and implement the daily schedule at home in order to help Justin prepare for and acclimate to his first school experience. The preparation will culminate in taking Justin to the school’s open house to meet his teacher in person. Dorsey says that she knows on the first day of school, “I can take him to school and know that he will have a great day because he has been prepared.”

She also points out the importance of educating your child’s teacher about Sensory Processing Disorder. Because it is a relatively new diagnosis many teachers and administrators have not heard of SPD. Dorsey compiled a booklet for Justin’s teachers using information from "The Out of Sync Child" and "Its So Much Work to Be Your Friend". She gave copies of her booklet to Justin’s teacher, the principal, school nurse, and school counselor.

Sharron Dark, a special education instructor who teaches in the Washington, D.C., public school system agrees with the importance of educating the educator and any support staff who will have contact with your child. She points out that most mainstream classroom teachers are relatively unfamiliar with and uncomfortable with diagnoses like SPD. She says that providing them with basic information about the condition is extremely helpful, but you should be careful not to overwhelm your child’s teacher with too much information. You should also be wary of undermining your child by setting up low expectations with the teacher.

To prepare your child and encourage them to be excited by school, Dark recommends taking your child to the school before school starts when it is not crowded in order to help familiarize your child with the school. She also suggests taking your child to shop for a special item such as a new backpack or lunch box. Finally, she recommends using puppets or dolls to create and act out a story about the emotions your child may be feeling with regard to starting or returning to school.

Minneapolis mom Eileen Parker recommends integrating sensory therapies like weighted blankets to help calm children with Sensory Processing Disorder while in the classroom. This is an item that parents can introduce to their child’s teacher during an open house or meeting scheduled before school begins. Parker’s child benefited so much from the use of a weighted blanket that she launched her own line of weighted school Lap Cozys that help ease anxiety and help with concentration and focus.

Remember that every child is different and you know your child better than anyone. That said, most children with Dyspraxia or any other form of Sensory Processing Disorder benefit from having a routine and from being prepared for transitions. Starting school, whether for the first time or the fifth time, remains a huge transition after a summer that may have offered a more flexible schedule with lots of down time. Taking the time and effort to prepare you son or daughter for the start of school can pay off tremendously in reduced stress and better classroom performance. Your child and his teacher will thank you. And you just might thank yourself.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

That's Me Trying: The Movie Little Children and a Revelation

I saw the movie Little Children early Saturday morning. For some reason, I was awake at 5:30 a.m. when it came on and I got caught up in it.

Let me preface the rest of this post by letting you know there may be spoilers in here, so if you plan to see the film, you may want to stop here.

Scott had seen it before and liked it. I wasn't sure I wanted to see it. With the primary focus of the film being on a stay-at-home mom (Kate Winslet) who is dissatisfied with her life, I thought the film might hit a little close to home. Making it even creepier? The fact that my friend Jean has told me that I remind her of Kate Winslet.

The movie was hard to watch for a variety of reasons, but primarily because I did see bits of myself in Winslet's character, Sarah.

Sarah is a stay at home mom and kind of a failure. She has her Master's in English Lit but never finished her Ph.D. She's in kind of a loveless, passionless marriage. She has a little girl, but she's so absorbed in her own drama, her own ennui, that she can't take joy in the wonders of the world, the profound and beautiful moments of her own life that are right before her.

When the movie opens, Sarah is at the park with her daughter on a playdate with three other moms from the neighborhood. They're all very WASP-y and Stepfordy. I do kind of think the director went a little far with it. There's a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead, one dressed in pink, one in yellow, and one in pale blue. And they're mean and judgmental and you know they all talk about each other behind one another's backs.

They help Sarah out begrudgingly and with lots of snide little comments about how she should make a list for herself when she realizes she has forgotten her daughter's snack at the playground. And naturally the child is melting down and humiliating her mother because she feels neglected and she wants her snack.

I related to the mousy Sarah so much in that scene. Her disheveled appearance is a stark contrast next to the ironed and button-downed, if not stylish women who surround her and that combined with her scatter-brained inability to create a successful park outing for her child reminded me of myself in a couple of ways.

I mean, I'm not always like that. But I have had my moments. I just went on a playdate with my not-yet-potty-trained two-year old to a friend's house and forgot diapers. Fortunately, when he needed a change I was only four doors down and could walk home for a diaper while my friend watched Beckett. And when I'm around the well-groomed beauties in my neighborhood, I always feel a and disheveled? Even though I know I'm not and I actually try to look good most of the time unlike Sarah who is of the pretentious "I'm too intelligent for make-up and a hairstyle" ilk. I live in a neighborhood with an unusual amount of beautiful and well put-together women. But I digress.

Thankfully, that level of screwiness is about where my similarities end with Sarah. Sort of.

Sarah ends up having an affair with Brad, a stay-at-home dad she meets at the park. All the stay-at-home moms in Sarah's cohort have their collective eye on him, but Sarah somehow gets his attention and they begin an affair that ultimately culminates in their plan to run away together.

There's a lot of other things that happen in the movie and I won't bore you with them. I will get to my point here though.

The biggest way in which Sarah fucks up and is fucked up is that she can't get out of her head. All she can do is stew in her own sense of tedium and neglect until she meets Brad and then, almost instantly, the two of them get swept up into each other's lives, scheduling daily playdates for their two small children just so they can see each other. This gives her a break from the monotony of her life, but it does not get her out of her own head, nor does it make her in any way a better or happier person.

The thing is, I know what it's like to think that you're going to get married and have kids and have this perfect little life and then realize that you've not only put any other dreams you had on hold, you've up and abandoned them completely.

Although, I think in Sarah's case, having a child was a convenient excuse not to finish her dissertation and thereby avoid "real world" responsibilities. Except, guess what? Having and raising a child is very much of the real world and requires a completely different set of skills than teaching English Lit.

The thing that pained me most about this movie was how little Sarah was capable of connecting with her daughter. She simply could not get out of her own way to be able to engage with the child on any level short of taking care of her basic necessities. At one point, she tries to pay a neighbor who has been caring for the little girl while Sarah is out conducting her illicit affair with Brad, and tells her neighbor it's "for your trouble," ignoring all the sweet, generous comments the neighbor makes about what a delightful little girl Sarah has.

I know there have been times when I am guilty of those same crimes. There have been times when my worries about life, the stresses and anxieties of the world, my own sense of being lost or having no sense of purpose or wondering what my purpose is keep me locked inside my head, unable to do more than make sure everyone is clean, safe, and well-fed. But, I am very much aware of this fact and am fighting daily to make sure that I am present and engaged as fully as I can be in life, thankful now for every moment.

And that is where Sarah and I differ. Sarah seems to have no sense of being disengaged. Not really. She seems to believe that the "life" she has created with Brad, with both their children lurking around the fringes as a convenient excuse for their relationship, is real and she takes great effort to sustain it, yet she can't be bothered to stop staring at her reflection in the mirror (almost literal navel gazing), long enough to greet her daughter whom she has not seen in 24 hours.

There's a lot not to like about this movie with it's unintentional humor, annoying voice-over, some bad acting, and really, really annoying characters. Still, I'm glad I saw it; glad I saw myself in it a bit. It made me realize that while I may be imperfect, at least I'm here. And at least I'm trying.