As a mother, I will never give up on my child. As a mother of a child who has autism, I will never give up hope.
I look into his eyes and I see all the potential that he has to offer to this beautiful world and I just know that one day the world can see what I see.

Follow my blog as I share my life with you and my experiences as a person who loves someone with autism.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Snug as a bug. Review: Snug Vest

When Bryce was born, the nurse would swaddle him in a blanket, wrapping him like a little caterpillar, nice and snug as a bug. She told me it would make him feel comfortable and safe. Being a new parent, and wanting my son to feel comfortable and safe, I kept trying to master this swaddle technique, and honestly wasn’t really good at it. I remember driving the nurse nuts as I called her into my hospital room about 5-8 times a day as Bryce would break free from the wrapped blanket, sticking his arms out and above his head. I just wanted Bryce to be comfortable and safe.

That’s the first thing I thought of when I heard about The Snug Vest.

“The Snug Vest™ is an inflatable vest for providing Deep Pressure Therapy. Firm pressure to the torso helps to relieve anxiety as well as increase focus and attention, and is especially effective for individuals with high levels of anxiety, stress, or with sensory disorders.”

Snug Vest company contacted me offering a month trial with their product, and see if it was something Bryce could benefit from. Since Bryce has always loved the feeling of gentle squeezes and pressure, hugs that would be extra tight, and holding hands that have evolved to locking arms as he’d flex and push his chin into my arm, I had to try it out.

So here’s my honest review:

Snug Vest is a Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, (local to me) company. The package came in the mail 3 days after it was shipped, which was great! The Snug Vest package came with an easy to use hand pump, instructions manual, warranty and care instructions, informational pamphlet, and the Snug Vest wrapped in a bow with a little note. I thought to myself that if the presentation of the packaging was any indication on how this trial was going to be, then we were in good hands!

“The stylish Snug Vest promotes independence as the user can self-inflate their vest in a discrete way to get the exact amount of safe pressure they need.”

One of my favourite things about this product was how easy it was for Bryce not only to put on and take off by himself, but to be able to inflate it himself (being monitored of course.) The instructions were very simple and easy to understand, which I really appreciated.

“Snug Vest enables the user to complete daily tasks with ease anywhere they go!”

Well one of Bryce’s ‘daily tasks’ is playing on his computer, and the vest wasn’t in the way and he was able to sit down without any bulging of material or discomfort. He wore it for the therapist recommended 20 minutes at a time and he didn’t get hot or sweaty as the holes in the back of the vest provide ventilation.

The hood is a great size for protecting against weather, but designed to provide a sense of comfort blocking out anything that can be overwhelming. The vest is durable with a ton of adjustable features ensuring a snug fit. The inflatable part of the garment is removable and easy to clean with a damp cloth and the fabric part is machine washable.

Snug Vest features

Snug Vest features

So it’s comfortable, it’s fashionable, but does it serve it’s therapeutic promises?

“Deep Pressure Therapy is a sensory integration therapy that applies surface pressure to the body in order to create the feeling of a firm hug, hold, or swaddle.

The result of applying pressure has a relaxing and calming effect as it helps relieve anxiety by regulating the sensory system when it is over stimulated from environmental input and overload.”

Bryce is honestly already a very chill and relaxed child, so it was hard for me to see if the vest contributed to any ‘relaxing and calming effects to relieve anxiety’, but when he was wearing the Snug Vest, he had a huge smile on his face, and I could easily see he was enjoying the pressure. (Not to mention, it gave my arm a break from being squeezed!)

So it’s comfortable, it’s fashionable, and serves it’s therapeutic purposes. Now let’s talk costs.

The Snug Vest was super kind enough to give us a DISCOUNT CODE to share with YOU! (offer expires April 10th, 2015) Enter 'SnugBubbles' at the checkout to receive $40 OFF YOUR ORDER! Best part?? Snug Vest is 100% covered by the BC government autism funding! How awesome is that?! See how you can get The Snug Vest funded for you!

I honestly would recommend The Snug Vest to anyone who is considering deep pressure therapy as part of their therapy routine, or if your child is like mine, and enjoys gentle squeezes. It’s lightweight, comfortable, therapeutic, and fashionable making it not only wearable anywhere, but beneficial to help manage stress and ease anxiety!

Thanks for reading,
Tanaya and Bryce

Disclaimer: Snug Vest company contacted me offering a month trial with their product, and see if it was something Bryce could benefit from. I wanted to write a review to share my experiences (they never asked for one). I am not being paid or compensated in any way for sharing my honest opinions in this review.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Creating a Sensory Diet

This is a guest blog post written by Ilana, a physical therapist employed at Fun and Function, that talks about sensory diets.

Fun and Function logo

“Tommy! Stop jumping on the couch!” “George, Sit up!” “Come on, Suzie! We’re going to be late!” It seems like most parents are forever battling their children’s sensory-motor system, the system that perceives sensory information and responds to it, sometimes appropriately and sometimes not. A sensory diet can impact this system in a positive way, making day to day routines run smoothly. What exactly is a sensory diet? It’s a diet for your sensory system, the system that impacts the motor and behavioral system depending on how the incoming sensory information is perceived and organized. Your sensory system is comprised of visual, auditory, olfactory, taste, touch as well as proprioception and vestibular information. We all have sensory needs and even if you’re not aware, you probably have your own sensory diet.

A sensory diet is just like it sounds… a diet for your sensory system.

There really is not one diet that will meet everyone’s sensory needs, but at Fun and Function we like to provide solutions for your sensory needs. In doing so, we have also come to understand our own sensory needs. That means work is fun, and we turn that fun into solutions.

First, we need to understand what type of sensory orientation we have. So, we’ve placed these systems into three categories, but, yes, you may overlap a bit from one to the other. For example, you may find yourself a visual sensory over responder, preferring softer sights and avoiding bright lights. Yet, you may crave deep pressure and when it comes to touch find yourself as a sensory seeker. That is fine. What’s most important is to get to understand your owns sensory needs so you can better understand those of your child as well.  

Sensory Over Responders

These are individuals who over respond to stimuli. Things seem too loud, too hard, too heavy, too sticky, too wet and, well, just too much! Sensory Over Responders do not like to get messy. They avoid noisy, public places. A fireworks display can send them running for cover. So, what is the benefit of being over responsive? These individuals are generally organized, on time and on task. Strategies for sensory over responders should help to calm and reassure.

  • Providing a quiet environment  (tent, cave, tunnel, closet, etc.)
  • Use earmuffs or earplugs
  • Give plenty of notice when transitioning so as not to alarm them
  • Provide soft materials to calm  (pillows, beanbag chair filled with foam, stuffed animals, weighted blankets)
  • Use gentle music in the background and wind instruments to encourage deep breathing
  • Encourage bubble blowing
  • Place lava lamp, bubble tube or calming lights in their environment and cover or remove bright lighting
  • Encourage art activities that are calming like drawing, painting and weaving
  • Try a massage (deep pressure), pressure vest or clothing, rocking or deep breathing to calm
  • Aromatherapy for relaxing
  • Stories or books that reassure
  • Play non competitive games like catch with  scarves, parachute play or group games
  • Discuss tools that make them feel safe
  • Use deep pressure or weight to calm as well as calming swings
  • Exercise with stretching for calming. Yoga works well as does dance, gymnastics and swimming.

Sensory Under Responders

These are individuals who under respond to stimuli. They don’t hear their name when you call them. They lose their lunch, backpack, and keys. They drop things. They don’t sit up at the table. They slouch. They fall down. They forget and they are disorganized. Sensory Under Responders are often lost in a big crowd of kids. They don’t raise their hand in class and often “fall between the cracks.” What is the benefit of being a sensory under responder? These individuals are generally relaxed and don’t over react under pressure. Strategies should help organize and alert.

  • Provide lists, visual cues and visual reminders
  • Give notice when transitioning so as to give them time to get ready
  • Provide seating and supports that encourage an alert posture (wedges, firm seats, back supports)
  • Use a metronomes and timers to keep alert and organized
  • Provide an organizer
  • Use aromatherapy for alerting
  • Encourage tasks that require hand-eye coordination
  • Try drumming or guitar for music and to encourage rhythm
  • Try art activities that use large muscle groups like painting, cutting and building
  • Set up obstacle courses to encourage coordination and motor planning
  • Work on balance skills using therapy balls, balance boards, climbing ladders or active swings
  • Work on strengthening skills with weights, resistance bands or medicine balls and putty
  • Stretch muscles to alert
  • Karate works well as do sports like rock climbing, hiking and biking

Sensory Seekers

These individuals are constantly touching, pushing, grabbing, shouting, jumping, biting and on the move. These children get in trouble a lot because they don’t know how to use their energy appropriately. The love recess and competition. What are the benefits of being a sensory seeker? These individuals tend to be alert, on and never tired. They are also highly creative. Strategies should re-direct their high energies into more purposeful activities.

  • Provide clear boundaries, rules and directions
  • Give them notice when transitioning so as to give time to calm down and orient
  • Provide seating and supports that allow movement without distraction (wiggle cushion, ball chair, rocking board)
  • Use timers as warnings, boundaries or guidelines
  • Try pressure or weighted vests for calming
  • Use chewing, deep pressure or heavy hand work to filter excessive movement
  • Use heavy balls or heavy work tasks to organize their muscles and movements
  • Set up obstacle courses to encourage coordination and motor planning
  • Use eye hand coordination to engage their minds with their bodies
  • Provide jumping and running outlets with directions as to when its appropriate
  • Encourage deep breathing with wind instruments, bubble blowing, yoga or singing
  • Use art activities that require a lot of heavy work: clay, sculpting, wood working
  • Do daily stretching for calming
  • Productive exercises include rock climbing, biking, hiking, karate, swimming, triathalon and gymnastics

Watch yourself and your family members throughout the day. Your sensory system can change from morning until evening. Try some of the strategies that work for you and help your kids to come up with their own list (stretch in the morning, swing before school, cuddle after school, etc).

Author Bio:
Ilana Fun and Function
Ilana is a physical therapist. She is also employed at Fun and Function and Function as the creative director, product developer, writer and blogger. She is an author and the owner of Dunwoody Physical Therapy. She has worked in the special needs industry for 20 years writing, assembling catalogs and coming up with creative solutions for individuals all abilities. She lives in Dunwoody, Georgia with her husband, two younger children and her pet dachshund. When not writing, creating, treating or problem solving she loves to hike, bike and tap dance!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Walking for Autism Awareness and Acceptance

Today we blew bubbles at the 7th Annual Vancouver Walk Now for Autism Speaks.

Walking for autism awareness is important to me because it’s an opportunity for me to help bring much needed attention to autism. To me, it’s not about how much money was raised for the event, it’s about being part of a community. A community that understands and supports each other.

I mean, how many people can say they got to meet Darth Vader and the Star Wars Troopers AND support autism awareness, all in the same day!

Regardless of why you walk, or who you’re walking for, we walk together. Together we bring awareness to autism and that’s important. With 1 in 68 children now diagnosed with autism, awareness is key to understanding and acceptance.

After all, isn’t that what we all want? To be accepted?

Thanks for reading,

Check out our Facebook page for more pictures of the Vancouver Walk Now for Autism Speaks event.

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