Take Me Out To The Ball Game!

Friday, September 30, 2011

It's A Gakky Kind Of Day

Mixing it up

What it looks like at the beginning stages of kneading

"Remember life before "Gak"?  Ask any parent of a child with sensory integration dysfunction and they'll probably say, "No"!  More telling, they'll probably add, "is life worth living without Gak? "why would anyone do that?"  The rest of you, either NT's  yourself (neuro-typicals) or parents of NT's are no doubt already lost in this conversation and are seriously considering flipping pages to the next blog.  No worries, Gak is one of those wonderful playtime activities that transcends labels of "dis" and "ability"; all kids are fascinated by it and most, if not all, will at least try to touch it at least once. 

Gak is an ooey-gooey substance that is silky to the touch and flows through your hand like cooled pudding.  You can easily hide little toys in it and have your kids try to find them, and it easily washes off of most surfaces (except upholstery and carpetting).  It doesn't "stick" to your skin exactly but you can hold it.  It's something you'll just have to try for yourself.  We make our Gak on the kitchen floor, or another surface that can be easily wiped up with a sponge, and it's a good idea to have your kids wear short sleeved shirts as they're making it so it doesn't get everywhere.  Even making the Gak is a GREAT sensory experience, as you have to knead it for at least five minutes to incorporate LOTS of air into the mixture from the beginning so you can develop the gelatinous goo.  Today when we made our Gak, it might have been the humidity level, or maybe my daughter didn't "work it" hard enough in the early stages, but after a few minutes the water was still completely separated from the glue/water and borax/water mixtures, so I got out my handy-dandy stick blender and whipped some air into it, and within a minute we had Gak (if you use this trick, be sure not to keep your stick blender in the runny mixture for too long or you'll burn up your motor).  It quickly developed into the thick and gooey Gak we all know and love and my daughter was thrilled.  Depending on how your child reacts, whether your child dives right in or just pokes a finger in it, can be very telling as to his sensory status at that moment; is he sensory averting or sensory seeking? 

I was first introduced to Gak when Hayden was a wee little toddler, not yet walking, talking or feeding himself and our daughter was an infant. We were in a sensory integration playgroup for adoptive children and the brilliant Occupational Therapist, Debbie, who taught us oh-so-much-about-brain-and-all-things-sensory/behavior introduced it to us and all of us parents thought it was manna from heaven for our kids.  Our son, who was only 16 months older than our new baby girl, had super low muscle tone and lots of texture aversions.  The first time he ever beared weight on his legs, he was standing against a kidney-shaped table with his other little friends, hand elbow-deep in Gak.  If I could find that picture I'd post it here--it's precious.  So what was happening in Hayden's little body at that time was that his mind was so focused on the feeling and texture of the gak, that he forgot about his legs for a few minutes and stood strong (albeit his hips and knees were "fixed" in position, definitely not optimal, but it was a starting point and I don't think any PT would mind too much!).  As soon as our daughter was old enough to put her hands in the stuff, she did, with our help and LOVED it from the first second.  And the rest, they say, is Gak History.

Fast forward a decade and we still love the stuff.  Our daughter was having a rather tough morning dealing with some sensory stuff (often we can never tease out of the soup exactly what is going on at any given moment).  She had already bounced a little on the trampoline and kicked a plastic ball against the hedge and the back of the house until she felt better (and she was rewarded with beads for letting her dad and I help her through that "chaosy" moment and then taking our suggestions).  We read a little bit more in ancient art history (you can never know too much about high and low relief, cameo, plaster casts, and so on...) and then I suggested making some Gak.  Her eyes instantly lit up and we got to work.  Of course we made it blue, because blue, well blue is just simply THE BEST COLOR EVER, according to the Aspie.

Here's the recipe:

 In one medium blow, mix:

 *one cup of hot water

*one cup of white glue

In another medium bowl, mix:

 *one cup of hot water

 *1TBSP Boraxso (or Borax) hand cleaner

 * Add 2-3 drops of food coloring if you wish

 Mix the two bowls together using your hands! Be sure to knead in all of the water. It may take 5-10 minutes of kneading.

  Store gak in an airtight container, and keep for up to a month.

 Fun things to do with GAK
 *Hide toys or small objects (marbles work really well)

 *Use a straw to blow gak bubbles and make silly noises (blowing through a straw is a VERY good sensory thing to do when a child is disorganized or unable to control him/herself-it centers the brain)

 *Squeeze, stretch, jiggle and poke

 Things to AVOID with GAK:

*GAK is not yummy or edible

*If left sitting on a flat surface, gake will find its way to the floor and make a MESS

*Keep away from carpet and upholstery

"Squishing it is SO much fun!"

Blowing bubbles

Saturday, September 17, 2011

On Any Given Saturday.......

I've always wondered why I haven't joined the throngs of "soccer moms".  This morning I discovered why.  Apparently the words "soccer" and "sleeping" mix like oil and water. Especially on Saturday mornings.  For the rest of the YEAR.  All the Aspie's games from here on out are on Saturday mornings at 9am.  And it appears that when we registered our daughter for a soccer team (a team specifically for kids with special needs) what we were really saying was, "We're tired of lolly-gagging around on Saturday mornings; eating a leisurely breakfast and doing Saturday-type-things at our own pace.  What we really want is to be ejected out of bed by 7:30am, work up an aerobic-like sweat prying  #1 child from his bed, pack up the kids, and then load up the Suburban with lawn chairs and blankets in order to go sit outside for a couple of hours.

So far what I've learned this morning is that not only do the parents not get any sleep, the Aspie doesn't either (I know, I know, tell you something you DON'T know already).  She's reported that she's been up since 2am, and dressed in her soccer regalia since 4, at which time she came into our bedroom and slept with us till 7.  Oh good, she's had a whopping four, maybe five whole hours of non-REM sleep.  This is going to be a fun day. 

Post Soccer Game Notes:

Grade for The Day:  A+     DP had a GREAT time.  She ran her little legs off for the full hour of the game and she had a great attitude, despite the fact that her team (the green team) was out numbered by the other team (the blue team) two-to-one.  She even scored a goal (although you couldn't tell it by her completely blank post-goal facial expression).  She seemed to REALLY enjoy herself and her teammates were all very nice, as were all the parents on the sidelines, even when my child caught the throw-in with her hands (we all laughed).

What I learned today:  My daughter (our daughter) really DOES belong on the special needs team.  On so many levels.  And that's okay.  In fact, it's better than okay, it's where she truly fits, and that's a great thing!  After all, isn't what we all want for our kids is for them to find their place in the world where they can feel accepted for who they truly are so they can truly shine?  Ya, I think so.

So for the next two and a half months I'll be happy to buck-up so the Green Machine can shine.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Tonight I think of all the moms who out there in the night sky, barely visible to the naked eye and twinkling just every so often, to the point where you're not really sure if you saw them sparkle at all.  The bigger, brighter stars are the ones people see and the smaller, dimmer stars look insignificant.  These are the moms (and dads) whose kids, although wonderful and talented in their own rights, are buried under emotional and behavioral issues.  The moms (and dads) suffer in silence.  They can't share the hellish interactions they have with their kids, because they're horrified that they even participated in the whole thing.  You see these moms in the grocery store and they "look" normal.  They're pleasant and courteous, hiding their overwhelming pain.  They say "fine" in convincing tones when you ask how they are, because the truth of the matter is they can't be honest at that exact moment.  They might break, they might crumble and they fear they might lose all of their sparkle if they are remotely honest about how they're doing.

The grandparents of their children don't know have a clue how their now-adult children go to bed each night wondering if tomorrow is the day that the entire family explodes and their child is hauled away in a police car.  Their neighbors may hear some noises eminating from their home from time to time.  Maybe they've even reached out to share the basic information about their child's diagnoses, but the neighbors can't possibly know their pain; their daily struggles to keep the family in tact for just one more day. 

Many of these fading stars try very, very hard to be engaged in a faith based community.  They try to go to synagogue, but are told that Temple isn't the best place for children who act out or disrupt in any way.  Forget about Hebrew school; they know their kids couldn't possibly hold it together for that long on a weekend morning after going to school all week.  They may try children's church, but the atmosphere is far too structuerd and stressful for their child and any behavior that deviates from the "norm" just isn't tolerated.  These families slink away from faith based services and events in silence, herding their children out as quickly and quietly as possible.  They don't want to be a bother.  They don't want their children, who already have so many challenges, to experience any more rejection.  So they go home and try to carry on their faith in family-based ways.  They do their best to raise their kids to know and love God the way they do.

Many of these moms have friends, even a best friend, but how can someone possibly relate to the extent of emotional anguish that this fading star is feeling?  Whom can they trust with their heart's concerns?  What casual acquaintance can share their burden?  Many of these moms are engaged in on-line communities; live chats with other families whose children have emotional and behavioral issues, listservs targeted specifically to them, and so on.  But you can't run to the listserv or e-mail pal EVERYTIME something explodes in your house-you'd monopolize the entire conversation eight days a week. So you don't.  You let another explosion, another meltdown go without mentioning it to anyone.  Not because you're trying to be a martyr.  Because you're too tired.  At the end of the day there the words just aren't there to describe what you've yet again endured.  You fade a little more.

Tonight I think of you and I will pray for you.  For strength.  For courage for one more day. That God will meet you and me where we are and restore some sparkle to our lives.