A Deep Dive into Neurodiversity with OT, Rachel Coley @Canddokiddo


00:00:01    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village. This is episode 164. I got to hang out with Rachel Coley. You might know her as @Candokiddo over on Instagram. We chatted about neurodiversity. Rachel is an occupational therapist, which you all know, here we go again. I love OTS. We got really nerdy together. And this is one of my favorite episodes that I've ever done because we talked about what neurodiversity means, what the sensory systems are and what it could look like if every single one of us knew how our sensory systems worked, what was helpful for us for regulation, what pulled from our withdrawals and then we're able to self-regulate so that we could co-regulate with kids and learn about their nervous system. We all have unique sensory systems and getting to be a detective and figuring out what works best for each and every one of us would be such a gift. I love Rachel's take on neurodiversity and I'm super super jazzed to get to share this episode with you today. All right folks. Let's dive in. 


00:01:24    Alyssa

Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers, teachers and experts come to support one another on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combined decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges, so it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host, Alyssa Blask Campbell. . 


00:01:54    Alyssa

Hey everyone, welcome back to Voices of Your Village, today I'm here with Rachel Coley. She is an OT and you know how I feel about OTS you are dreamboats of humans Rachel. Yes, we cannot do our work in emotional development without working with OTS and working with the nervous system. So I'm jazzed to dive in today more focused on neurodiversity. We're getting so many questions that were coming in and we often, over on Instagram will reference you and like go check her out! And I was like, let's bring her on. Let's have a real conversation. So I'm excited. 


00:02:30    Rachel

Yeah, I'm excited to be here.  


00:02:32    Alyssa

I'm excited to hang with you. I can you share with folks a little bit about your background?


00:02:37    Rachel

For sure, so I, like you said, I'm an occupational therapist and I knew going into grad school that I was going to be a pediatric OT. They said you might change your mind. I said, no, I'm not going to so I've always worked with kids and I sort of niched down as my career progressed, I've been an OT for gosh about 15 years and I kind of niched down into that birth to three age range in the past the last half of my career and I love love love working with littles because you really work with their families as much as you work with the kiddos if not more. So when I became a mom I pulled back from clinical work and started doing online parent education from the OT perspective and I found in that birth to three age range and I found that parents were just so hungry for more information. Now flash forward six and a half years. There's a lot of resources now online but at the time for that birth to 3 there really wasn't and so I kind of stepped into that role of education and supporting parents. 


00:03:37    Alyssa

Yeah, you came in early in the online education game. That's awesome. Yeah. Now there's so much that I think it can feel overwhelming of like, where do I turn? Can you share with folks of just a little overview of the sensory systems? And yeah, just so that we can have some place to start. If this is new to them. 


00:03:59    Rachel

For sure, and also another piece of the intro that I left out, which is important is I'm also a mom of three kiddos born within less than three and a half years of each other. So we're stair steps and my oldest is somewhere on the autistic spectrum and my middle is suspected of having ADHD. She's really kind of too young for us to do any diagnostics don't even know if we'll do any diagnostics long term, but she definitely fits the profile of inattentive type ADHD. So we have neurodiversity in our home and I will tell you that being a parent of neurodiverse kids has really impacted my occupational therapy lens. 


00:04:36    Alyssa

Yeah, that's why I wanted to chat with you specifically on this topic. I told you we work with a bunch of OT's in this work that we do and specifically wanted someone who had that parent lens too, huh? Yeah, so thank you. So yeah, let's do an overview of the sensory systems and we'll dive into into what neurodiversity is and what that means and how we can kind of show up. 


00:04:58    Rachel

Yeah. So everybody kind of usually knows the five major senses. You learn in kindergarten and first grade, so sight and taste and smell and touch and vision or hearing sorry, vision and sight are the same thing, but and and those all work together. So usually we are not using one sensory system. They have to speak to each other and they have to be able to what we call integrate. So that's what we're talking about. When we talk about sensory integration. We're talking about these sensory systems communicating with each other in the brain to make sense of the world around them and the world inside their bodies and then to be able to then elicit what we call an adaptive response. All that means is like you're doing what you need to do in the world whether that's making social interactions, whether that's getting a task done whether that's attending and learning whether that's playing safely on the playground, but then there's these other senses that OTS like to keep in a little secret closet. And we're starting to open up the closet share with the world a little bit of how we look at the senses of, the big two that we add are vestibular, which is our movement sense and proprioceptive, which is I call it your pressure and stretch since it's a sense the receptive organs actually live in your muscles and tendons and it basically tells your body about your body position. So a good way to think about this is if you had to close your eyes and touch your fingers together, your proprioceptive system is what tells you where your right arm is where your left arm is. How to get them lined up and then you would feel that pressure of those fingers and that would give feedback to tell you. Yep. I'm there or nope. I bumped it. I need to move to the left or the right. And in OT, we think about proprioceptive input as being generally speaking very important for kids. That's a big one and the vestibular system as well. And again, they all communicate and so one way that we can kind of identify with kids who have some sensory processing disorders is have you ever been in one of those car washes like an automatic car wash and your car is in park it is not moving. But when this apparatus around you starts moving your vestibular system in your inner ears is telling your body and your brain. You're not moving but your eyes are telling you oh my gosh, the car is rolling. And so that is an example where we as, I will identify as somewhat sensory typical, neurotypical. I can identify with what it feels like when your sensory systems are not getting you accurate information. And I don't know about you. But in those instances I get this little panic of oh my God, and I check the park and make sure I'm in park and I you know, there is this alerting hyper-vigilant alarm bell that goes off when you're getting inaccurate information sometimes. 


00:07:39    Alyssa

Totally and then even like going forward when I like go to the carwash now, it's like that is stored there and I'm going in and I'm like so nervous to just pop this car in neutral, it's so nerve-racking. 


00:07:51    Rachel

Yeah, and then the last one that I'll touch on, there are a bunch of senses. I mean your pain sense is its own little sensory system, but another was an interoception and it's starting to come more into the world of Child Development more publicly parents are starting to hear about it. It's basically your sense of what's going on in your body. So things like hunger, thirst, having to use a restroom. So if you have a kiddo who has different sensory processing or has trouble with integrating sensory information, their interoceptive system may not be telling them. Hey tune into your bowels or bladder and so that might be a kid that we would see for potty training challenges so all of these systems working together well are what allow a child to function well in the world and when any of those systems individually is not giving accurate information or if they're just not communicating well that's where we start to see the manifestations of that our struggles challenges in this child's life in the things that are important to them. 


00:08:51    Alyssa

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for that overview. And we have a free download for folks that's home activities that they can do to get vestibular and proprioceptive input throughout the day if folks heard that and are like ooh I want some tips. It's at the link in my bio. It's totally free just little ideas you can do throughout the day to get some of that input. So now when we're looking at neurodiversity, what does this mean? And I feel like it's a big umbrella term and it's being used a lot more at least I'm seeing it a lot more and I think that there are different ways that it's used. I was, lately I feel like I'm seeing so many posts and things on like highly sensitive people and I'm like, oh, let's talk about like this relationship to neurodiversity. And yes, okay, let's dive into like what does that umbrella term really mean or encompass and what might you see kind of underneath that. 


00:09:50    Rachel

I think that umbrella technically speaking covers things like autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, ADHD, things like that. However, I have really grown through my experience as a parent to start to think of all of us as being neuro-diverse. We are all on a very large spectrum and we have identified little spots on that spectrum as like, well this little narrow range of the spectrum. We're going to refer to as autism this little range on the spectrum we're going to call sensory processing disorder, but not autism. This little you know, so I don't think that there are separate spectrums. And so I am neuro-diverse from my husband, you know, the level of noise he can tolerate is very different than mine. You know how he likes to be touched or how much physical activity he needs to feel right in his body is much higher than mine. So I have really shifted my understanding and my perspective on neurodiversity and I prefer to use it as an umbrella term as just a way to let people know that this person this individual has an identified neurodiversity that is impacting how they are functioning in the world. So a lot of times we get into this. Is it sensory? Is it behavior? There's always a sensory component of a behavior because the behavior is how we communicate and the sensory is how we are in the world. You can't be in the world without your senses functioning. 


00:11:21    Alyssa

Rachel. You're speaking our language. Literally what we talk about all the time. 


00:11:26    Rachel

Yeah so, that to me. That's how I use neurodiversity is we don't need to get into the nitty-gritty of this child's diagnosis, but I just want to give you a framework for our conversation about this child that we know that this child is experiencing the world differently than us and and for some kids especially in that 0-3 age range that I tend to work in they're not identified yet. We don't know what the neurodiversity is we know there's something different about how they're processing the world and we are in the detective process of trying to figure that out and either do any remediation that we could but primarily have a shared understanding of this person and match their environment and their task demands and their support systems to match how their brain operates well and functions well. 


00:12:12    Alyssa

Oh I'm so here for this on so many levels. Okay. So many things came up for me there. I absolutely love, somebody reached out the other day and was like my kid, we just went through early intervention process and my kids been given a sensory diet like what are your thoughts on that? And I was like gosh I wish all of us had an OT that could give us our sensory diet and let us know like here's your sensory profile and these are things that are helpful for you and like how dreamy would that be and it stinks that only kids who are qualifying for services will get access to that for the most part. And so I love the normalization of we all have sensory systems and I've shared a lot on here and in our village that my husband and I have very different sensory processing and different sensory profiles and what I need is vastly different than what he needs and we would both not qualify for services. Right? Like we would both be in that range of typical and yet to best function in the world. We have different needs. 


00:13:13    Rachel

And understanding those needs even if they're within the range of quote-unquote normal understanding those needs is such an asset to your functioning in the world. You're going to function so much better in your marriage. If you both have an understanding of your own and each other's sensory needs. 


00:13:28    Alyssa

Totally and then how that trickles down to kids. Yeah, absolutely. So when we're looking at kiddos and we're saying like, all right, I feel like there's something that isn't. Okay. I guess this is two separate thoughts, one is like how do people start to learn when they're looking at their tiny human. What's working? What's helpful for them? You said, you know creating this environment where they can thrive right? How can folks bring more awareness to what is helping my kid thrive or what seems to not be working? 


00:14:02    Rachel

Yeah, I think, I mean this is a part of my professional life that's really evolving because of my parent experiences. I think one of the most powerful things you can do is step back, give the child a ton of freedom, pull back for a period of time pull back on the demands pull back on the expectations pull back on even the rules, within safety. Safety is important, but in terms of like you're not allowed to chew your shirt or you're not allowed to eat dinner standing up. If you got rid of all those sort of societal norms for for lack of a better word and allow this child to just be free kids tend to if they're physically able and give an opportunity to kids tend to show you what they need to be right in the world and be okay in the world. Some kids do need help. They need an OT for example or a parent to offer a menu of things and then we kind of go through a trial and error process. Well, I'm noticing that swinging is actually making him more excited. So let's put that in the category of this is an activity to do when he's kind of sluggish and needs to wake up before he does school. Let's swing then. So there's always this sort of evolution of understanding someone sensory needs but I think that as parents we need to lean so much more into what is working well for this child. Our focus typically in an intervention model is let's focus on what's not working and fix it to the detriment of your, you have a child who is showing you what works right? And so, you know just anecdotally this fall we switch my child to a very, my son,  to a very very alternative educational setting that is 100% child-directed down to there is no set arrival time you have to be there. You don't even have to come to campus. You can do homeschool that day if you need to, no one tells you when to eat and so it's been really interesting. I've spent a lot of time on campus observing children from birth to 18 there, really allowed and a lot of children who are neuro-diverse a lot of kids who are there because they don't fit into a school system setting it's been really interesting to watch things. Like for example how 13 year olds and 14 year olds and 15 year olds move around campus running, rolling, swinging, jumping, climbing really high things and jumping down to crash and it's just really made me realize wow, if you let 13 and 14 year olds be themselves. They actually are still seeking way more vestibular and proprioceptive input than a typical middle school setting is going to allow for and quite frankly more than our society accepts. And so for example, I have parents for example, that chewing, I had I posted something about my daughter. I'm very oral sensory seeking and I had a bunch of people in particular one who said like my child just keeps chewing the necks of his shirts. How do I make this stop? Like well, I think if your framework is we need to get rid of mouthing behaviors that don't fit into my expectations. If we shift it to my child is showing me that they need more oral input. How can I make this fit into our everyday life instead of trying to get rid of the need? They're communicating to you that they need this and we don't want to shut it down and use a behavioral approach to stop that behavior. And so that's where in the neurodiversity world, specifically the autism world, there's a lot of like, you know debate about do we try to fix the behaviors or do we try to accommodate for them and celebrate their diversity and accept it and honor it respect it, you know.


00:17:49    Alyssa

Yeah and how rad that would be for all kids because even if there isn't like like even if there's a child who, I think like in this instance of my husband, wasn't a kid who you're going to see big behaviors from in school, but he was going to shut down right, so he, but had his sensory needs been met, could have been a different story for him in the way that he would show up in the classroom. As you were saying like the adapting. I was thinking of Rachel who runs our sleep program has shared about her youngest. He's almost two and he is sensory sensitive and would have been diagnosed with like colic as a baby, most likely and when I like when I went and saw her for the first time postpartum and she was three weeks postpartum and she was like just like full help, right? Like this is really hard and has an older kiddo as well and they're vastly different humans as we know happens and so we're like, all right. What is working for him? What does he respond really well to and it doesn't mean it was easy, it was still hard to navigate but we could create what was working well for him in their everyday life and I think this is something especially when we're working with young kids who can't necessarily seek out that sensory input in the same way, right? Like once he was crawling and moving he could get input that he couldn't get when he was stationary and 3 weeks old and couldn't remove himself from a situation where he felt over stimulated necessarily so when we started to look at what does really work well for him and incorperate that into their everyday life. It was really a game changer, again, not dreamy still like bouncing on a ball to put him to sleep a number of times but he could sleep finally right like so I love that you pointed that out that like really focusing on what is working well is such a game changer.  


00:19:46    Rachel

I also think, you know, such a beautiful example too that you give of sensory processing for a newborn, we have just the handful of kind of diagnosis we slap on babies who don't feel good in the world a lot of the time and it's only in hindsight that we look and we say, okay. Well this kid also now that he's three we have feeding issues. We have oral sensitivities. We have all this stuff going on but and not to say that all kiddos with colic or reflux or any of that stuff is, you know going to be diagnosed with something but just that understanding and then the mom piece comes in or the parent piece comes in a you've also got someone who's In hyper-vigilance as a new parent. Anxiety and everything is at a high because there's not good regulation with sleep with breaks with quiet with what they're not able to meet their own sensory needs, or most parents don't understand their own which is fine. That's normal. But you've got for example a mom who's got extreme sensory sensitivity right now. Maybe normally it's not too bad. But because of this postpartum stuff going on right now and the environment she's super sensory sensitive, then we got a baby who's over stimulated who's crying a lot and you've just got this sensory mismatch or another good example is a baby who's really sensitive who has two older siblings. And so you got toddler wrestling matches going on Mom putting baby down and picking up and putting down picking up and and it's too much for baby. And so I have learned in the past few years as an OT how kind of awesomely challenging it is to, if you're willing to get out of the clinic mode and get into the family mode. It's a really challenging to meet these needs in a whole system, right? Yeah, I mean even down to like I live right near a fire station and so as babies my children were hearing sirens and dog howling and barking all day long, you know, and so depending on the baby that might not phase him at all or it might be really really too much for them. 


00:21:54    Alyssa

Totally. Yeah, it's been so interesting to watch Rach's older daughter who could not love being a big sibling more but has a very different sensory profile than her younger brother watching them interact and Rach has recently started explaining the sensory systems a bit to her daughter who's like getting it of like oh, this is something that when I do this we talk about it as a sensory bank that that pulls from his bank and when we keep pulling and keep pulling and keep pulling there's nothing left and it's really hard for him. And what are things that we can do to deposit into it and it's been helpful for her like moderating but it's still challenging. She's six and is, they have a swing in their living room and she, I remember when she was two weeks old Rach called was like she just rolled over and I was like, probably not she's two weeks old and she was like, nope. She just rolled over and like hasn't stopped moving her whole life and it's the opposite of what's helpful for him a lot of the time and he wants to engage and still it can be a withdrawal and so seeing them navigate that and watching her daughter really learn how she shows up in the world can affect how he shows up in the world has been really cool to see. 


00:23:10    Rachel

Absolutely. I think that was a big factor in my kiddos. My older two are 17 months apart and and just were oil and water for two and a half years. It was really intense and now hindsight, I recognize that at 17 months old my oldest was really struggling with sensory things and this baby did nothing but set him off, you know, like if your sensory sensitive to noises and you have a newborn sibling you do want to throw your Mickey Mouse toy at them like I get it. 


00:23:43    Alyssa

And as the parent you want to too and you just you just can't and you know, you can't 


00:23:47    Rachel

So that's a perfect example of that behavior or sensory like to address this hurting of sister. From a behavioral framework will not get at this behavior. Yeah, and if you are able somehow to make the behaviorism strong enough right the reward big enough for the consequence big enough to nip that behavior. You're going to see it somewhere else. Yeah, you're just choosing to push it to another area, they're not hitting baby but now they're doing this other thing. 


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00:26:30    Rachel

So yeah, I think whole family sensory processing is such an area that needs to grow and in part because I find it really powerful to start the sensory education for lack of a better word with a family, start it with the parents, help the parents identify their needs, their triggers, their levels throughout the day, their awareness of themselves because then they can model for the kiddos. For example the other day I said, I have another Zoom call. I'm really tired. Who wants to run down to the block and back with me? I've got to wake my system up. And so I'm not I'm not criticizing anyone else in the house's sensory processing or noticing theirs in that moment. I am observing my own and so it's this really natural education for the kids and then I can also start to say hey, I notice you're looking like you need some pushes. What can we do? What do you like to do that gives you pushes. Let's wheelbarrow walk to the front door and back and so that I love educating parents first. I really do I think It's one of the most powerful things you can do because you're also helping the kid by helping the parent be more regulated. You are helping their relationship and helping the child's sensory processing. 


00:27:40    Alyssa

Totally and you're giving then a parent the tools to be able to regulate and co-regulate right like such a game changer, rad. So if folks are tuning in and they're like, okay I there is that range of what we often identify as typical right? I said like my husband and I would often fall into that and then there's outside of that, and when we're looking at this and right now, I think the challenge is that our systems are set up for the folks outside of that range of normal. If you are seeing like my kid is falling outside of that range. Maybe you're hearing it from childcare. Maybe you're hearing it from pediatrician. Maybe it's something that you're feeling or observing. What would a parent ideally be looking for specifically in an OT or in services or support? That would be most helpful there for neurodiverse children. 


00:28:35    Rachel

I think if what you're seeing is primarily in that sensory realm. Typically it would be an OT that I would recommend for a kid. There are kiddos that have bigger things going on or other things in addition to the neurodiversity that maybe they would start with a PT and an OT or speech and OT but if there is sensory stuff going on that is impacting function that would land you with an OT for sure and and specifically a pediatric OT and specifically an OT that has sensory training and experience most have some level but you just you want somebody that really has that lens like not just attended one training but like really operates from that lens. 


00:29:19    Alyssa

Yeah. And so what our parents looking for their this is what I was hoping we would touch on because in my experience as a teacher as well in childcare was like ooh, not a not all OTs are created equally, right and not everyone has the same training as with any profession. So what are folks looking for there? 


00:29:36    Rachel

Yeah. I mean when I try to help people outside of my area find a provider one of the things that I look for is I will actually go to clinics. I'll Google like Pediatric Therapy in Wyoming whatever town it is and I'll find what's close to them. And then I'll go to those individual sites and usually the list out their providers and they'll give some sort of background in training and an interest area. So you're looking for someone with a some sort of trainings that refer to something sensory, but usually they will also say this person has an expertise or specializes in or is very interested in sensory. You want that word somewhere and if it seems like the, sometimes they'll just list diagnosis that the person works with a lot if the person is working with a lot of the body like I'm trying to think of some things that a parent would see like this provider works with a lot of children with cerebal palsy and down syndrome. They probably have some underpinnings of sensory but they're probably 


00:30:36    Rachel

not working from that as a predominant model. So you want to look for those neurodiversity words, you know sensory processing disorder, autism, ADHD. And early intervention, it's not quite as, that birth to three, it's not quite as common yet. Yet! To have that sensory framework, especially in the first year of life. 


00:30:57    Alyssa

We have an episode on early intervention. It's with an OT and we talk about that very thing that like how frustrating it is for her that it's not as prevalent yet is it we want it to be and that was also my experience, my like favorite age group to work with has been birth to 3 and in that infant toddler range. I just I found one OT who I had the pleasure of working with that just like spoke to my heart where I was like, yes, but outside of that. Yeah. It was like no we're missing. You were missing this piece, you know, so yeah, I hear that. I hope we're, I'm glad we're moving in a good direction. Yeah. I hope I was saying that the rate of progress is always frustrating. 


00:31:43    Rachel

I will say, I think one of the silver linings of all of the telehealth going on right now is that it has forced people to let go of their especially sensory experts for lack of a better word. Push them out of this clinic, sensory gym model, it can be really helpful at least for me as a practitioner. It can be very helpful in the phase when we're really focused on detective work because it allows me to give like really powerhouse interventions that are much more powerful than what you could probably do at home and see how the child is interacting with that and responding to that. But once we're trying to figure out things like a sensory diet, you have got to know what's going on in that person's house. Not just what before I had my own kids. It was like what equipment do they have, you know. How close do they live to the park. But now it's like no you gotta you gotta hear the dog bark. You've got to hear the baby cry. You have to be in their world in order to give a sensory diet that a parent can comply with. This idea that parents are non-compliant. I don't buy that for the vast majority of parents. They want to make it work. They want to do these interventions and if they're not doing them, it's on us as a professional to figure out why and we need to adjust the expectations or you know and I've been on the parent side of that where I get great recommendations from somebody and I'm like yeah on paper this sounds great, but I can't if you knew my world you would know I can't do this on a daily basis or an hourly basis or you know, so so I think that is a big benefit to doing telehealth as you are getting a window into someone's world, their family life. Yeah. I think that's huge too and it's also why it's hard. When it's like people are what what activities should be doing? We're like here are some that might be helpful. But so much of this goes so much deeper than that. And we with the seed certification, Lori who's the OT that I had the privilege of working with that I said, I really loved and connected with she was contracted by our school, I was teaching in early ed at the time, to come in and work with us as teachers. Not with the kids. She wasn't there for specific children. She was there to observe and give us feedback about our classrooms, about, and sometimes specific kids within the classrooms and what she was noticing that might be helpful for us for tweaks for them. But it just opened my eyes to how much our day to day we were trying to fit all these kids into the same box and ways that we could tweak and adjust the environment as a whole. 


00:34:21    Rachel

Yes. Absolutely. I mean after seeing kids who are literally non-functional in a school system to see them in a totally child-directed environment. You would not be able to identify which kids and I'm talking there were kids there were very very functionally challenged by their nerd diversity in the world. You would not identify them on that campus and that just blew me away. It actually made me wonder like wow, maybe school OT should really be about finding the right school. 


00:34:53    Alyssa

Yeah totally. 


00:34:54    Rachel

And I know as a parent like I sat in a 504 meeting for my son at the end of last year and There are all these accommodations that were put into place or put into a plan to support him in school and I walked away from it. I told my husband he would not need these in a different setting, we have to accommodate him this much because this is not where his system can be and be okay. And also I you know, someone's like we're going to pull them out at two o'clock on Tuesdays for his sensory time, and I'm like, I can't promise you that's when he's going to need it. You know, like mmmm. It needs to be more responsive, a responsive classroom. Which in to all teachers credit is very impossible. 


00:35:32    Alyssa

It's so hard. Yeah, especially when you're in a system where I had kids who thrived on routine and structure right? And so for the kiddos who like they do need to know we're eating at this time. This is what's happening after that to have to diversify your classroom enough to serve all humans is really really challenging. It's also challenging to do at home, you know when you have three kids and your or you know talking about rates who had her older and younger are two totally different humans with different needs and then she has her own needs. And how do we how do we fit this all together? How do we integrate into this family unit? 


00:36:16    Rachel

It's even made me wonder. I mean, this is just my brain just starts chewing right but it's even made me wonder like this idea that we cluster kids into classes based on their chronological age within a 12 month window and we have the same expectations and the same environment for them. What if a classroom looks more like your needs like what you had a classroom full of kids who had needed very physical learning environment and they needed a lot of freedom and a lot of movement in their day and and not a lot of structure and then you have the ones that need the desk time and the structure and the sort of quiet and the I mean what if that were the learning environment and the OT was the one that helped evaluate kids and put them in the right containers right? Like it does your for school? 


00:36:59    Alyssa

Also, I'm sure most teachers listening are like yeah, that would be nice to have kids with a similar sensory profile in the same classroom. That would be honestly so much easier for me to navigate. 


00:37:14    Rachel

And imagine the kids that are in that more sensory seeker group, like all of them would have they're chewy things attached to their water bottle and all of them would get Twizzlers or I hate Twizzlers, but you know some chewy item at every snack period and all of of them would do their jumping jacks, there would be a normalization of these sensory interventions that children need to function well. All children, all children have sensory needs. I want us to really, that it's the same as neurodiversity like really shift parents hear about sensory sensory sensory only within the context of sensory problems. Sensory is not a problem. We all have senses and we all want them to be working well, and so this word sensory does not need to have a bad connotation. Not only a few kids have sensory needs. 


00:38:03    Alyssa

Yeah every single one of us. Yeah, and it really is and I think that's what at least I've noticed in education in the world that I'm in is a shift in like trying to normalize that we all do have needs and some kids. It's helpful for them to sit on this seat or for some kids. They it's helpful for them to have a turn on the swing when we go out first and just normalizing that conversation and that it doesn't mean everyone's going to have the same turn or everyone gets that seat whatever, it's figuring out what works best for your body and that I feel like it's more of a conversation in education. But so much of it is falling on teachers who don't have training in sensory processing or sensory integration. This is why first, the Seed Cert, I was like we will have, Lori did a workshop and so far the teachers who have gone through it so many of reach out and I like that felt like a college course and I'm like yeah, because it's all new right like so much of that for teachers is new. 


00:39:00    Rachel

Yeah. I think it really is a disservice to teachers the way we have it set up because they're really limited in how they can meet individual learning needs. And and the flip side of that is we wind up having more kids identified as having problems. Yeah problems. It's like the cycle right? And so the whole system kind of has to change to support everybody to support the teachers as well. But I mean it goes back to that adaptive response. So in a school, one of the adaptive responses is like engaging in group learning at least in physical school before Zoom. I know for a fact that my son is not sensory wise and anxiety wise ready to engage in groups until he has been given the space and time to meet his needs first and get comfortable in the space. And so it's really hard to say to a teacher you need to adjust your timing of your schedule to accommodate this one student and so it's really hard to imagine how it would work in a large institution. And so it tends unfortunately to work well in small private schools that are only accessible to yeah, you know, so wish it was more readily available to everybody and the same with some of these sensory support services you were talking about. I mean, you also have to consider then do they take your insurance, you know, and sometimes really hard to find a practical, it's that ideal world has to get to practical right and it's like there's so many barriers to the practical sometimes that it can be hard to match somebody with a provider and that's why another benefit of Zoom is we can reach out to parents that are not in our geographic area. 


00:40:45    Alyssa

Yeah totally and in my dream world for the people who have heard this on the podcast before because it's truly my dream world and I won't stop talking about it that in every pediatric office, a pediatricians role would be medicine and that we would have other disciplines within right so that everyone had access to an OT so that they can start to learn about their kids sensory profile from the get-go so that everyone had access to an SLP so that everyone had access to a child development specialist. Like it doesn't it's such a broken system as it is like it doesn't make sense to me that those aren't things that we've said. Hey a good friend of mines a pediatrician. She was like every time you guys learn more things in early ed you just throw them on our plate and I was like, yeah, it's not fair to you. You're not trained in this and it's not fair to parents who then don't have another resource covered by insurance to turn to.


00:41:38    Rachel

And imagine too the impact on a system like that. That's really holistic and integrated and multidisciplinary think about the advantages for parental mental health because right now, you know I learn from my audience over and over and over again that they love the information that I'm giving but it actually triggers anxiety in them because then the onus is on them to determine is my child typical or not. What if everybody was had access to these disciplines to take that off of the parent? You don't have to like be doing parental developmental evaluations on your child. That's, we'll do it for you you relax and enjoy your kid and get the guidance and support you need you don't have to determine is this normal is this not you know, because that is a lot of anxiety of the parents that I work with is trying to figure out is this it's normal. Is this normal is this normal normalizing the differences and making services just there, you know. 


00:42:36    Alyssa

Yeah or even outside of like is this normal? What do I do? How do I best support the kid in this?


00:42:45 Alyssa

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00:43:49 Alyssa

Yeah - yeah. Oh it's so challenging. I honestly that was a huge reason that we were moving to the membership model instead of just our courses because we have a whole team of multidisciplinary, we have a a multi-discipline team at Seed. And so now within the membership people can ask questions and they can get support and be pointed to different tools where you don't have to have all the answers on your own 


00:43:05    Rachel

Right and do all the research, and google. 


00:43:08    Alyssa

Yeah, because good luck like once you hit Google you're going to see a million different things, especially if you type in the word neurodiverse, you're going to leave with more anxiety than you went in with.


00:43:17    Alyssa

Or sensory. Yeah, it'll lead you to the dark corners of the internet very quickly. 


00:43:22    Alyssa

Totally totally. Alright. So before I leave you I want, I'm curious, like what is your goal as we're looking at terms like neurodiversity and moving forward in a way that's productive for kids. What do you hope to see? 


00:43:41    Alyssa

Yeah. I hope to see the normalization of neurodiversity as a term and also as the concept that we are all neurodiverse and then to set up our world. Let's change the world while we're at it if I'm allowed to change the world that we would make accommodations and to me that doesn't look like every space has to have every accommodation. I think that's unreasonable. I was at the airport in the past year or wow. It's probably been a big year now because it's before the pandemic but and I was thinking how would the airport be I mean with all these announcements and the people, but it it's not necessarily that the whole airport has to but one of the airport's I was in had a sensory room. So that anyone, child, adult, employee, visitor anyone could go get a sensory break from the craziness that is an airport. And I just thought that was such a good demonstration of we don't have to make every classroom in every school fit. We need to have spaces where this is okay, and I think that that we then bump up against the barriers of inclusion, you know, the inclusion model with all inclusion inclusion inclusion, and it I believe me I love inclusion, but I think inclusion in practice does not look like everybody in the same environemnt. And I think we need to just make spaces where people can feel comfortable and still do the functional things. Right? So maybe you go to the grocery store on the Sunday morning when nobody's there because grocery stores aren't accommodating people with sensory sensitivities. So it's not that every space that needs to completely change and completely accommodate every single person. But how can we make tweaks in our lives, in our routines, in our family dynamics, in our homes and in our communities that support the diverse brains in the world, 


00:45:33    Alyssa

I love that. I think that would help us move away from like reactivity to proactive sensory support. Do you know what I mean? Like, I think that that's a huge challenge now both in homes and for adults for kids in homes and schools that we are in this state of like reactivity. Okay. Now a kids dysregulated now, what do I do versus how can our environments be supportive so we're pouring more into that sensory bank so that we are more proactive and supporting them. And of course, we'll still have reactive moments. That's a part of being human but right now I think we live in the reactive. 


00:46:11    Rachel

Yeah for sure for sure and especially to live in the reactive when you're a parent with that's not researched well enough on sensory needs is a really really hard place to be exhausting. Yeah, and I would I the other thing I would hope for is that we would move in the OT world that we would move towards a more functional, family based model of intervention for sensory sensitivities and sensory challenges and neuro diversity as a whole so that a sensory diet doesn't necessarily look like you have to drive your kids to the park on the way to school and give them 15 minutes of swinging. It looks like hey, we've noticed your kid looks really regulated after bath time. Let's switch bath time to the mornings instead of the evening or do two baths a day or you know, like modifying in ways that are really practical and yeah doable for families to really have that whole family model. Let's wrap around the whole family and support this. 


00:47:06    Alyssa

I love that so much. We just had somebody this happens, a lot of people reach out. We have a sleep program and sensory is such a huge part of sleep and somebody wanted their kids last nap of that day that like catnip that's always hard to get at like 4:30 5 o'clock. They wanted this infant to be able to just lay in a bassint and nap and we're like like every single time this human is worn or in a stroller for that nap. They slay it it's easy to get whatever and so what they're letting us know is that this is a sensory need they have at that time of day but even just and she was like, oh, okay. It just like had to be adjusted that like, that's okay just have to be laying in her bassinet for this. 


00:47:49    Rachel

But as a parent she would then need to be supported with, so what was the driving factor for you wanting the bassinet nap at the end of the day? Are you maxed out? Are you touched out and you don't want to wear your kiddo? Is it that you get dinner prepped? So how can we look at your whole routine your family's whole routine and make sure that your sensory needs are met so that you can wear your baby and that's really you know. 


00:48:12    Alyssa

Right for her it was a rule. She was like, I thought I was supposed to not have him on me. We're like doesn't matter, that it's fine. 


00:48:19    Rachel

He's telling you that he needs it. 


00:48:21    Alyssa

Yeah, totally. But there are so many of these I think that we're all just carrying these narratives of like this is what it's supposed to be like or they are supposed to sit for dinner, or they are,  and when we can take a step back and just bring it right back to where you said and like really look at what are they communicating to us? And how do we build that in? Going into this pandemic we bought a hammock and it was the greatest gift my husband has ever received and me for that matter simultaneously with him and he would every day at lunch like take five or 10 minutes and just swing in the hammock and it made our afternoons better. Yeah, right like just looking at like what did he have it work that he doesn't have here now. Or what's different in what are the needs there? And I it's all of us it's all of us all the time. And I think when we can look at that holistic picture, it's such a game changer. 


00:49:09    Rachel

And we do have access to very normal functional interventions. Like my husband got me for Christmas a big weighted heating pad that vibrates. I was like, I love you, you're married to OT but I mean I now when I'm having a rough afternoon, I literally sit down and put that thing on me, and I'm like, this is my sensory intervention. Nobody thinks I'm kooky like this. I'm just going to lay under my warm heating pad and chill out and get regulated again. 


00:49:36    Alyssa

Yeah, and I think that's the thing that I want to bring into this. Is that like so many of these things you can get in everyday life. 


00:49:44    Rachel

Oh, absolutely. 


00:49:46    Alyssa

You don't need a special product necessarily you don't in it doesn't have to be like an othering thing. Like no one would have known that really what Zach's doing in that hammock is filling a sensory need. For them it might look like oh, yeah a takes a break in the hammock every day at lunch and just chills for a minute and like how chill and relaxing but really I was like we need to meet a sensory need here and ended up bringing in the hammock. 


00:50:10    Rachel

And as a parent you don't have to understand the why, that's the beauty you just let them do it. And then you're like, oh I noticed after you know, your husband is after my husband swings like he goes back to work and he really plows and he's not grumpy at the end of the day. Oh, you don't have to understand the vestibular system, where it is, how to impact, the you just see the communication of what's working, you know? 


00:50:33    Alyssa

Yeah Rachel. I feel like I could do this with you for a while. This is fun for me. Thank you so much for hanging out with me, where can folks find you if they're not following you already etcetera. 


00:50:43    Rachel

So my websites candokiddo.com and then I hang out the most on Instagram these days. So Instagram handle is @Candokiddo and yeah, I have lots of freebies on my website for people to kind of connect with my newsletter based on where they are in development because you know things change a lot from month to month in those early years. So that's a great way to get plugged into my newsletter in the right functional level. 


00:51:10    Alyssa

Awesome. Thank you so much for hanging out with me.


00:51:12    Rachel

Thank you Alyssa! 


00:51:15    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at voicesofyourvillage.com. Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at seed.and.sew. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag seed.and.sew to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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