Emotion deck of SO Awesome cards

SO Awesome Creates Wallet-Sized Cards to Help Kids With Sensory Issues

368
368

When her twin boys were younger, Marie-Claire Camp noticed they loved to chew on things. “[They] went through ‘extreme teething’ and would just chew through baby and toddler toys that were supposedly meant for them – board books, silicone wood teethers, stroller cards, high-contrast image flashcards and toy keys sets,” Camp said. So she decided to design a product that was educational, chewable and would help her boys, Silas and Owen, with their sensory overload and anxiety. Her product, chewable wallet-sized cards, is similar to flashcards, and designed to provide a better sensory experience.

“At that time, their main method of interacting with the world was seemingly directly through their mouths,” Camp told The Mighty. “It was heartbreaking because everything they loved had to be put up on high shelves so they wouldn’t destroy it or choke on the pieces. I felt compelled to change that experience for them. They deserved so much more. I decided to make materials myself that they both could experience the way they wanted and needed to experience them.”

Wallet full of SO Awesome Cards

The wallet cards are sold through Camp’s Michigan-based company, SO Awesome. There are a range of cards available including colors and shapes, letters, numbers and emotions. Each card is made from a non-toxic plastic manufactured in the U.S. “Children deserve materials that are beautiful, durable, indispensable and irresistible,” Camp said. “We’ve done our best to design exactly that for our children and subsequently for your children as well.” The cards range between $8 and $22 a deck.

SO Awesome’s products are popular among kids and parents. After successfully funding two Kickstarter campaigns, Camp received suggestions from all around the world of wallet card decks she should work on next. One request she kept getting was emotions. “The card sets that were available on the market used corny-looking photography and illustrations or were so limited in range of emotion that we were a bit taken aback,” Camp explained. So she worked with photographer Rhiannon McCalmont and illustrator Marie Thorhauge to photograph and draw images of children experiencing genuine emotions.

“Some children need literal examples, others are overwhelmed by photography and need something representative instead,” Camp told The Mighty. “As a result we have a powerful tool that helps calm anxious children, helps develop social-emotional skills, works to spark conversation with our children about topics that previously were elusive and overwhelming, and most of all shows that all emotions are valuable, valid and important. The cards will last through violent panic attacks, can be worn on a child’s belt-loop as an aid on outings, and last through repeated daily use in classrooms.”

Child looking at Emotion Cards

SO Awesome’s durable cards also help Silas and Owen, now 6, with their sensory processing. Camp uses the emotion cards to help her boys recover after moments of sensory overload. “We find a calm and quiet space to talk, sometimes physically hold and push one each other, yell, hug, rock and breathe,” Camp said. “Seeing those pictures makes them feel less afraid to just feel and makes them more likely to experience a connection to someone else’s feelings too.”

368
368

RELATED VIDEOS

TOPICS
, , Video,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To the Future Teacher of My Son With Sensory Processing Disorder

197
197

Dear future teacher,

We are going to need to work closely together, so this first impression is really important. I have started this letter several times. And deleted each one. Should I make this short and sweet? Very professional? Should I go over this in person instead? Should I appeal to the mom in you? Should I let it all out right from the start?

Here it goes.

My son, Jake, will be in your class this year. I know you know who he is. He’s the one his first-grade teacher had carrying heavy books to your room to help him self-regulate. Jake has sensory processing disorder, which may make your job challenging at times. Your approach to this could make or break his day and his year.

I know you probably also know who I am. I volunteer a lot. While I’d love to say this is because it’s my nature to serve the community, my main goal is trying to help my son get through each day. While I hadn’t searched Pinterest before, now I volunteer to be class mom and scour the site so I can plan activities that are fun for kids but that my son can also tolerate. Parties are hard with all that extra noise, different foods, and games and crafts that require him to rely on his gross, fine and visual motor skills. I volunteer to serve pizza or sell ice cream during lunch periods so I can bring a hot lunch to my son that fits his limited diet. The pizza on pizza day isn’t the same temperature he’s used to, and I’ve watched him physically gag trying to get it down. I go on class trips so I can talk him through bus rides (I drive him every other school day) and zoo trips when he says under his breath about how he’d rather be at school doing math. He’s a fan of routine, and class trips change that.

Certain parts of the day are scheduled to be fun breaks from the academic rigors of the day, such as lunch, gym, assemblies and recess. But for my son, those parts of the day can be more challenging. They can create perfect storms of his challenges with sensory over-responsiveness and motor skills. When a child has sensory processing disorder, it can be an onslaught of sensory information all day.

When there is a meltdown, please consider if it is related to his sensory processing. For example, was he sitting close to classmates during an assembly? He is so tactile defensive that he doesn’t wear socks. Sitting close to people in a crowded auditorium is hard on his body. Consider what happened before this meltdown. If you think this is sensory-related, please don’t treat it as misbehavior. Of course, he is 7 and sometimes just misbehaves, and we realize that, too. It’s tricky to differentiate, and we struggle with it too, but it’s important that you do.

Many of his positive attributes are tied to his sensory processing too. He feels so much, so he’s often aware of how everyone else may be feeling. His vocabulary and sense of humor are very advanced, but he might use this (by cracking jokes, for example) as a way to compensate for the times he feels behind in other areas.

Being a mom to a boy with sensory processing disorder can be a fine balance. It’s fighting for services for a boy who excels academically but has challenges during recess. It’s having faith to let go and hand him over to you, even though I spend each day guiding him through activities. It’s trying to explain these challenges in enough detail so you truly understand without coming off as “that mom.” As a former teacher, I knew her — the one who might seem a little too overeager or involved. As a mom of this boy, it’s sometimes embracing being “that mom.” Because if I hadn’t, I truly don’t know where we would be right now.

Sometimes sensory processing disorder can make a child feel like a square peg in a round hole in our current educational settings. Thank you for working on this puzzle together. As parents, we will do anything possible to help him, and you, have a successful year. Thank you for all you do.

Sincerely,
A mom of a child with sensory processing disorder

Image via Thinkstock Images

197
197
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What My Husband Means to Me as We Raise a Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

147
147

Given the fact that my name is attached to our stories, I tend to get a lot of credit and praise for my daughter’s successes. It’s flattering and I try my best to acknowledge every kind word or comment that comes my way.

But it’s time I give credit where credit is way overdue because there’s one person who’s responsible for where we are today.

That person is my husband.

I’m secretly writing this as he sits on the opposite end of the couch, and I know he will kill me if he finds out he’s the topic of my latest piece!

Anyone who knows my husband knows he hates attention. In fact, to celebrate his 40th birthday, I had to arrange to do it months earlier on the weekend of my birthday, using an email address created for the sole purpose of planning an event where he would be celebrated. All this so he wouldn’t suspect a thing.

He is simple and wants for nothing. It’s one of his best qualities.

When I first approached my husband because I suspected our child was facing challenges, he didn’t question a single thing. I would be the one constantly questioning myself, and all he would say is, “I trust your judgment.”

From that point on, he has attended every meeting, appointment and evaluation he can. When we started our daughter in counseling, there was a mandated parent counseling group. I didn’t even have to ask him to participate. He was at every session and tried his best to implement every strategy we learned. He’s just as much the sensory parent as I am.

Over the years, I have watched him study our daughter so he could understand what she needs. He will bundle our girl up in the dead of winter to put her on the swing set or get down on all fours while trying to watch a Yankees game so she can press herself firmly on his back. He knows what she needs, not because I tell him, but because by being involved he has learned what she needs just as well as I have.

My husband’s support doesn’t end with our daughter. Some of the most important parts of our story are about the support he has given me. The strides we made with our school district wouldn’t have happened if I was left to fight on my own. I am a quitter. The minute I feel things get difficult, my instinct is to run for the hills. But, when the going got tough with our district, he didn’t let me quit even though I wanted to quit every single time. I couldn’t do it, but we could.

When administrators ignored my calls, my husband would call and they would respond instantly. He would ask me what I wanted him to say, and the second my words came out of his mouth, we got results.

He came to every meeting because he wanted the district to see we were a united front. But, most importantly to me, when I broke down crying and ready to run, he simply didn’t let me. When I ran out of steam, he pushed me to keep going. He believed I could and, each time, we succeeded together.

It took a long time for me to accept that life is hard, especially marriage and parenting. It all takes an extreme amount of work, but a wise man who shall remain nameless because he hates attention once told me that while all these things are hard, it’s how you get through them that counts. We packed a lot of things into the 10 years we’ve known one another, and we have come out better each time.

All because he never let me give up.

So while I may look like the Great and Powerful Oz, just like the movie, it’s all smoke and mirrors. My husband is the man behind the curtain. And a great one at that. There’s that saying that behind every great man stands a great woman, but in this house, those words aren’t true. Instead, behind this sensational girl and her amazing little sister stands a good-enough-and-trying-to-be-better mom with an even better husband and dad.

We aren’t perfect — far from it. We fight, we nag, we get on each other’s nerves — a lot. But we love this life we created, and we are a team. Without that, we would have never made it and neither would our daughter.

So if you are ever in my husband’s company, please don’t sing his praises or mention this piece I have shared with the world. And if you ever happen to be with him in a restaurant for his birthday, don’t dare tell the waiters to come over and sing! I suspect I am in enough trouble already.

Follow this journey on My Sensational Girl.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

147
147
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What I Want You to Know About Being Pregnant With Sensory Processing Disorder

152
152

You’ve read the title, so let’s make it official: I’m a woman with sensory processing disorder (SPD), and I am 12 weeks pregnant! For those of you who know me (and my urge to share as much of my sensory life as I can to educate and support others like me), this delightful turn of events was incredibly hard to keep secret. Just typing these words feels like the best exhale after the longest deep breath of my 33 years, so pardon me as I scream “Wahoo!” from this corner of the Peanut Gallery.

As always, I have a ton to say about this life-changing moment in time. Pregnancy is an overwhelming premise for even the most “typical” of neurotypical women. Your body basically says to you: Peace out, girlfriend, I’ve got to go do something major right now that you have zero control over, so watch in awe as nausea washes over you, your senses go haywire and your abdomen swells up like ripe fruit. The change here is I’ve made the decision to open up my differently wired system to the from-scratch growth of a human being; a system that is perpetually haunted by the mysteries of a sensory world it doesn’t quite understand. I’m a pregnant woman with a lesser-known neurological condition. I’m with child and I’m hypersensitive to sound and sight. I’ve got a womb with a view (*snicker*), and I can’t connect my ever-changing body to the world around me.

The funny thing is I’ve never been happier.

Rachel and Josh, Week 8

In a life filled with so much difference, it’s a pure and unadulterated delight to delve deeply into something many neurotypical and neurodiverse women alike both experience during the course of their lifetime. Sure, other aspects of my life fall into the same category. I work and I relax. I’m married. I have friends and hobbies and likes and dislikes. But all of these typical things are unrelated to my body. I’m usually the one maneuvering through my sensory-based challenges to enjoy social time in my way, or the employee navigating the waters of accommodation to produce my best work. The physical aspects of these challenges are mine alone and frequently misunderstood outside of my community of like-wired individuals, family and close friends. The particular battery of sensations I experience within my differently wired brain can’t be experienced by anyone external to my skin.

As a pregnant woman, I’m doing something women have done since the dawn of time. I can text any single one of my mom and mom-to-be friends about the bone-deep weariness and exhaustion of the first trimester, and they’ll respond with a message that shows they personally understand the events taking place within my abdomen. I’m temporarily part of a group that’s widely understood and accepted. They make special stretchy pants for people like us. They’ve written thousands upon thousands of books on the subject. I don’t have to be a pioneer in this particular world. And yet, in some ways, I do. As much as I’m a pregnant woman, I’m also a woman with SPD. It’s the balance between these two spheres that I’m working on as we speak — still finding my own sensory-friendly path through otherwise well-charted waters.

A psychiatrist once asked me how I envisioned being a mother while having SPD, especially given my sensitivities and my often-pushed limitations. I answered with a few sentences about “people with disabilities, visible or otherwise, make amazingly sensitive parents too, especially since they contend with so many challenges in their lives,” but I came home to my husband feeling low and inadequate. In his wisdom, he said to me, “Listen, we can’t solve a problem we have yet to create” — meaning hey, we’ll figure it out as we go. It’s the purpose of this life, I think: we take leaps and we weave our own parachutes as we soar.

Today, I’m still a person with SPD. I’m in total awe of the little person growing fingers and toes inside of me. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or the next day, or the next; when I’ll get to be a part of an established group and when I’ll have to break new ground, as pregnant sensory women often do. Will my doctor be mindful of my sensory needs during delivery? Will I be able to stand the sound of my newborn crying? How will I manage the erratic bobs and weaves of a running toddler? Will my future-child understand my sensory needs…or perhaps even their own, should they be wired differently, too? We can’t solve a problem we have yet to create.

What I do know is I have an incredibly patient husband and a loving extended network of supporters — from family to friends to a community of people with the same neurological differences as me. I personally take a village, so I can only assume my child will, too. Most of all, though, I have a drive to move forward and meet my future. It’s a place that’s starting to come into view through the brightest haze for the first time. There, flanked by my husband, I’ll hold a tiny hand we created together in the palm of my own. We’ll be a family.

Let the sensory pieces fall where they may.

Follow this journey on Coming To My Senses.

152
152
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What It's Like Being a Teen With Sensory Processing Disorder

107
107

At 16 years old, I find I’m an independent person. I don’t maybe have friends, but I’m not rude. I’m quite a kind person — I just don’t like being around many people at once.

I have sensory processing disorder (SPD) for starters, and often little things like sitting in my kitchen can cause me to have extreme panicky feelings. I find sitting anywhere besides my room is difficult because the material and fabric hurts my skin. My skin is very sensitive to touch. Sitting in chairs can cause me immense pain, and accidentally bumping into things can leave me sobbing on the floor, waiting for the pain to subside.

I can’t go to food courts, for the smell is too much for me to handle and the noise is so overwhelming. I do not like going to grocery stores. I can hear and sense the constant beeps and sharp noises from carts and materials rustling against each other and voices all around me. Even going to the mall or any group setting is a challenge.

Body odor, coffee, perfume, pungent foods, sweet things and spicy things make me cringe and evacuate the situation. Sharp noises, dishes hitting each other, toilets flushing, the television, multiple conversations happening at once, constant repeating sounds and deep rumbles make me uncomfortable and scared.

Sometimes, I feel like I have to rip the clothing I’m wearing off my body when I lay down at night. My shirt can feel like it is “choking” me or my pants are rubbing my skin the wrong way. Certain blankets scratch and itch my skin, making me freak out in tantrums from the way it feels against me. It gets to the point that I cannot relax. I can’t eat specific things because the texture bothers me and makes me convulse. I also cannot eat food that is not a certain flavor I’m used to.

After all of my normal daily tasks, I finally explode with my anger, rage and pent up aggression from being so tired of feeling uncomfortable in my own skin and in my own body. Everything is a challenge with SPD, and everything is a constant battle against your own senses and feelings. I feel like I cannot fully live my life because I’m always afraid of what could happen, how I might react to certain noises, smells or feelings.

I avoid everyday situations and feel like I’m not fully experiencing my life because I experience things too much. I feel everything to an extent where it is debilitating on my needs and daily productivity. Exposure therapy is the only thing that has helped me in my journey through dealing with SPD. With my accompanied generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), major depressive disorder, panic disorder, derealization disorder, and bipolar II disorder, SPD can make all of these three times as worse than they already are.

It makes me shut me down, stay in my room, not take showers for days upon days, lose all sense of hygiene, stay hidden inside my room and regret I didn’t do more with the little time I have.

The little time I have relief, I still feel constant fear. I am a prisoner to my own problems, but I will not let them control how I deal with them. I force myself into uncomfortable situations on a daily basis to fight back against my senses and emotions. I constantly stride to learn and take power of my problems, letting myself know I am more than a name, a statistic or even just a hormonal teenager. I am me, and I’m unique and can deal with anything life throws at me.

Gaining knowledge of how to help, distract and accept myself is the only way I have made progress. That was the first step for me years ago, when I had my first bad episode. I consider learning about these illnesses and how to cope with them to be life lessons. They help you understand yourself better, and they are self-empowering.

Distractions are not always the key to moving forward. We need to learn to accept our emotions and senses before we push them away. We need to punch our problems in the face and say, “I’m not afraid of you.”

If you are struggling with similar issues, know this: You are strong, courageous and powerful. You are an unstoppable wildfire of amazing personality, worth and attitude that makes you a very special person. Always fight to change, no matter what that might look like to you. We all have little accomplishments we can hold onto, whether it be brushing your teeth for the first time in a week, getting out of bed to go to the kitchen for even a few minutes or talking to a friend or loved one. These accomplishments are there to remind us we are trying and we can do it.

107
107
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What a Dance Trophy Means to My Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

186
186

Yesterday, my sensational girl participated in her fifth dance recital. She was just a little over 2 years old when she showed an interest in dance. It was also a time when the words — sensory processing disorder (SPD) — were not yet a part of our vocabulary, but the behaviors and meltdowns were at their peak.

After two failed attempts at dance class, I gave up. Whatever was causing challenges for this little girl clearly overruled her ability to conduct herself in a dance class the way the teachers expected. And although her dance experience was far from successful, she kept asking to go back. So a friend of mine suggested I try a third studio. She heard amazing things about the teacher. Fast forward five years and this amazing teacher has turned my overstimulated little toddler into a confident, successful and happy dancer.

So here we are now, replaying all the great moments from yesterday’s show, which included my youngest child’s first-ever turn on the stage where she, like her sister before her, danced her tiny little heart out.

My daughter will also soon be rewarded with an eagerly anticipated Five-Year Dance Trophy. My now 7-year-old girl has talked about this trophy all year long. She’s counting the days until that shiny token of achievement will be placed in her happy little hands.

However, no one is more excited for her to receive this trophy than me. You see, this trophy does not only mark a major accomplishment in her life as a dancer, but it also marks many major accomplishments in her life with SPD — three letters that are now as familiar to us as our own names.

So as I sit here and write, I can’t help but reminisce about the other milestones this trophy represents because this year has been by far my girl’s most successful year to date since we started this journey five years ago.

This year, my girl took her first plane trip where she talked herself through the first few frightening minutes of takeoff before I even had the chance to comfort her.

This year, she took her first trip to Disney World, experiencing the magic with wide-eyed excitement as any other child would.

This year, she attended the Halloween dance at school, looking forward to dancing the night away with friends. Last year, she cried until we got there and clung to me until the end when she had finally gotten acclimated to the noise and chaos.

This year, she has been declassified from special education, not because she no longer has any issues, but because those issues no longer interfere in her life as a student in a significant way. 

This year, she went on her first amusement park ride, skated at her first roller rink, attended her first local fair, went to her first non-sensory movie or show, took her first shower where she actually stood under the water and the list goes on and on.

Five years ago, this little girl embarked on her journey as a dancer, but it was also the year she embarked on her journey of self-awareness as a person living with SPD. So many people are always giving me the credit for her success, but when I look back, I feel I really had very little to do with it. She’s the one who completed five years of therapies, doctor’s visits and evaluations. She’s the one who used the tools and coping strategies she learned and implemented them when needed. She’s been able to push herself past the point of discomfort more than any person I know, and even when pushed too far, she has gotten back up and started over again. She has learned to vocalize when she needs to bow out, regardless of what anyone around her may think.

This amazing girl was born with passion, determination, empathy and compassion for others. These are qualities that cannot be taught. In exchange, she had to learn how to train her brain to get used to the environment around her — something most others are born being able to do. 

She may not know it yet, but she was the one who was determined not to let SPD get the better of her, and she has not only succeeded, she excelled. The reason for most of her success in life comes from those innate qualities I had nothing to do with.

So, while I may have been who took her to therapy sessions, she’s the one who internalized everything she was taught, and she still applies it on a daily basis.

Dance is something my girl does from the heart. You can see it when you watch her. It’s the reason she has stuck with it for five years, even when she faced challenges with overstimulation. She will always be someone who leads with her heart. It will be her greatest asset.

Five years ago, I didn’t know what the future had in store for us, and I worried about the kind of life my child would have because of a disorder we knew nothing about. Five years ago, our story had just begun. Now, I look forward to what the next five years bring — and the next five after that.

But no matter where our girl takes us, I do know one thing for sure: My girl will continue to approach life with the same determination and passion that has driven her to overcome anything life has thrown at her. She will fall, and before I can stumble over to help her, she will already be on her feet back at it again.

So, just as those 99 tokens still sit in our house as a daily reminder of SPD, this Five-Year Trophy will sit right next to it — standing taller and overshadowing that tiny plastic cup that symbolizes my girl’s greatest challenge just as my girl’s greatest qualities now outshine any difficulties brought on by having SPD.

Follow this journey on My Sensational Girl.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

186
186
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.