Interview Michele Griffin: Children’s Books on Sensory Processing Disorder

Posted in Interviews, Sensory Issues, Special Needs Children by - January 11, 2012
Interview Michele Griffin: Children’s Books on Sensory Processing Disorder

Looking for a children’s book about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)? Special Needs Book Review is pleased that we found two other adorable picture books for children with sensory issues. These two picture books were written and illustrated by an occupational therapist, Michele Griffen,  who agreed to participate in our Author Interview Series. Her books are  Picky Picky Pete, A Boy and His Sensory Challenges and It’s Haircut Time!: How One Little Boy Overcomes His Fear of Haircuts. Read my review of these books here.

Michele Griffin was born and raised in Long Island, New York. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences and her Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy from Touro College.  Michele switched from a career as a full-time occupational therapist to mothering, creating/ illustrating books and activities for children. A fan of drawing and painting with watercolors, Michele  illustrated  ‘Picky, Picky Pete’ and ‘It’s Haircut Time’.

Lorna:  Welcome Michele Griffin to our newly launched Special Needs Book Review site. We’re so happy to have you here. Why don’t we start with a little bit about your background?

Michele Griffin>>I’ve worked as a pediatric occupational therapist, often with children ranging from 1 to 12 years of age.  Over the years, I became very interested in working with children who exhibited certain sensory “issues” and began to focus on learning more about this area. I took many courses on this subject and eventually received specialty certification to administer an evaluation that helps identify areas of weakness for children with these issues. Then, I started my own family and discovered I had a child who suffered from sensory dysfunction.  Having insight from both a therapist and parent perspective, I began writing children’s books geared toward helping families with children with sensory issues.

Lorna: What motivated you to undertake all the work involved in writing  books?

Michele Griffin>>Being a parent of a child with sensory issues really opened my eyes! As a therapist, I knew a lot about helping children function in a school setting.  However, the challenges that parents must face before and after school…well that was a big learning lesson.  I now saw rearing a child with sensory issues through new glasses. It was not easy! So, I began thinking about ways I could help both the child AND parent at home. My first book, Picky, Picky Pete was my attempt to give the child a voice…to help them explain and make the parent understand why they acted the way they did. It also was intended to help parents feel that they are not alone. That there are other parents out there experiencing the same frustrations.

Lorna: At first glance I was immediately drawn by your beautiful illustrations. What do students say about your book and the illustrations when you make presentations to schools?

Michele Griffin>>The illustrations are what I call somewhat “primitive”…but I do like the simplicity of them. Children who have been shown or read the book have told me how much they like the scenes where the mom looks silly…like she’s collapsed from frustration and exhaustion!

Lorna:  Congratulations Michele on winning the 2010 and 2011  Book of the Year Award by Creative Child Magazine.  Share with our readers how Picky, Picky Pete has been received and what comments from grateful parents or teachers have made writing this picture book all worthwhile.

Michele Griffin>>Picky, Picky Pete has been well received.  There really were no books out there to give these children a voice. Most books on the subject were handbooks for adults on how to manage their child’s challenging behavior.  I’m proud that a child can read this and say, “I know how Pete feels”. I also love how it gives a child the words to help explain behavior that many adults find puzzling. It also reinforces that notion that together, with understanding and love, the parent and child can get through even the most challenging days.

Lorna: Many parents will relate to Pete’s mom as a tear rolls down her cheek as she waves to Pete finally dressed and in the school bus.  Having a child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is very difficult for families. As an occupational therapist, what encouraging words can you offer these families?

Michele Griffin>>Patience and understanding are essential. I believe once you step into your child’s world, and understand how his/her body is experiencing all the sensations coming in, then you have an awareness about the everyday challenges they face. So many of these children have sensitivities to sound, light, movement and touch. Everyday tasks such as grooming or getting a haircut are daunting. Public places with loud noises or crowds are stressful. Once a parent or caregiver understands this, then they can become that child’s advocate. As an advocate, the parent then can help guide this child through school and educate people who interact with their child along the way.

Lorna: What do our communities and school systems still have to come up with to support families with children with sensory issues or with high needs?

Michele Griffin>>I truly believe educating all school professionals and the community is crucial. Showing a movie about sensory processing disorder or providing an inservice is instrumental in helping people understand these children. I’ve found that most people want to understand and help. This is such an easy way to bring awareness to the public.

Lorna: What is going on with you this Fall? Any upcoming events concerning your book(s)?

Michele Griffin>>I recently completed another children’s book titled  It’s Haircut Time.  It’s about a young boy and his (sensory based) fear of getting a haircut. So many kids with sensory issues HATE HAIRCUTS!  This book has the boy explain exactly what it is that makes it a bad experience for him.  For example, he talks about how he detests the cold cape, the spray of water on his face, the way the hair lands on his neck and nose, etc.  Then it shows how by distracting his mind, he can get through this harrowing experience.  I also had fun illustrating it as I used a computer drawing program that allowed me to use different textures for each character’s hair. This book’s feedback so far has been amazing. Many people have told me they have needed a book like this!

Lorna: In closing, what are your two best tips for parents raising special needs children?

Michele Griffin>>As I mentioned previously, patience and understanding are so important. Educating yourself and others on sensory dysfunction is essential. Be your child’s advocate, work passionately and positively with your child’s teachers.  Finally, ACCEPT and LOVE who your child is. They may be different but they are wonderful in their own unique and special way.

Lorna: Thank you so much for your interesting answers and best of luck with your books.  What different ways can we track you down and see what’s going on with you?

Michele Griffin>>Readers can follow me on my website for upcoming events, informational links on sensory processing, and new projects!

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This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.