Interview Jackie Linder Olson – Co-author of Sensory Parenting Series and Creator of OT DVD Series

Posted in Interviews, Sensory Issues, Special Needs Children by - April 21, 2013
Interview Jackie Linder Olson – Co-author of Sensory Parenting Series and Creator of OT DVD Series

We hear about sensory parenting or sensory friendly schools and work places. Do you know why it is so important to focus on the sensory needs of the children? You are parenting or teaching a child with challenging behaviors and cannot figure out what is not quite right with your child or student. Could it be you are dealing with sensory processing issues? Authors Britt Collins MS, OTR and Jackie Linder Olson tell us school years are easier when your child’s senses are happy. Where to look for information on sensory processing disorders?  One very helpful book is Sensory Parenting: The Elementary Years by Britt Collins MS, OTR and Jackie Linder Olson.

Britt  and Jackie make a winning combination. These authors are two experts; one a pediatric occupational therapist and the other a parent of a child with special needs and producer. Their second parenting book, Sensory Parenting: The Elementary Years addresses most topics you will encounter while raising, caring for, or teaching a child with different needs. It  is a sequel of sorts to their  Sensory Parenting: Newborns to Toddlers published in October 2010. Read our review of Sensory Parenting: The Elementary Years here.OT DVD Series  by Britt Collins MS, OTR and Jackie Linder Olson

Britt Collins and Jackie have also created a DVD series to help other parents understand their children’s sensory needs.The DVD series is for parents, caregivers, and educators  to visually learn the basics of occupational therapy and how to implement it into a child’s daily life. The DVDs include “OT in the Home,” “OT in the School,” “OT for Children with Autism, Special Needs and Typical,” and “Yoga for Children with Special Needs.”

Both authors have agreed to interviews and this one is with Jackie Linder Olson – Mother,  Producer, Author and Winner of an  iParenting Award for Outstanding Product!

Lorna: Welcome to our interview series and congratulations on your fine books and DVD series!  I read in your bio, “Jackie found out upon the birth of her child that “something was wrong” and has spent the last nine years learning about sensory processing disorders to help her son and other families.” Tell us about your son and how you knew so early in life that he had sensory challenges.

<<Jackie Linder Olson: Hi Lorna, thank you for including me in your author series.

We knew something was wrong in the hospital.  Our son didn’t sleep the entire first 48 hours we were there.  His neck was stiff and he was very wide-eyed and alert.  It went against everything we had read in the baby books.   When we went home he screamed his head off when he heard most noises, arched his back away from sunlight, and threw up on all car trips.  We soon learned he would get motion sickness in any contraption, including the swing.  I had to hold him tightly to get him to sleep or he would flail and scream when we put him down (later learning he had gravitational insecurity).

In order to try and make my suffering baby happy, I isolated us in our apartment, keeping the curtains drawn and the noise levels down.  We put a large, consistently whirring fan in the bedroom to keep the neighbourhood noises out.  It was really tough.

When he turned two, we had him evaluated at the Regional Center (PDD-NOS was the verdict) and our string of evaluations started until we finally found our OT Britt.  The funny thing is, we didn’t meet her through any of our medical pathways, but she happened to be the friend of a cousin who had moved to Los Angeles.  By fate or just our lucky stars, Britt Collins, M.S., OTR showed up at our door and started helping our son.  That and reading The Out of Sync Child changed our lives.   At 3 years old, my son received an autism diagnosis from a developmental pediatrician.

I got to know Britt while she worked with my son and being a filmmaker, I wanted to share her information in a visual format with other parents – so our DVDs were born.  The books were a natural progression and we are thrilled to work with our publisher Sensory World.  They’re the best.>>

Lorna: What type of therapy has your son received? How is he doing now?

<<Jackie Linder Olson: He received extensive amounts of OT from age 3 to 6.   Feeding therapy was crucial because he wouldn’t touch food, let alone eat anything.  ANYTHING!  We did AIT (Auditory Integration Therapy) when he was 5 and saw wonderful results.  He had speech therapy for a little while, cranial sacral therapy, and we put him on the gluten free/casien free/soy free lifestyle (I don’t consider it a diet!).   We added various supplements to ensure he received the nutrients he needed since he was both tactile defensive and had oral aversions.

He attended a special needs center/school from 3 to 6 and then he was mainstreamed into kindergarten with an aide.  He has had years and years of social skills training, which I think typical children can benefit from as well.  AND we lived an hour away from Disneyland, so we used to go at least once a week.  I refer to that as his theme park therapy because he was intrinsically motivated to tolerate parades and the lights and spectacle that is Disney, which enabled him to be able to deal with other less preferred places such as the grocery store.

Currently my son is in 5th grade and is completely mainstreamed.  He’s on a 504 plan that accommodates his anxiety, but that’s pretty much it.  We enjoy gf/cf/sf dining and have a sensory friendly life that works for him.  We still explore new therapies and healing foods as I research and learn more.>>

Sensory Parenting: Newborns to ToddlersLorna:  We often here when one child has sensory issues it affects all the family. Have you found this to be true? What advice can you give parents to make it easier on siblings or on the family as a whole?

<<Jackie Linder Olson: Yes, sensory issues affect the entire family.  For example, my son’s father likes to surf and couldn’t wait to teach our son.  Unfortunately, due to sensory issues, our son can have a hard time with the ocean.  It’s too cold, it’s too salty, and it can be physically painful for him.  But as those with sensory sensitive children know – sometimes he loves the ocean.  It just depends on how he’s processing on any given day.   It can be disappointing for a family member that has their sights set on an activity and it can’t be done.  All of us as parents have to accept how our child is feeling in that moment and adjust accordingly.

Another example is if a family goes to a theme park and one child is a seeker and wants to ride on roller coasters and the other is an avoider and wants to watch a show.  I advise parents to make plans for both and not force a child to do anything they’re not comfortable with.

Sensory issues can affect a family in their home.  Some children are auditory sensitive and if the TV is on too loud at night they can’t sleep (and they don’t get used to it parents – they just won’t sleep).  Or maybe one child is a seeker who craves bear hugs, crashes into the couch and is the bull in the China shop while another sibling is an avoider.  It can be a challenge to make sure both kids are getting their needs met.

Sometimes it works for parents to take turns doing a preferred activity with each child.  Then the times each child has to do a less preferred activity it’s not as upsetting.  It can be extra work for the parents, but it will make the house more sensory harmonious.

My suggestion is for parents to learn how to help their sensory sensitive child with adaptations and therapies while not excluding their other children.  It could be detrimental to their sibling relationship if a parent were to say, “Well, we can’t go to that Dodger game because your brother can’t tolerate crowds!”  Parents have to make sure to be sensitive to everyone’s needs, including their own.>>

Lorna: You had been teaching a class to educate parents on their children’s sensory systems, what to look for and how to help, titled “The Great Parent Sensory Detective.” Are you still doing this? What points did you cover in that class?

<<Jackie Linder Olson: “The Great Parent Sensory Detective” includes a cheat sheet for parents on what to look for to know what is going on with their child’s sensory systems.  It provides a checklist so that parents can observe their children in their natural environment and then take the information into their doctor or therapists.  A parent can learn a lot on how their child’s visual skills are by observing them play a video game.  They can also learn about their child’s vestibular system while watching their child play in the park.  This checklist points out red flags that maybe a parent has just gotten used to or thinks is one of their child’s quirks.  The checklist also helps to keep your child’s entire team on the same page if you’re doing early intervention or already have a therapy plan in place.

The class is primarily for parents who are just starting out on their journey to help their children.  Maybe they know something is wrong instinctually.  Maybe they’re not finding answers in the books or on the internet or with their doctor.  Maybe they’ve just received a Sensory Processing diagnosis or Autism, Cerebral Palsy, or Developmental Delays and they’re looking for clues on what to do.  Parents are amazing at searching and finding what their kids need.   I hope that my class helps give them shortcuts to success.  They don’t have time to waste.

I teach about the sensory systems, including vestibular, proprioception and interoception, and put occupational therapy terms into an understandable and applicable language for parents.  If they can’t use the information in their daily lives then it doesn’t serve them.  Also, if they don’t know what a therapist is doing with their child then they can’t participate.

I haven’t taught the class is a while, but I plan to again in the future.  Connecting with parents is a great passion of mine.  I always learn more from them as we exchange information.>>

Lorna: What other projects are you working on?

<<Jackie Linder Olson: When my child wouldn’t eat or touch any solid foods I went looking for a meal replacement drink and couldn’t find anything acceptable.  The problem being that they were FULL of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, milk, soy, artificial flavour, food coloring  – exactly everything that I wanted to avoid.  It was really frustrating!  And so I juiced fruits and vegetables (there couldn’t be any lumps in it or my son wouldn’t swallow it) and I added supplements, enzymes, fish oils – everything for his optimum health.  Luckily, his pediatrician remarked that he was thriving, but it was A LOT of work on my part and super expensive to get the supplements, enzymes and probiotics from various online outlets.

Now, my son eats tons of different foods, thankfully, but he still has days when he just doesn’t want to it at all.  And he’s not a morning eater, so it’s often hard to get anything in him before school.  After learning that there were tons of other parents having these feeding issues too, I approached companies that could help.

Good news!  I have recently partnered with Pacific Naturals (PN) to provide an option for parents of children with feeding issues, tactile dysfunction, oral aversions, and picky eaters.   “Spectrum Nutraceuticals” is a mix (powder and oils) that can be added to whatever liquid a parent can get their child to drink.  PN and I worked with their formulators to come up with a product that includes the vitamins, enzymes, probiotics, oils and overall nutrients that parents want their children to have with NO gluten, casein, sugar or artificial sweeteners, soy, artificial flavouring or dyes.  We wanted a product that would be quality and affordable.  A one-stop-shop.

Spectrum Nutraceuticals  includes:

**Powder product in alphabetical order

B6, Biotin, Calcium, D, Dairy Free Lactoferrin, Digestive enzymes, E, Folic Acid, Inisotol, K1, K2, L Carnitine, L-Glutathione, Magnesium,

Methyl-b12, N-acetyl cysteine, Probiotics,Pycnolgenol, Quercetin, Selenium, Taurine, TMG, Vitamin-C, Vitamins A as beta carotene,

and Zinc.

**Oil based portion (Tested and MERCURY FREE)

Cod Liver Oil, Borage Oil, Black Currant Oil, Flax Seed Oil

Spectrum Nutraceuticals will be available to the public in May 2013.   I’m really excited about providing parents with a healthy choice that can fit into their dietary needs and choices.>>

Lorna: Good luck with the launch of Spectrum Nutraceuticals!  Now that your son has been in school a few years, what parenting SensoryParenting The Elementary Yearsadvice do you have for others whose child is just starting out in our school system? How should they advocate for their child so he receives the support or services he needs. What are some changes that can be made to a classroom that make it sensory friendly; therefore, a much better place for their child to thrive.

<<Jackie Linder Olson: Parents of children with sensory processing issues biggest challenge is that SPD is not recognized as a diagnosis and therefore some schools will not help with sensory issues.  Parents have to learn the dialog that the schools will accept in order to get sensory needs included into either their IEP or 504 plan.

I recommend speaking to an advocate in your area or someone who knows your school district and has previous case examples of what has been accepted in the past.  If worded correctly, you can get many sensory goals added in your child’s learning program.  For example, if your child needs to be able to sit close to the teacher and may need verbal prompting before transitions, then they have to word how this affects their child’s ability to learn.  Parents need to remember that their children’s social connections with their peers are also important to learning.

If you have any reports from your private medical team be sure to bring those to your school team.  A private OT, SLP, development pediatrician, nutritionist, anyone that you’re working with outside of school can be of a benefit to your school case.  If your child is being evaluated by the school district’s professionals, I suggest you write a one or two page letter with bullet points of important information about your child that you would like addressed in the school environment.  Make sure it is specific about their learning environment and what they need in order to excel.

Also, I know it’s hard, but trust that most teachers have your child’s best interest at heart.  And often like therapists, teachers raise the bar of expectations and can get kids to do things that parents cannot.  Try not to make the teacher your enemy and see how you can work together.  I really feel for parents that get stuck with a horrible teacher or school program.  It is worth switching schools at that point.  We had to move to another district, so I get it!  Make sure to meet with the new school before switching so that you don’t have the same problems.

I have found that most schools will work with you if it doesn’t cost them any money to help your child, ie, they don’t have to purchase equipment or add another body to their payroll.  They may dim the lights after recess for ten minutes, which could help the entire classroom regulate.  Or they can pull your child out to resource class during a test.  Also, if you provide it, they’ll put a weighted vest on your child during reading circle or allow them fidget toys, lap pads, or special pencil graspers.

The main thing is that if your child is mainstreamed. It’s hard for the teacher to tend to all the students and take care of your child’s sensory needs; so, it’s helpful if you’re creative and can help the teachers without overwhelming them.   I can remember being anxious about my child’s classroom experience, only to learn from other parents volunteering in class that the teacher was gently encouraging and guiding him without drawing attention from the other students.  It was such a relief.

Unfortunately, some schools are not versed in sensory needs, but others are happy to work with parents.  I always tell parents to start a dialog with the school and put your best foot forward.  I have gotten more services for my child by being kind, but strong and informed.  You’re not going to get anywhere fighting with them unless you’re ready to get an attorney, which is sometimes necessary.  We’ve gone that route as well.

It’s important to keep your expectations realistic.  You want your child to make progress, be successful in learning, and build emotional relationships with their peers.>>

Lorna: Thank you so much for this interview. Please tell us how we can follow you.

<<Jackie Linder Olson: I try to keep our website up to date: www.sensoryparenting.com.  Parents can find out more info about our books, DVDs, speaking engagements and other products.  I love to connect with parents and therapists on Facebook: Jackie Linder Olson.>>

See Also: Our book review of Sensory Parenting: The Elementary Years by Britt Collins MS, OTR and Jackie Linder Olson.

Know about our Coupon Code for Sensory World and  Future Horizons’ products? When buying any of their products, conferences included, use our coupon code KIDCOMPANIONS to get 15% off PLUS free delivery in continental USA!   Add the coupon code KIDCOMPANIONS when you checkout of the store for discounts!

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.
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