Friday 30 March 2018

E-book Review - Special Ed Mom Survival Guide

*** Please note that I did receive a free copy of this e-book to review however I do not receive commissions of any other kind for the review of this e-book. This is simply a book that I have found useful. ***

Very recently a good friend of mine, Bonnie Landau, was telling me about a book that she wrote titled "Special Ed Mom Survival Guide: How to prevail in the special education process and find life long strategies for you and your child." When she was describing the book it sounded like not only a great read but also a fantastic resource and as such I offered to do a review on it.

Bonnie is a Mum of children who have special education needs. She has spent the last eleven years being an advocate for her children in the special needs education system and through her experience she has assisted her children to thrive in the school environment. Bonnie wrote this book to pass on her knowledge and experience to other families.

Keeping in mind that this book has been written with the US education system in mind, the majority of the book can be utilised by parents all over the world. Sure the references to the US education and legal system are not relevant to my part of the world but the sections titled "Ignore the Naysayers," " Take care of yourself," "Manage your stress," "Find the blessings in your journey," "Take care of your child," "Knowledge is your strength" as well as numerous others are more than relevant to families living outside of the US.

As Bonnie states in her introduction ...

"This book is everything I learned while proving that we were right!"

The book is broken up into five sections and the majority of the book is aimed at providing parents with information to be able to create the right frame of mind in themselves to be able to manage the special education process.

If you have had any experience in the special education process, you will know that it can be emotionally and mentally draining on all involved - the child and the family. And as the saying goes, we need to look after ourselves before we can look after others.

We as parents need to look after ourselves so that we can be the advocates that our children need us to be. Quite often children do not find their own voice of advocacy until much older and as such they need their parents to be their advocate at school in the meantime.

With phrases such as "Believe in yourself - you do have the ability to help your child" and "You are the consistent thread from that early preschool experience on up through high school and beyond" the book has motivational content for all parents and caregivers of children with special needs.

One of the things that I realised after reading both O and L's diagnostic assessment reports is that their individual reports were simply a reflection of their baselines at that point in time. The reports did not indicate O and L's full capabilities and this sentiment is reflected in Bonnie's book. Bonnie provides advice on how parents and caregivers can foster their children's strengths, how to teach their child to be a self advocate while at school, how to teach children to be resilient and how to help our children to understand their disability. Most importantly she reminds parents not to focus on what our children can't do but focus instead on what they are capable of.

The final chapters of the book give strategies that parents and caregivers can implement when speaking with teachers and schools in regards to the IEP process. These include strategies to use when attending IEP meetings, how to work effectively with teachers, information on how to document everything during and after the IEP process and how to go about educating your children's teachers about your child's disability. Bonnie also includes information on questions that should be asked of potential special education advocates so that you as a parent can ascertain whether or not the potential advocate is the best fit for your children.

The book is an uplifting, feel good read and the content is incredibly useful. it is a wonderful resource to have and one that I have added to our ever growing collection. I will definitely be referring to this in the future for not only my own benefit but also when speaking with O and L's school.

You can purchase a copy of the book, either hard copy or as an e-book, through the following links. For Australian residents, click on this link. For US residents click on this link!

Monday 26 March 2018

Cheerios Please Mummy!

Conversations with L can be interesting at the best of times and on the weekend just gone, a mini heated discussion was had over an afternoon snack.

L - Mummy, I hungry!

Me - What would you like to eat buddy?

L - Umm, cheerios please!

Me - We don't have any cheerios buddy. 

L - We do! Cheerios please.

So I pulled the pantry apart looking for said Cheerios thinking L meant some type of cereal.

Me - See L, no cheerios. Do you mean fruit loops?

L - Noooo, not fruit loops! We got cheerios.

Me - Do you mean the little red sausages? We don't have any of those either.

L - Nooooo, not sausages! Cheerios! We do got them Mummy. I show you okay?

Me - Yes please little man, show me the cheerios.

L went to the fridge, pulled the meat try and out said - See, that cheerio.

Me - Oh, you mean chorizo.

L - Yep, cheerio. You cook it please Mummy?

Me - If I cook the chorizo, will you share it with me and Daddy?

L - Um, no just sissy and you. Not Daddy!

Well guess what buddy, if Mummy cooks chorizo, everyone gets to eat chorizo!

So what did my little man and his sister have as an afternoon snack but cooked chorizo and lemon slices and they begrudgingly shared it with us!

Proximal Stability before Distal Mobility .... What????

*** I am not a medical professional, all of the content in this post is based off of our own experiences. If you feel that your child would benefit from increasing their proximal stability, please consult a trusted medical professional. ****

I think it is truly amazing that no matter how far we are along our autism journey with O and L, we never stop learning. There is always a new facet of autism to learn about and last week was no different.

L has mentioned on numerous occasions over the last few weeks that the reason he doesn't want to go to school is because his hand starts to hurt when he has to do a lot of writing. We've also noticed at home, both recently and over the past few years, that he tires very easily when he is colouring or painting. In the past we've always put this down to L becoming bored of the activity but little did we know, it had more to do with his muscles tiring than with being bored.

When we mentioned this to his Occupational Therapist recently, she said it all had to do with L's proximal stability needing to be further developed before we could work on his distal mobility.

Huh??? I really must work on my stunned goldfish look!!

Prior to beginning our autism journey I had never heard of proximal stability or distal mobility.

So let's first talk about the first part of this statement - what is proximal stability?  Well, prepare to be enlightened!

Proximal stability refers to the chain of muscles that start at our core and go out towards our extremities. When we use the tiny muscles in our hand to complete fine motor tasks, we must first have a stable chain of muscles that run from our core muscles to our shoulder to our elbow, wrist and then to our fingers.

If that chain of muscles beginning at our core is not stable and strong, then it will be very difficult for us to hold a pen or pencil for a long period of time. Without good proximal stability, we also may have difficulty in maintaining an upright seated position when seated at a desk throughout the day.

And therein lies the issue for L. As his core is not as strong as it should be, the chain of muscles leading to his fingers are not as strong as they should be and hence his hand hurts when doing writing.

The second part of the statement, distal mobility, refers to the functions of our hands and our feet - or our fine motor control. To have good distal mobility we first need a strong chain of muscles or a strong proximal stability. 

In other words before we can have correct and effective function in our hands and feet, we need to work on strengthening the chain of muscles starting at the inside and working towards the outer muscles.

Proximal stability BEFORE distal mobility!

A simpler way to think about this concept is to think of it in terms of a baby learning to move around. Babies generally have a lot of mobility, L certainly did anyway, but not a lot of stability to begin with. A baby will develop their head and trunk control and strength long before they learn to sit up. A baby needs to develop their head and trunk control and strength in order for them to be able to sit up. Head and trunk control really are the building blocks for other physical movements for children.

Another way to think about this concept is when babies and toddlers are learning to draw or paint. When first learning to draw or paint, a child will use their entire arm to scribble or paint on paper or walls or furniture or whatever other medium that they are decorating. As the child's skills develop, they begin to rest their forearm on the table and then the movements are narrowed further to develop their fine motor control.

So it makes sense then that if a child is struggling to control a writing utensil or if they require constant assistance for other fine motor tasks, then they may lack the core stability or the stability along the chain of muscles required to do the fine motor task.

This concept makes a lot of sense for some of the things that O struggles with as well. O struggles to hold herself up when she wheelbarrow walks on her arms or when she tries to hang on the monkey bars. She lacks the strength along the chain of muscles to complete these tasks.

Both O and L tire easily when walking and riding their bikes or scooters. Again we always thought that they were simply running put of energy, but no, this also has to do with their proximal stability and the chain of muscles leading out from their core.

It is important to keep in mind that strengthening this chain of muscles from the core out takes time. At times it is important to shorten the chain and work on a small section at a time so that the child doesn't tire too quickly or become frustrated when they struggle with the task. If they are able to achieve a small task then the chances are that they'll more likely want to participate in future activities.

And as our Occupational Therapists have said on numerous occasions, they will often focus on the working on the building blocks before they work on the end goal for O and L.

If proximal stability and fine motor control were represented as a brick wall - proximal stability would be on one of the bottom rows of the wall and fine motor control would be towards the top of the wall. If the bottom row of the wall is not stable, the upper most rows will not be stable! There is no point in developing fine motor control if L is struggling to hold a pencil for a long period of time.

So how can we strengthen this chain of muscles or a child's proximal stability?

L and O love rolling over their peanut ball. I will put toys or other objects on the floor that they have to reach out to get from the peanut ball. The idea is that they have to lie on the peanut ball and use their hands to "walk" towards the objects. They then have to pick up an object and "walk" back on their hands to the start. This strengthens their core as well as their shoulder muscles.

We do a lot of activities and games with the little superheroes lying on their tummies as this helps to stimulate their core muscles and strengthen their shoulder muscles as they hold their head and shoulders up to complete the activity. We also encourage them to sit in different positions such as long legged sitting or on a wobble cushion as they play as this also assists in strengthening their core muscles.

During therapy sessions, L will stand or kneel to write or draw on the vertical whiteboards in the therapy rooms which assists in strengthening his shoulder muscles. Kneeling and standing stimulates different muscle groups along the chain running out from L's core and as such both actions help his muscles to become strong and stable.

We encourage O and L to climb on play equipment or trees when we visit our local parks as this helps to strengthen their core muscles and the chain of muscles out to their limbs.

We also do activities to strengthen L and O's muscles in their hands. Their most favourite activity is the monster tennis ball. These are very easy to make - you simply need to cut an opening into a tennis ball making sure that it is wide enough to open to represent a mouth but not too wide that the tennis ball splits in half. The idea is that the ball is held between the thumb and pointer finger and you use these two fingers to squeeze the ball to open to put small items into the monsters mouth. This action of squeezing the tennis ball open, strengthens the muscles in the hand that are used for fine motor control.

There are many other options for strengthening a child's proximal stability. The one point to remember is that proximal stability needs to be strong before we start working on fine motor control!

Proximal stability BEFORE distal mobility!

Wednesday 21 March 2018

How do You explain Autism to Children?

**** Please note that I do not receive commissions of any description for the review of the following books. They are simply books that we have found useful. ****

One of the dilemmas that we've had to face numerous times over the past few years is how to inform O and L's classmates of what autism is. Autism is one of those invisible differences and unless you knew what to look for, you may miss O and L's autism completely.

Some children just get that O and L are different and accept them for who they are. Other children struggle to understand why they do the things that they do and as such need a little further information to assist them to understand O and L.

One of the books that I stumbled across when we first began our autism journey with L was a book titled "I See Things Differently" by Pat Thomas. The book is part of the "A first Look At ..." series in which various differences are discussed in an easy to understand format for children.

On a side note, this entire series is fabulous - titles in the series range from "Don't Call Me Special," to "Everyone Matters," "Stop Picking On Me," "Is It Right To Fight?"  to "My Manners Matter," "The Skin I'm In," "My Amazing Body," and numerous others!

When L was first diagnosed, O really struggled to understand what was happening and what autism actually was. She knew that L was different but she couldn't physically see what the issue was. We found "I See Things Differently" incredibly useful to explain to O what autism was and after reading the book to O several times, she began to ask questions of us about how could she help L to understand the world around him. O wanted to be actively involved in assisting her little brother.

The book really was a catalyst for O to begin to discuss with us about autism, what it was, how it affected L and what she could do to assist him.

The story is written from an outsiders perspective and really does promote interaction among children, parents and teachers on how autism can affect an individuals personal, social, health and emotional issues. I've used this book in a variety of settings from it being read in O and L's class to explain to their classmates about autism, to using it in the early learning environment for younger children to promote inclusion of those with differences. The language used in the book is very positive, is gender neutral and the illustrations are eye catching.

At the rear of the book there are a series of notes for teachers and/or parents on how to use the book effectively as well as a list of external resources for further information.

However when we read the book to L to explain autism, the concepts spoken about in the book went over his head. So it was back to the drawing board to find another book that would  explain autism in a way that L could understand.

Enter "Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers" which is written by Melanie Walsh. This is a book that resonated with L as the book is written from Isaac's perspective about how autism affects him. The book is written using an older term for autism, Asperger's, however the content is still very relevant.

L could relate to Isaac as throughout the story he is dressed as a superhero. Isaac has lots and lots of energy and loves animals, struggles with loud noises and he loves playing superhero games. Mmmm sounds a lot like a young child that I know very well....

This book is much easier for younger children to understand and relate to. Again the language used in the book is very positive and the illustrations are also very eye catching.

Again I have used this book in a variety of settings from the classroom to early learning environments and have found that it is also incredibly useful in explaining what autism is.

Books such as these two are useful in opening up the dialogue between the individuals with autism and their classmates and promotes inclusion of children who are different from their peers.

Sunday 11 March 2018

Let's Talk About ..... Mental Health.

Mental Health ..... Why is it such a taboo subject?

I have my theories, so bare with me.

If you take a glance at the history of mental health, in the distant past an individual was looked down upon if they had a mental health issue. Individuals were hidden away from society in institutions or hidden behind locked doors and never spoken of if they had a mental health disorder.

While treatments and therapies have changed in recent history, that taboo status is still very much present.

I am of the belief that mental health is rarely spoken about because it is not understood by the majority of society. When you look at the portrayal of mental health issues in the media and movie/television industry, individuals with a mental health issue are portrayed as being crazy or insane and at times this portrayal is completely exaggerated. These portrayals fuel the biases, the misconceptions and the lack of understanding that is held by society and thus the taboo label sticks.

What these portrayals don't show is the real side of depression, how heartbreaking it can be to watch someone dealing with schizophrenia, or the constant hell that it is to live in a state of anxiety. The portrayals don't show the heartbreak that some parents go through on a daily basis watching their children struggle to get out of bed due to low self esteem and anxiety as a result from being the victims of bullying.

And as there is still a stigma attached to having being diagnosed with a mental health issue, those who do suffer from a mental health issue may be hesitant to open up about their struggles due to the fear of being ostracised or judged by those around them.

I struggled with, and still do struggle with, anxiety issues as a teenager and young adult but I always felt as though I had to put on a strong facade and just get on with whatever I was doing at any particular point in time. I have always felt socially awkward which I know now is my anxiety showing through. At no point did I open up to anyone about my anxiety or depression as I didn't want to be judged by my peers. I also didn't think that I would be taken seriously as I was a good student, I didn't get into trouble at school, how could I possibly be suffering from anxiety? I was just shy wasn't I?

Two weeks after O was delivered via emergency caesarian, I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression (PND) and put onto medication to assist me to get through our day to day routine. I can recall the exact event of what lead to my GP at the time telling me that she thought that I had PND. To cut a long story short, my C-section scar split open due to a very nasty infection two weeks to the date that O was born. We ended up back at the hospital and I was a complete mess and I said words to the effect of "nothing is going right, the only good thing in my life is my baby" to which my GP said "Jen, you have a beautiful baby and a loving husband and everything is going to be okay. But we need to put you on some happy pills to help you to think logically."

She was right, I did need the happy pills to help me see and think logically but this wasn't something that I made public knowledge as I was highly embarrassed by the diagnosis. All I could keep thinking was "I am a professional in the public sector, what are people going to think? They're going to think that I am weak." Mmmm, hindsight is 20/20 as I can now see that what I was thinking was highly illogical.

And I can now see that my illogical thoughts about PND back in 2009 were due to the misconceptions that I had about PND. I also now know that PND is quite common and yet it still seems to be somewhat of a taboo subject.

Fast forward to 2014 and once again I found that I was struggling to think logically. However it wasn't due to having a newborn, nor was it due to having two very active children. It was due to the fact that we, as a family, weren't being taken seriously by medical and educational professionals about L's overall health, development and challenging behaviour. Once again my GP said a few very helpful words as I sat balling my eyes out in his office as L was in the midst of an almighty meltdown over NOT being allowed to play on the busy road outside of the doctor surgery. My GP said "Jen, you have two beautiful children, you are an amazing Mum, and at the moment you need a little help to think logically." I walked away from the doctors surgery with a script for happy pills, a referral to our pediatrician for L's development and behavioural issues and new outlook on life.

Fast forward a little more to 2018 and I am learning how to assist O with her anxiety issues. I want to equip O with the skills that she needs to be able to self-manage her own anxiety so that in the future when her anxiety decides to raise its head, and I know that it will at some stage, she will be able to confidently use the strategies that she is learning. I am also instilling in her that having anxiety is okay. That being diagnosed with an anxiety issue is not something to be ashamed of. Ever.

But there still needs to be more done in society to break the misconceptions and hence break the taboo status of mental health issues. And the only way to break misconceptions about mental health is to talk openly about the various issues that individuals in society struggle with on a daily basis.

I was recently fortunate to participate in an interview about O's anxiety for a Mental Health series that Michelle over at Mummying My Way is publishing on her blog all through the month of March. Michelle interviewed people from all walks of life for her series to highlight various mental health issues - from anxiety through to Post Natal Depression and everything in between.

I am looking forward to reading all of the stories that are featured in this series. I am looking forward to gaining an insight into the lives of those who have spoken up about their struggles with various mental health issues.

I hope that through the series, more people will come to understand what mental health issues are like and how they can help their friends and family who may be suffering from a similar condition manage their condition.

We all need to be brave and speak up to break down and challenge the misconceptions that society has about Mental Health issues. If more people have an understanding of what mental health issues are like, then perhaps it wouldn't be so difficult to open up and talk about mental health issues.

And what ever you do, do NOT tell someone who suffers from depression or anxiety to just be happy, to forget about what ever is worrying them. This is like telling someone that they should hold their head under water and breath. It is near impossible and not at all helpful advice.

What you can do is be there for them. Listen to them.

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Fussy Eater or Food Aversion due to Sensory Processing Difficulties? Which one is it?

I have lost count of the number of times that we've been told that we should just make the little superheroes eat what has been put in front of them or that they'll eat when they are hungry. It is statements such as these that utterly infuriate me. It is also statements like these that indicate that people really aren't taking on board what we say about the little superheroes eating habits.

But before I start talking about the little superheroes eating habits, we need to discuss a little background information first.

Both O and L have sensory processing difficulties which impacts on various areas of their lives. Sensory processing difficulties can, and does, make life quite interesting at times, especially when it comes to food.

To have an understanding of food related sensory difficulties, you first need to have an understanding of sensory processing itself.

Sensory processing refers to our ability to interpret smells, tastes, sounds, touch, sight and movement. The way in which we all process the information that we receive on a daily basis is unique to each individual. Every day our bodies are bombarded with an almost constant yet varying sensory input from a number of sources. At times we may be aware of this sensory input but the majority of the time, we are totally oblivious to the constant bombardment of sensory input.

However there are many individuals that struggle with this constant bombardment of sensory input and this can have drastic consequences on how they deal with what is happening around them on a daily basis. This is commonly known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or Sensory Processing Difficulties.

An individual can be over responsive to some sensory input types, in other words they are gaining too much sensory input. An over responsive response to sensory input has been described to us as feeling as though an individuals skin is literally crawling or that their head feels like it is going to explode as sounds, smell and lights are magnified ten fold.

Or they may be under responsive to other sensory input types - they're not gaining enough sensory input. Having an under responsive response generally means that the individual will actively seek out sensory input.

The tricky thing about SPD is that an individual can be both over responsive and under responsive depending on what environment that they are in. Like Autism, SPD is also a spectrum. Mmmmm I did say that it makes life interesting.

When it comes to food, and this includes the taste, the texture and the smell of the food, the same applies. 

Individuals may prefer one type of food over another. They may prefer crunchy instead of soft foods or visa versa. They may prefer bland to spicy foods. They may eat foods of only a particular colour.

L prefers crunchy food to those that have soft textures. O is very sensitive to the smells of different foods, both raw and cooked foods.

L used to, and still does at times, over stuff his mouth with a food, particularly if it is a food of a soft texture. This tends to indicate that with soft foods, he is under-responsive and needs to put more of the food in his mouth to get the "feel" of the food to get the same sensory input as when he eats crunchy foods.

O on the other hand with some foods will take the smallest bite possible. This indicates that she may be over-responsive to certain foods. The smallest bites have a huge sensory input for her that can be very overwhelming.

And for a child who has a food aversion, never ever change the brand of the food that they will eat. This does NOT end well for anyone. They just know!

Having two children with food aversions makes meal times extremely interesting. We have a list of fall back foods that we know that O and L will eat and at meal times we pick our battles. We don't offer a buffet of food but if for some reason either O or L refuse to eat what is offered because they don't like the smell or it looks funny, tin spaghetti or baked beans it is.

Why? Because at least then they are eating something.

Making a child who has a food aversion eat the food that they have the aversion to always ends in a big mess and lots of tears. O or L may try to eat the food, with a lot of complaining and tears, but I can guarantee that the food will come straight back up. It is a battle that really is not worth fighting.

Over the last 9 and 5 years respectively, we have been able to introduce O and L to new foods with some success. Occasionally O and L will surprise us and decide that they now like a food type that they once had an aversion to. When this happens, it is cause for celebration! Yet another food type that we're able to add to the "will eat" list! And occasionally their sensory processing difficulties will kick in to over drive and foods that they once ate, will become off limits.

Introducing new foods takes a lot of time and perseverance from everyone. The important point that I have learnt is that when O or L turn their nose down at a particular food, I don't take it personally. They are not doing it deliberately, their sensory system is simply in overload and they can not help it.

Now back to the fussy eater or food aversion due to sensory processing difficulties part of this post. There is a HUGE difference between being a fussy eater and having a food aversion due to sensory processing difficulties.

A fussy eater won't eat certain foods simply because they don't like the taste. If that is the only food available, they may eat it simply because they're hungry and that is all that is available.

Having a food aversion due to sensory processing difficulties, well you've got buckley's chances of getting an individual to consume the food. The reason for this is that the taste or the texture or the smell of the food is being processed in their brain as being dis-pleasurable in some way. And when you read dis-pleasurable, read "extremely un-comfortable in a skin crawling type of feeling."

I could be considered a fussy eater because of the fact that I don't like eating brussel sprouts. The reason being that I simply don't like the taste of them but I will eat them if they are on the menu. I won't like them (sorry to all those people who love brussel sprouts) but I will eat them. 

O on the other hand, if she tries to eat an orange, she starts gagging the moment the orange goes anywhere near her mouth. Her gag reflex automatically engages!

If I am hungry and brussel sprouts are the only thing on the menu, I will eat them. Why? Because I am hungry.

If O is hungry and the only food item that is on the menu are oranges, well, she will just go without. No matter what you say or do, O will not eat an orange. She would rather go hungry than eat an orange due to the un-comfortable sensation that she receives when she tastes orange. And if the orange is touching a food that she does like, she won't eat that food either. She is over-responsive to oranges and the slightest hint of orange on another food will also make her gag.

As mentioned above, making an individual with a food aversion eat the food that they have the food aversion to, will end up in a big mess.

So please, please, the next time you come across a child or an adult for that matter who is flat out refusing to eat a particular food, please take a moment to analyse why they are refusing. Could it be that they do genuinely have a food aversion to that particular food? They don't need judgement or criticism, they just need you to be understanding and patient.

Thursday 1 March 2018

A Sensory Friendly Event at the Gallery of Modern Art.

When living in Perth, I read a number of articles on various news sites about the Gallery of Modern Art, aka GOMA, in Brisbane.

After arriving in Queensland I happened to come across an advertisement for a sensory friendly event that was being held at GOMA and immediately thought that O would love to go.

O is very creative and loves thinking outside the box. The artist, Yayoi Kusama, that would be featured at the event just happened to also think outside of the box with her art.

We'd visited GOMA a few days prior to the event but had to cut our visit short as both O and L became overwhelmed by all that was occurring around them.

So on Saturday the 13th of January 2018, a Mummy Daughter date was made!

I cannot thank the staff at GOMA enough. The event was well planned and very well thought out. The lights were kept low throughout the building and there were well placed areas for the visitors to sit, relax and re-group. The visitors who attended the event .... there was lots of rocking, bouncing and flapping! They were all so relaxed which was wonderful to see.

O had a ball. When we first arrived there weren't too many other visitors so she had the place to herself.

Our first point of call was a room titled "Soul under the Moon" and it was spectacular.

I am
so proud of O for wanting to venture into this room at GOMA.

"Soul under the Moon" is a small dark room with mirrored walls and ceiling. The room is filled with hundreds of neon ping pong balls hanging from the ceiling. All of this creates the illusion of infinite reflection. It was sensory overload for me but O wanted to go in. We only lasted about 15 seconds but she did it! A huge step for the sensory avoider that she can be!

We visited "The obliteration room" which is now a room covered in colourful sticky dots. Initially this interactive space and all of it's contents - chairs, piano, table, lounge, lamps and other assorted furniture - were all painted white. Over time, the space has been turned into a rainbow of coloured stickers by visitors to GOMA. As you enter the space, you are given a sheet of coloured dots to place where you want within the space. The only rules - don't put the dots on the ceiling or on yourself!

The galleries that were titled "Life is the Heart of a Rainbow" were fascinating. It was a series of galleries with paintings, sculptures and other artworks. Two of the artworks featured over sized cubes that you could peer into through a circular hole. The space inside the cubes were covered with mirrors that reflect the viewer immersed in Kusama's dots in varying colours. A very definite sensory overload for some but not for O - I had to keep reminding her that there were other children who wanted to look into the cubes!

Then it was onto the children's interactive area of GOMA, an exhibition titled "Me, Myselfie and I."

First up was an interactive photo activity by Wit Pimkanchanapong titled "I, you, we." Working with another person or in O's case, she wanted to work alone, you have your photo taken and then your facial features are broken up and recombined to create a composite portrait. O had a ball creating abstract self portraits over and over again.

Then O found "My Pocket Orchestra" and was mesmerized. This area was commissioned by GOMO to be featured in the "Me, Myselfie and I" section. Milos Tomic created this sound interactive exhibit where visitors have the opportunity to experiment with sound to express their mood and personality. It was basically a series of mini sound mixing studios complete with headphones.

O sat at this interactive exhibit at GOMA for about 20 minutes! Luckily there were a number of other stations for the other visitors. She loved mixing her own music and creating her own sounds to add to the tracks. She would leave this area to go look at other activities within the space but would constantly come back to the station.

After about an hour of being at GOMA, O decided that she'd had enough and wanted to visit the space exhibition as well as the stick insects and snake at the nearby Queensland Museum. So off we went.

First up was the space exhibition. O has a huge love of anything to do with space but in particular the moon Titan. This exhibition was a series of photos of the sun, the moons and planets within our solar system. O was in her element when she found the photographs of Titan.

Our final stop was the Discovery Centre to check on the stick insects and the green tree snake who was beautifully posed for a photo!

Sensory friendly events are wonderful and great for anyone with sensory difficulties. I would highly recommend checking out sensory friendly events in your area.