Thursday, October 02, 2014

Life Not Typical: Dealing with Sensory Processing Disorder, by Jennifer Shaw ~ Guest Post, Music Video & Giveaway

October is Sensory Awareness Month. The following is an editorial from Jennifer Shaw whose son was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. Jennifer is a Telly Award winning performer, Billboard Top 40 singer/songwriter, and author of the book Life Not Typical: How Special Needs Parenting Changed My Faith and My Song, an official resource of Autism Speaks. Visit her online at

Last month my son Toby turned 10. He had a party with pizza and cake and ice cream, and a sleepover afterwards with all his friends. Sounds pretty typical, but it was actually a miracle. There was a time when Toby could not dream of eating any of those things, a time when we never thought he would be able to leave our home to attend school, let alone have a party and friends who loved playing flashlight tag with him in our backyard. In fact, there was a time I didn’t think Toby would ever walk on grass.

Ten years ago, I was the mother of two beautiful girls and was thrilled to add a son to our family. When Toby was born after a difficult and dangerous pregnancy we were especially thankful that he was healthy. He seemed to be a very unhappy baby compared to our girls, but we hoped he would grow out of it.

The first indication that something was out of the ordinary was when we could not get him to eat any food. I had nursed him without any problems, but when we introduced baby foods, it was a daily struggle that we lost. We also noticed that he never babbled or made any sounds and he rarely smiled. Eventually it was clear that he was very speech-delayed, but because he had suffered from repeat ear infections which caused clinical deafness during his first year, we attributed a lot of his irritability to pain and hoped that when his hearing improved, his speech would come along. After surgery on his ears, his hearing did get better and the infections went away, but he still did not make any sounds.

During Toby's second year, my father was dying of ALS and that took much of our emotional energy so we did not react as quickly to the signs we were seeing in Toby as we might have otherwise. Still, Toby's behavior was getting more and more extreme. He wouldn't touch anything or play. He did not want to be touched. He was terrified of being messy or being anywhere near things like grass or sand. A drop of water on his clothing would make him scream. It became really frightening and we did not know how to help him.

When Toby turned two, we started him at a therapy school for speech delay. There was an occupational therapist on staff and she was the first to diagnose him with Sensory Processing Disorder (previously known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction). Toby's brain was not interpreting sensory input correctly. People with this disorder can suffer in a variety of ways, but in Toby's case, he was extremely hyper-sensitive to touch of any kind. Food in his mouth, clothes on his skin, crumbs on his hands were all completely intolerable to him –his brain told him they were “hurting” him. He was completely terrified of his world and shutting down.

Toby began play-based occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy (because he didn't touch things or play and had poor balance his muscles were very weak), and food therapy. Within two months my son who had no sounds said, “I love you, mom,” and within a year, Toby's progress was nothing short of miraculous. He spent years in therapy, but by age six, he had been discharged from all of it, and attended kindergarten as a typical kid. At the time, he still had some minor issues that we continued to work on at home, and now at age 10, there is nothing left of his SPD. It is literally a miracle in our lives.

I am a speaker and musician, not a doctor or therapist, but we learned a lot of things along the way that I share with people who suspect this condition in their own children. There is so much hope if you know where to look, and although Toby's outcome is not typical, there is help for every child with this diagnosis. So here’s my advice:

Be attentive. Do not ignore the signs, even if you don't know what they mean. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but some of the symptoms of SPD are speech delay, poor coordination, poor balance, avoiding touch or seeking touch in extreme ways (running into walls or falling down on purpose, running into people), extremely picky eating or extremely messy eating, irritability or a “difficult” personality. SPD is often misdiagnosed, especially in older children or less severe cases, as ADD or ADHD.

Be diligent. Do not wait, even when your pediatrician tells you to. After everything we went through with Toby, my pediatrician (whom I love and really respect) told me that she gave me the wrong advice by advising me to wait for Toby to catch up. This may be good advice for many problems, but SPD is not one of them. Early intervention is critical, and treatment is so much more effective before the age of three that you cannot afford to waste time. If you suspect something, get tested by an occupational therapist -- if they say there's nothing to worry about, fine, but if not, you have not wasted valuable time for therapy.

Be willing to ask for help. There is a federal program for ages 0-3 developmentally-different children available in every state. It goes by many different names; ours in Ohio was “Help Me Grow.” They will do testing and help get your child into therapy programs, many of which are free if you qualify. You can call the special needs department at your local school district and they are usually able to tell you who operates the program in your area. If your child is over the age of three, help is available through your local school district's special needs department. Also, take advantage of any therapy coverage on your insurance plan. We were very surprised by what was and was not covered.

Be an expert. Find out all you can, and do everything you can to support your child's progress. Talk to your therapists about what you can do at home, watch the therapy whenever possibly, and ask a lot of questions. We were able to overcome a lot of Toby's issues only because we worked on it every day with techniques we had learned from our therapists.

Be patient. This is not a quick fix. For example, Toby was literally afraid of food. Since we were not usually able to get him to stay in the same room with us while we ate, sitting down and eating a meal was out of the question. So first, we worked on getting him to be with us in the room at meals, then getting him to sit at the table, then allowing us to put food on the plate, then touching the food with a fork, then touching it to his tongue before finally tasting it. It took many months of frustrating moments, but eventually, my son ate a healthy diet and enjoyed mealtimes with our family. Today, our family meals remain extraordinarily important to us because we know not to ever take it for granted.

Be hopeful. Dealing with special needs can be very lonely and frightening. Our faith in God and our church community truly held us together at times. The other parents of special needs children at Toby's school were also a wonderful source of support. Realizing we were all dealing with similar challenges and emotions helped us see that we weren't alone. They were also a wonderful resource for practical ideas as we all talked about what was working or not working for our children.

Be courageous. Don't give up. SPD can be overwhelming and confusing. It can be hard to navigate the therapy system. Every therapy will not work for every child and you will need to be careful and wise about your choices. Take comfort in knowing that there is help and things can improve. You are your child's best advocate, and your child needs you.

This past summer I was a speaker at a Joni and Friends camp which ministers to families dealing with disabilities. I shared my story with the mothers and afterwards, a woman came up to me. She said, “I have a four year old who has severe SPD and high functioning autism. Three months ago, I gave up. Your story has helped me know that I shouldn't.” I pray that our experience will help other parents to know that there is hope for children with SPD.

Jennifer Shaw's Telly Award-winning music video "Your Child" celebrates the value of every life and features real-life parents and children with various types of special needs. I guarantee this will put tears in your eyes… Please watch:

"Your Child" by Jennifer Shaw


One winner will receive a copy of Life Not Typical: How Special Needs Parenting Changed My Faith and My Song by Jennifer Shaw. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on October 16, 2014.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Book of Life: In Theaters October 17 ~ Watch the Trailer and Play Minigames! #BookOfLife

20th Century Fox
In theaters October 17, 2014
I'm excited to announce that The Book of Life arrives in theaters this month! Judging by the trailer below, this looks like a terrific movie that the whole family will enjoy! Read on to learn more about it, watch the preview, and find out how to play The Book of Life minigames!

About the film:
THE BOOK OF LIFE, a vibrant fantasy-adventure, tells the legend of Manolo, a conflicted hero and dreamer who sets off on an epic quest through magical, mythical and wondrous worlds in order to rescue his one true love and defend his village.

Rated: PG
Starring: Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna, Ron Perlman, Ice Cube, Danny Trejo, and more.
Directed By: Jorge Guttierrez
Produced By: Guillermo Del Toro

Watch the trailer!

Play The Book of Life Minigames

Dive into The Book Of Life with the minigame challenge! Follow @BookofLifeMovie and tell us your high score! Get started now.

Official websites - #BookOfLife
Visit the Official Website
Like The Book of Life on Facebook
Follow on Twitter, Tumblr

Stay tuned to this blog for an upcoming The Book of Life giveaway!

Under Armour Performance Youth Sunglasses ~ They're Not Just for Summer!

Summer may be a distant memory, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop protecting your family from the sun’s rays. When you’re heading outdoors, it’s still important to wear sunscreen to protect your skin and sunglasses to protect your eyes. I love the eyewear styles available for kids from Under Armour! They have a terrific selection of classy youth sunglasses that are impact-resistant, ultra-lightweight, and provide 100% UV protection. Built from a combination of titanium & Grilamid, they provide superior strength and flexibility. They’re especially designed to hold up to heavy use by the young athlete. In fact, they have the same performance details as Under Armour’s adult styles.

My boys love their new Under Armour sunglasses. We live in south Florida, so year-round eye protection is especially important. But for those of you in cold climates, it’s just as crucial. The sun reflecting off the white snow can be particularly harsh on the eyes. Always encourage your children to wear a high-quality pair of sunglasses, like those from Under Armour. They even come with a cute bag to carry them in!

CLICK HERE to check out Under Armour’s youth sunglasses. There’s also a store locator on the Under Armour website to find a retailer near you that carries Under Armour sunglasses. (I found a whole bunch of them near me, including Sports Authority.) Under Armour sunglasses would make great stocking stuffers for the holidays, too!

October Is National Crime Prevention Month: Enter to Win a Crime Prevention Prize Pack from Master Lock + a $50 Visa Gift Card! #LSSS

October may be best known for Halloween, but it’s also a month on which we focus on crime prevention. Fortunately, Master Lock has an enormous selection of products to help you protect your home, belongings and, most important, those you love. From door locks to bicycle cables to padlocks and more, Master Lock has just about anything you can imagine to help deter thieves and maximize safety. To celebrate this very important month, Master Lock is offering a fantastic prize pack. One lucky winner on this blog will receive the following from Master Lock!

1548DCM – Lock best used on backpacks, duffel bags, briefcases, etc.

5422D – Portable key safe provides secure storage of keys or access cards

5900D – Storage Security Safe that is best used for keeping electronic devices safe, identity protection and credit card storage

…and a $50 Visa gift card for any other safety needs!

Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on October 31, 2014.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Graham Blanchard Celebrates Its 1st Birthday by Publishing The Learn, Absorb & Praise™ Classic Collection (GIVEAWAY)

I am honored to be a Mom Mentor with Graham Blanchard, the only publisher that specializes in board books that help parents teach their kids about God from the earliest ages! In the past year, Graham Blanchard has published nine titles, as well as more than 70 websites and blogs written by Christian parents, teachers and pastors. Graham Blanchard books fall into three unique categories: Learn, Absorb & Praise™.

Learn ~ These books dig into the Bible, weaving key quoted passages with a child’s life, using colorful photographs and supportive text.

Absorb ~ These books connect studies about the facts of God with a child’s inner life and what a relationship with God is like.

Praise ~ These books celebrate the soul-pleasing wonders of God that children experience every day.

On October 1 -- Graham Blanchard’s official birthday -- they are releasing The Learn, Absorb & Praise™ Classic Collection. This gift set includes the popular titles Jesus Shows Me, All of Me That You Can’t See, and Mud Puddle Hunting Day. Included in the set is a bonus, “The Art of Gratitude,” with tips and templates for young children to practice giving thanks. Graham Blanchard also recently released Your Core, an Absorb board book that uses everyday objects to convey the meaning of the soul.

I have copies of all of these books, and they are beautiful! With colorful illustrations and simple words, they convey God’s teachings in an age-appropriate way for children aged 0-7. Mud Puddle Hunting Day introduces children to God’s natural creations, like birds, leaves and puddles! Jesus Shows Me tells how God takes care of us, just like animal parents care for their young. All of Me That You Can’t See introduces children to the parts of them that aren’t visible, like their heart, mind, and strength! And, finally, Your Core explains how, like a baseball or an apple, we also have a core, which is where God lives!

Graham Blanchard also provides parents with free online resources, like a virtual prayer wall and downloadable guide, Five Things for the First Five Years: A Parent’s Guide for Growing Up in God, which maps out key areas of focus for parents during a child’s early formidable years. Graham Blanchard’s website also offers downloadable tip sheets to go along with each of their books to help parents connect the text to a child’s everyday life and start meaningful conversations. This past spring, Graham Blanchard launched a Mom Mentor panel comprised of popular bloggers and authors who share authentic answers to a new faith and parenting question each month.

For more information about Graham Blanchard’s wonderful books and resources for families, please visit


One lucky winner will receive The Learn, Absorb & Praise™ Classic Collection of board books from Graham Blanchard! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents and ends at 11:59 PM EST on Tuesday, October 14, 2014.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

Super Saturday Giveaway Linky (September 27, 2014)

Are you ready for another Super Saturday Giveaway Linky? If you're hosting a giveaway on your blog or website, please share it with us in the list below and tell all your Facebook and Twitter followers about this page. If you're just here to try to win some great prizes, check back often for new additions! And don't forget to enter the giveaways listed on my right sidebar. Hope you're enjoying some beautiful autumn weather!

Take the Turtles to Lunch with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles GladWare from Target! (GIVEAWAY)

When my two oldest boys, now in their early twenties, were in elementary school, they were crazy about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We had all the action figures and videos, and “Cowabunga, Dude!” was commonly heard in our house. So, I was shocked to find that these heroic turtles are still hot with kids today! When we were making plans to go to the movie theater recently, my 10-year-old boys insisted that we see the new Ninja Turtles movie. My oldest son went with us to see it for the second time! Yes, everybody loves the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and now you can find them on GladWare for a limited time.

From now through December, you can pick up GladWare containers at Target featuring the stars of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Your kids will love carrying their lunches to school when they’re stored in containers featuring their favorite turtles: Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo. And the containers are even safe for use in the dishwasher, freezer and microwave!

Now all of my boys -- no matter their age -- are battling over who gets the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles GladWare! Fortunately, there are plenty of containers to go around. Your kids may even be happy to eat leftovers when they’re stored in these containers. Food storage can be fun with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles GladWare from Target. Read on to find out how you can enter to win some for your family. (And then head over to Target to get some TMNT GladWare before it’s gone!)


One lucky winner will receive a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles GladWare prize pack with products and other Glad swag! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on Friday, October 10, 2014.

Children’s Book Review: "Grandma, Aren’t You Glad … the World’s Finally in Color Today!" by Lori Stewart

My boys are always shocked and amazed when I tell them about how I grew up. I made it all the way through college with no computer or Internet. Our first television showed pictures only in black-and-white, and we only had three channels. There were no videogames or cell phones. How did I survive without today’s “necessities”? These are always fun conversations, and the children’s book, Grandma, Aren’t You Glad … the World’s Finally in Color Today! by Lori Stewart will spark these kinds of discussions with your children and grandchildren.

Told in fun rhyming verse, this book is told in the voice of a grandmother explaining to her grandchild how HER mother and father lived as compared to life for kids today. Great-grandma attended a one-room schoolhouse, used a blackboard, and walked to school. Families played board games instead of videogames and read books or listened to the radio for entertainment. It soon becomes obvious that the differences are vast between kids’ lives today and those of their great-grandparents! A timeline at the top of each page highlights memorable moments, such as when Alaska and Hawaii became states and the Polaroid camera was invented.

Grandma, Aren’t You Glad … the World’s Finally in Color Today! is not only fun to read with kids, but it’s educational (even if kids don’t realize they’re learning)! Vintage and color photographs also lend reality to the text. This book would make a great gift for children to give to Grandma for the holidays!

This post contains my Amazon affiliate link.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Introducing the New Keurig 2.0, Model K550 #HelloKeurig

I’ve been a Keurig user for a long time, and really like the convenience of being able to pop a K-Cup into the machine to make a quick cup of coffee. Therefore, I was thrilled with the opportunity to try out the new Keurig 2.0! As you’ll see, this machine is quite different from previous models. Following are the pros and cons of the Keurig 2.0, Model K550.


You can now make four cups of coffee at a time instead of just one. This is great for people who like more than one cup in the morning, families with more than one coffee drinker, and small offices. When you pop in a K-Carafe, the Keurig 2.0 brews four cups of coffee into a carafe, which comes with the machine.

The water reservoir is large, a generous 80 ounces, so you can make a lot of cups of coffee before having to add more water.

There are many varieties of coffee available for the Keurig 2.0, including light, medium and dark roasts, decaf, teas and cocoa! In all, there are more than 250 varieties from 40+ brands available.

You can get hot water “on demand,” making it easy to mix up your own hot drinks.

The video below shows you all of the great features of the Keurig 2.0, Model K550:


K-Cups sold by many brands won’t work in the Keurig 2.0, even if they worked in your previous Keurig machine. I love the cappuccinos made by a certain brand and used to make them all the time in my previous Keurig. Unfortunately, they don’t work in the Keurig 2.0 due to the new label-reading technology.

There is currently no adapter (My K-Cup) available that allows you to use bagged coffee in the Keurig 2.0. You can only use the branded K-Cups and K-Carafes.

The starter carafe that comes with the Keurig 2.0 doesn’t keep the coffee warm for long, so it needs to be drunk immediately. You can purchase an optional stainless steel carafe (vacuum-insulated and double-walled), which keeps the coffee warmer, but I found that it still doesn’t keep my coffee as warm as my regular coffee maker (which utilizes a warmer) if you can’t drink a cup right away.

The bottom line: If you’ve never had a Keurig before, you’ll love this machine. It makes it easier to transition from a regular coffeemaker because you now have the option to make more than just a single cup of coffee. The touch-screen controls are easy to use, and there are fun options, like changing the color of the light in the water reservoir! If, however, you’re looking for a machine to replace your current Keurig, and you’ve become accustomed to using certain brands of coffee, you may be disappointed that they are not compatible with the 2.0. Hopefully, this will change in the future. Learn more about the new Keurig 2.0 brewers at

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Best of Me: Coming to Theaters in October ~ Check Out the Trailer Featuring Lady Antebellum! #TheBestOfMe

Relativity Media
In Theaters October 17

I love Nicholas Sparks books and films, and The Best of Me looks like it’s going to be one of his best stories ever! Read on to learn more about the upcoming movie, watch the trailer featuring a song by Lady Antebellum, and participate in First Love Fridays!

About the Film
Based on the bestselling novel by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high-school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they've never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today. Spanning decades, this epic love story captures the enduring power of our first true love, and the wrenching choices we face when confronted with elusive second chances.

The Best of Me stars James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato

Movie Trailer
Watch the trailer with Lady Antebellum as they introduce "I Did with You" -- a beautiful song featured on The Best of Me soundtrack!

Official Websites -- #TheBestofMe
Like The Best of Me on Facebook
Follow / Subscribe:

Every Friday, join The Best of Me in sharing your first love stories using the hashtag #FirstLoveFriday! Follow @BestofMeMovie on Twitter and let’s get #FirstLoveFriday trending!

And stay tuned to Susan Heim on Parenting because I have a terrific The Best of Me giveaway coming soon!