172: Sensory Processing Differences, with Carol Stock Kranowitz

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hosted by Penny Williams

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Sensory challenges are common with both ADHD and autism. Often, the way sensory input is processed by an individual can explain behavior. In this episode of the Parenting ADHD Podcast, I’m talking with Carol Stock Kranowitz about the changes in her latest edition of her groundbreaking book, The Out-of-Sync Child, the importance of movement in working with sensory challenges, and what to do if your child struggles with sensory processing. 


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A Year of Mini-Moves for the In-Sync Child by Joye Newman and Carol Stock Kranowitz

Article in the Washington Post about the man who speaks 37 languages

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My Guest


Carol Stock Kranowitz, a former teacher, is the author of “The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Differences,” 3rd edition, and other books about sensory processing challenges that overlap with autism and ADHD. First published in 1998, her book has been translated into many languages including Spanish (“El Niño Desincronizado”) and has sold one million copies.

With Joye Newman, Carol has developed the “In-Sync Child Method” to incorporate joyful movement experiences into every child’s day.



Carol Stock Kranowitz 0:03

That's so important for teachers to see that when children are shrinking away from the messy play, for instance, it's not voluntary and it's not trying to make trouble. It's a physical issue that where the child can't do what's expected out here.

Penny Williams 0:22

Welcome to The Parenting ADHD podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD a Holic and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started.

Welcome back to The Parenting ADHD Podcast. I'm really excited to have Carol Stock Kranowitz back with us again on the podcast. She's the author of The out of sync child and what I consider our sensory guru. All things sensory processing. And we're going to talk a little bit about what's new and the new edition of the autistic child, and then also dive into movement and how to use movement to help kids with sensory differences. Thank you for being here, Carol, I always enjoy speaking with you so much did no thank you. Well, you start by introducing yourself. Let everybody know who you are and what you do if they don't know you.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 1:31

Sure. Carol Stock Kranowitz, I was a preschool teacher for 25 years. And I didn't know anything about child development. When I started and asked a lot of questions about the kids who were not with the program. For children who didn't go with the flow, I thought of them as being out of sync with the other children, not enjoying messy play like finger painting and mud pies, not wanting to let their feet leave the ground in order to swing and slide and climb. And having some signs of anxiety that prevented them from socializing comfortably with their peers. And I wondered what was going on and asked a bunch of questions. And 10 or 11 years after I started teaching, I learned from a pediatric occupational therapist about this thing called sensory integration dysfunction, which we now call sensory processing disorder, or sensory processing differences. So I wanted to learn more, there was nothing to read for ignoramuses like me, or for parents or other teachers, everything was written for therapists with a lot of jargon. So I decided something has to be done about this. And I wrote the out of St. Child for parents and teachers to make the neurology and the fallout of sensory issues intelligible.

Penny Williams 3:04

It was really the first book for me after my son was diagnosed. That helped me understand better what I was seeing what his behavior was. My kiddo was one who would crash into everything he would falling his body on the floor, or he would slam into the wall. And it seemed a little crazy, until I learned about sensory processing and proprioceptive input and then it made sense. And so it was really my first sort of gateway into what was happening inside of my kiddo. Oh, that was creating what I was seeing on the outside. And you wrote that first book, correct me if I'm wrong in the 90s or early 2000s.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 3:46

Yeah, 1998 was the first edition. Second Edition was 2005. Then there were some updates in 2013. But they missed by a few months, important changes in the DSM five, where autism was completely redefined. And so it's been necessary to have a new addition. And it's a big job. It's rewriting a great deal of the book. And there was so much to say. So I'm very, very proud of it. I did a lot of work, and I really pleased with it.

Penny Williams 4:25

And so what can people expect from the third edition? Why might we go and get this next? Addition? What else is there that we didn't have before?

Carol Stock Kranowitz 4:34

Well, the leaning now is away from disorder and looking at neurological a typicality ease as being differences. So I try to make that point. I made that point in the subtitle. The subtitle of the adolescent child was recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder. I changed it though the Third addition to recognizing and coping with sensory processing differences. And I make the point that just because you really, really love mud, or you really, really love to swing a lot, it doesn't mean you have a disorder, it means you have some sensory difference that makes you do things the way you do. I want to get away from this feeling that it's trouble wrong if you have sensory processing differences. So that's one thing. And so the tone is more hopeful, I hope or more toward looking at differences as being a good thing. Also, I have a new chapter on lookalikes, I've certainly expanded on how autism, ADHD and learning disabilities overlap with SPD in so many ways. And it's important to be able to sleuth out what the real issue is.

Those four SPD autism, ADHD and LD do overlap. And I have a little Venn diagram to show what research is showing about the overlap SPD has with these other conditions. So sometimes the child has only SPD, sometimes the child has SPD and one or two or three of the other conditions. And so it's important to be able to understand that I think and I go into that, I also in the new edition wanted to explain occupational therapy a little more, you know, Penny, I am an OT want to be too late right now to become. But I so admire that field. I just love it. It's non invasive way it works wonders with kids who have sensory issues. Occupational therapists who have training and sensory integration techniques, follow the child's inner drive to learn to use their bodies in new ways. And kids love OT, and look forward to it and make permanent changes in their neurological systems when they've had some of this great therapy. So I talked about that.

Yeah, one more thing is there's a lot of new research going on. And I was able to bring that into. So I have references to the research, for example, with a wonderful new machines, the F functional MRIs are possible that can take images of the brain experiencing sensory processing difficulties, and their unique parts of the brain. It's not autism, it's not ADHD. It's SPD that's happening. Here's real exciting, tangible evidence. So I talked about that, too.

Penny Williams 7:55

It's so fascinating that we can do that. Now. I know. We can see it more tangibly. I'm seeing it come up more in the mainstream. I was watching a television program the other night, and it was a medical drama. And they had a child come into the emergency room who had sensory processing differences. And they talked about in that episode, why he was fighting back why he didn't want to be touched why he was, getting really upset. And I just thought that was fascinating that we're even talking about sensory processing in the mainstream, which is so needed, but really a signal that we are accepting neurodiversity more. And I think that's what you're kind of getting at in renaming it from disorder to difference is we're all different. And we're trying to be more neurodiversity accepting. So we have these differences, and they're not necessarily bad or broken. There's just a lot of different people out there.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 8:57

That's right. And when a child in the emergency room, or 40 year old on the street is trying to express Don't touch me, or I can't get the words out, or I have a situation happening here. Don't think I'm bad. That's so important for teachers to see that when children are shrinking away from the messy play, for instance, it's not voluntary, and it's not trying to make trouble. It's a physical issue that where the child can't do what's expected of him.

Penny Williams 9:33

Yeah, behavior is communication. If a child avoids messy play, what are they telling you? Or telling you? There's a reason for that? Right, right. And when we can look at it that way, we can see what's really happening and help kids with sensory differences. I know that you also have the mini moves book coming out as well with joy. Do you want to tell everyone what that is? And then maybe once Talk a little bit about some strategies to include movement to help with sensory differences.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 10:06

Great, great idea. Yes, it's been a perfect storm this spring, a book I wrote with my colleague, Joy Newman, who you've also had on this podcast program, joy, and I wrote a calendar, a 52, page calendar, and it's called a year of many moves for the insync. Child. And so each page is, has a week, seven boxes, and each day, there's a little mini move, just a tiny little activity to do. This is something you would suggest to a child between the ages of maybe two and a half to nine, for instance, here's one, this is week, 15. Wednesday, bring your elbows together, clap your hands 10 times. Another one is squeeze something between your knees. Keep it there while you jump all around?

Penny Williams 11:03

Can we talk a little bit about how they incorporate? Yeah, yeah. And three, like how are they helping? Okay, so much of the play, I think, does that right?

Carol Stock Kranowitz 11:12

Yes, play, oh, my gosh, play that the child initiates or play that we can guide the child in, that incorporates the body is the best, I say do away with screens. Screens are not nature's way for children to learn about moving and interacting with the environment, moving and interacting with the environment is the way to move and interact with the environment. So getting kids off the couch away from this device and doing these little activities. Let's see, the first thing is auditory, the child is listening to the suggestion and processing it. There's always body parts involved. And the child's learning body awareness, what puts his elbows together, that's something you wouldn't do ordinarily, but everybody can.

And it's just sort of what it was the call to do it and then clap 10 times. So we're having kids know their body. There's a lot of different ways of locomotion that we introduce, we say a squiggle to something square, and put your forehead on it. Well, there's no patent on how to squiggle. And it's funny. And little kids like coming up with a way to squiggle. And anyway, they go from one spot to another is acceptable as a squiggle. So these are winning activities, incorporating sensory motor experiences, perceptual motor, we have things like, do that activity way up high, or way down low. So they're learning the concept of level, or do that squiggling, loudly or softly. They're learning to perceive the differences in sound volume, we have many kinds of locomotion that we suggest.

So they're using their bodies, using all their senses, except I don't think we have smell and taste in here. But we certainly have tactile, vestibular proprioceptive, visual and auditory, lots and lots of that. And kids are learning about directionality and bilateral coordination, and spatial awareness. And Penny, what's so fun is to say to a child, jump to something pink, and put both palms on it. And the kid does that. Of course, you have to make sure that there is something pink nearby for the child to do it.

Penny Williams 13:48

Make it successful and doable,

Carol Stock Kranowitz 13:50

Right succeed. And everything is designed for success in this little year of mini moves. I love that. And then the kids do it. And then they say, give me another one. They get into it right away, and they love it and they laugh. It's just great. Here's one, draw a little tiny circle in the air with your nose, make the circle bigger and bigger. Now go the other way, and make the circle smaller and smaller. So that would be a two year old. But you'd ask an eight year old to do that.

Penny Williams 14:22

Yeah. And things we wouldn't think about. I would never think to ask my kid to draw a circle in the air with their nose. That never would have crossed my mind. But it's both fun and it's helping them with awareness and movement.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 14:39

Yeah, everybody will please draw a little circle in the air with your nose right now. What you're doing is you're activating your vestibular system, because every time we change the position of our head, that's what we're doing. We're getting our vestibular system working. If you find you're very, very dizzy doing that, maybe You have a vestibular situation going on. If your child resists or falls down, after making a circle near with his nose, that can be a clue to you that maybe the child has vestibular challenges. And maybe that's why he doesn't like going to the playground. So you can use these activities as a clue to your child's behavior.

Penny Williams 15:26

Yeah. And I think that's so valuable for parents to be able to take this kind of information. And we're sort of testing, we're testing their different systems by asking them to do these activities. So we're learning more about our kids. And they're also getting this movement and this help with their sensory systems at the same time. And the more that we know about our kids, then the better we can do to help them.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 15:53

That's right. So I love this confluence of the two books all within a few weeks of publication, one about out of sync children and the other about insync children. And I hope that our listeners are interested in we'll go, I guess Amazon is a good place to go Barnes and Noble to my website is out of sync child.com. I have hyphens in there. But I think you can get there without the hyphens.

Penny Williams 16:23

We'll link it up in the show notes too.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 16:26

Oh, good, good. In sync child.com is the one for the insync activities and books.

Penny Williams 16:33

So great. I can't encourage listeners enough to take advantage of your materials to read the out of sync child if they haven't, or to pick up a new copy and see the developments in that area. And also the year of many moves. It's just fun. For our kids, it's something different to do with them. You know, I wish that I had known to do that. Now fortunately, we were referred to occupational therapy very early. And so I did learn a lot about my son because of that, because the occupational therapists were teaching me what was going on as they were learning by interacting with him, and he was doing movement exercises and all these things there. But it would have been so great just to have a daily calendar or with a little movement exercise. That sounds like a great tool for families.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 17:23

Thank you. Yeah, love that. I just read an article in the Washington Post the other day. That blew me away. It's about a carpet cleaner. His name is Vaughn Smith, and he speaks 37 languages. He's a hyper polyglot. A polyglot is someone who speaks several languages. He's a hyper polyglot. And the article talks about how Vaughn as a boy always felt out of sync. He never fit in at school. He learned about this special talent, he had to pick up languages. And he's very interested in the emotional underpinnings of the language. He likes to speak with people in their language and understand how they're feeling. And the article talks about how he has this auditory difference. And I just love reading about this. Because it confirms where I'm at tha you can be Temple Grandin and she says we're not sick or damaged, we're different. And this man, Vaughn Smith, the carpet cleaner, he's different. And what a bright spot he is in the world to be able to speak some languages that have practically vanished. There are some Native American languages that he's one of the few people in the world who could speak them. For instance,

Penny Williams 18:52

It's amazing.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 18:55

I want people to celebrate sensory differences and realize that a child who has fabulous vision and can draw something with incredible detail, I want them to celebrate that and maybe that child is not such a good listener, but he's a really good watcher and let him develop that skill. Yeah, read the language learner, be an interpreter or help other linguists learn about how to learn languages, how to teach languages, there's so many skills and so many benefits we can get from our different feelers or different sensors.

Penny Williams 19:37

Yeah, I want to talk just for a minute about what parents can do if they suspect that their child has sensory differences. Or maybe they know that their child has sensory processing differences, and they're not sure what to do how to help. Besides the mini moves book, I would just want to talk to to your parents about what they can do, what is their action that they can take going forward? So first, if they suspect that their child has sensory differences, what should they do?

Carol Stock Kranowitz 20:10

Yeah, thank you for this question. And I don't want to imply that a year of many moves for the ncwc child is any substitute for therapists guidance, it's just, we're homeschool. What should parents do, if they suspect that their child is having difficulties in three areas, particularly three sensory systems, particularly the tactile sense, which is receptors are in the skin, if the child complains about scratchy t shirt labels, or is a very picky eater or doesn't want to hold hands, our if a child has vestibular issues, and his feet never get off the ground, or if the child has proprioceptive issues, and is very clumsy and can't orient his body to put on a sweater, can't pull on his boots, breaks, pencil points, has trouble with utensils and school tools.

You know, if a parent is seeing that in those three senses, it's very wise to go to an occupational therapist who is trained in sensory integration theory and practice and get the child evaluated and start therapy. So if parents are ready to have that assessment, ask a pediatrician or ask at a children's hospital, or suggest a referral. And if that doesn't work, go to this website. Sensory health.org sensory health.org is the website of the store Institute for sensory processing. And they have an international directory of occupational therapists who are trained in sensory integration. And so you might find somebody in the next town, for instance, and a therapist will do an assessment and then may suggest therapy, which you could do with the person who assesses the child or not, there's no obligation to stick with the person who does the assessment.

And I have heard from so many people that OT is something kids love. And the changes that happen in the neurological system are permanent changes. And you see. you know this Penny, there is no medicine for sensory processing problems. The best thing is specific movement and engagement experiences where the child is using his body and his brain simultaneously. And developing neural pathways and smoothing things out in the brain where it's kind of like a traffic jam, where all the sensory information is coming in and it gets mixed up or it gets slowed down. And occupational therapy using sensory integration techniques can smooth that traffic jam and make permanent wonderful changes.

Penny Williams 23:15

Yeah, occupational therapy was amazing for us, my son really enjoyed going to he enjoyed going to a place where he could crash into things and make a mess. And that was totally fine. And everybody else was doing it too. And I can give a couple of examples for parents of what some of those movement activities at therapy might be. For my son. Like I said he was a bumper and a crasher because he had low proprioceptive input. And so he would get to go and ride these little scooter carts that they pedal with their feet and just crash into mats and get some of that input that sensory input that he was needing in a safe way. But he also had some three avoidances, one of which was swinging. He never liked to swing on a playground. And so they started working with him to help him to acclimate better to swinging to work on that sense, which is vestibular.

And so they started by offering him different types of swings, different ways of sitting in them different ways they swung, whether they went front to back or side to side, whether he sat up or he laid down, or if he had more like a hammock, so he felt more secure. And they just kept working just a little bit each week. And he got to a place where he actually really loves to be in a hammock or a hammock chair. But for years when he was little, he would not swing he would just have a fit you if you tried to get him to swing on the playground which was so odd to me at the time, because he was running around so rambunctious and playing and had no fear.

But if you tried to get him on a swing, it was game over and that never made any sense to me until we started occupational therapy until I read about sensory processing. And then I was like, Oh, I get this now I understand, and he's able to enjoy that a little bit more. I think he's a teenager. Now he's 19. But I think he even still probably wouldn't enjoy just a regular swing at a park. But he does enjoy other types of swings, like a hammock chair. So those are just two really tiny examples of ways that the occupational therapist can work with your kids, to help them with some of those sensory differences.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 25:38

Oh, I love to hear that story. You know, when kids are running around, their feet are on the ground. And when they're on a swing, or in dad's arms, or in the car, or in an elevator, that passive movement where you can't control it can be terrifying. And the occupational therapist, Dr. Ayers, who developed the theory of sensory processing, wrote about that as primal fear. So when your little guy was running around, was in charge, but the minute those feet left the ground, he didn't know what was going to happen next. And an OTA is just great, that free trial to be willing to play with gravity a little bit, huh, that's good, son.

Penny Williams 26:23

It's good for a lot of ages.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 26:25

I'm glad you mentioned that. I write about the sensory child, the adolescent child, but there are plenty of adults who have sensory issues also, that have never been recognized or diagnosed. And these are people that we say, oh, he just likes to be quiet. And he doesn't like social gatherings. And that's just the way he is. Yeah. And sometimes that's the way he is because he has tactile problems. He can't bear the unpredictability of being in a group. Right. So when they touch him and alarm him.

Penny Williams 27:00

Yeah, yeah, I'm glad you brought that up.

Carol Stock Kranowitz 27:03

It's certainly a condition that one does not grow out of one grows into it, and learns how to negotiate the world, staying away from things that are intolerable, and, you know, going into a quiet place where, or a noisy place or whatever it is that their sensory system demands.

Penny Williams 27:24

Yeah, yeah, it's different for different folks, for sure. We have already run into the end of our time together. Is there anything else you want to make sure to share before we close today,

Carol Stock Kranowitz 27:36

I always want to tell our listeners that they're great parents. And, and I just want to reassure parents that if you're listening to this, I know you're a great parent, because you want to learn more about your child. And you know, this sort of thing happens. Sensory Processing can be a surprise to many families. It can also be hereditary. So your child might be very much like you are like a grandparent, but to a lot of families is a surprise, and you're doing everything right. So I just want to applaud that. And thank you for listening, and read, read, read and play, play, play and do it outside whenever you can.

Penny Williams 28:18

Yeah, thank you for saying that, too. I think it's so important that we understand that, because we can't change everything for our kids. It doesn't make us a failure as a parent, right. And so often, that's kind of the message we tell ourselves, right? The story we tell ourselves. So thank you so much for saying that. And reminding all the parents that you are a great parent, you're here learning, you're taking your time, and giving it to listen and learn more so that you can do more for your child. You know, what more can you do? What more could someone ask? Really amazing. So we will link up everything that we talked about today. Carol's book, her new book with joy, all of the resources that Carol has mentioned. I will link all of that up in the show notes for this episode. And you can find those at parentingADHDandautism.com/172 for episode 172. Wow, thank you again, Carol for being here. And with that, we'll end the episode.

Unknown Speaker 29:21

Thank you, Kevin. My great pleasure.

Penny Williams 29:25

Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and Mama retreats at parentingADHDandautism.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That's what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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I'm your host, Penny.

Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

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