Today’s Question – My son has started lining up his cups he sits at the kitchen table…

Posted March 11, 2011 by valeriemaclean
Categories: Uncategorized

Question:  My son has started lining up his cups as he sits at the kitchen table.  Also in the bath today he normally sits in the front, with one brother in the middle and another brother back. One of his brothers came to sit in front so I told my son to go to back and he got very upset and started crying and said he wouldn’t go there as he didn’t want to be in the deep end.
I said it is all the same. I then told him to hurry up and get out the bath and go get dressed as he wasn’t getting a story and he got very upset again and started crying and I had to tell him if he didn’t go I wouldn’t play with him on Friday night so he was very quick then.
Has this behaviour, which is new, got anything to do with his systems? 

Valerie’s Answer: 

You have described some “rigidity” in behaviour – wanting things to be “just so”. 

Part of that is natural and normal – as it is with all of us.  That is, when someone comes to our house and puts the dishes in the wrong cupboards – we celebrate the help, but mutter under our breath about it being out of place.  Rigidity is often warm and predicable and therefore very comforting.  For example, we often chose to dine at “our favourite restaurant”, because we associated emotions and memories of wonderfulness with our favourite place, it is predictable.  It is often where we can let ourselves be more vulnerable, can celebrate especially during important times (such as birthdays), and also where we like to go when we are tired and overwhelmed – we all naturally gravitate to “our favourite place”.  Everyone, when tired and stressed especially, find an even greater comfort in routine. 

Additionally, many of us are grateful for our well established and “auto pilot” routines when we are tired, distracted, stressed or overwhelmed.  Here is an example I often share….For the past 4 decades – I always gone thru the motions of my showering routine exactly the same – and therefore need less energy and attention to remember what to do next.  Sometimes I find myself off in lala land, and “wake up” to the feeling of the bar of soap on my face – and have zero recollection of shampooing my hair.  No need to be alarmed, as I know that if I am on “wash the face step”, I have absolutely already washed my hair, because that is a previous step in my fine tuned routine.  This allows my brain to be in other place – and I have said MANY times – if I didn’t shower, I would never have a creative thought.  That is, I am completely removing myself from the planet earth when in the shower  – and it is the only freedom I can guarantee on a daily basis – and is my salvation from the world pushing thoughts and ideas towards me versus me being able to create from the inside out.   So, this is just another example of how rigidity/routine is normal and natural and a good thing – when balanced.

What I am hearing from your question is your son is having challenges balancing his ways – and the rigidity of his routine is not yet established.  I don’t see this as something new for your son, I think it was always there, and saw signs of such from the first time I saw him. 

What I do believe is that so many things have changed for him that what is being viewed, and what he is doing to help maintain something solid, predictable and routine amongst his changing world is more highlighted.  That is, this little guy has experienced some great changes – more concentrated change, within a short period of time.  He knows and feels this too – absolutely – likely more than we will ever know.  He is a smart and very self aware little guy, and knows that lots of “stuff” is changing within him, in his world, and how he is relating to his world.  This is all good – but sometimes grabbing onto some routine/rigidity is understandable. 

Additionally, the changes he is experiencing, through the combination of therapies is different.  It is like having someone from the Home Decorating channel coming in and updating your kitchen – which you absolutely love, and it is much more efficient now, and you are in love with the changes – all wonderful things.  The bottom line is – you still have to take some time to figure out where to put your plates and glasses, and then you need to remember where it was you put your coffee mugs – you know its somewhere in that beautiful new kitchen, but exactly which door is it behind is temporarily omitted from your memory.  Your son too is sorting out, and fine tuning his changes – and not quite finished his work.

Differentiation – sorting out the on/off switches in the brain, able to switch plans in the middle of life, being okay with transitioning to Plan B midstream when your whole body and mind has already invested 100% in Plan A is hard work.  And, sitting in a different location in the tub is not the same – the angle of the light is different, the sound is different, who is sitting in front and behind you is different, the tap faucet location versus where he is sitting is different, the shower curtain proximity is different, the bubbles are different, the angle of the bottom and sides of the tub is different – its all so different that it is almost like comparing Jupiter and Saturn – and he had invested himself in Jupiter, and now he needs to settle for Saturn – yuk.  This is not a time for logic and all those great conversations – this is a crisis – as the rule book for bathing on Saturn is completely different from Jupiter – and the energy to learn the new process is way more fuel than brought aboard.  Therefore – a big flare goes out for help (called a flare up versus a melt down), as this issue is way bigger than he can sort out for himself. 

So, there will be a day that transitioning from one rule book to the other is easier, as there is more fuel tucked away in the accessory tanks for such unexpected fuel emergencies, and there is certainly more spare fuel than previously when he ran on fumes all the time, but not quite enough to feel absolutely safe and secure that there is more than enough fuel to safely make it back to earth and into mom’s loving arms with ample fuel to spare – so red flags of caution are thrown up – just to make sure there is access to assistance at any point in time during the journey.

I hope these additional perspectives on rigidity are helpful.


Valerie MacLean is on Linked In

Posted February 24, 2011 by valeriemaclean
Categories: Uncategorized

Looking forward to meeting you on Linked In

Today’s Question: I was just wondering what the Handle perspective is on Television? I’m not a big fan of TV and only allow my children to watch as little as possible. Are there any instances where you feel it is helpful for children?

Posted February 24, 2011 by valeriemaclean
Categories: Uncategorized

Valerie’s Answer:  First, I do not believe there is a “HANDLE” answer/perspective to this.  I believe the most accurate answer would be….  It depends!

That is, we ask about TV watching and video watching as part of our Assessment process, as these are important observations to make.  Sometimes this gives us information about a child’s attention, reaction to energy, their visual system, and their visual auditory integration and more.

  •  That is, some people are not able to attend to anything external, even a television or a computer. This is important information for me.


  •  Some (including one of my former students) are so highly sensitive to energy that they absolutely cannot go on the computer (even though may really want to), or for very short periods of time. 


  • I then often inquire how is the computer room, office, television room set up (or computer lab at school).  This is important information again, especially if a child is expected to be on the computer at school and showing behaviours, and  “is disobedient” and “non-compliant” .


  • Having an idea of exposure to television, computers and videos can give other clues to their visual processing.


  • The TV, computers and videos provide information is integrated to the ears and eyes.  That is, the input received by the brain has visual and auditory information, to both of these systems at the same time (both playing simultaneously). 


  • Some children and adults may have a challenge in their visual and auditory integration system within their own brain processing systems.  When this occurs, it is as if there are   gaps in these systems and process info as if the sound and picture don’t match –yuk!


  • Therefore, these individuals may use television, videos and the computer as a method to seek respite, to compensate, as visual and auditory are “delivered to the brain integrated” from this outside source, and therefore do not need to do this for themselves.  This can have a seemingly calming or even “shut down” effect, as these individuals are not working so hard to input information.   


  • Additionally, the TV and computer is usually a very solitary activity, and not very helpful with social development. 


Therefore, I usually approach this as more of an investigation process.

With clients I don’t usually make any recommendations one way or the other about TV, unless the topic comes up.  I am more of the personality to try to educate people and validate their parenting choices, and promoting balance.  However, I have recommended decreasing exposure to TV/computer especially with a taxed visual system, and tried to offer substitutions. 

When it may be helpful?  I have three examples off the top of my head:

  • to utilize the time when an active child is already engaged in watching TV etc to do some of their therapies or their HANDLE program if their child is very active, and parents are not able to “catch them” during other times.  (I do remind parents that implementing their HANDLE program during their sleep is another possibility).


  • I have utilized a computer based central auditory processing program to aid in reading skills – utilizing the visual auditory integration to my advantage.  Some with a visual auditory integration challenge also have difficulties with the decoding skills of reading (versus sight reading), as their sound/symbol relationship is challenged.  The reading program from Lexia  is fantastic, and used it extensively with my former students.  This program’s main objective is to seemingly teach language, but does such by working through visual/auditory integration (which is an interhemispheric integration function).


  • When parents have utilized/experimented with other compensatory techniques, and either the child or the parent needs a time of calmness, and to take this crutch away completely would not be helpful.  I again speak about balance in this instance.  It is my intent to change the disorganized systems so the need decreases, yet in the interim, effective compensatory techniques are often helpful. 


Hope this answers your questions.  Valerie