The Littlest Inventor

Littlest Inventor CoverThe Littlest Inventor by Mandi C. Mathis is the story of a young boy diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder that struggles with sensory overload when on a shopping trip with his parents. The crowds, noises and visual stimulation are just too much to handle. He grows nervous and feels a need to “fight or flight.” Instead of trying to run away, he decides to return home to create his own invention in order to overcome his own sensory overload. After getting home from the store, he runs up to his room to create a “contraption”. His invention included boots for his feet, headphones for his ears, goggles for his eyes and other extraneous items for the rest of his body (e.g. weighted vest, a chewy toy if needed, and a fidget for his hands). In his new uniform, he became a sensory superhero that conquers the shopping experience!

According to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation, “Sensory processing (sometimes called “sensory integration” or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or “sensory integration.” Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction”) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses.” For more information, visit the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation website.

Sensory Processing Disorder usually co-occurs with other varying disorders such as ADHD, Autism, Tourette’s Syndrome, etc. As a speech language pathologist who has worked with both children and adult with SPD for over 15 years, I see the struggles that these children and adults go through on a daily basis. Running a simple errand can result in a complete meltdown. A simple florescent light or specific smell can create anxiety and tension in an individual with SPD.

I found The Littlest Inventor to be an excellent book for children with SPD because the main character becomes his own advocate and is able to manage his sensory overload. Often many times, children and adults with SPD cannot advocate for themselves or verbally explain what they are feeling with regards to their sensory system. It is up to us as parents and therapists to recognize that our child can be struggling and give them the tools to help them feel comfortable. Once we provide these tools, the next step is helping them advocate for themselves so they can self soothe in a variety of situations.

buyitnow The Littlest Inventor

Are you interested in more children’s books about SPD? Check out Sensitive Sam, Sensitive Sam Visits the Dentist, It’s Haircut Time!, Picky Picky Pete, I Like Birthdays..it’s the parties I’m not sure about, and When My Worries Get Too Big.

Mandi pictureI am excited to share this interview with Mandi Mathis, author of The Littlest Inventor. Mandi is a practicing attorney at Cowsert and Avery, LLP, in Athens, Georgia, mother of two boys (Tyson, 8, and Sawyer, 6) and serves on the Butterfly Dreams Farm Therapeutic Riding Program’s Board of Directors. She was introduced to the world of Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder while running through the grocery store at a full sprint with my youngest son, Sawyer, tucked under my arm like a football while screaming at the top of his lungs. He was subsequently diagnosed with Asperger’s with sensory processing disorder. Teaching Sawyer to comfort, calm and advocate for himself is one of her greatest accomplishments. My website and blog are located at www.mandicmathis.com.

Mandi’s son will be featured in the cover article next month in the Autism Asperger’s Digest. Stay tuned!

1. What inspired you to write the book, The Littlest Inventor?
This is more of a “who” than a “what” question for me. My son Sawyer, age six, is actually an inventor. He wakes up each morning and goes to sleep each night with inventions foremost in his thoughts. He loves Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.
He was diagnosed with Asperger’s at 2 but even before then, it was incredibly difficult to take him anywhere. We didn’t know about his sensory processing issues at the time and leaving the house was always an ordeal. This book is a literary combination of Sawyer’s quirks and talents. I hope that kids like him will read it and be inspired and proud of their strengths and aptitudes. I hope they will enjoy reading about a kid like them. I hope parents will read it to their kids and be reassured with the positive message. When Sawyer was diagnosed years ago, positivity was not something I came across in my ASD research very often. I’d like to change that. When we believe in our kids and equip them to do their best, they will. We all understand the difficulties, but I really want more focus to be on the strengths.

2. In The Littlest Inventor, the boy creates his own tools to help him manage the sensory overload during the shopping experience. What tips would you suggest for parents to help children manage their own sensory overload?

Every kid is different of course. Occupational therapy and speech therapy have been invaluable for us. I have bought a million fidgets. Some have been good, some not. Sawyer uses a weighted blanket at night and has a weighted compression vest. He wears compression shirts, particularly to school or when we’re doing something uncomfortable, like doctor visits. He wears headphones sometimes. Chewing gum seems to help some. But mostly, we try to include him in everything we do. So we shorten the grocery trips, or go to the amusement park for half a day instead of a whole day. The more control we can give him, the better he seems to do as well.

3. How have you helped your own child become an advocate for himself?

We try to have the tools available that he may need so that he can ask for them and not be forced to deal with sensory overload without a way to cope. So I go to the movies with a purse full of fidgets. At school we leave his “heavy vest” and headphones. He also keeps a desk full of fidgets. He doesn’t have to use any of it at any particular time, but it’s available and he will ask if he needs it. We also told him stories about his Aspie-super powers from age 2. Having Asperger’s is not a liability for Sawyer, it’s a wonderful aspect of his brilliant personality.

 

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