Sensory Processing Disorder and the Tween Years

April 30, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

The most difficult thing about parenting a tween or young teen with sensory processing disorder is constantly reminding oneself that people don’t outgrow SPD. It may feel that way for a few years during upper elementary because it’s likely by then that your child learned successful coping strategies for most age-appropriate sensory experiences. But then the tween years hit, and a whole new sensory world opens up. Puberty, orthodontia, middle school, large growth spurts, higher expectations to meet cultural beauty norms, and ever-expanding social experiences.

It’s enough to make you scream, let alone your child living with SPD.

With large growth spurts and puberty comes a resurgence of hormones. We’ve found that the Tongginator struggles more with sensory issues during hormone surges. The 18 months prior to her first period (when she also grew six inches) felt exceptionally difficult. She struggled to self-regulate, more so than the average tween/ young teen. She still needed her sensory diet, but most of the activities felt “too babyish” or “embarrassing.” The husband and I learned to step back, allowing her to find new and different ways to regulate her sensory needs. And we basically rode out the storm while she did so. Playing on a playground was no longer “cool,” but riding her bike, going for a walk or swim, or jumping on a trampoline seemed okay. No more therapeutic brushing because that’s completely inappropriate now, but using a loofah in the shower rather than a washcloth helps.

Puberty brought with it a gamut of new sensory experiences. I will try my best to be delicate here, so let me simply say that the average tween or young teen girl often finds it difficult to adjust to bras, feminine products and new hygiene requirements. Now add SPD to the mix. If your child struggles with motor planning, teaching her how to shave her underarms can be both challenging and hilarious. If she has tactile sensitivities, bras and maxi pads just aren’t comfortable. Face wash, deodorant and acne cream “feel weird.” As a mom, you have to be willing to go the extra mile to teach new skills, not to mention finding brands and products that “feel okay.” And you have to do all of it with humor, patience and a tremendous amount of sensitivity.

As girls with SPD age, they also have the additional challenge of ever-increasing expectations to meet cultural beauty norms. A nine-year-old girl can wear sensory-friendly clothing and sport a messy hairdo with few social repercussions. Oh, how I wish that were so even three years later. Make-up, fashionable clothing and more complicated hairstyles: it becomes the norm in middle school. For the most part, we allow the Tongginator to take the lead in these areas. We expect her to keep herself clean, and to dress modestly in weather-appropriate ways, but that’s pretty much it. She’s managed to find clothing that is both comfortable for her and fashionable. She now wears a small amount of make-up (face powder, blush, lip gloss), but we tried out several brands before she found one that she couldn’t “feel” on her face. I pay more than average for her to have her hair cut in a salon – her hairstylist does a better job than most, so typically her hair looks neat and cute with little effort. My view is that – when I can – I will go the extra mile if it means minimizing the social challenges that come with SPD and one’s appearance.

And then there’s middle school: larger class sizes, crowded hallways, locker combinations, gym uniforms, navigating more complicated class schedules, the social jungle that is the school cafeteria. It’s a rough road in middle school. The husband and I – and thankfully her elementary school – did what we could to help with the adjustment. For example, the Tongginator felt extremely nervous about middle school lockers, so we started practicing in July. After weeks of unsuccessful attempts, I actually purchased a second combination lock so that we could practice side-by-side. It finally “clicked” when she could watch me while attempting it herself. We found gym shorts that felt comfortable and looked “the same” as the school gym shorts, though there was nothing I could do about the uniform top. For that, she just had to deal. Parenting a tween/ teen with SPD is a delicate balance of compassion and “you just have to cope.” The husband and I walk that rocky path with a lot of prayer and a bit of humor.

Social challenges ramp up in middle school for all tweens and teens. It can be especially tough for our sensory kids. Consider the ever-expanding list of social experiences – church youth group, school dances, more activity-based experiences such as paintball and amusement parks. Talk about sensory overload! Plus, middle school brings with it more nighttime activities – especially difficult for a tween with SPD who struggles to fall asleep after being overstimulated. The husband and I do our best to help the Tongginator select activities that stretch her without overwhelming her. One late night a week – on Friday – is difficult, but doable. Newspaper club and band are a great fit, but the school play? With its scratchy costumes, stage lights and heavy make-up? Yeah – that’s a recipe for disaster. But again, we gently guide and support rather than dictate, even if the Tongginator’s choices scream out “that’s a mistake.” Honestly, we won’t know until she tries it, which means we must have a lot of patience and compassion during a first attempt. After the first go-around, though, it’s all about “you knew what you were getting into, honey, so you just have to deal.”

And then there are parental expectations… there are some things the Tongginator most likely will never outgrow. She’s still a messy eater, often dropping and spilling more food than her five-year-old sister. I sweep under her chair more often than I do her sister’s. She will always be clumsy – watching her help unload and load the dishwasher induces a stress reaction every time. I have to leave the room. (Seriously.) But that’s just reality – she’s most likely not gonna outgrow this – so we have to accept who she is, how she is, with a loving attitude.


Tween and young teens with sensory processing disorder feel even more self-conscious than their typical peers. They know they are different. They feel those differences even more than they ever have before. Middle school kids aren’t known for their tact, so they might even point out those differences, and not always in a kind manner. It’s our job as parents to help our sensory tweens understand why they are the way they are – to give a name to it. It’s our job to gently stretch them so that they learn to accommodate more of the world, since the world won’t stretch to accommodate them as they age. They won’t outgrow SPD, but they will grow in their coping strategies to deal with their SPD.

And it’s our job to love and fully accept them for who they are, how they are, no matter what.

Urgent Aging Out Child: Rebekah

April 30, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Rebekah is 13 years old and will age out of the adoption system on her 14th birthday in November.


Rebekah is an HIV carrier and lives in a group home setting with other children who have also tested positive for HIV. She was with her birth family and cared for by the community until she came to the group home at age 4. She attends private school where she is a good student. Rebekah has three friends at school and one friend at the group home, but no best friend. She is also close with a specific caregiver. Rebekah can be described as a bright, sensitive child who is good at caring for her own needs and very tidy. She interacts well with adults and likes to take care of younger children. Her personality is passive and introverted although she will let you know if she is very angry. She has been observed to be less social than others in her peer group. A few of her favorite activities are playing hackie-sack, skating, bike riding and playing on her cell phone. Holt staff members who met Rebekah noted that she made good eye contact, answered questions readily and often showed off her big, beautiful smile! She has glasses to correct a vision problem, but doesn’t like to wear them. Photos are on file-please contact us for more information. Rebekah needs a family who can complete her adoption before she ages out of adoption in November 2016. We believe she would fit best in a family without children close to her age at home so that she can be showered with the individual attention she needs to develop healthy relationships.


A Holt ambassador who met Rebekah in October 2015 had this to say about her:

“Last week I was in China hanging out with an amazing group of kids at a children’s HIV home. One of the gals I had the privilege of spending alot of time with was Rebekah. She is a quiet , sweet spirited, talented and beautiful girl. Her hobbies include riding bikes and roller skating. She has a servant’s heart and was always in tune with what I was doing and would eagerly help me with whatever I needed. She was a joy to have by my side in China. Such a sweetheart! I have great hope that some family out there will choose her as their daughter. She is so lovable and desirable. She told me that she wants to move to America and when I asked her why she said, “I want a family.” Will you join me in asking God to give her this desire of her sweet heart?”

Contact Holt for inquiries about adopting this child.

International Adoption Clinics: Services and Locations

April 29, 2016 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments

I can still remember getting ‘the call’ during our first adoption process. Our agency coordinator was on the phone and they had a file for us to review. I remember the many different emotions I felt as we opened the file and photos and began to read. Within an hour of opening the file I had contacted the International Adoption Clinic (IAC) at our local children’s hospital, emailed them the file and photos, and set up an appointment with the IAC doctor to review and go over everything. A few days later we said yes to that file, and a few weeks after arriving home with our new son we visited that same IAC for a comprehensive post-adoption appointment.

Having an IAC review a file is the first step many families take when considering a child, and the IAC is often one of the first medical appointments a child has upon arriving home. Services commonly offered by IACs include:

• Pre-adoption services aimed at education and preparing prospective adoptive for the unique medical and developmental issues internationally adopted children may face. This typically includes review of all medical information, files, photographers, videos, etc. by an IAC physician followed by a phone or in person consultation with the family. In general, the IAC physician will go over the medical information contained in the file, evaluate photos/video, consult with other specialists if needed, provide questions that would be helpful to ask the agency/orphanage. Many IAC will also provide prescriptions for travel.

• During travel, most IACs offer ‘on-call’ support allowing you to email/call the IAC with any questions or concerns while you are in country.

• Post-adoption services begin once home and include identifying medical, developmental, and emotional issues. The post adoption IAC visits typically include such things as a complete physical examination, labs, hearing and vision screenings, referrals to specialists, development assessment and evaluation with a psychologist, evaluations with speech and physical therapists, meeting with IAC social worker, and referral to therapy services and early intervention.


Last year NHBO began a new project aimed at expanding the resources section of the website for each stage of the adoption process. And because IACs play such an important role in the pre-travel and newly home stages of adoption, we decided that a list of International Adoption Clinics by state would be a great addition to the growing list of resources.

Below you will find a list of International Adoption Clinics, alphabetized by state.


Children’s Hospital of Alabama
Birmingham, AL
Dr. Jennifer Chambers & Dr. Carin Kiser


Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach
Long Beach, CA
Dr. Gary Feldman

USCF Benioff Children’s Hospital
Oakland, CA
Dr. Nany Curtis


Children’s Hospital Colorado
Aurora, CO


Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital
New Haven, CT
Dr. Carol Weitzman & Dr. Warren Andiman


Nemours Children’s Hospital
Orlando, FL

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
St. Petersburg, FL
Dr. Juan Dumois & Dr. Joel Shulkin


University of Chicago Comer Children’s
Chicago, IL
Dr. Larry Gray

Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Chicago, IL


Riley Hospital for Children
Indianapolis, IN


Children’s Mercy Hospital
Kansas City, KS
Dr. Douglas Swanson & Dr. W. Scott Colliton


Kentucky Children’s Hospital
Lexington, KY
Dr. Shawn Taylor


Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and Kennedy Krieger Institute
Baltimore, MD


Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center
Boston, MA
Dr. John Sargent


University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN
Dr. Dana Johnson, Dr. Judith Eckerl, Dr. Cynthia Howard


St. Louis Children’s Hospital
St. Louis, MO
Dr. Rachel Orscheln

Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital
St. Louis, MO
314-577-5643 ext. 2
Dr. Jennifer Ladage

Children’s Mercy Hospital
Kansas City, MO
Dr. Douglas Swanson & Dr. W. Scott Colliton


Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Columbus, OH
Dr. Aarti Chandawarkar

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
Cincinnati, OH
Dr. Mary Allen Staat

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital
Cleveland, OH
Dr. Elaine Schulte

UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Cleveland, OH
Dr. Denise Bothe


The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA
Dr. Susan Friedman, Dr. Rachel Hachen, Dr. Katie Lockwood


Hasbro Children’s Hospital
Providence, RI


Children’s Hospital Greenville Health System
Greenville, SC
Dr. Robin LaCroix, Dr. Joshua Brownlee, Dr. Sue Jue

MUSC Children’s Hospital
Charleston, SC
Dr. Angela LaRosa & Dr. Andrea Summer


Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt
Nashville, TN
Dr. Alice Rothman


Texas Children’s Hospital
Houston, TX
Dr. Mary Paul, Dr. Susan Gillespie, Dr. Elizabeth Collins

Children’s Health
Dallas, TX


Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters
Virginia Beach, VA
Dr. Douglas Mitchell

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU
Richmond, VA
Dr. Suzanne Lavoie

University of Virginia Children’s Hospital
Charlottesville, VA
Dr. Mark Mendelsohn & Dr. Sarah Boggs


Center for Adoption Medicine
Seattle, WA
Dr. Julia Bledsoe, Dr. Julian Davies, Dr. Cynthia Kertesz


Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Milwaukee, WI

If you know of an IAC not listed, or if you find a broken link, please leave a comment or use our contact form to let us know.


We’ve Got This: Parenting a Child with CP

April 29, 2016 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


My son has Cerebral Palsy. Mild Right Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy to be specific, which means only the right side of his body is affected. If you see him running by on the playground or the soccer field, you might never even notice he has physical difficulties. If you have an idea in your mind of …Read More

Sensory Bins 101

April 28, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Over the years, we’ve had a lot of fun with sensory bins. A few of my little loves are sensory-seeking (often craving sensory input of all kinds), so these bins can be a super interesting way to get them what they need. The great thing about sensory bins is that the possibilities are absolutely limitless. …Read More

Find My Family: Jade

April 28, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Jade has resided in a foster family since birth. She is fond of playing with other kids, and shares toys with them. She pays attention to keeping clean, she likes wearing pretty clothes. Jade was born with a cleft palate which was repaired in 2009. She has delayed language and cognitive development. She goes to …Read More

I Never Felt Called to Adopt

April 27, 2016 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments


I never felt called to adopt. For me, adoption was simply the way God chose to build our family. In 2011 we adopted our son Sean who is now seven years old. In 2013 we adopted our daughter Elliana who is now five. When people first started saying that adoption was a beautiful thing for …Read More

Xia Waits

April 26, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Xia will turn six years old in May. She is outgoing and active-she’s described as an extrovert. Xia likes to play with other children, listen to music, and watch TV. She likes toys with bright colors or toys that play music. Xia attends kindergarten which she enjoys. She turns her homework in on time and …Read More

When Jesus Tells You What To Do

April 25, 2016 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


A Hot Mess This week I got into a conversation about these two big ideas called expiation and propitiation. Sounds fun, right? Don’t worry, I’m not going to open up the discussion here. It’s really boring unless you’re a theology nerd. For sure, it’s an important doctrine, but how important? Important enough to argue over? …Read More

Find My Family: Theo

April 24, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Theo was placed in his foster family at birth in May of 2014. He was born blind, and has had two eye surgeries in December 2014 and September 2015. Due to his blindness he is not as comfortable with new people, but he enjoys being held and interacting with his foster mother. He can walk …Read More

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