I am excited to present this interview with Noreen O’Sullivan. I have had the pleasure of interviewing and getting to know Noreen over email these past few weeks. I have found Noreen to be inspirational because of her mission to help others and her positive spirit. To see the full review of I’ll Tell You Why..I Can’t Wear Those Clothes, click here. Read this interview below! Thank you Noreen for your wonderful advice!
What inspired you to write a children’s book about tactile defensiveness?
One evening, before we knew what Tactile Defensiveness was, my 4 year old daughter was in the midst of a complete meltdown because she was cold but couldn’t bear the feeling of pajamas or even blankets on her body- she grabbed my attention with her intense gaze and yelled “ Mommy, you HAVE to HELP me!”. That was my “Aha” moment. I knew right then that I had a very important job. I devoted my every waking moment to the cause.
Firstly, I needed to find out what was happening to her, educate myself about it, and get her help. Finally, find a way to grab the hearts of those who might not understand ANY child suffering from this condition. So I wrote a simple and interactive book for children and their families/caregivers to see the world through the eyes of a child with TD- “I’ll Tell You Why… I Can’t Wear Those Clothes!”.
A book that can be customized to every child’s specific issue and need, as there is no one size fits all list of symptoms when it comes to sensory issues. The hope is that the world will be a bit more compassionate, understanding, and accepting of a child with any kind of difference.
What is some shopping advice you can give to parents who have children with tactile defensiveness? (e.g. what types of clothes, things to look for, things to avoid, etc.).
My daughters are now 13 and 17 years old and completely free from tactile defensiveness, so I’m glad you asked this question as I feel I learned a lot by trial and error over the years..
My number one advice of what you can buy, is from the grocery store! Whole foods, unprocessed, organic whenever possible. Rather than a restrictive diet I recommend “crowding out”. Start adding new and healthy options into your home, to eventually crowd out the bad guys. Example, I started buying gluten free pasta options and swapping a handful out of the wheat pasta each time I served it until I had finally transitioned them to a whole portion of gluten free pasta. Same went went for after school snacks. I got them into the kitchen, helping prepare more fruit, veggie, nut and seed based ingredients. A great book to start introducing “crowding out” options is “Life Changing Foods” by Anthony William.
The recipes are very easy to follow and the kids will love helping as there are great photographs for each recipe. All recipes are gluten and dairy free- so keep this in the back of your mind when shopping in general. Choose wheat and dairy free alternatives whenever possible, as I have seen, time and time again, the havoc these 2 ingredients have on a sensitive body.
As for sensory clothing look for soft and seamless items, buttonless, leggings rather than jeans. I’ve had 2 girls with varying sensory issues and the preferences were very individual. One insisted on silk- the other only polyester! So ask and listen. Take your child shopping let them touch, try on and allow them to say “no thank you, not today”. Be prepared to come home empty handed if they didn’t find a match and be ok with that. Don’t give up. I also recommend hand me downs and second hand shops as the clothes are often lovingly worn to a comfortable softness. So that might be a good place to start. I recommend detergent for sensitive skin, without chemical and fragrances. And remember one day or more, with holes in their socks really won’t harm anyone. I’d love to share the photos of the outfits we let them go out in so they felt comfortable! Remember, it’s not about you, your child is suffering and it is your job to hear and respect them. Unfortunately, Soft Clothing is no longer in business but I this is a great blog with some helpful tips:
Great sites for a variety of clothing, weighted items, and many more sensory tools:
Amazon offers a wide variety of sensory toys for improving tactile processing, including the highly recommended Wilbarger Protocol brushes– which all Occupational Therapists should be familiar with and can guide you to implement into your child’s daily routine.
All that said, the number one advise I have for you as parents cannot be ordered online.
It’s UNCONDITIONAL LOVE- for your child and mostly for yourself! If you’ve read to the end of this post you’ve already given love by opening your awareness. There will be good days and bad days – remember you are doing your best and are only human. Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Take baby steps and you will get there. Sending love, Noreen.