Thursday, August 20, 2015

John's Pet Rock

It's John's birthday today (August 20, 2015). He wants a pet rock! This is better than the pet he wanted last year; a bearded dragon. I was not prepared to be storing crickets in my house to feed to a reptile, but a pet rock, I can handle. 
So I wasn't just going to present him with a rock….it took days to find the right rock…and then less than an hour in my art studio and voila! The rock was cold, so I thought it needed a hat (crocheted from red twine; the first 3 lines were crocheted in a circle and then I started to skip loops until the hat came to a point). And I found some remnant fabric and sewed a little cozy bed. It all sits in a simple box. All made from treasures in my art studio. I love my art studio….it has everything…except the rock.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sensory Processing

In my June Newsletter, I wrote about how I would be “that awesome parent” this summer. It’s not happening. The kids are out of control and I find myself (once again) buried in books about sensory processing, trying to find the solution. I’m having trouble getting all their sensory needs met. Add my sensory needs to the mix and I get lost in a maze of words.
Sensory processing (or the sensory system) includes information from the environment and the body, the senses, how the brain interprets the senses, and the responce to the senses. The response is usually what we’re interested in and want to change. To do that, we have to go back to the information or experience that triggered the sense, and then how the brain noticed (or didn’t notice) the sensory input. Was it too much, too little? And what do we do to alter the whole experience to create a desirable response. Are you lost?
So I gathered some information that (I hope) will get us out of this predicament. The information below was gathered from the SPD Foundation (, Wikipedia ( , and the books, Living Sensationally, Understanding Your Senses, by Winnie Dunn and The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz.

Sensory Processing
 “Sensory processing is the neurological process that organizes sensation from one's own body and the environment, thus making it possible to use the body effectively within the environment,” describes Wikipedia ( .
Sensory information from the environment helps us understand the world around us. We also have sensations inside ourselves that help us keep track of how are bodies are doing. To understand our bodies, we have touch sensors, body position sensors, movement sensors, and oral sensors. To understand the world around us, we have visual, auditory and smell sensors. See the list of senses below.
We experience life through our senses. Sensation is everywhere, but we all react differently to sensory experiences in our everyday life. We experience a sense of calm with some sensory experiences and get overwhelmed with other sensory experiences. The way we respond to a sensory experience is related to how quickly the brain notices the sensory input and what we do in response to make ourselves comfortable and satisfied. The responses we have adds to our understanding of human behaviour.

Sensory Processing Disorder
“Sensory processing disorder (SPD; also known as sensory integration dysfunction) is a condition that exists when multisensory integration is not adequately processed in order to provide appropriate responses to the demands of the environment….Sensory processing disorder is characterized by significant problems to organize sensation coming from the body and the environment and manifested by difficulties in the performance in one or more of the main areas of life: productivity, leisure and play or activities of daily living,” describes Wikipedia ( .

The SPD Foundation ( describes, “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.… A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.”

The Eight Senses
Interoception:  The internal sense, responsible for knowing you are hungry, feel sick or have to use the restroom.
ProprioceptionBody position sensor that tells us about our muscles, tendons, and joints. The position-sense keeps track of where our arms, legs, head, and body are even without seeing them. It helps understand what movement feels like inside your body. When people are less aware of their position-sense, it is difficult to make adjustments. This person would have trouble in an exercise program based on verbal instruction. Repositioning their body based on verbal instruction is difficult because they don’t understand what movement feels inside their body. They will need physical adjustments to help them position their body accordingly.
Vestibular:  Your sense of balance, of where your body is positioned in space – like lying down, turning upside down, jumping and climbing high off the ground. These sensors tell us how fast and in which direction your head is moving. Some people love the feeling of movement; they are the roller coaster riders, others prefer their movement receptors quieter.

Taste (gustatory)Oral sensors create a log of things that go in our mouth. We feel textures, temperatures and we taste flavours.
Touch (tactile)Touch sensors keep the brain informed about our skin and the edge of our body. Your sense of feeling, all over your skin; responsible for how your clothes feel, knowing there is food on your face, and having your hair combed or cut.
Smell (olfactory):  Your sense of what things smell like, from freshly baked cookies, to perfumes, soaps and skunks. We can map the world through our noses. Our brain categorizes smells and creates memory of them; which is why a smell can remind you of past events and places.

Sight (visual):  How you see things, responsible for picking out one object in many, recognizing facial expressions and adjusting your eyes to lighting conditions. Our visual sensory receptors catalogue light and colour. Some of us are more sensitive to visual input and prefer dim lighting, and monochromatic decorating with less contrast and familiar patterns. Others are delighted with flooding light, lots of vibrant colours and lots of contrast and interesting features. Our visual sensors develop maps of our surroundings, we use these maps along with our body maps to navigate our surroundings.

Hearing (auditory)Auditory sensations map space and distance around us. Responsible for knowing who to listen to in a crowded room, organizing directions for a task, and taking in the sound of an alarm or siren.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Travelling with Children

This article was written for The Beacon, July 2015 edition.

Why travel with children? Children need structure, routine and familiarity; all of which are difficult while travelling. But we (parents) do it anyway, every year, sometimes more than once a year, and sometimes every weekend. Why?
People are wired for personal growth. It is our destiny to grow as human beings and engage in personal development. And the best way to do this is to have children, despite the grim stats on the subject. Did you know that parenthood actually creates marital dissatisfaction? Data collected by John and Julie Gottmann of the Gottman Institute in Seattle reveals this very truth! Two thirds of couples that have children experience a break down in their relationship. But there is hope! I had the opportunity to study at the Gottman Institute to bring the renowned “Bringing Baby Home” program to the North Shore; helping couples with this transition to parenthood.
So it all makes's all a journey in self improvement; a journey that usually involves physically travelling with children.
There are many articles with wonderful tips about how to travel with children. Google “travelling with children” and you will find what you need. Start your journey by planning the holiday together with your children. Plan a list of activities for everyday and help your children create a scrapbook to record their memories. Buy a Polaroid camera so the kids can post their photos instantly in their scrapbook. Digital media can also be useful, but beware. Too many family photos get stuck in the digital world. They serve no purpose there.
Children love holding and looking at real photo albums; and it’s important for their development. While sitting together, looking at photo albums “help your kids talk about their experiences,” Dr. Daniel Seigel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson write in the Whole Brain Child, “Studies have clearly shown that the very act of recalling and expressing an event .... can improve immune and heart function, as well as general well-being.” 
My final advice for a happy vacation is to simply remember that happiness requires a lot of work and that’s okay. Family holidays can equip our children with a strong and happy foundation. They strengthen families by bringing them together for a common goal, creating shared meaning, trying new things together and most importantly, talking about those experiences. Ultimately, your journey isn’t just one of personal development; you are raising a generation.
So who in their right mind would travel with children? We do (parents). We don’t want our children just to survive; we want them to thrive. And family holidays can provide the kinds of experiences that will help raise resilient, well-integrated, happy children. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Painting Sensational Brownies

My daughter, Kate, invited me to her class on Thursday. I was her VIP and she wanted me to show off my art. My children know me as an artist; that’s a part of me I forget and, to often, take for granted. I guess children remind us of who we really are…. domenica mastromatteo.

My art is personal….it’s mine….it’s for me….and so hard to give/sell away, but I remember reading somewhere, once, long ago, that it’s our duty as human beings, to share our life and experiences with others, we’re suppose to learn from each other…..I’m trying…. I’m a private person, with a blog….I’m definitely trying!

But back to my art…. I realize it’s time for me to share that too, and so glad to be sharing with my daughter’s class. So I created my slide show and briefly spoke about my two passions! Art and Human Development, specifically, Parenting & Child Development. I spoke of the beginnings of Sensational Children and my wish to empower ALL families. I spoke of the combining my two passions and creating Sensational Art.

And then came the fun!

I brought out the sensational brownies, the edible food paint and ta-da!


I got them to create masterpieces and eat their fruits and vegetables!
The Sensational Brownies recipe is below along with instructions on how to make the edible paint. These brownies are delicious; even with spinach, blueberries and flax seed mixed in the batter! This mixture contains antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin C, folate, calcium and (a little bit) of iron!

But, yes, they are still dessert. They don’t replace fruit and veggies; meaning, in order to promote a healthy diet, we need to present veggies during mealtime. Children need to be exposed to many different varieties of foods. They need to smell the cooking vegetables and see them on the table. It’s our job to make nutritious foods available; it’s the child’s job to decide what and how much to eat. But you can feel better about (occasionally) allowing dessert; even after they’ve refused spinach for the hundredth time!

You should be able to increase the spinach to 1 cup and a half without any problems. These brownies really do takes great and their own, but if you’d like to re-create the art project, you’ll need to make a batch of royal icing. Spread a thin coat of icing on the brownies (crumb coat), then let rest until the icing hardens (about 30 minutes). Spread another layer of icing on top of the crumb coat (save some icing to make the paint). Cut into individual brownies. Let rest about 2 hours.

While you’re waiting, make the edible paint.

Spoon remaining icing into little containers. Add a few drops (between 5-  10 drops) of food colouring. Stir. PAINT!!

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects at least one in twenty children. Children with SPD don't process or experience sensory information the way other typical children do; therfore, they don't behave the way other children do. They struggle to perform tasks that come easier for other children. Consequently they suffer a loss of quality in their social, personal, emotional and academic life.

The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation is dedicated to continue their research into the knowledge and treatment of SPD, so that, as Lucy Jane Miller writes in her book "Sensations Kids", "the millions of sensational children currently "muddling through" daily life will enjoy the same hope and help that research and recognition already have bestowed on coutless other conditions that once baffled science and disrupted lives."