Legacy of Hope

This is a poem written by Brandon Reyes. You can watch a video of Brandon reciting this spoken word poem here:

Legacy of Hope

by: Brandon Reyes

Distant, unfocused, struggles making friends
Or keeping simple rules
Tends to act out in violence
Keeps falling behind in his school

There was a time when these labels
Would’ve meant the end of a kid
And rather than ask why he did what he did
As you might with a friend with whom you had bonded
We only noticed he’d flipped his lid
Put our foot down, drew a line, and responded

But it turns out that when your thoughts
Are centered on survival
You don’t care much for math
Or the pilgrim’s arrival

When your belly is empty
Because you couldn’t find food
And instead of hugged
You were belittled or bruised

When your safety is threatened
Whether real or merely perceived
The only reasonable reaction really
Is to fight flight or freeze

So be careful to judge based on surface commotion
We all are more complicated than our outer emotions
See a sad child can come across hateful and angry
And a scared kid can look downright wild or crazy

But if only we can see past bad behavior
To the unmet needs that are hiding beneath
We can take that fear captive
Love can get traction
Healing can happen
And a kid can be freed

Now for those that might be skeptic
Or for those who have never heard this
And are maybe feeling a little nervous
Let me tell you what we’ve learned
From the work of Dr. Karyn Purvis

See when a brain develops
It needs safety and nurture
As a precursor to develop further

When instead of loved
One’s abused or neglected
Brain development slows
And everything is affected:

Emotions and the ability to regulate one’s self
Relationships, behaviors, reason, focus, and health

And when all of one’s efforts are spent staying alive
The brain of a nine year old
Can look closer to five

Then when that same kid’s expected to act his age
Of course he’s going to disengage

But every brain’s plastic
And what this means
Is that each can still change
Whether toddler or teen

This gives us great hope
That with informed interventions
A person can heal
As their brain makes new connections

This doesn’t just happen though
We must be intentional
With some dos and do nots
That may at first seem unconventional

Now before we dive in
We must address expectations
As trust must be established
And this demands patience

For compliance that’s won
From compulsion or shame
Is to win the match but to lose the game

If we want to attain a constructive affect
We must learn to “connect” before we “correct”

This leads me right in
To something every kid needs
It’s the “do-over” and with it
A poor choice is redeemed

Then in place of punishment
Or tongue lashing
That leads to self-loathing
It becomes an opportunity
For learning and growing

Then if they take advantage
The second time around
And behave in ways that are healthy
Hugs and praises abound

In this way the relationship
Is strengthened and cultivated
Good conduct is enforced
And no one’s left feeling hated

In addition we all yearn
To be given a voice
A safe way to encourage this
Is to offer a choice

This book or that one?
Red shirt or blue?
It means mountains to kids
But costs little of you

Then you don’t come across
As leading with oppression
And having gained some control
There’s less need for aggression

Moving on, another strategy
For preventing hostility
Empowers and brings unity
But requires great humility

Get down at their level
Smile and wait for their eyes
Then set aside pride
And invite compromise

Now when you’ve tried your best
But it just wasn’t enough
And now emotions are high
And behaviors are rough

Don’t banish them off
To sulk in isolation
Stay with them
Be patient
Spare them the desolation

Let your words be few
Then once they’ve calmed down
Remind them how much they’re cherished
And wanted around

How nothing they could ever do
Could chage their high inherent worth
It’s no more on their best day
No less on their worst

Just try this and see
As they learn that you care
That with love and security
There’s no more need to despair

Now if you’re worried this is too
Touchy-feely or weird
Let me assure you
You have nothing to fear

This wasn’t dreamed up
In a vacuum or bubble
But through research and practice
With real kids in real trouble

And with patience and grace
And faith that God is redeeming
There’s not a single kid out there
Beyond hope
And healing


November Monthly Challenge

Happy Thanksgiving. Autumn has come. The air is moist and chilled. Heaters have turned on. Clothes are layered and heavy. Leaves crunch. It is dark at 5:00pm. People are making plans for the holidays. Maybe there was some tension as the elections approached (or afterward.)

The TBRI Empowering Principle has two components: physiological strategies and ecological strategies. Autumn is a time of year that brings some challenges in proactively implementing ecological strategies. There are many transitions occurring inside our homes, in schools, and in nature. This brings opportunities for co-regulation and proactively addressing (and planning) to meet your child’s needs.

This month’s challenge is designed to help you determine what needs your child might have. Ready? Set. Go!

The first part is very simple. You will just write your name and address.

Here’s what you’ll need:

paper, pen/pencil, timer.

Step 1: Set the timer for 20 seconds. I timed myself four times doing this with my dominant hand, and I have a long name. It averaged 8 seconds, so 20 should be more than enough for you.

Step 2: Start the timer. Write your name and address, with your non-dominant hand. If you cannot complete it, legibly, in 20 seconds, you will have to do it again until you get it right.

For this section you will need:

A pair of Dollar Store reading glasses and something to read

If you wear glasses with a Rx of +/- 2.0 or higher, you will take them off. If you do not wear glasses, you will need to use a pair of dollar store readers +/- 2.0 at least. With the altered vision, read whatever is close by.

This last section requires:

gardening/rubber gloves (like for dish washing, not the kind doctors wear)

some paperclips spread out on a flat surface

a soda or water bottle

Put your gloves on and put the paperclips into the bottle.

How did each it feel to complete each of these tasks? These are mild simulations of what it can feel like for children with sensory processing difficulties. Now if you add to those difficulties, the pressure of wanting to please someone (parent, teacher, peer, sibling) who is waiting for you, it adds another layer of difficulty. Then on top of that pressure, add the fear that if you do not complete this you may be harmed, left alone, or punished. Is your heart racing? Are you finding it harder to concentrate? Are your hands starting to shake? Come on, these are simple tasks and people are waiting for you.

Stanley Greenspan, the author of The Challenging Child: Understanding, Raising, and Enjoying the Five “”Difficult”” Types of Children describes sensory processing/integration with this great analogy.

“Imagine driving a car that isn’t working well. When you step on the gas the car sometimes lurches forward and sometimes doesn’t respond. When you blow the horn it sounds blaring. The brakes sometimes slow the car, but not always. The blinkers work occasionally, the steering is erratic, and the speedometer is inaccurate. You are engaged in a constant struggle to keep the car on the road, and it is difficult to concentrate on anything else.” It’s no wonder children with sensory processing disorders feel out of control, exhibit a whole host of behaviors, and have difficulty concentrating and focusing.

How will you help your precious child enjoy the holiday season? What steps can you take to alter the environment for them? Do they need some headphones to drone out the excess noise? Are all of the smells of the seasons overwhelming? Maybe they could use an essential oil on their wrists or on a bandanna. It gets dark so early. Are they thrown off and unsure of the time of day? Maybe a clock that lights/dims or has soothing sounds at certain times will help them adjust their circadian rhythm. Could you give verbal cues throughout the afternoon and evening, acknowledging that it is different. Your schedule may be back to back with To Dos to get the shopping, baking, visiting, and decorating done. Prioritize together and prepare a written schedule. Then talk about how you and your child will identify when they need a break from the hustle and bustle.

Above all else, stay CONNECTED to your precious child and work diligently to ensure they FEEL connected to you.

Leave me a comment and let me know how the challenges went for you and what you will do proactively.


Constant Gentleness

Why do we have to be constantly gentle with our youngsters. When parenting I’m task oriented. It takes a lot of planning, organization and direction to the troops to keep our home running smoothly. It’s hard for me in the moment of just wanting something to get done or to happen to remember that being quiet and gentle will go further in the long run toward our children becoming healthy adults.

Children are more likely to be traumatized by a new situation if they have been traumatized before—especially if the earlier trauma occurred in childhood. This includes raised voices and angry or frustated tones. Experiencing trauma in childhood can have a severe and long-lasting effect. Children who have been traumatized see the world as a frightening and dangerous place. When childhood trauma is not resolved, this fundamental sense of fear and helplessness carries over into adulthood, setting the stage for further trauma.

What steps will you take to be mindful of your demeanor? How will you take care of yourself to be in a good mind space in order to guide your child there? Perhaps you need to talk with a therapist a few times (most employers have EAP) to figure out your triggers or your attachment style. Do you need to up the exercise or yoga time to keep your endorphins up? When was the last time you ate a vegetable? Maybe you need to make a date night a priority to reconnect with your spouse and feel loved.

My new mantra in those moments of frustration is this:

“This isn’t about this moment in time… it’s about her lifetime.”



It has been hot and humid here in Upstate NY this summer.  I admit that we have not had even half as many outdoor adventures as we typically do.  Even bike rides have resulted in sopping wet clothes and chugging a gallon of water.

It has also meant short tempers and limited patience… for each member of the family.

So the August challenge is this:

Find an activity that every member of the family enjoys (a challenge in and of itself I know) to cool off with.  For my girls and I this is swimming, but it does not include my husband who hates to swim.  He would rather head to the movie theater.  So our compromise: movie character squirter tag!

We play tag but to limit the running (remember it’s hot!) whoever is it has a soaker.  When “it” gets you wet, you have to freeze until another person touches you and says the name of a movie character.  When only one person is unfrozen, they are the new “it.”

We prefer to end this activity with dry clothes and popsicles.


DIY Sensory Tools

We often see pretty cool looking sensory tools and activities but then we head toward purchasing them the sticker shock knocks us back into flight or freeze!

I am not a particularly crafty person (although toddlers and preschoolers think I’m pretty nifty.)  I can barely sew (never a straight line!)  So when I seek out to save money with a DIY project it rarely comes out well.  But, when it does I am over the moon proud of myself!

I have had some pretty heavy posts of late so this one is meant to be encouraging and uplifting.  I am going to share some of my DIY/money saving successes!


Balance Board:

** Once children have mastered the balance, add another level by playing catch or tug of war while they are on the board.  Have them stand on the board while coloring a picture taped to the wall.

Water Beads:

** My girls LOVE these things.  I would see them on Pinterest and other places but at craft stores and even the Dollar Store they were beyond my budget.  One tablespoon of these tiny little beads added to a gallon of water for 12-24 hours creates hours of play.  They enjoy checking on their growth every few hours (in reality they are ready for play in about 3 hours, just not at full size.)  Add some tools like these: Fine Motor Tools for even more play.  When the children are ready, start smooshing and popping them.  When they’re feeling really brave, let them step into a pan of them!  Listen for the squeals and laugh together.  They are fun to sort by color, size, make different patterns and designs.

Hop Balls: Hop Balls for Children and Adults 

I kid you not, this was probably the best purchase we made for our girls in the last three years.  They love them!  The activities are endless, they’re great for regulating, and a great way for exercise during cold, winter months.

Swing/Plasma CarSwing Car

These do not work on carpet!  They’re okay on a paved surface but work best on bare floors.  I actually picked mine up as an impulse buy at Aldi’s.  Again, the girls LOVE it!  This and the hop balls are the sure-fire activities that will bring them together to play.

Squish Box:  You can purchase a squeezee canoe or large bean bag for $100 OR, buy the biggest rubbermaid tub you can find.  They get pretty big!  Then, fill it with blankets, pillows, and other soft objects (also a great way to store these things 😉) Voila! A relaxing, enclosed space with some compression!  Great for reading, iPad, watching TV, whatever.

Weighted Lap Pad or Animal: Weighted Stuffed Animal.  If you can sew, at all, a popular item right now is sequin fabric.  Pick some up at Joann Fabric and use on one side of a simple pillow with a preferred texture on the other side (fleece, satin, cotton…) My oldest likes to “draw” pictures in the sequins.  She likes to hold it during TV time or in the car.


Scented Play Dough! Homemade Play Doh  I have one daughter who will entertain herself with playdough for three hours.  The other, with encouragement, will use it for three minutes.  I like to add an essential oil that correlates to the color… (the green is peppermint, the white is vanilla, the purple lavendar, etc)  To encourage my tactile resistant little one I wrap the dough around a toy or put a small treat in an easter egg and wrap it in dough.  The excitement of the surprise is usually enough to entice her.  It’s also a sneaky way to work in finger strengthening exercises!  


Puffy Paint: DIY Puffy Paint 

Olfactory Memory: Use small storage containers (empty Rx bottles work great) and place pantry spices in them (2 of each spice!)  Place them on the table and try to find the matches!  You can also use an egg carton and put a dab of essential oil on cotton balls.  Try to find the matches.  (Parent tip: use a marker to label the bottom of the bottle or the carton.)

***     Family activities that create something or science experiments are excellent means for connecting while incorporating sensory sensations!  Encourage your child to listen, look, smell, feel all the time!  When was the last time you paid attention to the way your produce feels in your hand?  ***