How To Bring Our Biological Systems into Better Rhythm: 6 Research Based Strategies to Combat the Effects of Stress


Cortisol. The stress hormone.  

 He’s been surging into my life lately. Trying to find the right rhythm for my day has been hard. Meeting the wide-ranging needs of our students …the responsibilities and expectations of our job…being present as a husband and father…modeling a positive wellbeing for my own kids…nurturing relationships with my friends… all contribute to the tempo of my week.  Each part of our lives is like a section of the orchestra.  And currently, my ensemble is not playing together at all. I can almost feel the cortisol pumping through me. And I know I need to make some changes to get back into rhythm. Life experiences and reading have helped me to understand the cues and triggers.

 But I’m 39.  So I believe it is crazy to expect a 4 year old or an 8 year old or even a teenager to know what to do when their lives our filled with stressful experiences.

 As the adults, we must model positive defaults on a daily basis to help the children in our lives find their own personal rhythm. Much of my life has been spent picking myself up and getting back to “zero” and in balance each day.  If I pushed myself enough I could get into the positive, but it took a great deal of energy.  I see the great therapists, counselors, teachers and doctors out there helping people of all ages work their way back to center, but what if we put daily activities into place where we have had a better shot of starting closer to zero and then heading into the positive?  What would happen then?  What could we do each day to help our kids wellbeing? Doctors, therapists, teachers and counselors could really go to work and make an even bigger difference.

 These thoughts came into mind after reading Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ book The Deepest Well about the long-term effects of adversity.  Dr. Burke Harris is a pediatrician in San Francisco and the CEO of Center for Youth Wellness.  She won the Heinz Award for her work promoting awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and has some insight that can help mitigate the effects of adverse experiences and toxic stress.

 You can see her awesome TED talk that has close to 5 million views here:

 “ACEs” comes from Dr. Vincent Felitti’s CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, a groundbreaking public health study that discovered that childhood trauma leads to the adult onset of chronic diseases, depression and other mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence, as well as financial and social problems.  

 The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Questionnaire was developed to identify childhood experiences of neglect, abuse, or family dysfunction. The survey consists of ten questions. Each affirmative answer is assigned one point. At the end of the questionnaire, the points are totaled for a score out of ten, which is known as the ACE score.  As the number of adverse experiences increase, so does the risk for varying outcomes in adulthood. These outcomes may include impairment of social, emotional, and cognitive development, and higher risk of developing health problems.  The study found that two-thirds of people had a score of one and 40% of people had two or more. 

 ACEs are stressful events that harm children’s developing brains.  These experiences may lead to changing how the child may respond to stress in the future. They can also damage the immune system so profoundly that the effects show up decades later.

Our brains are constantly shifting in response to the environments we come across. If we incorporate practices that build resilience, our brains can slowly undo many of the stress induced changes that had occurred prior. Dr. Felitti, (from original ACEs study), Dr. Burke Harris, and others found that individuals’ brains and bodies become healthier through six resilience-building practices.  The six activities include:

1.    Good nutrition

2.    Adequate sleep

3.    Exercise

4.    Mindfulness practices

5.    Mental health care

6.    Healthy social interactions

 From The Happiness Advantage:

“Waiting to be happy limits our brain’s potential for success, whereas cultivating positive brains makes us more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative, and productive, which drives performance upward.” 


After reading the research a simple thought crossed my mind. What are we doing to our kids?  We are not cultivating positive brains.  We are focusing on the wrong things.  

 To think that we as adults are pushing our kids in this direction makes me sad.  We want to build this great building with a wonderful penthouse view. We have great dreams for our kids to get to that top floor, but the foundation is incredibly weak.  We are solely focused on having our students scoring at a certain level to be promoted to fourth grade or achieving a certain score on the SAT to get into a college.  This is the view from that top floor penthouse. All the while, the foundation has cracks and is sinking right below them.

If you want to read about ACEs from a child’s point of view, click here

We need to consider connecting Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the six resilience-building practices for ourselves and for our kids.  At the base of the pyramid are the physiological needs.  Learning about sleep hygiene, good nutrition, and the importance of exercise.  If you need proof of the importance of exercise and what it can do for the brain take a look at Naperville Schools in Illinois (from Spark).  

 Once this base is set, we can move up to the next level: safety needs.  We can start incorporating mindfulness activities and providing mental health care.  These can be included in daily routines to help students cope, emotional regulation, mood, empathy, and self-compassion.

 Finally, to round out the six resilience activities, we can focus on creating healthy relationships. Can we have the older children become mentors or “big brothers/big sisters” to the younger children?  Could we connect more with community members?  Can we join or create tribes that we can relate too?  Resilience will build throughout life and close relationships are very important.  Research suggests that just one caring, safe relationship early in life gives any child a much better shot at growing up healthy.

With the strong foundation created by the six resilience-building practices, we are ready to build toward that penthouse view. With cortisol levels managed through these practices, we certainly give ourselves and our children a better shot at taking on the curve ball of life. I wonder what kind of world we would live in if our schools, communities and our workplaces focused on building this foundation first.

We can only hope.


1.    Center for Disease and Prevention. (2003). ACE Reporter: Origins and Essence of the Study. San Diego.




Want to join in our weekly discussing? Check us out here!

Each week we will share books, resources, stories, and ideas that we think will be beneficial to you and your kids (at home or in the classroom).  Our focus will be on wellbeing and potential but we will continue to explore neurodiversity and sensory processing.  

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I may be the quiet neighbor in the brownstone.

Or the rambunctious classmate from the farm down the dirt road.


I may be the gregarious boy at the playground

Or the wallflower in the dance class.


I may be the middle child following my dad into the shelter

Or the youngest child living in the gated community.


I may check the race box that says “Pacific Islander” or “White” 

Or maybe “Black or African American” or “Asian.”


I may be a toddler or school age.

A teenager or an adult.


Adverse childhood experiences exclude no one.


My father may have thrown things and blamed me

After my mother abandoned us.


I may have watched my grandmother drink her sorrows away

After my grandfather was sent to prison.


I may have watched my step dad verbally abuse my sister

Because she ate the last of the peanut butter.


I may sit in class in a daze

Or act out with the strongest of emotions.


Unless strategies are put into place

These experiences might disrupt the development of my brain.

Or my immune system may be compromised.


My days need to be filled with healthy social interactions 

Or I may be plagued with high blood pressure 

that sets me down a path of serious health risks.


If you come to our basketball game

One of my teammates on the floor may have had one adverse childhood experience

And another may have two or more.


These are the things I need you to consider

As you ponder about my well being and my future

Whether it’s in the classroom, on the field or in the studio.


A safe relationship with an adult

Moments of mindfulness 

And plenty of chances to move

Are all great ways to relieve some of my stress.


If you really cared about me

These activities would be non-negotiable and scheduled into my day.


No matter what my reading level is

Or my score on the math state assessment.


This is what is important for me right now

If you really want to see me flourish.

Thank you to Dr. Nadine Burke Harris for her book The Deepest Well on Adverse Childhood Experiences and stress. Please check out her book to learn more!

Want to join in our weekly discussing? Check us out here!

Each week we will share books, resources, stories, and ideas that we think will be beneficial to you and your kids (at home or in the classroom).  Our focus will be on wellbeing and potential but we will continue to explore neurodiversity and sensory processing.  

Courage to Connect CLE is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

5 Elements of an Incredible Life Backed by Research


To Whom It May Concern:

 Lately I have been asking myself a series of questions:

 Why am I here?

Who am I?

What can I contribute?

What legacy am I going to leave?

 I listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast with the great Coach George Raveling. Coach Rav is 80, has a five-year plan, is a voracious bibliophile, a purposeful giver, and an overall “Human Google.”  He led me to the following thought:

 Your number one goal for your journey on earth is to grow into your fullest potential.  Set the goal of pouring your energy into your personal vision of your best possible self. Learn. Listen. Flourish.

 I wondered what it would be like to live deep into your 80s and 90s.  Where could I find answers about a life well lived that are backed by research?

 Gallup scientists of course.

From Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements

 “Gallup scientists have been exploring the demands of a life well lived since the mid-20thcentury. More recently, in partnership with leading economists, psychologists, and other acclaimed scientists, we began to explore the common elements of wellbeing that transcend countries and cultures.”

 According to researchers at Gallup, you should focus on the five essential elements of wellbeing.

From Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements 

“Wellbeing is about the combination of our love for what we do each day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in what we have contributed to our communities. Most importantly, it’s about how these 5 elements interact.” 

 And how did they come to these five essential elements?

From Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements 

“As part of their research, Gallup conducted a comprehensive global study of more than 150 countries, giving us a lens into the wellbeing of more than 98% of the world’s population. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, we asked hundred of questions about health, wealth, relationships, jobs, and communities. We then compared these results to how people experience their days and evaluate their lives overall.”  

 Keep in mind the elements of the assessments measured by Gallup and Rath are within our control. We can choose how we spend our days and with whom we spend our time.  We have the ability to select healthy food to eat.  As the elements are explored, a great first step is to acknowledge what positive habits you want to see in your daily life. Rath defines them as “positive defaults.”

From Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements 

“One of the best ways to create more good days is by setting positive defaults. Any time you help your short-term self work with your long-term self, you have an opportunity. You can intentionally choose to spend more time with the people you enjoy most and engage your strengths as much as possible. Through these daily choices in the moment, you can create stronger friendships, families, workplaces, and communities.”

 It took only a moment to think about two people from your gene pool that personified these attributes.  

 Like Coach Rav, both lived a long wonderful life under their own terms.

They found their tribe within a social community.

They focused on experiences rather than material things.

And in their own way, they did their best to take care of themselves. A taco supreme every now and then or a bowl of ice cream never hurt anybody, right?

 She lived in her house until a little after her 90thbirthday. 

She lived through the Roaring 20s and the Great Depression. She said goodbye and welcomed back her love from a World War.  She watched as the Towers collapsed and the Internet connected us to the world. To her friends in the Eastern Stars, she was Nel, but to us, she was Gram.



This word came up over and over again when the members of Messiah Church described your GG Richard.  He rode on a destroyer in the Pacific. He lost his wife at 87 and lived 6 more years on his own terms. He participated in the choir at church and was in a walking group. At 93. No matter the environment or the experience, everything was always “joyful.”

 “Physical Wellbeing”

From Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements

In their research, Gallup found that Physical Wellbeing is defined as having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis.  People with thriving Physical Wellbeing effectively manage their health.  They exercise regularly and feel better throughout the day as a result.  They make good dietary choices, which keeps their energy high throughout the day and sharpens their thinking.  They get enough sleep to feel well rested and to process what they learned –and to get a good start on the next day.  People with thriving Physical Wellbeing look better, feel better, and will live longer. 

 GG walked. And he walked. And he walked some more. Even into his 90s.  While he walked, I can picture him listening. In the years I knew him, he didn’t speak up a lot. While the walking helped raise his physical wellbeing, finding a tribe (even in his 80s) elevated his Social and Community Wellbeing.

 Exercise could also include gardening or working in the yard.  Gram always insisted on keeping her yard up. The energy expended taking care of her yard gave her an extra push in the other parts of her daily life. She had more energy to find her “tribe” that contributed to her Community Wellbeing.

 If you take care of your body with the proper meals, movement, and get enough rest, it will have a ripple effect in the other areas of your wellbeing.  

If you want to dive deeper into a life well lived, check out these titles: Flourish, The Little Book of Hygge, and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F.


“Community Wellbeing”

From Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements

According to Gallup researchers and the author, Community Wellbeing is the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live.  They take pride in their community, and they believe it is headed in the right direction. This often results in wanting to give back and make a lasting contribution to society.  People with thriving Community Wellbeing have identified areas where they can contribute to their community based on their strengths and passions. The positive outcomes of high community wellbeing may be what differentiates a good life from a great one.

 After his walking group, GG Richard turned his attention to giving back. He delivered meals with joy to those in need.  He sang with the choir and was very involved in his church community.  GG’s strength came from his faith. It held him together in the tough times and boosted them in happy times.  He took pride in his tribe and wanted to leave it better than it was when he arrived.

 Gram loved to cook and sew. Each week she arrived with her friends at Eastern Stars to create these little dolls that they made to raise money.  She helped to cook and put on dinners at the Hall. She served at those dinners and was always in the middle of the conversation.  She took what she was good at to help others, which enhanced her life a great deal.

 “Social Wellbeing”

From Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements

Social Wellbeing is defined as strong relationships and love in your life by the Gallup Researchers and Rath. People with thriving Social Wellbeing have several close relationships that help them achieve, enjoy life, and be healthy.  They are surrounded by people who encourage their development and growth.  They make time for gatherings and trips that strengthen these relationships even more.  As a result, people with thriving Social Wellbeing have great relationships, which gives them positive energy on a daily basis.  

 Gram had the ability to meld into any group, discussing anything from current events or reminiscing about the matching Mustangs she had with my grandfather. Gram loved to go on trips and visit the ballpark. One of her favorite pastimes late in her life was ordering items off of the TV.  A highlight of her day was the conversation with the post carrier and what was in the box. I always smile when I think about how much she would have loved Amazon Prime.

 Amongst his walking group friends, GG Richard was by far the oldest. After their walks he would buy the entire group coffee at McDonalds.  He personified the idea of strength in numbers.  With the group’s positive energy, GG continued to grow and helped him stretch even further.  At the age of 89, GG Richard boarded a plane for a daytrip for Veterans to Washington DC. Left at 6AM and arrived back at 10PM or so. No big deal.  How did he do it?  The energy from his Community and his strong Social Wellbeing.

 “Financial Wellbeing”

From Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements

Financial Wellbeing is effectively managing your economic life.  Rath and Gallup concluded that people with thriving Financial Wellbeing are satisfied with their overall standard of living.  People with high Financial Wellbeing spend their money wisely.  They buy experiences that provide them with lasting memories.  They give to others and don’t just spend on themselves.  As a result of managing their money wisely, they have the financial freedom to spend even more time with the people whose company they enjoy the most. 

 To me, GG Richard and Gram never seemed to worry about money.  They obviously both had taken the lessons learned through wartimes and saved properly.  They both gave to their respective churches and to organizations that helped those in need. They focused on making memories with those around them.  Purposeful giving for the greater good.

 “Career Wellbeing”

From Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements

Career Wellbeing is how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do everyday.  People with high Career Wellbeing wake up every morning with something to look forward to doing that day.  Whether they are working in a home, classroom, or a cubicle, they have the opportunity to use their strengths each day and to make progress.  According to the Gallup researchers and Rath, those with a thriving Career Wellbeing have a deep purpose in life and a plan to attain their goals.  

 Each and everyday, GG Richard had his positive defaults in place to create a “joyful” day. He looked forward to his walking group and pizza night.  He drove his car into his 90s to deliver meals or head off to sing in the choir. He would create little bookmarks for the kids that he taught Sunday school too.  He definitely LIVED each day.

 Gram always enjoyed a good meal, worked out in her yard, and loved a good nap. You would never have known my grandfather had passed away 27 years earlier. I never had the opportunity to meet Grandpa Bob in the flesh-but I did feel him through the look on Gram’s face as she told stories of him while we rocked in our chairs on her back patio. I always wondered how she was so resilient and lived a full life.  How could I channel her approach to life?  

From Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements 

“…Biologists have are discovering that events during our lifetime can be passed on not only to our children, but also to future generations.  This newly discovered phenomenon, known as “epigenetic inheritance,” is much more common than we think.  So as an added incentive for improving your own health for the next few hours, weeks and months, consider that your lifestyle choices might also influence the health of your children and grandchildren.”

 We can learn a lot from those that walk before us.  To begin our own journey to the fulfillment of our talents and potentialities, we must listen to the stories of our elders.  To reach our potential, we must live effectively in all five Wellbeing elements-not in isolation, but keeping in mind they are interdependent.  Just as Gram and GG Richard did, we all take a different path.  Our “why” may be different, but we all have one as our north star. It motivates us to be the best version of ourselves.

 So, what will you today to improve your wellbeing?

***Ever wonder how a child might view an incredible life? Click here!

Want to know a great tool to get through more books? Try Audible. It is one of our favorite apps and the best way for us to enjoy books on the go! Use this link to get 2 free audio books!

Want to join in our weekly discussing? Check us out here!

Each week we will share books, resources, stories, and ideas that we think will be beneficial to you and your kids (at home or in the classroom).  Our focus will be on wellbeing and potential but we will continue to explore neurodiversity and sensory processing.  

Want to join in our weekly discussing? Check us out here!

Each week we will share books, resources, stories, and ideas that we think will be beneficial to you and your kids (at home or in the classroom).  Our focus will be on wellbeing and potential but we will continue to explore neurodiversity and sensory processing.  

Courage to Connect CLE is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to



Do you want me to reach my potential?


Then think about my wellbeing first, please.


Please challenge me to become the best version of myself that I can be.


Please demonstrate how important it is to for me to take care of my body with proper nutrition, necessary sleep and a whole lot of movement.


Please support me as I acquire the habits to practice self-compassion-from it will come empathy, resilience, gratitude and the ability to cope. 


Please introduce me to a variety of environments to find out where I can flourish


Please help me develop the mindset that time is a non-renewable resource and it is valuable.  Please make the most of our time together. Every single moment.


Please surround me with engaging mentors from all walks of life whom I can connect with.  Instill in me to fill my life with strong, meaningful relationships with others that care about my wellbeing.


Please foster the belief that I should play to my strengths. Because, I do in fact, have strengths. Lots of them.


Please impart in me to take pride in my work.


Please, nurture what lies within me as I navigate unearthing my purpose, my direction and what is meaningful to me.


These are the building blocks of what I need.  As Bill Walsh would say, “The Score takes care of itself.”  


Please prepare me for the path-not the path for me. Walk with me on my journey, not behind me or in front of me.

This will be the greatest gift of all that you can give to me…and to my kids, and to my grandkids.

Do you want to learn more about your kids, students, or yourself? Complete this questionnaire to find out what brings out your positive emotions!

 ***If you want to explore these topics further check out The Coddling of the American Mind or Wellbeing. Both books inspired ideas for this piece and are great reads.

***If you want to see what research says about what makes for an incredible life, go here!

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Everlasting Impact


"Angels live among us. Sometimes they hide their wings, but there is no disguising the peace and hope they bring." ~Unknown

It takes a team. It always has and it always will. I would love nothing more than to be all he needs all of the time but it doesn’t work that way and I know that... What better way to show this kind of love than to surround him with many people who also see him for who he is and love him as much as I do?


But…What about when a teammate has to leave the day-to-day grind that has so much determined our journey to this point?


He’s five. He can only appreciate in a way that five year olds do but I know that his appreciation with grow and change over time as he is able to zoom out and take it all in. I’m doing my best to write a thank you letter and through blurry tears I cannot come up with the right words; maybe there are no words.


Our occupational therapist was at many times over the years been the thread of hope that I hung on to. Just to get to that Tuesday appointment was all of the emotional strength that I had. Some weeks she was the only one that didn’t look at us like we were absolutely crazy.  Never judging, never criticizing and she knew everything we went through; everything he went through. She stretched him; she challenged him in a gentle but persistent way.  She celebrated the small wins because she knew just how big they really were. She gave us confidence. Whether it was six months before he could wear a band aid again. Including many weeks of her coming out of therapy sessions with band aids stuck all over her or how she truly listened and heard us as parents. Constantly blending our needs with his to create the best possible environment not only for him but for our entire family. She worked consistently with other doctors and therapists to provide supports that best fit his ever-changing needs.


She understood him and she reached him at a time and in a way that I couldn’t.  In one sense she gave us our little boy back from an environment that he could only show as us being too loud, too bright, and way too scratchy.


I feel forever grateful that she came into our lives when she did and although she is going to be doing this with other families, our time together has come to an end. I know it’s time and I see the grand strides that have been made-I live them. The testing, the papers, all say loud and clear that it is time to let him go but I don’t want to.


It’s hard to describe how I can feel so full from appreciation and accomplishment through years of work yet at the same time have this hole of feeling like one piece is now gone. She has made a huge impact on who our little boy has become and the courage he shows to take on this world.


I thank her for all of the answered emails and phone calls, hours of listening, schedule adjusting, test administering, scoring, and presenting, tears and fears she has calmed, visual icons she has created, strong foundation she has built, and never-ending kindness she has shown.


We are both now on new paths ahead but the impact she has made is everlasting. I raise a glass for all of the accomplishments thus far and to the journeys ahead. Cheers.



You Are Enough

Some of the best advice I have received came from a friend in three small but powerful words that I now repeat to myself.




I can’t make it disappear but I am enough to show you the positive perspective that makes all of the difference in your day.

I can’t change others but I am enough of a steadfast presence to make them think an extra second before judging and reacting.

I can’t shelter you from the sadness but I am enough to be a soft place to land and to build you back up stronger than before.

I can’t keep you from the anger that bubbles up but I am enough to teach you the only person that makes you angry is you.

I can’t stop the world from overwhelming you but I am enough to model courage, the inner peace of balance, and finding calm in the little things.

I can’t shield you from the bigger is better but I am enough to show you the simplicity and strength of gratitude and a less is more attitude.

I wasted too many minutes wondering, worrying that I wasn’t enough for you; that somehow you would have been better off with a different, better version of a mother.

I am brave.

I am strong.

I am enough.


You are brave.

You are strong.





How to parent like the best manager in baseball.

“There are only 2 seasons, winter and baseball.”~Bill Veeck

Now that the regular season is under way, winter must be over.

It’s time for some baseball.

There is nothing like the sensory experience of the ballpark.  The taste and smell of a ballpark hotdog.  The sounds of a crowd standing after a Francisco Lindor playoff home run.  The sight of Andrew Miller striking out the side.  The feeling of a high five after Cody Allen tallies that sometimes elusive 27th out.

Oh, the ballpark.  So many things can be learned at the old ball yard.  It’s a place where parents can share stories of memorable moments and create new memories.  I remember taking our son through the turnstiles for the first time on a hot July afternoon.  He soaked it all in.  Wanting to go on my shoulders so he could see as much as he could.  After the game we walked by the spot where Jim Thome hit one out of the Jake (yes, I still refer to it as the Jake and always will).  On another evening, we stayed well past his bedtime to watch Corey Kluber strike out 18 Cardinals and work a no hitter into the seventh.  We met Onion, Mustard, and Ketchup and watched them race in the Hot Dog Derby.  Multisensory memories that he will take with him long past I am gone.

But there is one more I want him to learn.

The Tito Principle.

Terry Francona has been managing our beloved Indians for the last four seasons.  In his first, he took us to the playoffs.  In his most recent, we were one game away from the World Series Pennant.  Both were seasons he won AL Manager of the Year.  He won 2 world championships with the Boston Red Sox.  And I firmly believe he will do the same here in Cleveland.  Why?

The Tito Principle.

If we try our very best to…

play to our strengths,

and stay in the moment,

then, we will find internal content and peace.

This statement does not go only for the diamond.  It goes for life in general.  For all of us.  No matter our age.  But most importantly, it speaks to how we raise our children. 

Playing to our strengths

Michael Brantley played only 11 games.  We lost Carlos Carrasco with a broken hand.  Danny Salazar spent four different times on the disabled list.  Yan Gomes broke his hand.  Trevor Bauer had a mishap with a drone.

Yet we still made it to the World Series.

Tito played to our strengths.  Make the game shorter with a bullpen of Brian Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen.  Create a schedule where your work horse ace can pitch as much as possible.  Hope that you get a timely hit from Frankie Lindor, Jason Kipnis, or Jose Ramirez.

As a parent or teacher, play to your kids’ strengths.  I remember when our son was two and he would stay awake until after 11PM.  We couldn’t pinpoint it at first.  He would go right down for nap with no problem.  We investigated deeper.  We compared the events around his nap to those around his bedtime.  In both parts, he ate prior to sleeping.  He also read and listened to music before both.  What was different?  Bath time.  Turns out, by the end of his day his sensory bucket was empty.  He had nothing left and it would put him over the edge.  We decided to start showering in the morning when his sensory bucket was full.  We played to our son’s strengths.  Thus, he started to fall asleep earlier and earlier.  Be like Tito, play to your kids strengths.

Stay in the moment

Have you ever listened to a post-game interview or a press conference with Tito?  When asked about next weekend’s pitching matchup against the Tigers or the long road trip that lays ahead, Tito has a typical response.  “We will worry about that when it is in front of us.  Our focus is getting better every day and concentrating on today.

Wow, if that is not great advice for anyone, I am not sure what is. 

As a parent of a son who has a unique set of needs, we must be in tune and aware in every moment.  I think we can get lost in worrying about when the next meltdown may be.  But if we are truly in this moment right now and learning, your child will notice.  One of our favorite explorations is the beach.  It is a quick ride and an enormous science experiment waiting to be explored.  Find these moments to share, stay in them, and learn together.  I need to remind myself to put the phone down or forget about the clothes hamper that exploded from the closet.  I try my best to remind myself that they will only be this little once and time is a non-renewable resource. 

Oh, I can’t wait.  Only four more days until the corner of Carnegie and Ontario will be rocking.  More teachable moments at the ballpark with our kids.  Maybe this season will be the one we will learn about winning with dignity.

Best of luck to Skipper Terry Francona and our beloved Indians.

Go Tribe!









Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad…




No Good

Very Bad…




It’s me; I am.


That email that got piled on and lost in the line of gmail onslaught that buzzes to my phone, computer, and wrist.

That Facebook message that I know I haven’t responded to yet but the little red alert stares at me each time I reach for my phone.

The space and silence between phone calls, text messages, and get togethers because when the dust settles I just need to feel the quiet or a quick run instead.

Here comes that social event I’m trying to avoid because I just ran out of energy to put that face back on to muscle my way through small talk and meeting new people.

Because I am paralyzed, begging the world to just stop spinning, stop moving, stop doing. My world is frozen but everyone else moves in a graceful dance around me.

When I run out of words to talk about it, describe it, or feel it anymore and all that comes are tears. I just can’t put on the facade today.

I keep getting up with the sun and putting one foot in front of the other. I don’t remember all of the steps but my Fitbit logged them in the fog of the day so I must have carried on.

In the wake of carrying the weight of parenthood, parenthood of a child with special needs, the diagnosis, the blame, the guilt, the balance, the treatment, the full time job, I need you. I need you now probably more than ever. You see it though; you see the heavy shoulders and the sullen face.

I didn’t even ask how you were doing, but please ask me to go walking with you again.

I monopolized the entire conversation, but please ask me to go get coffee again.

I went silent but you keep inviting me; even when the no’s outnumber the yes’s.

I couldn’t keep from crying and you offered a hug.

You keep me accountable for the three good things in my day when I otherwise wouldn’t find them.

You bring me coffee and a scone.

You write a quick note on a card with a gift card inside.

When I feel like a failure you are a constant reminder that I am not.

You leave something kind and unexpected on my desk for me to find.

You send me picture of us that is at least a decade old and feels like a lifetime ago.

You keep me putting that one foot in front of the other. When my world stops or becomes too heavy you keep going. You show me that I can keep going too.

Thank you.






Halloween! Can you help me?

Dear Neighbor:

I am a 4-year-old little boy in your neighborhood and I am really looking forward to Halloween.  We have prepared in many ways for this day. My mommy made me a really cool rocket ship costume.  She used a nice soft hoodie and found some comfortable sweatpants which are materials that I like the feeling of.  I tried some of the other rocket ship costumes from the store, but they felt itchy and scratchy.  It may not be the fanciest costume you see this evening but it was made with a lot of love and care.  One of my favorite costumes Mommy made was my Clifford one.  I wore it for two years in a row!


There are certain things about Halloween I really like.  I really like dressing up and pretending to be a rocket ship and running in the yard.  Running, moving, and playing help me rebalance with all of the things that are going on.  We all take in our environment differently using our senses.  A lot is going on at Halloween for me.  The sounds, lights, smells, textures, motion and gravity are all sending messages to my brain that can sometimes be confusing.  I have to use the toolkit that mommy, daddy, and Miss Anna (my Occupational Therapist) have taught me to assure I am comfortable.  I really want to enjoy Halloween like many other kids do.  We have practiced using strategies so I can enjoy Halloween because my mommy and daddy said it is better to try than to avoid.  Can you help me, please?


You probably have seen us walking the neighborhood with our dog.  We have practiced our route so I know where to go next.  I feel comfortable on our street but if I do not know or recognize you, I may act very shy and reserved.  I will be walking with a group of friends which helps me feel safer and less anxious.  We may have some picture cards to help communicate how we are feeling or what we are thinking.  I will have my sunglasses and headphones with me as well.  I will make sure I do some heavy work and eat a good supper before I head out. 


My mommy and daddy talked with me about the difference between spooky, silly, and scary.  We talked about maybe seeing big flashing lights, machines that have smoke, and loud music and sounds.  We will start trick or treating when it is still light out so I feel more comfortable.  If your house has a lot of scary music or monsters in the yard, I may tell my daddy our safe word and we will go to the next house.  I am working on using my words to tell my family and friends how I feel.  Sometimes it’s hard to explain what is going on inside of me so we have safe word and I use it when I am starting to get anxious.   If you see me go to the next house, please don’t be mad or upset-especially if I do not recognize your house.  My parents talked to me about empathy and how others may feel.  I am glad you really like Halloween and decorate your house.  I am still learning and maybe next year I will be more comfortable to visit your house with the lights or sounds.  I really like lanterns and soft lights.  I may carry one with me.  I have learned to navigate new environments each day and I am still growing.  Maybe we can talk the next time we walk to the park?


I am very excited about all of the possible treats!  Two of my buddies who I will be trick or treating with have allergies.  You probably wouldn't be able to guess who has what unique need.  We painted a pumpkin teal to let people know we have some treats that are not food.  We were going to count how many teal pumpkins we will find.  Did you paint one teal and have safe treats?


I will do my best to say “trick or treat!” and to be polite.  Sometimes mommy and daddy will need to remind me.  We have prepared quite a bit to get ready for Halloween and some of the little things I may forget.  When there is a large bucket in front of me, please be patient with me.  A lot of my friends will know exactly what they want, it may take me a moment find mine.  I have to order things in my head for it to make sense and it sometimes takes a minute.  If I do decide on which piece, I may accidentally grab two.  It won’t be on purpose; I am working on my fine motor with Anna using different tools so I can have a stronger grip.  I may dig a bit to find the right one I like.  I have some favorites like tootsie rolls, gummy bears, or anything else that is chewy.  Please don’t be upset with me if I do not like what you have to offer and politely choose not to take one. I am not trying to be rude. I avoid certain tastes and textures because they don’t feel right in my mouth and just because it is candy, doesn’t change that.


When I am excited I start moving faster and faster with little awareness of where my body is in space. Mommy said I may need to slow down a bit to feel comfortable again and to keep from tripping or bumping into my friends accidentally.  I will be super excited but at a certain point by sensory bucket will be empty for the day.  I may have to go inside a little bit earlier to help me stay on my routine for bedtime. I will need to clean up and get some rest so I am ready for school tomorrow. 


Thanks for reading my letter.  It makes me feel good that you are in our neighborhood and are trying to be flexible, empathetic, and patient with me.  With your help, Halloween is going to be a great experience for me.



Your …



















What looks ordinary…

We have been using occupational therapy for a year and a half now. I know of families who go to more therapy appointments that we do and I know of families who go to less. Regardless, it’s emotionally draining. The appointment is only the tip of the iceberg. The day-to-day grind is where we take what we have learned in therapy (from our oh so patient and kind occupational therapist) and apply it to our all day, everyday.

What looks like an ordinary, every child does that, kind of activity has a whole new meaning when the senses are not taking in the environment properly. We are constantly finding ways to stretch and balance messages to his brain to create new pathways that will take in what the senses experience in order to participate in daily activities with ease.

The Playground

What looks ordinary is my child is getting exercise and socializing with peers, but really this is outdoor therapy.

It is a place of heavy work, proprioceptive and vestibular input, much-needed spinning and swinging, and challenges for him to find the courage to try to climb just a little bit higher each time.  

Repetitive joint compressions from stomping up the stairs and running across the bridges.

It’s about successfully covering skinned knees with the sticky feeling of Band-Aids that once took his breath away.

The Beach

What looks ordinary is my child is having fun but really it is a place of true calm for him as he hears the water crashing against the shore. It is a place he feels like every other kid and can through his worries into the wind.  This is where he dances, finding his happy place on the shoreline in his own little world.

There is order in lining up rocks or shells. It is a collection of sorted and like items to bring home. It is a heart shaped rock saved just for mommy.

It is where burying his body in the sand sends the right message to his brain; where chasing birds gives him the appropriate space to let his motor run and muscles work.

It is the place where he overcame the fear and pain of sand rubbing against our skin to experience the euphoric rush that is the seashore.

The Swimming Pool.

What looks ordinary is my child learning how to swim but really it is a place for him to have the all over pressure of the water surrounding his body.

It is tolerating the feeling of wet fabric close to his skin; overcoming the fear of putting his face and hair into the water.

Finding the right accommodations of sun shirts and just the right fitting goggles.

Constantly practicing putting sunscreen onto his skin so that slowly but surely he can do it without cringing and pulling away.

It’s trying not to be the helicopter mom sitting off to the side and using her zoom lens to watch for signs of triggers or meltdown to come while still giving him the independence, confidence, and freedom he so deserves.

As we say goodbye to summer and hello to fall and soon winter; as you see my son raking and jumping into piles of leaves, shoveling snow and sledding down hills, literally bouncing off the walls at Sky Zone and running up and down the soccer field, know that these ordinary looking experiences are making an extraordinary difference for him and for our family.