Tag Archives: sensory integration

Product Review: The Yogibo Max

yogiboIf you’ve followed me for any time, then you already know that I don’t write a lot of reviews. However, occasionally I’m in need of the same kinds of things that other folks might be in need of as well. When that happens and the stars align, I’ll get an offer to test a product in exchange for an honest review – and I’ll actually respond and say yes.


In recent months, Callum has made a lot of progress. His willingness to attend to a task has greatly increased, and we’ve been all kinds of busy looking for new ways to engage him. That’s when I received a very nice email from the folks who make the Yogibo Max “lounge chair.” The email mentioned that some special needs families have seen benefits to owning one and offered me the chance to try it out. I said yes, picked my color (from 16 color choices), and waited for its arrival. It didn’t disappoint.


I’ll start off by saying that the box it came in was initially a bigger hit than the beanbag. (Isn’t that always the way with little ones?) But as soon as I set it out in the living room, my little sensory seeker fell in love with it. It’s a kind of bean bag. But bean bag isn’t really a fitting description for this thing. The Yogibo Max is more like a really flexible piece of furniture. You can position it in any number of ways, and we’ve used it for everything from reading to the kids to playing games to sleepovers to the only place my husband could sleep for a couple of nights after pulling his back. It’s pretty nifty and much sturdier than cheap bean bags you’d pick up from large retailers.


yogibomaxfamCallum gets a lot of sensory input from it. He rolls around on it, takes flying leaps onto it, and interacts with whoever is already sitting on it when he decides to join. He has snuggled with his sister on it, giggled along with her friends on it, and verbalizes “Daddy! Tickle me!” while presenting his belly. He loves this thing. He’ll soon be having his beloved 1:1 aide working in our home this summer doing behavioral therapy, and I know it’s going to be a big draw for them as she keeps him moving and interacting.


All-in-all, it’s a great little all-purpose addition to our home. We got it in chocolate brown to match our furniture so that it doesn’t feel like we’re in a therapy clinic or daycare. The cover is removable and washable, so it’s easy to keep clean. And it can be easily folded and leaned to keep out of the way, if need be. We’ve had it a couple of months in a home with two hyperactive little ones, and it’s held up well.


If you’re looking for a sensory friendly, kid friendly, but practical lounge chair, I recommend the Yogibo Max.  (You can use the code FLAPPINESS for a 10% discount.)

Bell’s Palsy: My Tour Guide to Autism

bp2In the past couple of years, some clever people have created online autism simulations. Autism simulations attempt to sensitize neurotypical people to what those with autism experience on a daily basis. When you play an online autism simulation video, you’re immediately bombarded with confusing sensory input – loud and discordant sound, bright lights, and camera movements that cause vestibular discomfort. Voices and background noise become one, and the busy world suddenly becomes an unpleasant place in which to reside.

But it’s just a video. Two minutes of noise and visual chaos, and you’re done. I’ve watched them. And, while I appreciate what the creators aim to accomplish with them, I’ve understood that I wasn’t greatly enlightened by the experience.

Bell’s Palsy changed everything.

Four months ago, I pulled into my workplace, got out of my car, and attempted to smile at a co-worker. That’s when I realized half of my face wasn’t working. I walked inside, looked in a mirror, and decided I was having a stroke. After a quick trip to the ER and a brain scan, it was determined that I had simply come down with Bell’s Palsy, a form of facial paralysis resulting from damage to the facial nerves. Relieved that it wasn’t something life-limiting, I returned to work and attempted to feign a positive attitude about my now jarring facial expression.

As it turns out, I had a pretty bad case of Bell’s Palsy. Within a day, my face became overly sensitive. The slightest touch of a fingertip was painful. A fan blowing on my face made my head ache. Because my left eye wouldn’t close properly and I couldn’t squint, bright light became problematic. I could barely see upon stepping outdoors, and bright indoor lighting was disturbing to me. My eyes blinking at different times upset my vision.

But the worst was yet to come. Within two days, the Bell’s Palsy had worsened. And, because I had complete facial paralysis, the muscles that normally dampen sound ceased to work. The condition is officially called hyperacusis, but I called it Superman Hearing. Suddenly, I could hear everything – the filter on the fish tank, the ceiling fan in the other room, the pop in my husband’s jaw as he ate. But it wasn’t simply a matter of hearing everything. The problem was that it was all at the same volume. So, everything became too much. I nearly went into a panic at work. The school bells were painful to me. A pencil dropping on to a desk made me jump. I had to ask everyone to lower their voices, and I couldn’t tolerate radio or TV. I donned headphones and tried not to cry. But my voice amplified inside my head with the headphones on, so I couldn’t tolerate speaking with others. All I wanted was to curl up in a ball in bed in the dark and wish the world away. Because the world? It hurt me.

And – although I’d comprehended that sensory integration issues impacted my autistic child – I now look at him with all new eyes. Because of this experience, he’s even more amazing to me. Amazing in that he walks through life experiencing this (though I’m certain it’s probably not exactly the same) every day. Whereas I shut down for a few days and hid out during the worst of it, he isn’t given that option. He’s 5 years old, and the world is attacking him. When I’m alone with my thoughts and consider that, it steals my breath. And when he curls up in a ball and hides out from the world for a few minutes, I find myself understanding in a way I couldn’t have before.

Did Bell’s Palsy make me autistic? Of course not. Do I now have a complete understanding of the autistic experience? Nope – not even close. Because Bell’s Palsy did not affect my ability to communicate. It didn’t alter how I perceive others. It didn’t change the way I process new information. I still think in words and not pictures.

But Bell’s Palsy did act as a tour guide of sorts. It took me to a place I’d never been and pointed out some key areas I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. It gave me an experience merely reading about couldn’t afford me. It allowed me to see my son and his reactions to the world with a different lens. It isn’t often that we get to live as others before returning to our own lives. But when we do, we are changed – forever reminded that our own perceptions are just that, perceptions. When you realize that your perceptions aren’t necessarily facts, then all manner of truths and possibilities open for you.

So, despite the residual paralysis, pain, and hearing and vision issues I’m still experiencing, I understand this lesson to have been both painful as well as a gift.

Of course, the most valuable lessons in life usually are.


And So It Begins…

The Right Moment

I knew it was coming.  So, it isn’t a surprise.  Funny how that doesn’t make it any easier.  Having seen relatives raise autistic children, I knew the time was coming when taking our son out in public would become officially difficult.  Up until now, I have been able to avoid the stares of others during my son’s tantrums.  He was still a baby.  Until recently, most people (including those who knew him fairly well) didn’t think he was so different than other toddlers.  Many of them were still making the He’ll Catch Up, So Quit Worrying argument.  But, as he is getting closer to three, it is becoming more obvious that he doesn’t talk, doesn’t play normally, and emits ear-piercing shrieks when life isn’t going his way.

I got my first Stares From People in Public Who Clearly Raised Their (Normal) Children Better Than Me the other day.  We went for our weekly trip to Publix and, for the first time, the cookie that the nice folks in the bakery gave Callum didn’t keep him happy.  He began to shriek.  And shriek.  And, just when we thought it was over, shriek some more.  And they all looked up and stared.  That stare that speaks volumes and says, “I’d tear his little butt up and shame on you as a mother for not having done it already.”  I looked around, and then I knew.  The days of blending in are over.  We are about to become the family that is a pain to have around.

A couple of days later, my best friend Beverly arrived from Vermont.  We hadn’t seen each other’s kids in over two years.  We took them to a park.  And Callum wasn’t happy.  We took them to Wendy’s to lunch.  And Callum threw everything within reach off the table.  And shrieked for a chicken nuggett – pretty much the only thing left that he will eat.  Yep, those days are here.

I’m not ashamed.  But I’m sad.  I’m sad that he doesn’t know the joys of playing with others.  I’m sad that my four year was so desperately happy to have a playmate who actually played with her.  I’m sad that I couldn’t sit down for a few minutes and enjoy my friend without following Callum around, who is always busy AWAY from where all the other children are grouped.

But then he found the hammock.  I put him in it, and he just melted with satisfaction.  And I got some cool pictures – the rare kind that you can’t ever seem to get with a child with autism.  Ones with genuine smiles that highlight the little souls we love so, so much.  So, for Thanksgiving, I am thankful for hammocks.  Hammocks under canopy trees in perfect, breezy weather.  And cameras available in The Right Moment.

And for Callum.  I cannot imagine life without this precious little angel of a boy.