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Book Review: Learn to Have Fun with Your Senses

Posted Mar 09 2011 2:00pm

Title: Learn to Have Fun with Your Senses: The Sensory Avoider’s Survival Guide
Author: John Taylor, PhD, with illustrations by Lynda Farrington Wilson
Length: 110 pages
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher/Date: Sensory World, 2011
Source: Review copy

I was instantly drawn to this book with its colorful pages and fun illustrations, and I was even more impressed once I started reading it. Although I have read a lot of books about sensory processing disorder, including several with lots of great activities and ideas to help your child with SPD, this is the first time I have read one aimed directly at children.

Described as a “read about your own problems” guide, Learn to Have Fun with Your Senses focuses on the issues that can crop up when the brain is magnifying the messages it receives from the sense organs, especially as it relates to avoidance of sensory stimulation.

I showed the book to my son tonight and read chapter 1 aloud to him. He showed a lot of interest and listened attentively as I read. I found it to be extremely readable and right at his level (he is almost 9), and I appreciated that the author takes the time to explain how to use the book and encourages the child to communicate with and respect the opinion of his parents and therapists regarding the activities described in the book.

Dr. Taylor also does a great job of explaining without being critical why avoiding things isn’t the best choice:

Trying to stop using your senses is NOT the answer. Going through life always afraid to touch, hear, or taste things that others touch, listen to, and taste is also NOT the answer. The answer is to go ahead and use your senses, but in special ways. This book will help you learn the ways to use your senses so that they slowly start to feel better to you over time.

After finishing the first chapter, my son immediately wanted to try some of the activities. So we flipped through and chose a few at random to try out. Here’s what we did:

  1. From the chapter on touch, we played “Guess What I’m Drawing.” This involves the adult drawing something on the child’s skin and the child guessing what it is. He chose his palm and guessed two of the three simple shapes I drew easily. Then he tried it on me. I had a harder time of it, so we decided that his sense of touch is more sensitive than mine (which is probably true, although in my defense I will say that his drawings were much more complicated)!
  2. Next from the chapter on movement, we tried a pressing activity called “Back to Back.” For this one, the two partners sit back to back on the floor and stand up together by pressing on each other’s backs. We pretty much failed at this one, although I wasn’t really committing to it fully as I wasn’t sure if the partners should be closer to the same size and I want to ask our OT before trying it again. Although we didn’t complete the goal, we certainly had a lot of fun and giggles trying. :)
  3. For our last activity, we chose “Sound Around” from the chapter on hearing. This could be played with as many people as you want. The first person makes a sound, and the next person makes that sound plus adds another sound. Each person after that makes all the sounds so far and adds one more. When we started, both of us were making animal sounds, and then I decided to throw in a different type of sound and then my son made a mistake on his next turn. I think if I had kept to the same type of sound, he would have been able to go longer.

A number of the chapters include checklists or quizzes, which enhances the interactive learning component of the book, and each chapter has a nicely balanced ratio of information to suggestions of how to “train your brain.” In addition to going through the senses individually, the book also covers topics such as eating the right foods, getting the right sleep and taking good care of yourself.

Dr. Taylor rounds out the book with a glossary and list of resources, as well as notes to OTs and teachers. My son has agreed to let me show the book to his OT as long as she doesn’t try to “take over” and we can continue going through it together on our own. I am absolutely thrilled that he is so interested in learning more about this topic with me; I think it is a great first step towards becoming responsible for taking care of himself.

For more information or to order a copy for yourself, visit Sensory World/Future Horizons . You can also check out another review at Help! S-O-S for Parents , where there will be a copy of this book given away in early April. My copy is definitely staying with me, but I’ll be giving away some other books in April as well, so stay tuned!

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