Sunday, February 14, 2010

Book Review: Not Just Spirited by Chynna T. Laird

Say hello to Chynna Laird and her daughter, Jaimie. Jaimie has Sensory Processing Disorder. I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of this book. Let me tell you folks, I thought I had it tough with Nathan. After reading this book, I have infinite amounts of respect for this woman. Her little Jaimie suffers on the high end of the sensory scale. A light breeze would send her over the edge. She had night terrors where she would hit her skull against the headboard. Her parents could not hold her and hug her as they wish, as that, too would cause an intense meltdown. Changing her diaper, a chore that may take 3 minutes, took over an hour sometimes due to Jaimie's sensitivities.

In Chynna's voice, Jaimie's story comes through loud and clear. She details the signs from infancy that she knew something "wasn't right". She spent endless hours trying to figure out the instruction manual to her child. Her and her husband struggled to raise their child and to figure out exactly what was going on. They searched everywhere and anywhere to get answers. Their relationship was tested every minute of every day, even with the introduction of new children in their lives. 
 It was an amazing story. I don't know if I could have had enough strength or sanity to be able to endure those kinds of events. Truly, I respect this woman for her enduring patience, love and understanding.
I had an opportunity to ask Chynna some questions:
1. What made you decide to write the book?

It’s funny because I didn’t initially intend for our story to be in book form. The book began as journal entries. I have always kept a journal—it’s positive way to work through feelings, thoughts or experiences. I kept a separate one during the pregnancy and birth of each of my children. Then when I started noticing Jaimie’s odd behaviors and reactions, I started a separate one (and it was a good thing, too, since I needed it to prove to our pediatrician and therapists that something truly was wrong with Jaimie and had been for a long time!)

After Jaimie’s diagnosis of SPD when she was 2 ½, I still needed to fight to get her into treatment, therapy and be supported with her care. It made me so angry that we finally understood what was going on with Jaimie but we still felt isolated and alone. I promised myself that when—not if—we got through the roughest part of our journey, I’d do my part to ensure other families never felt the way we did. So after a great deal of thought, I decided to share our story.

2. How long did it take you to write the book?

I kept journal entries for about four years then turned it into book form shortly after Jaimie started Preschool. From there I just updated it until I found a wonderful publisher (Loving, Healing Press) who was willing to take on our story and treat it as his own. It only took me a couple of months to put it all together into a completed manuscript that I could send off to potential agents and publishers.

3. Did family and friends support your decision to write about Jaimie?

I’ve been very fortunate because friends and family have been, and continue to be, extremely supportive. In fact, they were the ones who convinced me to ‘Just do it!’ when I was unsure or having second thoughts. Because this isn’t just my story—it’s all of ours, especially Jaimie’s—I had to be careful with how the story was told, respectful of how things were ‘shown’ and, most of all, bear in mind how Jaimie would feel about it some day. I didn’t want to put something out there, with her beautiful little face on the cover, that she’d be embarrassed about one day. I wanted to tell the story, as it was, but still be cautious, you know? And I think we did just that. (The proofreaders and editors at Loving, Healing Press were just incredible!)

4. What do you hope readers will take away from reading your book?

The main message throughout the book is simply, “Trust your gut!” We may not hold a Ph.D. in psychology, psychiatry or child development but we know our child. We may not have a degree in pediatrics but we know in our souls when our child is struggling with something even when their bodies are healthy and we can’t ‘see’ what’s wrong. We just know. And if you know then keep moving forward: make noise, do research, record behaviors, knock on doors…do everything you need to until that one person turns around and listens. And then you keep doing the same things until your child has what he needs to thrive. There is so much more support out there these days than when we first started our own sensational journey. TRUST YOUR GUT, move forward and you’ll get to where you need to be.

5. How is Jaimie doing now, after this book was published?

You know, she still struggles quite a bit with Dyspraxia, vestibular and proprioceptive tasks. And her sense of touch is still quite severely affected but she has come so far and we’re proud of her. Since Kindergarten (where the book ends), Jaimie has begun sensory integration and iLs therapy with the most amazing OT and is learning to be much more tolerant with sensations. She started Grade One this past September and has the most amazingly supportive teacher and school. We still have to advocate for her because she’s so good at hiding things (so she thinks!) that people often don’t ‘see’ that she’s struggling but they are willing to work with us and I can’t even tell you what a relief that is.

Jaimie is the top reader in her class and her handwriting is getting much better. We are just so proud of her. Yes, she still has a long way to go but for the little girl who was so scared of what the world had in store for her outside of our front door to let her new little friend, Maddie, hold her hand sometimes and to hug her…well…it’s incredible. It gives us hope for good things to come.

6. And, of course...are you writing another book?

Yes, thanks for asking! I’m just finishing a book about the Sensory Diet that should be coming out in January 2011. It’s like a parent’s perspective of the Diet with sprinkles of insight, tips and suggestions from the experts.

I also have a couple of fiction works that I have ‘shelved’ right now and some ideas for more nonfiction. We’ll see what the future holds. =)

I thank Chynna for sharing her and Jaimie's story. What an incredible mother! And that advice is so true, in most situations. Trust your gut!  Thank you for reading and I hope to have more book reviews soon!

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