A Nanaimo mother knew something was amiss when her young daughter wouldn’t set foot on snow.
“She was crying and was really upset about it,” said Sara Stone, teacher-librarian for Cinnabar Valley Elementary. “Because she was so little she couldn’t really explain what was going on. And so for a whole season, I carried her from the front door to the car.”
At the time, Stone was unsure how to react or interpret what her daughter was going through.
“Should I be disciplining her, or am i supposed to be hugging her? And I remember being really torn, but my heart was telling me that she was struggling,” she said.
Following a diagnosis, Stone learned that her daughter was living with sensory processing disorder.
The province’s health website, www.healthlinkbc.ca, defines the disorder as “problems processing information from the senses” that make it difficult to respond to that information “in the right way” – in that senses either react too much or too little to stimulation.
After finding very little children’s literature that featured a character with SPD in a positive light, Stone took it upon herself to write one.
“I saw a quote somewhere that read, ‘if you don’t see the book you want to read, you got to write it yourself,’” she said. “And so I wrote it for the kids in the school and for other people … And now when I look to fill my library with neurodiverse stories there is much more, and I feel like that’s really good news.”
Stone’s children’s book Lily and the Snow, published independently in April, closely follows her daughter’s experience living with and learning to adapt to the condition.
“When it got warmer and [the snow] turned into slush, she was willing to check it out … and she had a great time once it wasn’t making a crunching sound and it wasn’t that icy feeling when you break through that layer and your boot goes down,” the author said. “It actually made her body feel like most of us feel like when we hear fingernails on a chalkboard. Like it made her physically super uncomfortable.”
Stone said that, in learning about SPD, one in six children have sensory issues that affect their daily lives. She also said a common misconception some people have is that the condition is exclusively linked to an autism diagnosis. There is also no evidence that SPD can be outgrown and is a condition children will have to learn to manage. At the back of the book, Stone has also included resources on SPD for reader reference.
“A big part of the message … is to have support, to have people that understand you and are empathetic … Sensory processing can look so different and it can be really frustrating for parents because they may not know if it’s a temper tantrum of sensory meltdown … We don’t want to pressure our kids to do things that don’t feel comfortable for them but to find ways that they can still function and they’re comfortable with,” she said.
A YouTube channel based out of the United Kingdom called Stories to Grow With – Childrens Books Read Aloud also featured Lily and the Snow in a video posted Nov. 23.
The book can be purchased in Nanaimo at WindowSeat Books or online at http://amazon.ca.