special needs

The Real Social Security

It’s hard to avoid, especially when you are a child. You read about it, hear others talk about theirs, and are prompted to write, talk and answer questions about it. What is the subject of this insidious obsession? A best friend. Doesn’t everyone have one? Don’t get me wrong, I think best friends are wonderful. What I have difficulty with is the emphasis expressed to children about the need for one. The question, “Who is your best friend?” assumes that the child has one very special friend. Writing about what you like to do with your best friend is easy – if you actually have one. If you don’t, then the perception can be that something is lacking and you should try to obtain a best friend as soon as possible.

There are many wonderful children’s books describing the shared adventures of best friends. As a child I had the impression that everyone was supposed to have a best friend and if you didn’t, something was wrong with you. I felt the pressure to latch on to somebody so that I could have a ready answer when asked who my best friend was. Having a “best friend” was my goal, and I wasn’t particularly discerning in my selections.

In kindergarten, my best friend was Mike because he and I shared the same birthday and he gave me some pennies one time. In first grade, my best friend was Darryl, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy who held my hand under the table during music class and showed me how his eyes crossed when he took his glasses off. I thought that was so cool! After first grade Darryl’s family moved away so I had to find a new best friend and some other lucky person got to see Darryl’s crossed eyes.

There was an unspoken pressure to find a best friend replacement whenever the previous relationship cooled for any reason. By late elementary school, everyone understood that if you had a best friend you would have a seat saved for you even if you and your best buddy weren’t next to each other in line. There would be a spot reserved for you as your best friend placed a hand on the chair beside her and informed any would-be interlopers that the seat was saved. Before the teacher finished saying “Find a partner” for an activity, you and your best friend already knew you would pair up together. No one else even bothered asking you to be a partner since everyone understood that you would be with your best friend. You and your number one pal never had to wonder who you would eat lunch with or talk to at recess. Having a best friend was a relational social security that offered the assurance you would always have someone around.

For a child who struggles socially, making any friends let alone a best friend can be difficult. It’s complicated, because most of us have no idea how to teach our kids social skills that come naturally for most people. When you see your child try unsuccessfully to join a group or make a new friend, it is heartbreaking. How much should you try and intervene? You can’t make friends for your child, but sometimes your child doesn’t seem to be able to make a new friend by herself. Unless you’ve held a lonely child in your arms, knowing how badly he wants to have a friend but isn’t experiencing successful relationships it is hard to understand just how devastating it can be for that child and his parent. I’m afraid that some of that need for social security through having a best friend can follow us into adulthood. For example, my daughter got to know a girl in our homeschool support group and the two of them really hit it off. They had a lot in common and enjoyed being with each other. The new friend’s mother had been college roommates with another homeschool mom in the group, and those two mothers had already decided that their daughters would be best friends. My daughter watched as the other two girls were shuttled to each other’s houses for play dates and signed up for classes together at the local parks and recreation programs without a backward glance. These moms were not being deliberately unkind or exclusive. They were trying to give their daughters the kind of social security they had valued when they were growing up. There were quite a few moms in my homeschool support group who would not sign their children up for sports or other group activities unless their child’s best friend would be in the same group. The child with a best friend does not have to make an effort to include another child, because socially they are set. The child without a buddy in the group is more motivated to find another child who is at loose ends socially.

I tried to teach my children to look around and notice who might need a friend, and make an effort to include them. I was no doubt more sensitive to this than most, because I was a mother of one of the socially isolated children. Can you imagine the depth of sadness a parent feels when they are the only friend their child has? Truly, a good friend is an incredible blessing.

I get to know quite a few moms during my speaking engagements and my speech therapy practice. I’ve met some incredible women who agonize over their children’s lack of good relationships. Some children act in atypical ways because of their challenges such as autism or attention deficit disorder. Their moms work hard to teach them social skills, but their children continue to struggle and after awhile they are no longer invited to group social events because they are “different” and their behaviors make others uncomfortable. Now, in addition to isolated children there are increasingly isolated mothers.

As much as I’d like to believe it is the rare exception when an adult loses friendships because of her child, I know from personal experience that it happens frequently. Moms of special needs children need extra support, but often end up with less support because of their child’s differences that set him apart in a negative way. It’s a cycle that deserves to be interrupted.

This whole “best friend” situation can perpetuate the exclusion of those without one particular best friend. Maybe we could teach our children that even if they have a best friend they can still be friends with others and include them. Adults, even if your social needs are adequately met, I can guarantee you that there is someone in your life who longs to experience even a little of the camaraderie you share with your best friends. You and your child may not feel the need to add another friend to your life, but please look around anyway because someone undoubtedly needs your friendship. Can you share your social security with someone in need? If so, you just might change their lives – and teach your child how to love like Christ does along the way.

Nature Books and The Leaf Blower Noise

At this time of year in Ohio we are seeing the leaves change color and fall to the ground. Our outdoor walks provide us with crunchy leaf textures to trample and there is a different “fall” smell in the air around us. A leisurely stroll down the block will show us fallen acorns, black walnuts, and other tree products eagerly gathered by squirrels as they dart to and fro on the ground and along tree branches. We have a squirrel living in the ornamental pear tree in our front yard, and I like to pick up loose acorns and other such treats when I take the dog for a walk and then place the nuts in the nooks and along branches for “our” squirrel to enjoy. When my children were younger we took lots of nature walks, and I gave each of them a bag for collecting pretty leaves from different trees. We used tree identification books to figure out the names of the trees we saw, and we preserved a leaf from each different tree in a nature notebook. After pressing the leaves in a book, we glued them to a page where we listed all the information about what kind of tree it came from, where we found it, and the date we collected it. It was fun to read the book throughout the year and review if the leaf was simple or compound, when we had collected it, and more. Over the years, our collection increased and it was a challenge to see if we could find a new specimen that wasn’t yet represented in our nature book.
Those times spent in nature are some of my favorite homeschooling memories for this time of year. My son, Josh, gave me another fall memory that is equally imprinted in my mind. With his AD/HD, auditory processing, and sensory issues, Josh often said or did unexpected things. His impulsivity gave him a tendency to do whatever came into his head, with the result that I often found myself trying to figure out what was going on with Josh based on what I was seeing and hearing. Our special needs children do what comes naturally to them, and often don’t realize that not everyone experiences things the way they do. In this instance, Josh starting making weird vocal sounds as he played. I went into my analysis mode as I observed him. Is he stimming? Has he developed a vocal tic? Is he trying to calm and organize? Alert himself? Keep others at bay? Provide sound effects for what he is playing with? Can he stop making the sound if I ask him to? The speech therapist in me tuned in to see if the sounds Josh was making could be considered vocal abuse and could physically harm his voice. As I observed Josh, he seemed content. He could stop on request, but returned to making the sounds a minute later. It was not vocally abusive and his pitch and volume were within acceptable ranges for his “normal” voice. In the back of my mind, I recognized something vaguely familiar about the sounds Josh was producing. Then it hit me and seemed so obvious that I almost laughed at not recognizing it sooner. Josh was reproducing the noise of a leaf blower! Once I realized it, I became aware that somewhere in the neighborhood a leaf blower was in use. It was faint and distant and I had not even registered it. But Josh had an uncanny ability to imitate noises and he heard things that most people don’t notice. He did a pretty accurate leaf blower noise. He also made airplane and vacuum cleaner noises, but I recognized them right off the bat. The leaf blower noise took me awhile, but whenever I hear one in use I still smile and think of little Josh’s noise imitation talent.

Speaking Opportunities

I have been speaking at conferences for over 10 years. I’ve had the opportunity to speak in multiple states to groups consisting of a couple dozen people up to a couple hundred people, and I love doing it. I’ve talked to many people who say public speaking, even just the thought of being up in front of a crowd, intimidates them and they will avoid it if at all possible. When I walk into a room to give a presentation and see the podium, microphone, and usually a white tablecloth on a nearby table with a pitcher of water, I slide into the zone. I feel relaxed and at home. I think it helps that I know people aren’t really coming to see me personally, but to hear the information I have to offer. I feel honored that God has chosen to use me to share what I have learned to help other people. It’s not my great successes that draw people, either. Folks can relate to my struggles, failures, mistakes, and determination to keep trying until I find something that works. I’ve been at this long enough now that I meet people who heard me speak years ago and they seek me out to tell me that they’ve applied what they learned from me and it changed the way they related with their child. As they approached homeschooling in a different way the changes improved not just their school experience but their relationship with their child as well. When people hear my workshops and see me with my grown son, they realize that despite extreme challenges we have survived. Not only that, we are extremely close and enjoy spending time together. That gives people hope. I recently had one mom watch my family for a few minutes and then in an awed voice she said, “You seem happy. After everything you’ve been through, too.” I could tell she was in the trenches of homeschooling a challenging child, and seeing a “veteran” homeschooler gave her hope that she could make it, too. I want to let you in on a secret. I am not a natural optimist, nor am I naturally encouraging. No one has ever described me as “perky”. I have natural gifts, but I have prayed to have the gift of encouragement. God allows me to encourage, but I have to work at keeping my thoughts right. I’m actually pretty pessimistic when left on my own, and I can see the cloud for every silver lining. Big sigh. Can you imagine Eeyore giving workshops? Anyway, I have trained myself and disciplined myself to work at being encouraging. I have had a measure of success in doing so. When I speak to others, I can see when something makes sense to them. I love to see people looking around when I describe a challenge I’ve faced, because so many of us with struggling learners feel isolated and our friends can’t relate to the challenges we face. Then we meet each other and with great relief realize we are not alone and many others are dealing with issues similar to our own. It’s nice to be with people who understand and can relate to our feelings and experiences. Tonight I will be speaking to a home school group for their kick off meeting. As far as I know, I will not know anyone there. There will be a mix of new homeschoolers and those who have been at it for several years. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to encourage and inspire those who, like me, have decided that homeschooling is the best fit for meeting their child’s educational needs. Next Monday, I will be doing a workshop on Adapting Curriculum for Struggling Learners with Heart of the Matter (HOTM) during their online conference. I was thrilled when they asked me to do this. I have presented the workshop many times before, but never just online. I am actually feeling nervous, because I am not strong with the technical aspects of presenting. It didn’t help that during our first practice run my microphone didn’t work, which is the stuff of nightmares for me. The second practice run went o.k. after about five minutes of me freaking out because the microphone was not functioning properly. A substitute microphone seemed to work, but I still feel nervous. It’s weird I know, but I would be completely relaxed speaking to a stadium full of people yet speaking online throws me for a loop. Once I learn how to do this and have some experience, I’ll be thrilled to know how and expand my skill set. My husband, who is naturally optimistic, assures me that “It will be all right.” I’m almost finished putting together a new workshop titled, “So You Think You Can Homeschool?” I can’t wait to share it somewhere, anywhere!

More Tootsie Roll Magic for Executive Functions

When a child is disorganized and distractible, he needs more direct instruction in learning executive function skills. So how do you teach what seems to come naturally to some people? How do you teach a child if you share these struggles with them? Just how many Tootsie Rolls must be doled out before a child learns and generalizes a skill?!?

I recommend the book “Smart But Scattered” by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare. Billed as “The revolutionary Executive Skills approach way to helping kids reach their potential”, it is packed with practical ways to identify and address issues related to executive functioning. I found a copy at my library and it is available on Amazon.com as well. As for concerns about too many Tootsie Rolls, I feel your dental pain. Here’s the upside with our distractible kids…they love/crave/need variety so the rewards not only can be changed, they should be changed now and then. And if your family is like mine, you do not need more trinkets cluttering up your house. For example, you could use a reward to work toward a larger prize by having two zip-loc bags side by side marked in some way to make them distinctly different. A small set of Legos goes in one bag, with one piece being transferred into the “I did it!” bag with each completed task. You could tape the picture of the completed object on this bag for added motivation. When all the pieces have been transferred the child can make whatever the set was designed to make, or if your child is like my son he can make something completely different! This is also a great way for your child to earn back toys that have not been put away or have been forgotten under the bed or in the bottom of a toy box. In any case, the child is getting rewarded for completing tasks and learning patience while working toward a larger goal or prize. The rewards don’t have to be big or expensive, just rewarding. I used to sing the song “I’m proud of you” (from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood) to my kids when they did something well. It cost me nothing and took only a minute, but the children got the acknowledgment they needed. The entire song went like this: “Proud of you, I’m proud of you! I hope that you are proud of you, too.” The song repeats one time and it’s over. To this day, my children remember this song. Since you may not always be physically with your child when she completes a task, try recording a celebratory song on an inexpensive recording device and have her play it for herself when she completes a task. She can keep it in her pocket or you can leave it at the task completion spot. Again, if things tend to get buried or misplaced at your house try using industrial Velcro to keep it in one place. And now…(drum roll)…for the distractible adult here are a couple tips we’ve tried over the years. First, and only moderately successful but better than nothing, when my easily-distracted husband sets out to do a task I remind him of his goal and loudly hum the theme from Mission Impossible. “You’re in, you’re out!” I helpfully remind him as he heads out the door. The other tip I’ve used on those especially scattered, brain fog days is to wear a recording device and tell myself what I need to remember. I record a message, then when I get to the top of the stairs or in another room (yep, it could have evaporated from my brain already) I listen to the message. Usually it’s something simple like “I’m going upstairs to get my sewing scissors.” Sometimes I throw in an encouraging message like “You’re the woman!” just to keep my motivation strong. Check your cell phone for an application that allows you to do voice recordings. That might be a good technology tool for distractible teenagers to use. It’s faster than writing things down and we almost always have our cell phones nearby. Plus, cell phones are less likely to be lost than scraps of paper with hastily scrawled notes on them.

Sniffing Tennis Balls?

My son, Josh, has a well developed sense of smell. His sensory processing issues are sometimes a strength but more often than not when he was younger they interfered with his ability to function and participate fully in activities. When I homeschooled Josh and his sisters, two out of three of my students had AD/HD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) along with sensory and auditory processing difficulties. Not only did they have more energy than I did, I had to repeat myself a lot and keep their sensory challenges in mind. Leaning over to help Josh with an assignment, I can remember Josh informing me that I had coffee breath. Unwilling to forgo coffee, I instead tried to angle my head so that when I spoke the air flow would be directed away from Josh’s nose. Picture the way a bird cocks its head, and that’s probably about what I looked like as I taught my little fledglings. Although I wasn’t right in his face, his overly sensitive nose could pick up the smell of a peanut butter sandwich from several feet away. As with many of his sensory integration challenges, Josh was both sensory seeking and sensory avoiding at times. When I prepared his meals, Josh always had to sniff the food before eating it. Always. Even if it was his favorite meal, very familiar to him, he smelled it prior to eating as if this time I might have slipped something nasty in his food for unknown reasons. Josh wasn’t a picky eater, but he sure appeared to be a suspicious one. Over time, I was able to get him to sniff more surreptitiously at least when he was a guest in someone’s home or out in public. Josh still occasionally gives an unfamiliar food item a sniff prior to tasting it, but I think that’s o.k. because we all tend to notice the smells of new and previously untried foods. Josh’s tendency to sniff things wasn’t limited to food or drink items. One time Josh was playing with our dog, having him fetch a tennis ball. This is when impulsivity collided with sensory processing and Josh took the tennis ball from the dog’s mouth and gave it a sniff. “Ewww! This smells terrible!” he proclaimed, practically gagging before lifting it to his nose for another whiff. “Ugh! That’s awful! Plus, it’s slimy!” Now his whole system was on red alert since he experienced an aversive smell and an aversive tactile feeling together. I could practically see him shudder. We had to laugh, though, because even after he knew the tennis ball had a bad odor, he went ahead and smelled it again before he could stop himself. When I asked him why, he said something in his brain told him to check again to see if it was as bad as he thought it was. His own second opinion was confirmation enough. Josh still has an acute sense of smell, but over the years has learned to control both his impulsivity and his reactions to smells – even though as his mom I can still tell when he is cringing inside.

Special Needs Expenses and Help

Having a child with special needs and learning struggles can put a strain on your budget. There are so many expenses with doctor’s visits, therapy, tutoring, specialists, and medications that the overall cost is overwhelming. As a speech/language pathologist and homeschooler, I could address some of my children’s needs on my own. I was a speech therapist before I became a mother, and felt blessed that I had an education background as I navigated the paths to finding help for my children’s struggles. It helped that I could do the speech therapy myself, but I still needed resources to help with the other diagnosis and treatment for identified areas of need. I relied heavily on input from my occupational therapy friends (thank you, Amy!) and had weekly visits to a psychologist for over three years. Actually, my child had the visits but there were times when I could have used more help for my own struggles as his mother! I took my two AD/HD children to social groups, parent-child programs, group activities, and more. There was a significant financial expense as well as a personal cost since I almost always had to be in fairly close proximity to help them be successful and to train and advocate with others who worked with them. My husband has always been supportive, but does not have the special needs background that I do and I was the one doing the homeschooling. As such, my husband just saw all the bills come in for all the interventions and programs we tried. We’ve never had money just to throw around and I wanted to be responsible with our family resources and have something to show for my efforts. Yet I’ll admit, even when I heard about treatments that sounded too good to be true, my heart still had a burst of hope wondering if it might actually be THE thing that changed our lives for the better. What kind of mom would I be if I didn’t at least give some consideration to something that might make a huge difference in my children’s lives and ease their struggles a bit? Some of the more outrageous proposals I was able to talk myself out of attempting, but there were others I explored more thoroughly. Some were rather expensive explorations with minimal or no returns, and I try not to think of what I could have done with that money had I not fallen for the marketing strategies and testimonials that sucked me in. Still, I have to say that as a parent desperate to find and do anything to help my children, I would have had more regrets had I not at least given some things a try.
Even if you have insurance, it may not cover all the therapy sessions your child needs or the other medical expenses you incur. Here’s what I have learned over the years:
1. Most medical professionals will work with you on financing. If you are self-employed or uninsured, sometimes they will agree to charge a lower rate than what the insurance companies are charged. Talk to the billing department and tell them how much you can afford to pay each month. If you are at least making monthly payments, you are much less likely to have your bill turned over to a collection agency.
2. Some agencies (like those with United Way) have sliding fee scales based on ability to pay. You have to share what your income is and how many are in your family and so on, but you may be able to afford therapy that otherwise would not be available to your child.
3. Check with your local school district, even if you are homeschooling, if you feel comfortable in doing so. Some schools will provide therapy and other supports even to homeschooled students. It varies from district to district, and I always recommend checking with Home School Legal Defense Association (www.HSLDA.org) prior to contacting your local school district. HSLDA members can speak with their region’s special needs coordinator for additional suggestions, including homeschool-friendly specialists and consultants in their area.
4. If you personally know someone who is trained in an area that your child needs help, think about an exchange of services. What do you have to barter with? I saw a friend’s child for speech therapy in exchange for her watching my children for a few hours now and then. It was worth it for both of us! More recently, I had two friends with sons in need of some speech therapy. I tried to persuade them to drive with my daughter (who has her permit and needs more hours of practice before getting her license) in exchange for speech therapy. They didn’t go for the idea, but because they were friends I saw their sons anyway. Try not to take advantage of your friend with professional training, but instead think of something that won’t bust your budget that you could offer in exchange for their professional expertise. They should be able to give you ideas and show you how to implement strategies at home.
5. I don’t have personal experience with this organization, but I came across this website some time back and thought it might be helpful for a family feeling buried under medical bills with ongoing expenses and no end in sight. It’s called “NeedyMeds” and has information on medicine and healthcare assistance programs. There is more information on the website www.NeedyMeds.org and if you are a low income family or are uninsured or under-insured this organization may be of help.

Homeschooling the Challenging Child

This is an interview with Christine Field, author of Homeschooling the Challenging Child. Christine has wisdom and experience that she shares freely to help those who are facing learning and behavioral challenges with their children. Though years may pass between our meetings, it is always wonderful to reconnect with Christine. We were able to grab a few minutes during a recent conference to do this video interview. You can see Christine’s book here: Homeschooling the Challenging Child
I hope that you enjoy the interview, and I encourage you to visit Christine’s web site for more resources at www.homefieldadvantage.org

-Melinda L. Boring

Be The Match!

I am both excited and nervous when I think about finding a match “out there”. Once I send in my information and it is put on file, anybody looking for someone like me could find it. It might happen soon, or there might not ever be anybody out there who is a match for me. I have to be ready at any time to respond to my potential match. I can’t control if and when things might happen. But if it does, I know it will be worth it and I will be ready at the right time. Let me explain.

For those of you who know me personally, try to stop freaking out now. I am NOT leaving my husband of 25 years. Scott and I are doing fine. I’m talking about “Be The Match”, the National Marrow Donor Program. I work with medically fragile children. I have friends and relatives who have gone through serious illnesses. I have heard stories of people struggling with health issues, and I’ve often wished I could do something more to help them. The Be The Match program allows me to be available in a way that could be life changing. Signing up is easy and straightforward. Just go to this site: http://www.marrow.org/ and read the information. If you decide to join the registry you simply fill out some information on line. Then, if you qualify to be a potential donor, you will be sent a kit and further information. Once the kit arrives, just follow the directions, do the cheek swabs and mail the completed kit back. Your kit will be processed and you will be added to the donor registry. If you are matched for a donation, the doctor will decide which of two different procedures to do. From what I read, it seems that the discomfort is minimal and the recovery time is brief. It seems like a small sacrifice when there is the possibility of saving a life.

If your health is good and the desire to make a meaningful difference in this way appeals to you, I encourage you to consider joining the registry. Even with the millions of people who are already part of the registry, there are still many people who are unable to find a match. You might be the one among millions who could be an answer to prayer.

Get Back Up and Don’t Give Up

Years ago I convinced my brother to go skiing with me.   I had been skiing once prior to this, and I never made it off the easiest slope known as the “bunny hill”.   The easier slopes provide a rope tow up the hill rather than the chair lifts used by more advanced skiers.   I shared all my skiing knowledge with my brother, which took at least two minutes, then set him free to practice his new skills.   As I was holding the rope tow on my way to the top of the slope again, I saw my brother about half way down the hill.   As I watched, he wiped out and just flopped onto the ground.   Then I noticed he wasn’t moving.   In my mind, I became his rescuer.   With my novice skiing skills, I pictured myself as a keg-toting Saint Bernard braving the winter cold to get to the victim of a mishap, but I was determined to reach my brother as quick as my wobbly legs and skis could carry me.   I zoomed (only in my mind) down the hill toward him, and just as he managed to push himself into a crouching stand I plowed him over and took us both several feet further down the hill.   Ta-dah!   Have you ever been “helped” like that?   Someone with good intentions directed your way but leaving you feeling bowled over?   I’ve felt like that during some of my homeschooling challenges.   I’ve met people who seem to find me normal enough until they find out I’m a homeschooler.   At this point they helpfully question my competency and qualifications while providing me with an extensive list of topics that I must cover or my children will be permanent outcasts from educated society.   This exchange concludes as I am trying to figure out which concern to respond to first and they slowly back away, shaking their heads and murmuring that they could NEVER homeschool their children.   “I can’t either!” the small voice in my head replies.   “What am I thinking?”   Plowed over again.   Other times the challenges come from my own homeschool students.   I may think I have a lesson plan so exciting that even my struggling learners will flow right along with the lesson and beg for more.   In my enthusiasm, I might be several minutes into an activity before I become fully aware of the blank stares of my children.   Why, they actually look…(gasp!) bored with my incredibly thought out and creative lesson designed specifically to promote their love of learning.   But they don’t love it! Plowed over again.   When something or someone knocks you flat, get back up and don’t give up.   Just as my brother cautiously got to his feet again and continued to conquer the “bunny hill” slope, and as I carefully avoided knocking him off the slope, you can’t let setbacks define you.   A face plant in the snow is rough.   Being re-planted by a circumstance or by someone “helping” you is also rough.   But staying down is not the place to be.   Rest a bit if you need to, before picking yourself up.   Just don’t stay down so long that you get frostbite.   No matter how many times it takes, get back up again.   It will be so much better than remaining in a plowed over position.   It will be worth it.   I promise.

Sensory Issue: He’s sniffing EVERYTHING!

A friend contacted me recently to ask for some suggestions for helping her son. He is on the autism spectrum and recently has started sniffing all kinds of things, even dropping to all fours to sniff the floor at Wal-Mart and stopping to sniff at light poles. This behavior is especially embarrassing to his siblings. My friend asked her son to stop sniffing things and he told her he can’t. She came to me to see if I could suggest something inexpensive to try with her son. Here is an excerpt from my reply to her:
You are both right – he needs to stop the gross/embarrassing behavior, and…he can’t. I always try to think about how every behavior, no matter how quirky, is meeting some kind of need. We do things that are somehow rewarding to us. With that in mind, you can’t just tell a child to stop smelling objects because something in his brain is telling him to do those things. But in your family, in our society, those things will never be acceptable. So you have to try to come up with something that meets those sensory needs and is also an acceptable behavior. Some of the solutions might still be considered “quirky”, but there are degrees of quirky and some are easier to take than others. For the sniffing, try soaking a cotton ball in something with a distinct smell and keep it in a snack-size ziploc bag for portability and easy access. You might want to have several separate bags with different smells, and when your son feels the urge to smell something you can redirect him to one of the cotton balls. (Ideas include: cologne, coffee, air freshener, extracts – peppermint, lemon, cinnamon.) You know what smells your child can handle and what ones might set him off, so you choose what works for you. If you discover a favorite scent, you could apply it to a handkerchief or piece of material that he can keep in a pocket and pull out to sniff as needed.
My friend decided to try various aromas on cotton balls and used a large pill case to house each scent separately. The pictures above show her solution, and here’s what she says about it.

I bought a pill holder and put cottonballs scented with different things inside each of the seven compartments.
Now, whenever my son has the urge to sniff, he can grab that, open one, and smell away. I used vanilla flavoring, coconut, perfume, lotion….anything that had a strong smell and I tried to find some different from each other. Still quirky, yes….especially in public…but way less quirky than dropping to all fours and smelling a floor in public.