About our guest
As a music, movement, and drama teacher for 25 years, Carol Kranowitz observed many out-of-sync preschoolers. To help them become more competent in their work and play, she began to study sensory processing and sensory integration (“SI”) theory. She learned to help identify her young students’ needs and to steer them into early intervention. In writings and workshops, she explains to parents, educators, and other early childhood professionals how sensory issues play out – and provides both fun and functional techniques for addressing them at home and school. She is best known for her book, The Out-of-Sync Child, which has sold 1 million copies.
The Out-of-Sync Child
I often come away from a podcast feeling lucky to have had the opportunity to participate. My conversation with Carol Stock Kranowitz was no exception. It dawned on me just how many parents and families she has been able to touch with ‘The Out-of-Sync Child,’ and her subsequent writing on ‘The In-Sync Child.”
On August 5th, 2016, The New York Times solidified Carol’s credibility and hard work with the following comment:
“The Out-of-Sync Child has become the parents’ bible to [Sensory Processing Disorder].”
In September of 2019, Occupational Therapist Jamie Fleming recommended Carol’s book as a key resource in the appendix of the New York Times piece…
Becoming a best-seller
I asked Carol, how did she find this work? What I found, in fact, was that the work found her.
“I learned from the start that the children with the braces and the wheelchairs and the hearing aids were great kids to be teaching, they were eager to learn. They were in the thick of things. It was the other children who didn’t seem to be enjoying their occupation of childhood that puzzled me. They had no discernible disabilities and yet, they would stand back from the finger paint or the mud pies.”
What we were really talking about was pattern recognition. In Episode #4 of the Sensory Friendly Solutions Podcast, we interview Dr. Bill Wong, an Occupational Therapist and influencer in the autism awareness community who also lives with autism. I told Carol that it was these patterns Dr. Wong saw in himself that eventually led to his diagnosis.
“…and the patterns are exactly what I hope that parents and teachers will begin to observe. I hope that people will learn how to be detectives and put on their sensory spectacles…”
How did Carol’s teaching career open doors to the world of the senses?
“I started teaching and immediately began to notice these kids who were not in sync with the other children. They would back away from the activities that the other kids enjoyed. Their feet never left the ground or on the other hand, maybe their feet were always off the ground.”
“So for 10 years, I asked questions….”
And it was here that Carol first discovered a gap (a gap that she would later fill in a major way).
“Well, the other teachers, the experienced ones, didn’t have answers for me.”
In some ways, the sector as a whole was just reaching maturity.
“…at this time, ADD and ADHD were just beginning to come on the horizon. So we were trying to figure out, well, do these children have attentional problems?”
As it turns out, her discovery was actually that, no, sometimes they were not paying attention (as all kids do) but sometimes they were deeply tuned into what was happening around them.
The current definitions that were available in the literature simply didn’t fit.
It was at the end of Carol’s 10 years that Sensory Processing Disorder comes into the light
“…a pediatric occupational therapist volunteered to give the teachers at this preschool a workshop on sensory processing disorder…”
“…and it blew me away. It was totally answering my questions and so I learned about the three main sensory systems that very young children build all their future learning and behavior on.”
Carol decided to focus on the tactile, or touch, system because it explained why some kids in her class would pull away from ‘messy play’. Why seemingly picky eaters would avoid certain textures or temperatures of food.
Carol considered this learning a revelation and became, as she called it, a ‘disciple’ to this therapist. She wanted to consume all of the literature available on the subject. When she asked for a list of materials to read, the response was the catalyst for what would become a very successful new career…
“There isn’t anything to read.”
“I learned what I could from studying occupational therapist’s evaluations of young children with the children’s names blacked out. And I learned about kids who had sensory challenges and it was so hard to read it and to understand it. So I became driven to write something that people like me could understand.”
The Out-of-Sync Child was published in 1998
…and it has sold more than 1 million copies and has been translated into 14 languages, the most recent being Spanish.
In retrospect, it isn’t a surprise that the book(s) has been met with much fanfare. It filled a gap in the market that was affecting the daily lives of millions of families. Furthermore, it made it easily understandable and relatable. This is exactly what all great science communication does. It unpacks something messy and complicated and makes it simple and enjoyable to read or listen to. It’s what Dr. Bill Wong’s TEDx Talk did. Moreover, that is what The Out-of-Sync Child continues to do.
The book’s impact was compounded by just how common sensory issues are.
“About 16% of people everywhere, of all ages, have sensory issues…”
Carol took a complicated subject and showed the world what it was all about.
“I think my book explains how the neurological system works in layman’s terms and then we can see, oh, that’s why I don’t want to go on the rollercoaster….”
The book also sheds light on how we navigate the uncomfortable reality of so many who experience sensory processing disorder and its impact on their daily lives.
This was one of Carol’s most impactful narratives
“I really don’t like my hands to get gooky. So I don’t bake bread, I don’t garden. It just makes me very uncomfortable to get my hands all gooky like that. Does that mean that I have sensory processing disorder? No, I don’t because I can simply arrange my life so I don’t bake bread and garden.
If however, those were the only occupations open to me, bread baking and gardening and I had this sensory dysfunction, I’d be hard pressed to earn a living.”
It has also helped parents walk the road of understanding their child and themselves better.
“I can’t tell you how many parents have said, “This book explains my child and I also see how it explains myself.”‘
“…my book, I’m happy to say, has reprieved parents from their own self blame because imagine you have a baby and you love this baby and this baby has tactile issues which mean the baby can’t process being touched. So the baby doesn’t know that when Mommy picks baby up, that’s a loving caress. The receptors in the baby’s skin are saying whoa, whoa, wait a minute, what is this? This might be hostile, I must get away. So the neurological system, it’s like a traffic jam in the brain. Things are not running smoothly, tactile messages come in, the brain is not able to say this one’s a good one, this caress is a good one. That caress is invasive and not a caress at all, that’s harmful. The little baby can’t make that distinction and so the child arches his back and pulls away and retracts from Mommy’s loving attention.”
“And then the mother thinks, I’ve done something wrong and my baby hates me. And so to find out that Mom is doing everything right and it’s the baby’s system that is undeveloped and needs nurturing in a certain way, that is so relaxing and that’s what I hear so often. “You have made me realize I am not a bad parent, Carol.”
Soon after, Carol developed a professional relationship that led from the “Out of Sync Child” to “The In-Sync Child.”
“…so we decided to put our heads together and start appealing to parents of typical children, to say get your kids moving, get your kids outdoors. Get your kids doing heavy work activity and pushing and pulling and moving their bodies and relating to their environment, going through obstacle courses and looking for challenges. So we wrote the book called…Growing an In‐Sync Child.”
The Out of Sync Child Pandemic Response and Webinar Series
“…we have just produced 10 webinars.
This is our In-Sync Child Program and four of the webinars give an introduction to child development, sensory processing, visual development and perceptual motor skills.
And these 10 webinars, we’re going to be marketing them through a Canadian group called ECE Formula. ECE stands for Early Childhood Education Formula and also, they’re going to be translated and published into Greek, French, Italian and Spanish and spread around the Mediterranean world.”
What is Carol Stock Kranowitz’s strategy for reducing the noise of the current era?
What I have come to love about this final question is its timeless qualities. When guests repeat over and over something they do every day to be “in-sync” it is easy to notice patterns of truth. For Carol and so many others, it’s the love of movement.
“…I definitely have a very high movement quota, as do most children and most adults, actually. I need at least an hour of vigorous activity every day or else you just don’t want to talk to me. I’m very crabby if I don’t have my exercise. So I swam, I took muscle conditioning classes at the gym. I took Pilates exercise classes and then coronavirus happened. So now I just walk and that’s the only activity that I do. It gets me outside, I walk three miles and then I’m okay. And I’ll tell you, Matt, if I didn’t do that, I really would be a basket case, I would. I would be a little lump. So I suggest to everybody, even if they have not been big exercisers. And if they haven’t found that that is the solution, I highly recommend it. You don’t have to walk fast, you just have to walk. Because remember, everyone who’s listening, nature intends us to be moving all day long and not sitting. And when we move, we are in sync.”
Christel started practicing as an Occupational Therapist in 1994 and Carol’s book changed her practice. It was for all of the reasons we’ve previously discussed, especially how it was consistently the only book that…
“…really made practical or understanding of our bodies and especially little bodies and children but of our bodies as people, as sensory beings…”
“I think even if we reflect a little bit on what Carol called the book, right? The Out-of-Sync Child. It’s not the problem with your child, it’s not this massive thing that’s not understood. And it’s not complex vocabulary. It’s just even saying look, your child’s out of sync and an understanding that we as people, that’s something we can relate to. We immediately have an image, an understanding, a feeling, a sense, no pun intended, of what being out of sync is. Also in that concept, going to a place where we can imagine also being in sync again, right? Even those simple words, that simple title, makes it feel like this is something we can grasp…”
Becoming a parent detective
Christel was struck by this idea of simply learning to be present and observe.
“She said she was really encouraging people to learn how to be detectives and literally, on our website, on the Sensory Friendly Solutions website, we have a download for parents when they sign up for a newsletter. And look, I tell parents, become a parent detective, that’s what you are. You’re seeking to understand and making, as you said, that information just accessible and relatable makes all the difference.”
Christel noticed that the concept of play continues to make its way into the conversation on the Sensory Friendly Solutions Podcast.
“…she talked about children learning through play and for Bill, speaking about his play and his play patterns and habits as a child undiagnosed with autism. Carol talked a lot about children not being in sync with the other children in their play. The strength and the importance of development and learning through play and how being out of sync, your body, your senses being out sync, how much that impacted play and development. How much she worked really hard to identify when there were problems. She talks a little bit about referrals to occupational therapy but also, referrals to other solutions to prevent and preempt problems from happening and I really valued that advice.”
Throughout the course of the Sensory Friendly Solutions Podcast, we want to ensure that you take action. Moreover, we hope we have, in some way, improve your quality of life.
Carol’s books have touched the lives of so many. For a full list of her books, events, talks, articles and resources click this link.
Carol Stock Kranowitz, thank you for your leadership and for your participation in the Sensory Friendly Solutions Podcast.
Thank you for being on this journey with us.