Doodle Therapy: Painting in Nature


Sometimes turning a kid loose with paints feels a little too hazardous inside the house – with walls, furniture, etc. which may be accidentally embellished. Consider taking those paints outdoors for a wonderful sensory experience.

Sensory integration activities are unbelievably fun and a necessary part of development for any child, whether they have a sensory processing disorder or not. Sensory integration activities are activities that should be used with any child if normal sensory development is one of your goals (hint… it should be).

Without the chance to get their hands dirty and engage in free play, young nervous systems don’t have a chance to fully develop a tolerance.

Experiential hands-on activities that prove helpful in sensory integration include:

Finger painting, or even painting with pudding

Working with play dough

Working with shaving cream

Sand Play


Baking and cooking

With Sensory processing disorders, children with tactile sensitivities or tactile defensiveness will shy away from play activities where the substance stays on their hands. These activities (finger painting, sand play, shaving cream) are all types of “tactile input” that children most frequently have difficulty interpreting correctly. Therapies allowing children to play in a nonthreatening space while pushing their tolerance levels – creates a safe environment to help them be increasingly open to new things.

For any child (whether they have a sensory processing disorder or not) our goal is to introduce tactile experiences slowly and gradually as the child is ready to experience them – so a defensive/aversive reaction is avoided. A child with tactile defensiveness should never be forced to touch anything they do not want to, as this will cause further apprehension and avoidance. In these instances, it is up to the parent to encourage, explain, understand and communicate with the child as we attempt to introduce touch sensations to them in a safe and non-threatening way.


For this activity, you will allow your child to utilize nature as their canvas. Provide paint (washable tempera), brushes or sponges ~ and encourage the use of their hands. Help your child to locate and begin painting on trees or any flat surface areas (such as large rocks).  Using their hands allows the child to enjoy the rough bark on the tree, finding patterns within it. Enjoying the soft smooth texture of the paint working between their fingers is also important. Beyond sensory integration, this activity also offers the chance to strengthen hand and finger muscles as well as helping the child understand firsthand how to mix colors.


***No trees were harmed in this project. By using Washable Tempera Paint – it will wash off in any rainstorm – or by using a garden hose.

As an alternative to paint, you can also use chalk on trees or flat surfaces as you find them:


In summary, children find joy and excitement in the smallest of things and playing is their greatest natural talent. Finger painting is an emotionally satisfying form of creative expression and there is much value within encouraging young children to be artful (inside or out-of-doors).

Building a TEAM.

national adoption month correct

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.  In the spirit of bringing awareness to adoption, our agency mission and the successes of families we serve — we are filling our blog with guest stories throughout this month. Chrysalis House, Inc. believes in the power of sharing experiences and in learning from the stories of others.  We present this series, realizing the words might be the insight that an adoptive family, adoptee or birthparent is searching the internet for!

Our sincerest thanks to the families who have put their lives into words.  We are still accepting submissions through the month of November!  Please send your submissions to

Please enjoy another story of: International Adoption.  This family has an enormous heart for adoption and specifically special needs children.  They have built a beautiful family and it’s been our agency’s pleasure to follow them on an amazing journey…

If you would be interested in adopting a special needs child please contact the agency @ 559.229.9862.


On Building our “Team”

Sean and I met in high school. We were high school sweet hearts and married shortly after he graduated from college. We always thought we would have two children and be a quaint little family. We pursued our college educations and began our adventure. In the next few years, God began working and moving in our hearts. We had our first child and then our second. We named them Deanna and Dylan and thought that those were cute little names for our quaint family of four. As our careers continued in the fields of accounting and psychology, respectively, we settled in to family and professional life. Then, God bestowed on us another blessing and we were expecting another baby. We would name him Darren and stick with our cute little “D” name theme as he would be our last child and we would be a quaint family of five. As our family had grown so did our faith. We began to earnestly seek God and seek His will in our lives.

In 2003, as life was taking us through the experiences of family, church, work, and daily life events, our oldest daughter began to ask questions about the plight of the orphan that would compel us to search our own hearts for meaningful answers. As she tried to wrap her six-year-old mind around the complex world issues of hunger, pain, and the life of an orphan, she asked us pointed questions like: “If orphans need a family and food, and we have a family and food, then why can’t we adopt an orphan so that they no longer need a family.” And “Why do we only give clothes to orphans when what they really need is a mommy and daddy?” Followed by, “Why can’t we do more for the orphans? Why can’t we let them live with us? We have a home. We have lots of love. We can be a family for the orphans, can’t we?”

We were the parents so we really did not have to answer those pointed questions. After all, we had just given birth to Derrick (yes, baby number 4). And yet, we also wanted to be forthright with our children and help them to think like world-changers. Those innocent yet powerful questions forced us to search for answers deep within ourselves. Sean and I began to dialog, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? Why not us? Why not now?” The next thing we knew, our hearts were changed and we would add one more child to our growing family through adoption. We would soon begin to call our family a team as we learned that we were better together, that each member was significant, that each of us had a vital role, and that each child had blessed us immensely. In 2004 we received the referral through China’s non-special needs program for a little girl that we would name Dory (cuz we had to stick to the “D” name theme). She captured our hearts with her gentle grace and her tender smile. Her delicate little fingers and her sweet voice are more than we could have ever dreamed of. Now our family was complete!

But then in 2006, I received an email asking me to look at the file of a little girl with a limb difference orphaned in Jiangxi, China. She was on a waiting child list. Her right arm was very small and she did not have a hand. I knew our family was complete, but I thought I would at least look at her picture and pray for her. When I first caught sight of her picture, I could not breathe. I sat motionless and I gazed into the face of a little girl that would once again change our lives. When I looked at her, I saw a little girl with a spark in her eyes and a beauty that took my breath away. I immediately emailed Sean and begged him to take a look at this little girl. I told him that she had a minor special need and that arms are really overrated. We prayed, we petitioned for this child, we prayed some more, and we realized that this was to be our daughter. With the adoption of Deanna we realized that no one had truly prepared us for the adoption of a special needs child. Oh, our social worker had gone over the checklists and the cautions with us. We learned all about toddler adoption, limb differences, the potential challenges that special needs adoption could include. And yet no one had prepared us for the amazing blessings we would experience being parents of a child with special challenges. We were not prepared to witness our daughter’s tenacity, her strength, her sheer pleasure in achieving a difficult task after repeated tries. While we initially set out to make a difference in the life of an orphan, we were the ones who were blessed beyond measure. And our family was now complete.

Then in January of 2008, Deanna, our oldest daughter approached me in my office. She was now 12 years old and fully knew and understood the commitment and sacrifice of adoption. We had been home with Deanna for just a few short months and she said, “Mom, I’ve been thinking…” Something about the look in her eyes told me she had been contemplating the orphans of the world. After much prayer and consideration, the Lord moved us to adopt again from the special needs program in China. Some might wonder why on earth we would adopt yet another child. We did already have 6 children. However, we have a passion for making a difference in the lives of the orphans of the world. It is that very passion that brings us pure joy and delight. It is that very passion that navigates us to action in order to make a difference in the eternal things. It is that very passion that causes us to seek God’s will and then ask Him how He would like to use us. While we ache to make a difference in the world, selfishly we also know that we are truly the ones who have been blessed beyond measure when we have added to our family as love abounds through adoption. It is really a paradox in that we reach out and yet our lives are the ones that each new addition has blessed.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

And so in June of 2009, we went to China to bring home 3-year-old Damian. We spotted him on a waiting child list and knew he belonged on our team. Damian was born with congenital birth defects and has a “little leg” and a missing finger. While we are now experienced adoptive parents, we have learned that each adoption is unique and has its own twists and turns.

When we were in China, we learned that Damian had medical issues that we had not anticipated as they were not listed on his original referral. We had already chosen this little boy and had claimed him as our own. For us, that meant that we claimed him as a whole package. Before we left for China, we had decided that he was born to be our son and that we would face each new challenge like we would with any of our children. As his parents, we would find resources and we would get through all unknown territory as a team. With Damian we have learned that legs, just like arms, are overrated. This little boy has a zest for life and lives abundantly.

Learn about your resources and have positive, supportive people in your life.

Damian’s additional medical needs translate as working closely with a few additional medical specialists. He will have a few more surgeries than we initially anticipated. He now has a pediatric ophthalmologist, a urologist, a geneticist, a dentist, a handful of orthopedic surgeons, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, an entire staff at Shriner’s Hospital, and most importantly his new family all on his team. Here in America the medical care far surpasses that which he would have had access to in China as an orphan. We have learned that we can choose to cross one bridge at a time and not let fear creep in to our minds. Our son is thriving in his new family. In just four short months, he has learned English, learned about unconditional love, learned about being a brother and a son, learned about loss and gain, and learned that families stick together no matter what. And so now, once again, our family is complete (for now).

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely at Heaven’s gates in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming, “Wow, what a ride!!!” ~Author Unknown

***Family Names have been changed to preserve Confidentiality.

“Special Needs”


The label, “Special Needs,” can be a concern and even a deterrent to adoptive families.  Obviously, it can apply to children with fairly overt medical, behavioral and physical challenges.  Yet, it can also apply to symptoms a lot more subtle… which begs the question:

When exactly does a child become a child with special needs?

All children have basic human needs.  The life experiences of some children create added or special needs.  Most professionals agree that any child “who has had inadequate parenting before the age of three or who has experienced significant losses at any age” constitutes a child with “special needs.”

The loss that an adoptive child experiences often does not stop with the loss of their birth family.  Going into foster care is ideally a short-term proposition – a bridge to an adoptive family committed to making a difference in the child’s life, helping him heal his hurts and seeing him through life with a sense of belonging.  But, adoption might not happen quickly for children in the care of the legal system.  While home-finding efforts are made, a child can live in anywhere from one – to many -foster homes before their placement in an adoptive home.

These living changes require the child to hopefully adjust, attach and separate successfully each time.  Although children have an amazing resiliency, the child can develop some special needs as result.  Therefore, we apply the label Special Needs to each child in the fost/adopt system.

Although their special needs may indeed by overt, they may also be quite subtle.  Some subtle displays of their special needs might include the following:

-may have a deep need for help to understand history and grieve losses – and may be unable to articulate that to anyone.

-may have an initial inability to trust and care for others.  Their ability to allow others to care for them might decrease with each loss.

-may develop self-parenting techniques to protect themselves from the pain of another loss.

-may develop some survival skills which can make the child seem grown up and independent – but might actually keep him from attaching to adults or a new family as quickly as we’d hope.

-may have an unwillingness to open up and give back emotionally.

A foster child who is building up emotional armor against rejection and loss might not immediately entertain the notion of adoption.  Their outward behavior may seem angry or withdrawn or passive aggressive.  Inside, the child may be struggling with the loss of his birth family and perhaps a sense of loyalty to that family.  He may also fear attaching to his new parents and fear losing them.

In summary, all children available for adoption will be labeled as “Special Needs.” Their emotional needs are significant and will require careful attention.  The faith of families and the courage of children is a sweet recipe, however.  The chance for children who have lost so much to connect, to attach, to have security and protection of a permanent family is the final product.  Working together, families, adoption workers and therapists can give these children the opportunity to heal and truly blossom.

If you’re considering the fost/adoption and live in or around the Central Valley, please give our office a call to explore this opportunity.