Ready to Sleep Better?
Podcast Episode Transcripts:
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Welcome to the kids sleep show, where we help tired parents from around the world to get their children to fall asleep independently, sleep through the night and build healthy sleep habits for life. I’m your host, Courtney Zentz. Now let’s sleep together. All right, so I’m excited to announce Wendy Valenti is my guest today here. So Wendy, you know, first and foremost, tell us a little bit more about live well designed yourself, and really got how you got into, you know, into the the space that you’re in right now, I would love to chat a little bit more and introduce you to our listeners a bit.
So I started my career, probably about what, eight years ago, um, became an interior designer, and knew I was going to start a family did that. So my career, you know, took a little backseat, and that was okay, because I was serving a greater purpose. A few more kids and, and so now we have three girls. And I needed something that was mine some identity of for myself, not just mom, not just I was PTO I, you know, crazy things that I do as a mom. But my design is always there. I love it so much that I needed to start my own business because the traditional way of working was not working for me. And you need to be here for my kids. Plus, my daughter was diagnosed with autism and ADHD. So I have a unique perspective on designing for this specific group of people. I think that they get thought about in the larger scale on commercial facilities, but not so much on the residential front. So when we’re at home, and that’s where we’ve all been, we need to be thinking about these people with the extra needs, and where we can help them and really getting to understand what it is that it’s going to create better outcomes for them.
And it’s so interesting, because I actually had a guest on earlier in the shows that was talking a bit about, obviously, your sensory processing, right. And I think immediately when you hear sensory processing, your mind goes straight to autism drew many capacities, right, but we all have a level of sensory processing, right like that it can tolerate, right. And I you know, I’m just I’m so fascinated by the space, because I think there are things that we can do to help and support our children in that the sensory, visual structure supportive, a de supportive a room and what it looks like. So I’m super excited to get into this and kind of learn more, because it’s such a fascinating world that I just don’t think parents talk about, right. And to your point, we’ve been all locked in our house since March going, what what is this going to look like? And frankly, when’s it gonna end? Right? And I don’t know that anybody can answer that right now.
But also, how can we help these people that are not getting the services that right, they’re entitled to? So we, as parents or as caregivers, you know, we need to kind of think outside the box? How can I help them with these new circumstances? What is it here that I can change or adjust to get better behaviors, go to sleep, for instance, I have trouble with my kids.
We chat about that later. But I think to your point to the sleep, I’m sure we can chat about it later, as well, offline, but it immediately impacts behavior regulation. And now you’re dealing with a child who has some additional needs, and they’re exhausted, and their emotions are showing it you know, so it’s Yeah, I always say like the sleep is the foundation for which the house is built. But that house has to have some, you know, critical elements, which I’m excited for you to talk a little bit about the way it looks like because to your point like that, you know that the support services that you know, children rely on are not available, especially for children, for example, that are autistic, my best friend is a school psychologist at the intermediate unit here in Philadelphia. And she was we were just chatting the other day about it because she’s like that they’re they’re bringing the children back into the IU. So but some of them are able to come some are not you know, and so she’s able to try to navigate this like crazy world of some can get in and how do we support them because they need the support. They’re regressing and what does this look like? You know? Yes,
it really does.
So, I mean, talk with me a little bit about obviously, you have a personal experience with kind of taking what was this passion for interior design and now looking at it going with this lens. How do I make this work for my own family But then how can I make this work for my clients too. So I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about that aha moment for you and what that looked like.
It actually came because of a collaboration through someone I know, I just connected with this woman online. And she’s, what she, she’s a doctor. And so she has like a lot of different kind of background than I do. And she has experience with her autistic child who’s also ADHD. And we came together creating this idea of designing specifically for autism, ADHD, sensory processing, and other related conditions. So that’s kind of how it all started was just from a beautiful collaboration between two people that sort of had similar ideas. But here, we wanted to make something completely different and totally unique. Um, we actually created a course that went out in April. And that allows parents to learn as they go, and do it as they have time. Us parents do not have a whole lot of time. When you throw in extra behavioral challenges, sleep challenges, and other just sensory overload on challenges. We have, we don’t have a whole lot of time to get things done. So this is in bite sized pieces so that people can understand what to do and how kind of that DIY handed then, um, let you ask the next question. No, that’s
I mean, I think it’s great. And it’s, it’s amazing how you know, something’s born from an idea that comes from, frankly, a personal experience, like I got into the space I’m in because I felt like a useless helpless new mom at six weeks old, frankly, ready to drive off of a bridge. It was like, there has to be a better way than this. And yeah, like tiny transitions born, like, I got to figure this out, you know, and I did, and I, you know, I went back to school and got a bunch of different certifications and education and such, but, you know, it’s, it’s often these amazing organizations, much like yourself, are born out of a need personally, right? And we’re supporting ourselves and filling our family’s cup with what they need to be at their best, you know, I, you know, I would love to understand just how since March like what what do you do in a space, like if a parent sitting there saying, Hey, I think, or I know that there’s some sensory issues or somebody is diagnosed autistic, but guess what, now they’re home all day, right? Like, what are the things parents can do? I think first and foremost, as far as just the space that they’re in and how they start to look at is the space conducive to a child based on some of those diagnoses? Right, exactly.
So the one of the first things what one of the things that I hear the most is trouble with sleeping, so I started thinking and I start probing the parent of questions is the room calming. Typically, when we were growing up, we’re throwing posters all over the walls, colors galore. We’ve got tons of stuff and we love it because it’s uniquely and personally hours. But with an autistic child or a child that cannot come down on effectively by themselves. They need a little bit more help. We need to really kind of strip that room of a lot of its color. It’s so easy for a bedroom to be like like color threw up all over it because everything has a million colors and characters and they’re all bold and exciting. That’s the problem right there is they’re exciting. That is not what we need when we’re going to bed. So I can tell you personally yesterday, I finally got my white sheets in and I stripped everybody’s beds into white sheets instead of patrol and Doc McStuffins and Daniel Tiger like tons of color all over this room and I just changed it just white. Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be white but it just needs to be calmer.
Now you were you know we were kind of joking before we started chatting about blue right blues, the camera 2020 right. And so you know that calming? Those calming tones like what are they like if a parents like I don’t know anything about interior design, I go to Home Goods and get whatever the heck they have like right they do an environment like white sheets is a great example. Keeping the light you know I have a real sensitivity to light bulbs. I got pleat the fake, blue ish tinted looking like give me the old school. Let this be this column oranges color like I don’t like those Fake white ish lights, you know, they’re not calming to me.
Right now the blue lights are not very thorough a little bit calming, they can also be a problem. But what I really like are dimmers. If you can dim the light, you can get the achieved lighting that you need for that space. Yeah. You know, in a child’s bedroom, that is where they’re going to be getting ready in the morning. So you’re going to need bright light. But when they’re getting ready for bed or when we’re like reading a book, like halfway, you know, half as much light is really what you need. It just needs to start feeling calmer
helping the body from a melatonin standpoint. Right right and Lance have to know that it’s your body calling now it’s time to go to bed I use I am so anti nightlight in bedrooms, because that ambient light to your point blue like most of the nightlight mobiles in kids cribs, like Who the heck thought of that, right? Like, it is a blue light flashing around like nothing about that says time to go to sleep. Like I use Himalayan sea salt lamps in my rooms. Yeah, one because it’s pink light. So it’s a little bit like
it’s a wake up call, as you say warm is good. I’m not a designer, like it’s pink, I like to call, right but like, you know, I can also adjust it so that’s nice, little darker, or brighter when she’s falling asleep for my daughter. And then after she goes to bed, I go in and turn it like super low where she gets up and has to go to the bathroom. She’s not gonna trip and smash her face on the dresser or something. Right. But you know, things like that I you know, are helpful to the environment and dimmers and amazing idea, we have them in our rooms as well. Blackout blinds and curtains and stuff, you know, and just like from a color standpoint, like what are calm colors,
um, anything that’s more of nature. Okay, you’re gonna find your blues, your greens, even like your lavenders. Some of your like royal purple, they might be a little bit too bold, which is another thing that we need to consider. As far as colors. It’s not just the color family, but it’s also the tone. We’re looking for muted colors. muddy, almost. We’re no longer looking at bold primary colors that is good for a plate area, when you’re trying to get that energy out and possibly like a sensory room. We definitely don’t want like reds in a bedroom.
Yeah, my husband’s bedroom was read when we first started dating. And I’m like, it looks like a murder scene. And there’s nothing about this that is calming at all.
It’s really not romantic. It’s actually really horrible for people with a heart condition. Because it read actually, it starts your heart to race. Interesting. So you immediately are more, excuse me more energized because of the color, nothing that you’ve actually done. But because of that color you they could have a problem with a heart attack.
And it’s funny you say that. I know from like, you had mentioned sort of that place base, which we’ll get into. I was joking because I went to Sherwin Williams the other day and I need to paint my office and I have these color swatches and I’m like talking to my kids. I’m like, okay, playful, everything’s bright, vibrant, like super
boom, but that it’s stimulating. Yep. And that’s what you want during the day and insert, you know, appropriate times when they are not doing schoolwork.
Yeah, well and then they had actually the they have like a Sherwin Williams which is like my favorite place in the world. They have a section that was like the dreamer. Relax, like these colors are relaxing, right? Like, you know, coming in and kind of finding that like going to a place like, you know, like that to figure out if you if the space for your children is not what I would say was calming right? Like maybe it’s bright, you know, yellow and bright orange because you thought that was fun, you know, kind of taking a look and reassessing that especially when children have you know, some aspect of challenges calming right challenges get a and going to sleep like lava lamps and stuff like my aunt bought, you know, my daughter, a lava lamp, and it’s blue. Like we’re not turning that crazy, like, thanks. You know, love her. She doesn’t listen to podcasts. I don’t have to worry about it. But, you know, it’s just like, Okay, thank you. Good. We’ll keep it in there when you come to visit. Maybe we’ll turn it on for like a little bit, but
that’s a good one. A lava lamp is actually really good for the playspace Yeah, so for your sensory room. They’ve got these fabulous lights that they’re basically lava lamps, but they’re huge for people like that
and talk a little bit about the play space, right? So I think in the bedroom, we want to have cool colors that are calm, muted kind of tone. Like I diffused lavender in my kids rooms. You know, some people feel one way or another best oils. I just like going into a room.
Calm, so there’s no harm and using it. Yeah. And that’s gonna do anything bad for you.
I tell parents like when you walk into a spa, what do you feel like, right? The first thing I do when I walk into a spa is you go,
Right. Like that’s calming. That’s the point of going to a spa like so I try to emulate that in my kids rooms every night. You know, I sit here now with my like, energy and stress away. I just like essential oils like
I’m no I’m not the lemon.
Like, whenever I’m feeling I kind of sit like throw it on, you know, but I think the demurrer is a great idea, you know, paying attention to things like nightlights and such you know, that kind of that noise happening like loud toys and stimulating things in the bed space, like right out old school books, keep devices out of the bedrooms, you know, anything like that, that can be a distractor
I’m not huge on toys being in the room, they are a huge distraction. And they’re a huge mess. So my kids will bring the toys in all the time, which drives me crazy. But then they’re playing with them at night, you know. So it’s like, you need to get these out of here. Because you are. You’re way too energetic and not focusing on what you’re trying to do. So I do also like organization, within the space because some some homes, we do not have a separate playroom. So we tend to put the toys within the child’s room. But if we keep them hidden and put away properly, it will keep the space calm still, even with the toys being in the room.
Yeah, no, that’s great. Now talk to me about Okay, what if we do have a play space? Right? Or right now? your kitchen slash play room slash classroom? Right? Like, what do we want? What do we want to create as a conducive environment to somebody who may have ADHD or is diagnosed autistic, or may just have, you know, a hell of a time right now with everything going on? And they’re just trying to process everything and all these changes that are happening? Like how can we as parents kind of create that environment that best supports education and learning, but also play and creative, you know, right use of time, right? So
it’s important for us to have separate spaces, because if you go into a room that serves many different functions, it’s hard to get them to calm down if you’re trying to do work. So our school, we’re in school right now, but um, we have a space already set up because we had to last year. And that’s in the dining room, big open space. It’s all organized, it’s labeled with their names with pictures, so that they can easily find what they’re looking for. And I have access to everything that I need right here. When it comes to a play space, that should be separate from a bedroom from an eating area and from schoolwork, because those are calming activities were calming down to eat, you know, we’re trying to focus better. So if you can find a separate space, separate closet even and create this cool, fun sensory space for them. Um, a lot of people go pretty big with it, because a lot of our kids need a lot of extra stimulation so that they can get that out and calm down, especially with ADHD children. So we have swint we actually there hammocks, we bought hammocks, and install them closer together. The ends closer together so they’re now a swing. Interesting installed them in our basement in our floorboards. Interesting or colored Joyce succeeds. Yeah, yeah. And the kids can just swing and swing until their heart’s content, they love it. So these things also they these specific ones, you can just tie them up top so that they’re out of the way when you’re trying to use this space if you want to. We haven’t done all the time because the kids go down there on a regular basis and just swing but we’re also getting mini trampoline it it’s already been proven to help our daughter at school so for her birthday, we bought her a new one it’s just taking a million years to get here.
Now what how like when you say that so is it something for use indoors that’s like got the handle that kids can jump or is it for an outdoor with like the big net like,
we’re going with indoor one it’s small. So we can put it basically anywhere, it can easily get hidden in a closet. Um, but is available all winter long. That’s what I’m getting ready for, I’m getting ready for the cold weather that we’re going to have here and my kids being stuck inside, they need a place to get that energy out. We all do. But we need to at least help them a little bit more right now as they may or may not be in school. Or it could change at any second.
Now, what if a parent so what if a parent is
of the needs of their child? Right? They may think, hey, intuitively, like something seems like there’s a disconnect somewhere. But you know, they’re not in school. And so it’s maybe something that’s undiagnosed, or, you know, a child is a bit younger, and they haven’t really started to put kind of things together, like what are things that they can start to look for when a child’s in a space that that space can actually be agitating to them?
Right, so we can really tell a lot from the behaviors. We try to think of a good example. Um, if so, here’s one about like, loud noise. If you have a pretty big room, and those sounds Echo, that can really give them some trouble, and they’re going to cover their ears to defend themselves. That’s definitely a sign, we might even find a preference for sunglasses, because of light being too bright. They might seem like little quirks at first, that what makes them unique, which obviously does, but it’s also telling you what they’re struggling with.
No, that makes sense. That makes sense.
My daughter hates rough clothes, she hates jeans, she will not wear them. And she may not be able to articulate exactly what she’s feeling. So if you can ask questions, so I actually have a questionnaire that I asked my customers to fill out ahead of time, it gets them to think and really, like dissect the different behaviors of their child, so that we now know more about them and can design appropriately.
And I was gonna say and talk a little bit about that. So obviously, you’re in upstate New York, what does like a consultation with you around a space? What
does it look like? Like
talk to our listeners about like, you’re obviously coming from a background of the interior design and have now melded in essentially the ADHD autistic support, or really just any family who wants support in the design of the space to suit what’s
right. So what does it look like? Right? What does somebody do? Like? I think for many people, this is going to be a conversation. It’s like, Oh, I didn’t know that they did that. Right? So talk to me about what it looks like, you know, a parent’s gonna come to you and say, Hey, I need help, we’re struggling with XYZ, my child is doing XYZ. What do we do next? Right. So you’ll send out a questionnaire and kind of start to dive in, I would assume a little bit more through like a
consultation, so much to know, and to learn about each family dynamic, because each child with autism, and ADHD, I mean, any every child is different in general, but Autism is called on the spectrum. Because there are no two people the same. No two diagnoses are the same. So I really need to know more. So I do send a questionnaire before we even have a conversation because I need some information for that call. Ideally, I would need pictures of this space. So I know what I’m working with what might be happening in that space along with what we’re trying to achieve. The family’s needs any medical diagnosis, because we have to consider if we’re highly allergic to dust. There will be certain items in your room that need to be thought about. very critically. There are sorry I lost my train of thought
No, that’s okay.
You say kind of the space the parental?
everything style, I guess would be the best way to say it. Yeah.
What are your unique family needs? What are your child’s unique needs, but also medical Are we having to fit in? You know, a piece of machinery? Or are? Are we talking about a wheelchair, you know, what type of obstacles might you be facing within this space that we need to know, consider and figure out,
I think balance too, because you may have a child who has autism needs support, and then you may have a child who does not and their needs, exactly processing and stuff is different as well. So obviously, taking that into account as well.
Right, and that could almost mean you know, creating separate spaces within a space.
Mm hmm. So,
um, we have like bunk beds. And we can take or we can get like a loft bed and put like a privacy curtain type of underneath. So that our oldest, even though she wants to be with her younger sisters in the room, she can still have her own privacy.
That’s a lot I got in college, because we didn’t have a bedroom, and we share that.
So it’s just about kind of thinking outside the box. And even then thinking outside of that box, because we, we have a whole different type of circumstances that we have to deal with. And things to consider when we’re designing for a space for very specific needs. like these. Um, so that’s, that’s how it starts with me, there are different options in working with me, I do have a course that’s pre laid out. So people can do it at their convenience and make life easier. But if they feel like they need more help, we can have chats, and I they can walk me through their space, and I can tell them like this is what you should do based on what I’ve learned from you. And also from what you’ve already done, what that space is for, and everything else. So that’s another way of working with me, or I’m available for the entire thing, that’s going to be a lot of you know, a lot of zoom shots, a lot of, you know, conversations about the needs of your child and the needs of your family. And then I would go and order everything that you need and get it shipped directly to you and even tell you where to put it, and how to install it.
And I’m curious some of the results, right? You’ve obviously worked with a lot of clients in doing this. Like if a parent sitting there going, I don’t know, if it’s gonna make a bit of difference, you know, like, what does it look like, right? When parents do this, they come to you going, ah, right, like, I don’t know what to do, right? And then they do it and then obviously have great results in the space and the changes for the child, like what does it do for the child.
So by calming down their bedroom, for one, you know, we’re going to be relaxing, getting to bed at a reasonable time, ideally. Now, this is not, you know, a cure all or anything, but it’s definitely steps in the right direction and helping them to self regulate themselves. So they start to understand, this is what I have to do this is you know, what happens after this. They follow a very strict routine. So if you keep with that, that also helps. Yeah, um, so yes, what, when we have a common room, the child is going to go to bed earlier, and have a better night’s sleep because we’re not going to be like waking up in the middle of the night and looking at something that’s going to make us go Oh, I want to get up and play. Mm hmm. It’s like, Oh, this is boring. I want to go back to sleep.
I went Did you ever have fruit striped gum as a child? Yes.
I almost bought it for my daughter the other day.
So I that is the analogy I used with most of my parents in private console. So I’m like, okay, your child is at three in the morning. Waking up and eating a piece of fruit ripe gum, right? What happens when you eat it? It’s juicy. It tastes delicious. You get a tap to, like, Who wouldn’t want that gum? Right? So every night they’re gonna wake up like, well, I want the gum right? When they should wake up and go through tribe’s gum at 30 seconds. Tastes like cardboard.
Right? Like, right?
You want them waking up going? Now? It’ll be 20 years before I buy that gum again, right? Like, you know, and that’s kind of my analogy with parents like they look at you as fruit striped gum immediately. It’s delicious. But what you really need to look at is 30 seconds later tastes like cardboard, and you no longer want it. You need to create that environment. Whether it’s through your behavior interactions with your children, or through their space. That’s the environment you need to create with them because they need to wake up realizing that sleep is frankly more important than whatever it is they perceive they’re going to get a three right
but the excitement is And the stimulation is also needed. It’s a part of the whole process. If your child has been cooped up all day sitting at a desk doing their in person or their virtual learning pretty much they’re sitting most of the day. Yeah.
And the blue light in front of my computer. Yeah, exactly.
They need to get some energy out. So if you can’t do that outside, because you live in a condominium, or it’s freezing cold, like we’re about to have, you know, like five months of winter. So I’ve been focusing inside and making sure that we have an appropriate amount of exercise activities for the kids.
So the swings, the hammock swings, um, gosh, I brought the treadmill up here. She just likes to get on it and walk it but that’s how when we get the energy out, we can then be tired for bedtime. Yeah, we have a calming room. So now we you know, our light, or switch just kind of flipped. We’re no longer excited and getting our energy out. But we’re now getting ready for bed. Yeah, and what that means. So it is a big cycle.
And I think it’s important that you have all the pieces of the puzzle together because just like I see with clients, like Well, you’re doing this but you’re missing four other parts to this, right? Like puzzles important because to your point, it’s going to be freezing cold a lot of places pretty soon and you know, saying go run outside and play soccer is not, you know, isn’t gonna cut it. Like I have a we in our basement. And we have like, we dancing and stuff. You know what I mean? And like, I’m not a huge proponent of video games, when it comes to that kind of stuff. It’s like if they’re going to sit down there for two hours and dance like, go
right, like get it out, you know? Because in doing that as well, what are we? Gosh, my old old weak? Yes. In the basement. Yeah, they love it. They love to play it. And it’s a little bit more physical than, oh, gosh, them having their tablets. Yeah,
you know, we actually like downstairs up. So I put a piece of tape in the living room like blue painters tape on the floor, and I sit with a my stopwatch on my phone. And I have my kids race each other. So they have to do it barefoot or with shoes on because if they have socks, they’ll slide and smash their face into something less. So typically, they’re doing it with their shoes on, you know, because they they’re kind of like coming home or when they’re unwinding for the night. But if they don’t have their shoes on, they’re just barefoot, which if it’s towards like after dinner, they’re usually barefoot, and I time them. So I’m like, Alright, who can make it in under 12 seconds. I don’t know, my kids are four and six. But they will literally think it’s the funniest thing in the world. They go from the kitchen, to the dining room, to the playroom, to the hallway to the you know, back into the living room. And then mommy races mommy’s got the fastest time by the way. So we you know, we race as a family. And it’s so fun for them. But it’s literally 40 minutes of them just haul in there took us around and around and around. And it’s like, boom, just got the energy out, you know. So like, you can be creative in setting up even like workspaces where it’s like, okay, you start here, and you run to here, and then you do 10 jobs in place. And then you go over here and you do five jumping jacks, right? And then you go over here, and you do, you know, three squat downs. And then you run back to me, and we’ll see how long that takes like you can make it a fun thing inside to for kids where you kind of incorporate an activity they like to do within the space, that still makes it fun.
Right? Exactly. There’s so many different things that we can do to get get them to where they need to be.
Yeah, no, I think that’s super important. Well, I would love for you to tell us a little bit about where folks can find you obviously live well designs as your company, where can they find you on social and you know, to connect with you directly. Because it’s been great having you Wendy and and I want to make sure that I connect folks that may be listening to this going, Oh, I need some help, right can find
it. So the biggest The easiest way to get to know me, is through my designing interiors for autism Facebook group.
And I have that I’ll make sure that’s in the show notes as well. For the
listener, I share the most stuff there. It’s really geared towards parents or caregivers who have an autistic child. But really, it can be an autistic person. But going there, you’re going to get lots of tips, ways to work with me. I Gosh, I’m sharing different things every day. So who knows what will be next.
Awesome. I appreciate it so much. Thank you again for coming on and I hope you have a lovely rest of the day. Don’t get up there. And I look forward to staying in touch and connecting I’m definitely looking at the group and share with some folks in my own group to head on over there. And and joins, you may see an influx of of people. But I appreciate it. And I hope you have a beautiful rest of the day. Thank you for coming on and chatting more about this because I think it’s important and we can all do a little bit to create that calm environment in the right places, and the stimulating environment in the other places. So yeah, exactly. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, and I hope you have a great day and I’ll be in touch. Okay, thanks. Bye, bye. Hold on. One more thing before you go. As a valued listener of the kids sleep show, I want to help you build a great sleep or not just in the times you’re listening to the show. But all day every day, every week of the year. I have a new Facebook group called slumber Made Simple. It’s a place to gather with other parents looking for sleep support, laughs and the latest in sleep research, to build a family that is rested and at their best day in and day out. If you want to be part of the community where you can get free sleep support, weekly training sessions, unbelievable content and so much more. Head on over to tiny transitions.com forward slash community. That’s tiny transitions.com forward slash community or head over to Facebook and search slumber Made Simple. drop me a note and let me know when you join. I can’t wait to see you there.