Thursday, October 25, 2018

In The Spotlight ~ An Interview w/Pierrette d'Entremount-Crimmins On Sensory Chewelry


Sensory Awareness month is almost coming to an end. I am so impressed with the amount of sharing, learning, and guiding that I've seen from SPD advocates worldwide. It truly warms my heart.

Fifteen years ago, there was very little support out there for parents who often felt isolated and alone in their struggles to both understand their child as well as to get them the help they desperately needed. There were very few books out there, even less online resources and no parents out there sharing their own stories. The first book I received on the subject of SPD was Carol Stock Kranowitz's "The Out Of Sync Child", then "Sensational Kids" by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller. I read each of them from cover to cover and was inspired to do what was within my ability to ensure that no other family, parent or child would have to feel that no one else understood their struggles.

Today, there is a wealth of information on the subject of SPD including books, websites, blogs, sensory tools and diagnosis and treatment options. There is even a Foundation (which actually has been around for many years, but for some reason, parents aren't always introduced to it) that conducts important and ground-breaking research. How tremendously inspiring is that?

I remember having the privilege of speaking with the very wise, Dr. Lucy Jane Miller several years ago now regarding the importance of keeping the on-going SPD research known about and understood. Keeping abreast with all of the new findings and information they are sharing on the STAR Institute empowers parents to be able to spread that knowledge to others who either don't know about SPD, or have access to a solid resource to try learning about it.

As I've always said, the base of true understanding about any condition is knowledge and the willingness to learn. That is so important in our ability to advocate for these children and families. Arm yourself with information, absorb all you can, utilize what parts of that information are specific to your child, then be brave enough to reach out, and be reached out to. That is advocacy. In doing so, we are teaching these children to, eventually, be able to advocate for themselves. And there is no greater gift than that.

Having said all of that, today's guest, Pierrette d'Entremont-Crimmins, is no fresh face in this community. She and her mother, Lorna, have been well-known and highly respected contributors for many years. Together, they have not only created much-needed and invaluable sensory tools, they also offer a wealth of resources in the forms of books, websites and information. And they are a Canadian Company to boot.

Although I've known them for several years now, I consider their strong continued support to the SPD Community, as well as helping to create greater awareness for other special needs, incredibly inspirational. I hope you enjoy our chat as much as I did.

And be sure to check out their websites at the end.

Enjoy!
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CHYNNA: Welcome to In The Spotlight, Pierrette. You and Lorna have both been frequent visitors to our old blog, ‘The Gift’ and I’m excited to have you re-join us here. For those who aren’t aware of your background, would you mind sharing a bit about yourself with us?

PIERRETTE: I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada and spent my university years in Ottawa, Ontario, majoring in Human Kinetics. I came back to my home province and turned a jewellery making hobby into a company after attending GIA (Geological Institute of America) online. 
Growing up in rural Nova Scotia was tough at times especially when I developed Tourette’s syndrome and associated conditions. No one really knew how to deal with it, not in the 1980s. 

CHYNNA: That must have been so difficult for you. It’s always harder to teach others about something you face when there isn’t enough information available to learn from and understand the situation. You should be very proud of yourself that you persevered and used your knowledge and education to create a much-needed product that stemmed from a hobby. Why don’t we start with a bit of history about “KidCompanions Chewelry” and how it began?


PIERRETTE: KidCompanions was the result of my background and in meeting my children’s needs. I had made a breastfeeding pendant for my newborn to focus on while feeding, but noticed that it was my four-year-old that was using it most. She, like me, had severe sensory issues and the textures and chewable feature on this handmade clay pendant were a hit.

This was in 2007, and after searching I realized that there was no such tool out there. Partnering with Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS with the help of the NRC (National Research Council), we were able to test materials, create a safe breakaway clasp, navigate Health Canada and, finally, launch our new KidCompanions Sensory tool (along with its sister HeartString Companions parent necklace, to help with baby carrying and focusing baby while breastfeeding).

CHYNNA: That is so inspirational, and you’re right. There weren’t any tools like yours at that time, especially here in Canada. I know that the chewies have been a hit in our house too. Now, you have a partner at KidCompanions Chewelry. Would you mind telling us a bit about her too?

PIERRETTE: My business partner happens to be my mother, Lorna. She’s a retired elementary school teacher who’d spent 30 years in the education system. She has experience with special needs (not only with me), and has spent many hours as a Special Needs Book reviewer over the past few years as well.

CHYNNA: Lorna is an amazingly giving person. She and I have collaborated on a few things, so I know how very special she is. Let’s talk a bit more about your SentioCHEWS Kid Chewelry too. How would you describe them? What situation inspired the creation of this wonderful sensory tool?

PIERRETTE: After a couple of years offering our KidCompanions Chewelry, parents would sometimes contact us to ask if we had a tougher chew or a more economical version. The two-part KidCompanions is 100% made in Canada, and we needed to create two moulds. During production, an employee must also manually feed the interior “dot” into the machine to build the overmould (the softer heart or circle “shape”).


This prompted us to design a one-part pendant. We tested dozens of materials and settled on a very pliable, more resilient one. We created four shapes and decided on two colours. All of that enabled us to still keep our production in Canada, but lower our cost by nearly half, to offer kids a tougher more economical pendant. 

CHYNNA: That’s fantastic, and producing them in Canada is even more impressive. In addition to all of the amazing things you do, you have a fantastic and informative blog as well as a book review site. What can visitors find at each of these places? Why did you decide to start them?

PIERRETTE: Both my mother and I are interested in research, mental health and special needs issues. My mother is an especially avid reader and has developed a book review blog  over the past few years into a great resource that is, hopefully, helping out other parents. We try keeping up our KidCompanions Special Needs blog with relevant information as much as we can.

CHYNNA: That’s great that you’ve taken all that you’ve learned and put all the information into a place parents can go when they need guidance. As we touched on earlier, many people don’t realize that you are a Canadian company, which we so need. Did you start the companies due to the lack of resources available to Canadians in terms of sensory tools?

PIERRETTE: People often think we are in the UK (probably due to spelling) or the US. When we started in 2007, there were very few sensory tools anywhere. With growing awareness, we’ve seen a huge jump in offerings over the years.

CHYNNA: Yes, I’ve noticed that as well. And it’s due on many levels for people, like you and Lorna, who have seen this need and created a way to meet it. You have, and continue to make, a big difference in the autism and SPD communities. What do you think others can do to help raise awareness?

PIERRETTE: Think before they talk, read, learn and share. Empathy goes a long way in a world where we often don’t put ourselves in other’s shoes.

CHYNNA: I completely agree with you on that. Being able to see through another person’s eyes, especially children’s, is the stepping stone to understanding. You both have proven that point, and have encourage it, tenfold by giving a needed voice in these communities, and for many other special needs. What’s going on right now with KidCompanions and the blog? Any upcoming events?

PIERRETTE: We are currently working on revamping our website over the next year and on offering DIY product assemblies. We’ve noticed that sometimes people would like our soft cotton lanyards with a SentioCHEWS pendant, for example. So by letting people mix and match, they can create their own Chewelry.

CHYNNA: That’s brilliant. Plus, it empowers parents to have more of an active part in their child’s treatment plan. How can we track you down and see what’s going on with all of you?

PIERRETTE: Our KidCompanions Chewelry and SentioCHEWS, along with our Special Needs Blog can be found at https:kidcompanions.com and our Special Needs Book Review blog can be found at http://specialneedsbookreview.com You can reach us via email at info@sentiolife.com. 

CHYNNA: Thank you for the links. I hope our readers take note of them and visit the sites to add to their list of important resources. One last question I love to ask: Do you have any pearls of wisdom for our readers?

PIERRETTE: Good choice, since my main jewellery specialty is natural pearls and cultured pearls :) I would say to periodically pause and refocus on the things that are really important to you, not the next deadline or appointment.

CHYNNA: I didn’t know that pearls were your main jewellery specialty! Well, that makes your words even more meaningful. And you’re so right. The here and now, and what’s truly meaningful in our lives, should be the focus. I want to thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule to join us here today. We’ll definitely be adding your website to our list of sensory resources. Good luck with everything you have going on and, please, be sure to visit us again with an update.
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Pierrette d’Entremont-Crimmins is a mother of three and owner of her company SentioLife Solutions, Ltd.  She designed two lines of chew necklaces for individuals who have an overwhelming need to bite, chew, and/or fidget. Besides the Chewelry, she also sells Clip-on chew pendants for individuals who prefer to fidget to help them calm and focus. Their two lines of breakaway lanyards were so popular that now they sell them separately in lengths of 18”, 20”, 24” and 28 inches!  Assembling this Canadian made product in-house makes it easy for them to cater to the wishes of their clients.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks, Chynna, for this informative interview with Pierrette. Hope your readers will check out these two lines of Canadian made Chewelry.

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    Replies
    1. I had alot of fun with Pierrette. And always, love hearing from you too. I'm sure our readers will definitely check out your site. It's wonderful to have such a wonderful company close to home offering an invaluable product so close to home. Come back any time.

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