Moving from the physical, here are some recommendations for books (print, audio, or
e-reader versions are available for many titles) that you may find useful in framing
thoughts about what is important to you or more specifically, how you can make plans
that are likely to work for you. I have read all of the books I list. Some I have loved
and I would find it difficult to say much negative about them. Some have had much that
didn’t apply but provided a few gems for thought or action. If you can, get a copy from
a library before buying. At least check online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and
Noble, or a bookstore chain in your country or area to see what reviewers and actual
readers thought of it and why.

I love books, the feel of them, the ability to hold them and leaf from one page to
another. Unfortunately, the result of a lifetime of book buying is a house overflowing
with books. If you are not buying an illustrated book or a reference you will want to
have handy for a long time, consider an audio book. I have listened to a number of
books while driving, as well as doing household chores such as laundry and dishes.
We have a subscription to Audible, which is the source of most of our recent purchases (click here).

Joseph cannot turn pages well because of his fine motor problems. He reads primarily
on the computer or on a Kindle (We gave ours to his teacher for his classroom use,
then bought the next generation unit.) The Kindle, the first e-reader, allows the user to
hold the tablet, increase font (letter) size if desired for easier reading, and “turn” pages
with a touch. The light weight of the unit also makes it easy to hold and easy to take
with you from place to place. You can carry a library with you at less than the weight
of one hardcover book. I have started using our newer Kindle more and more because
I can increase the size of the letters, and this helps me avoid headaches.

For information on Kindles, or to buy one, (click here).

Books (print, audio, e-reader):

Core principles and character traits on which to base life decisions and life

Jim Stovall’s books and Andy Andrews’ books are told in the form of parables, stories
of fictional people whose unusual, if not supernatural, experiences are used to teach life

Joseph Marshall is a member of the North American Lakotah tribe, and he uses history
and the folklore of his people to discuss universal traits such as humility, perseverance,
and wisdom.

All of these authors have written families of books over time, and you may be able to
find calendars and associated products for books or ideas that resonate deeply with you.

Jim Stovall,
The Ultimate Gift and The Ultimate Life

Andy Andrews,
The Traveler’s Gift

Joseph Marshall III,
The Lakotah Way, Walking with Grandfather

Principles that may enable you to be more effective as a person, worker, or
family member, as well as how to design life plans (the modern version of
“Self Improvement”):

Patrick Lencioni is a business consultant who applies business principles to organizing
families and optimizing personal life. He uses the parable form, too, to make his points.
My husband and I listened to his “Three Questions” book over a short holiday and
applied some of his principles to our life. Despite some major differences between the
family in his parable and ours, we found his principles  worked as long as we continued
to apply them regularly.

Religious books:

I thought of two books immediately that fit this category, one beloved by my mother
and the other by my father. If you are not uncomfortable with books written by people
who profoundly believed in God (in these cases, one a rabbi and one a clergyman in the
Church of England), consider these books. Both are about healing from within.

Joshua Loth Liebman
wrote Peace of Mind  

Leslie Weatherhead
wrote The Will of God.

Both were written by deeply spiritual, thoughtful people responding
to living during World War II.

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People have different tastes about what to put in a room, and one person’s comfortable
is another’s cluttered. I have fashioned and refashioned our family room multiple times
since we became parents. The version most people would recognize is the baby-proofed

When we realized Joseph the toddler had autism, was physically clumsy and fell a lot,
and had hands that were busy all the time he was awake, we designed a space that had
few sharp edges and broad spaces between pieces of furniture, and as many things that
were nonbreakable as possible. There were very few knick-knacks or things that could
be handled, dropped, or thrown. We kept his therapy equipment/playthings in the
adjacent room so we could use one piece and line up the next without creating a space
that was too distracting for him. We tried to have indirect light and a low sound level,
both suggestions that matched what was in his classroom environment and worked well
for him as a young child.

As he grew older, we put more pieces in the room that allowed him to safely burn off
the energy of a bipolar/hyperactive child with adult supervision: We still have a therapy
barrel that he once crawled through but can still (as a teenager) use for throwing bean
bags, as well as a mini-trampoline with a hand rail. It is a constant battle to keep the
room from having so many books and DVDs that he moves from item to item
continually and without paying attention to anything.

Our trend has been from less typical to more typical in appearance. On the other hand,
if Joseph had a progressive neurological disorder or we had an adult with dementia living
with us, we would want to pay attention to whether the room needed to be simplified
over time.

I generally find indirect light, some sound, and (possibly) a soothing scent like lavender
to be positive elements that ground people who have difficulty dealing with higher levels
of environmental stimulation, have internal problems with attention, thought, or
memory, or have behavioral difficulties. Certainly, light, sound, and scent are elements
that educators and medical professionals consider in designing spaces for people with
neuro-psychiatric problems, or any individual under greater –than-average-for-them

Everyone has different musical tastes, and sometimes the most helpful sound isn’t music
at all, but white noise or other constant sound. In learning about autism and psychiatric
disorders, I found out about some specific arrangements of music that can improve
emotional modulation. An occupational therapist who worked with children with sensory
integration problems (children, including mine, who have trouble filtering out
unnecessary or unwanted sound, light, touch, smell, or stimuli involving body placement
in space) told me about Sheila M Frick, an occupational therapist who developed a
program called therapeutic listening, which involves electronically manipulated music,
based on earlier work by music therapists.

We have had success using music prepared for her system, and I have known other
families affected by autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and mood disorders
(such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder) who have showed
behavioral improvement or could verbalize greater comfort in environments with this
music as background. If you search online, you will find books, as well as the music
itself.  The albums we have are Mozart for Modulation, More Mozart for Modulation,
and Baroque for Modulation. In researching this discussion, I could not find either her
books or the music CDs for sale by a general retailer, but they were reviewed by a
number of websites dealing with autism and vestibular problems (balance issues) and
were offered by some therapeutic equipment distributors. If you need help finding them,
please let us know.

I find that when I am sick, I can relax and heal better with soft instrumental music.
I like classical music, but I have also become a big fan of some film soundtracks.
In particular, I find Rachel Portman’s scores to be beautiful (obviously I am not the only
one, she has won an Oscar) and I recommend them. http://www.amazon.com/rachelportmansoundtracks.

Some people love perfume, scented candles, essential oils diffused into room air, or
flower essences. Others want as no-scent an environment as possible. Essential oils and
flower essences can have positive properties including a calming influence. Lavender is
one of the best known examples of an essential oil with calming properties for people
and animals. One clinical study found that dogs with car-related anxiety were less likely
to pant, drool, or vomit in cars that had been pre-treated with lavender oil. If you decide
to try an essential oil or a combination product of flower essences (Bach’s Rescue
Remedy is one example), I recommend buying a small quantity until you know whether
you or your loved one (of whatever species) is a positive responder to the product.
Also, I recommend buying from someone you know, such as a local store owner, who
can tell you about manufacturers and their quality control procedures.

Don’t forget that touch can be important in allowing people to ground themselves.
When my grandmother was nearly blind and in her early nineties, I bought her a slik
scarf for her birthday. She had been thrifty all her life, and I doubt she had ever bought
anything for herself that was silk, but she loved the feel of it in her hands and sat by the
window listening to the outside sounds and simply feeling the silk in her hands.