Category: sensory (page 2 of 4)

Fun Tactile Play for Easing Tension

You know the days where your children are either constantly at each other or they’re whining at  you? Makes you feel like ripping your ears off huh. I felt like that today. Wilding and Nieo were arguing, fighting, squabbling.. it wasn’t going well. So I decided to whip up a quick sensory table for them and in minutes they were happily playing side by side tipping, pouring and getting along for quite a while afterwards.

 

Tactile play has that effect: it can be incredibly calming and soothing for all different types of people – adults included!

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We use a Step2 water table as our sensory table, it’s big enough for two and can be sat at or stood at. It’s stored undercover out of the weather.

Today I decided to use a mixture of dry basmati and aborio rice because that is what we had at home and I wasn’t in the mood for another car trip. I scoured the house for some implements for the girls to use and settled on some spoons, a funnel, a pastry brush, some bowls and a few scoops. We added some Schleich animals, later.

Some other fun things we have added in the past are: sequins, little shiny stones, shells, seed pods and polished stones.

We have made sensory trays using shallow containers, trays and lids of containers in the past.

They’ve been made with dry beans, sunflower seeds, dry lentils, kinetic sand, waterbeads and even dry oats. Cooked spaghetti was a messier type we made which was a pretty big hit with our tactile-seeker.

Cheap shops are great places to buy implements, if you check out the party aisle you can find great (lolly) scoops and containers and other little do-dads. Otherwise most things can be borrowed from around the house.

Sno has a mini-tactile play box at school she uses from time to time as well.

They’re great fun, and if they’re kept outside and the boundaries are laid down then the mess is fairly easily contained. Give them a go!

 

 

Does Your Child Hate Clothes? Read On..

A few years ago Wilding really struggled with clothes.
They were tickly, scratching, annoying. They kept her awake at night if they were too warm or too cool. She’d refuse to wear certain types of clothing, get stuck on the same few pieces and then she would roll up her leggings or shirts because she hated the way the fabric felt on her skin if it was too loose, and she loved the added pressure from rolling. Socks were a nightmare, too. She would fall apart if a drop of water got onto her clothes and she’d strip off naked, no matter where we were. Clothes were really distressing for her.

Who knew that clothing could cause so many issues huh? Well, they did.

Wilding exhibited what is known as tactile defensiveness. This means she was hypersensitive to things touching her skin, they caused her a lot of discomfort. She copes a lot better these days, and it’s largely due to an incredible Occupational Therapist who worked with Wilding and helped her with desensitisation therapy.

 

By exposing her body to more external stimulus, it was able to “get used to” the way different things feel in a safe and fun environment. We would let her be the one to control how much or how little she would touch, and how she would play with it.

Ideas for tactile desensitisation play included:

Body painting.
Drawing on the body with washable pens.
Playdoh.
Kinetic sand.
Therapy swing.
Jettproof compression clothing.
Food painting (with yogurt, cream cheese, dips).
Dry body brushing.
Making mud pies.
Beach play starting with dry sand moving to wet sand eventually.
Homemade “goo” or slime.
Making biscuits and shaping with hands.
Gardening and planting seedlings.
Finger painting.
Water beads.
Playing with sensory trays filled with cooked pasta, dry rice, dry beans, lentils.
Shaving foam art.
Clay play.

The more exposure she got to these different activities the better she learned to cope and the less her clothing seemed to bother her. Her skin became less sensitive to fabric against it and she slept better, too. These days clothing isn’t really an issue at all anymore, but she does still like to have a wet wash doth nearby for really messy play – and thats’t totally fine by me.

 

 

Things I Will Do To Get My Kid To Eat.

I used to be one of those parents. You know the ones I am referring to. The ones who insisted on sitting at the table for every single meal. So precious. So dignified.

But that was then. There was only one child. And this is now – there is four. Two are autistic.

So my levels of understanding and my boundaries of coping have.. ahem.. stretched. A lot. When eating food becomes tricky because it is a major sensory issue you kinda get to a point where you’ll do anything to get your kid to eat.

 

 

Here are the things I have done and will do to get my picky eater to eat:

Let her eat in the bath.

Let her to eat in the shower.

Let her eat under the table.

Let her eat sitting on the table.

Let her eat walking around.

Let her eat whilst dancing.

Let her eat (risotto) with her hands.

Let her eat on the couch.

Let her eat in the car.

Let her eat breakfast for dinner.

Let her eat dinner for breakfast.

Let her eat three serves of dinner.

Let her eat two broccoli heads over the space of a day.

Let her eat the same thing for a week solid.

Let her eat everything covered in tomato sauce.

Let her eat hot chips five times a week.

I have used bento boxes.

Bento picks.

I have wrapped food in wrapping paper for her to eat.

I have even let her pretend she was a dog and eat food off the (clean) floor.

 

Seriously. The extent to which I will go to so that my child will just eat her food I don’t think actually has any bounds. And if I haven’t explored them already I have no doubt I’ll discover them one day.

 

Yippee!

 

 

Shopping Centre Survival Tips

When you are a parent of a child with special needs often times simple daily life functioning things like going to the shops for example, aren’t actually that simple.

Usually there are three options: 1. Go to the shops alone. 2. Go to the shops with the child and deal with the inevitable meltdown later. 3. Go to the shops with the child and luckily come home unscathed. Usually for us, it’s option 1. Or rather, PapaGirlTribe goes to the shops on HIS own because yeah.. I don’t do groceries – not when his method is so perfect! *cough he’s a perfectionist & an awesome planner with an incredible memory for shop-layout and shopping trip efficiency cough*

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Shopping centres can be really overwhelming for autistic children (and adults!). They’re noisy, there’s always lots of people, they’re often strong-smelling and those fluorescent lights are harsh on the eyes. Because autistic children take in their surroundings and absorb so much around them, it’s no surprise that shopping centre trips can be met with meltdowns, screaming and what may look like “bad behaviour” but is actually a child who isn’t coping.

As is usual within our tribe of girls; our daughters who are autistic have conflicting triggers. This means that Wilding copes with grocery shopping really well, but Sno doesn’t at all. Life happens though and when the inevitable time comes around however and we have to go to grab groceries and take Sno, there are a few things we can do to ensure she manages better and doesn’t have a huge meltdown afterward.

  1. Go Equipped.
    This means for Sno to wear one earplug (or both, depending on the day) to help drown out atmospheric noise. She also copes better when she wears a fidget bracelet (we buy Zippy ones from Sensory Oasis For Kids) and she also likes the plastic coils that are used for hair ties that you can buy cheaply from the supermarket. I’ve also found placing a little bit of super soft fabric in her pocket for her to stroke and fiddle with helps keep her calm, too. What tools you bring along to help your child cope will depend on their individual sensory profile – which is different for each child.
  2. Plan Your Route.
    Don’t make the mistake of dragging said sensory-sensitive child all over the shop from one end to the other, and back. It really helps to work out what you need beforehand and where those items are, and plan your trip to the shops accordingly so you aren’t double-tracking back and forth.
  3. Avoid Browsing – Take A List!
    Standing around and browsing aisles vaguely probably isn’t the best approach for groceries. The more time spent within the supermarket without purpose, the more time spent for your child to get overloaded and build up. Write a list before you go and even involve your child by helping you get the items. Having a purpose whilst out is going to help your child with coping.
  4. Take Snacks!
    If your child is younger and can sit in a trolley or even on your back, I’d recommend bringing food. Some crunchy food that can provide calming oral sensory input might be helpful with self-regulation. Whether the food is consumed during the act of grocery shopping or before or after – it doesn’t matter. Food is a good distraction and diffuser of tension and if it’s crunchy or chewy, even better!
  5. Allow For Down Time Afterwards.
    So you’ve survived the grocery trip – hooray! Even if it all went to crap, you’re done now. Take a big breath. Now is the time to make sure your child has plenty of Quiet time to recuperate and recharge, if you want to avoid a meltdown or if your child needs to recover from one. Allow your child to have however long they need to recentre themselves; every child is different with their calming preferences – Sno loves to lose herself in a book whilst laying on her faux minkee blanket, and Wilding enjoys zoning out with the iPad and some crackers. We have even been known to bring the iPod in the car and encourage Sno to turn it on with some calming music of her choice and use her noise-cancelling headphones as soon as she gets in. On days that going to the supermarket is unavoidable – always make down time afterwards your biggest priority.

Even though going to the shops can often be a major shitstorm for many autistic children, it would be my recommendation to keep trying to go. Even starting with shorter trips which are successful and then building up to longer ones could be the way to go. I firmly believe it is important for our children to come up with coping strategies so they can be  fully functioning adults who can be grocery shopping whizzes when they’re older! But ya know, if all else fails.. Embrace online shopping.

 

Product Review: Jettproof Calming Sensory Clothing.

It’s been three years since Sno was diagnosed with autism and you’d think by now as a parent of a special needs child; I’d have tried everything.. well you’d be wrong. I’m still learning about autism on a daily basis and this brings me to discuss JettProof calming sensory clothing. Jettproof is an Australian company (ph: 1300 667 687 Australia-wide) who create and manufacture calming sensory clothing for special needs children (and adults!). The purpose of the clothing is to provide gentle pressure across different areas of the body which has a calming effect on the wearer. There are shirts, vests, shorts and even bodysuits available for purchase – depending on the individual’s preference.
We were excited to try out a compression singlet for Sno because we know she enjoys pressure (this is called proprioceptive input) as she likes her weighted sensory lizard, sleeps at night with a weighted blanket and also loves to hang out in her therapy swing. The idea of a sensory tool that could be used without my child having to “do” anything really appealed to me; especially in when applied to a schooling setting. It seemed like one less battle to have to have – as sometimes encouraging Sno to take an active role in her sensory diet can be a bit of a struggle. So I thought if Sno could wear the vest under her usual uniform and get constant calming pressure and input and have it all be incidental – that sounded great. 
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It’s been a fortnight since we have had the singlet and it’s been a great success. I have noticed a definite decrease in her meltdowns which usually occur from being overstimulated and typically happen every day. She appears to be a lot more grounded, a lot less agitated and she has been coping with stress and anxieties much better. Along with being unwell which is often amplified tenfold due to hypersensitivities, she is just easier to get along with. I have to say I was a bit shocked by the huge change myself. However there haven’t been any other changes in her daily life or coping strategies so I can confidently put it down to the JettProof singlet.
Wearing the Jettproof singlet.

Wearing the Jettproof singlet.

 As Sno is hypersensitive to temperature, I was worried that she would resist wearing the singlet due to overheating (yeah, even in Winter). But it has not been an issue at all, as it is made from a special breathable, sensory fabric that is fine to wear all year round. The vest isn’t overly high on her neckline which means she can discreetly wear it under all her clothing and no one can tell – this earned brownie points from Sno herself. She also liked the way it could be stretched to lengthen and go over her hips if she pulled it down, or it could sit normally at her waist.
I would thoroughly recommend this product to other families. I was skeptical at first, but I have to say I was totally surprised and had my doubts squashed. It’s such a seemingly simple concept, with great impact. Check them out and support an Aussie local business.
*This is a sponsored post however all the opinions shared here are my own.

Calm Down Box

In the last week or so I’ve put together a “Calm Down Box” for both Wilding and Raralilyo to use.

We have 4 rules in our house that cover all areas. The first is “Is it kind?”, the second is “Inside voices”, the third is “body and objects to self” and the fourth is “We all contribute”. When one of the rules have been broken or one of the girls anger gets out of control .. this is when the Calm Down Box comes in to play.

The idea is that when their anger gets out of control and they either hurt someone or want to hurt someone or something, they go to their room and calm down using the tools in this box – and then when they’re come out, we problem solve and talk and come up with strategies and solutions together. Their room also has a soft little fold out sofa for them to sit/lay on and cushions to hide under as well.

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As Wilding finds oral sensory input calming I included bubbles, chewy toy & pinwheels for her. She also finds visual stimulation calming so that is why the kaleidoscope, maze book & whiteboard and pens are included too.  By the way; I found finding pinwheels ridiculously tricky and after about 5 different unsuccessful shopping trips I found them at Mr Toys Toyworld for $2 each – awesome.

The Sudoku book, stress ball & iPod are Raralilyo’s calming items of choice. She listens to Lori Lite guided meditations on her iPod and also Goo Goo Dolls to de-stress (proud mother here).
If the Calm Down Box does it’s job it will teach my fiery girls how to harness their anger and be the one in control of it rather than the other way around. It’ll also hopefully teach them simple habits from a young age that they’ll carry through their childhood and into their teenage hood and adulthood. Emotions like anger & frustration can be daunting and tricky for little people to understand and cope with independently.. So the sooner our children learn strategies for managing big emotions in healthy non-destructive ways; the less out of control and more supported & empowered they’ll feel as individuals.

 

Verbal Stimming – What Is It?

I’ve been asked this question a few times lately by readers so I thought I’d address it here in a separate post.

Stimming is a self-regulatory behaviour that is done by the do-er because it feels good. Verbal stimming is when the mouth is used to make noise.

If your child:
Says the same word over and over.
Does “scripting” (i.e. repeats lines of books/movies)
Makes raspberries.
Makes the same noise repeatedly.
Hums.

.. then they may likely be verbally stimming. So essentially they’re using their oral sensory input as a way of self-calming, which is pretty clever, I reckon!

 

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Wilding tends to verbal stim when she’s in the car as a means of coping with the vestibular sensory input which she isn’t a fan of. This means she would repeat the same words continually very loudly constantly which was very hard for the other passengers (especially auditory-sensitive Sno) and often very distracting for me as the driver. Since we bought her a chewy necklace and make sure she has her oral sensory needs met in other ways her very annoying habit of verbally stimming has calmed down a lot. For emergency times I keep a packet of brown rice crackers in the car for her to munch on and find that the crunching on them reduces her need to verbally stim.

Sno verbally stims by making loud grunting noises during her meltdowns as a means of self-calming. It is loud and not very easy for others in her close vicinity to hear and despite her being noise-sensitive; because she is the one in control of the noise it doesn’t seem to upset her and actually calms her instead. Gotta love how that works! She also loves to sing the same line of certain songs repeatedly as well which I don’t mind as long as it isn’t Backstreet Boys. 😉

As I mentioned above with the strategies we use with Wilding; offering other forms of oral sensory input can help with verbal stimming.

It isn’t about stopping the behaviour but if it is affecting other people in a negative way (like if you’re like us and live in a house where the people who have ASD all have opposite triggers *face>palm*) it may be appropriate to switch or substitute the behaviours for something with less of a negative affect that still provides the same sensory input.

Substituting verbal stimming for:
Chewing on xylitol gum.
Chewing on some chewelery.
Blowing bubbles.
Crunching on some crackers.
Drinking a thick smoothie.
Blowing on a pinwheel.
Providing headphones & iPod or earplugs to block out some of the external noise.

We also encourage times for Wilding to be really loud so she is able to get the noise out at times during the day when it doesn’t adversely affect others. When she’s on the trampoline outside for example we throw down balloons to her and encourage her to squeal and sing and make silly noises. And when it’s just her and I in the car; we sing loudly together without having to worry about Sno flipping out over the noise.

My Top Autism Related Resources.

In Australia, under the early intervention and diagnosis criteria (HWCA) – when a child gets diagnosed with autism before the age of 6, they qualify for 12k worth of funding to be used before they’re 7. About 4k of this can be used on resources and the rest is used on therapy: speech therapy, occupational therapy & psychological therapy.

It can be a bit overwhelming at first trying to work out how to spend the resource funding so I’m going to share some ideas of the things we used ours on that we would rate and recommend.

*Please be aware this is not a sponsored post at all, I’m merely sharing my views on products because I think they’re great.* 

 

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Time Timer
This timer is invaluable in our house as it reduces the amount of upset caused by continuing, persevering or finishing activities. It provides a clear visual allocated space of time for our girls. Sno in particular loves and uses this. When given challenging activities to work on (for example: exercise on a cold morning or cello practise) it really helps her to know and see how much longer she has left to keep persevering. It’s also a useful aide for transitions when finishing and beginning another activity, or limiting the time spent on screens or reading chill breaks (otherwise she would spend the whole day in her room reading which is fine on the holidays but not really OK on weekends or weekdays). The one I linked is a big portable one but there are smaller versions which can be bought too which may be useful in schooling environments or kindergarten or home.

 

Ikea Pod Chair.
This chair is a huge hit here. The way it can be spun is calming for sensory seekers and its pull over cover provides a cozy and secure hiding spot which can be utilised for overwhelm. Sno who is nine still fits in ours. Could be really useful in a kindergarten or school environment, too.

 

Weighted Blanket.
This was an item I was skeptical to purchase initially because of it’s cost. However Calming Moments make beautifully made, affordable blankets that have helped Sno a lot. After many months of her being very restless at night times and evenings that would always crescendo with a meltdown due to sensory overload and overwhelm, I was willing to try anything. The weighted blanket has been a huge hit in our house because it provides calming pressure to the legs or whole body and settles the body for bedtime, promoting deep sleep.

 

Weighted Toy
These can be used during seated work or also in bed. Sno loves to have her weighted lizard draped over her lap or shoulders in class; it helps her concentrate during noisy parts of the day and it also calms her after she’s been stimulated in excess. Wilding loves to wrap her body around her panda in bed and gets a lot of comfort from it.

 

Climbing Frames
I’m not sure if you’re aware but non-permanent climbing fixtures can be bought using the funding. We got this one and it’s been a huge hit amongst all our girls and worn well over the years in all kinds of weather. They can be used to promote greater gross motor strength, balance & improve muscle tone too. Not to mention they allow for many different types of sensory inputs!

 

iPod Nano or Touch & Noise Cancelling Headphones.
We chose to buy Sno the Nano as she is very visually sensitive and there’s less options for her to get overwhelmed with, and Wilding got a Touch. Sno uses her iPod as a clock but she also has music on there in different categories which she uses to calm and block out other noise. We have also learned how to download her interesting podcasts and load audiobooks on there for her. This can be awesome to use when travelling too or having to do “waiting” at other events. Wilding loves the Touch as we have loaded apps on there for her that are stimulating and challenging (she’s almost reading at 4.5 years old) as well as calming apps and favourite videos and movies which come in handy being able to be transported when travelling or during transitional times. The headphones we use are these ones.

FunkyMonkeyBars
Now we don’t personally own these so I can’t vouch for the quality or construction of them but I think if we had our time again these would be totally on our list. They look like great fun and would be awesome for building muscle tone, core strength and coordination.

 

Magnatiles
We have numerous sets of these and they have been wonderful and remain amongst out most-used and loved toys. They are wonderful for hand-eye coordination, promoting creative thinking and expanding on imagination skills and they’re really visually appealing. We would love to create a lightbox or table to expand the use of these. We have also used them in the bath and on the fridge. They can make 3D creations to expand mathematical knowledge and also beautiful flat patterns exploring symmetry.

 

Smart Girl Guide Books
These books have been invaluable to Sno in aiding her understanding of social situations. They explore many “what-if” situations as well as “what to do in the case of XYZ” and break down the barriers of social interaction. Many autistic girls struggle socially because the definition between the grey areas of social conduct are often very unclear. So they mimic to cope, but teaching them skills and appropriate conduct can be a really useful way to demystify all the jumble and confusion that is friendships and relationships with others.

 

Jettproof Compression Clothing
We have only been trialling a vest for a few days and soon will provide a more in-depth review but so far we are really impressed with this item and will need more on hand for ease of soon soon I believe. These vests provide subtle proprioceptive pressure to the individual wearing them, which can have a calming and grounding effect on the wearer. They’re made from a great light weight fabric which wicks moisture and is breathable and cool to wear under other clothing. The thing I love about the vests the most is that they can be worn underneath school uniforms without anyone knowing so they provide constant calming sensory input without the individual having to “do” anything – it’s all incidental. Definitely worth checking out.

 

InYard Therapy Swing
The awesome thing about this tool is that it can be both calming and alerting. It can be used as a jumping/spinning therapy toy, and also as a cocoon that provides deep pressure. Jody from Sensory Oasis for Kids is the only Australian stockist and she comes highly recommended. We have the Jumbo size and it is fantastic.

 

Cj’s contribution:
An Epic Occupational Therapist.  😉

“Why Does My Child Do This?” – Exploring Sensory-Driven Behaviour, (Part 7).

And tonight we discuss the final part of the series.

Olfactory.

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This is the smelling sense.

People who seek input in this sense are those who favour strong smells and also enjoy smelling things and seek out new smells.

People who avoid this sense may get offended by strong smells and be very sensitive to new smells. This can be an issue when cooking and preparing food. Even when doing the dishes! Smells can overwhelm individuals and when they’re in a situation where they are already dealing with other types of input (like crowds and noises) strong smells can often just tip an autistic person’s coping over the edge. Wilding especially struggles with smells at kindergarten eating times and for this reason sometimes she chooses to eat separately away from her peers – which is perfectly fine. She will even go so far as to ask me to move away and eat my food somewhere else other than with her during times when she’s feeling hypersensitive to smell (like when she’s very tired or has had a big day). My husband Cj is very sensitive to smell and refuses to be in the kitchen when I need to melt butter!

Ideas for olfactory sensory seekers are: cold-air diffusing essential oils (lemongrass is a favourite here). Scented lip balms. Homemade essential oil roll-ons that can be made cheaply and kept in pockets and used to help self-calm. Fresh flowers around the house. Sno loves smells and really enjoys topping up my spice rack and sniffing all the spices – cardamom pods and cinnamon are her favourites. She also loves the smell of cocoa butter and almond oil that I use for moisturising. Lemongrass soap was a treat I added to Sno’s suitcase as a treat when she was at school camp.

Ideas for olfactory avoiders: use fragrance-free products where possible and experiment together & come up with a list of brainstormed “safe” smells to use. But keep exploring smells because there are many out there and you may surprise yourself!

I highly recommend the Sydney Essential Oil Company for beautiful organic oils with no MLM component, and I use an oil diffuser I got from eBay for $30 which has been brilliant, too.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my series on the different sensory areas. I’d love to hear what works for you, too. Please share!

“Why Does My Child Do This?” – Exploring Sensory-Driven Behaviour, (Part 6).

Auditory.
This refers to the hearing sense.

It is possible to be hypersensitive and hyposensitive to noise and auditory input. People who are hypersensitive may cover their ears, be easily startled and be very distracted by every minute noise they hear – this can make it hard for them to settle and wind down, especially at bed time. Someone who is hyposensitive to noise may appear to not realise when you’re talking to them and can appear as though they’re ignoring verbal requests – this isn’t the case, it’s more that the noise in the background just all blends together and they have trouble distinguishing it. They may also struggle with understanding tone, inflection & pitch during conversation and grasping what that means. It’s possible to be both hyposensitive and hypersensitive to any type of sensory stimuli.

People who seek this type of input love to listen to music and often enjoy repeating the same sounds, scripts or song lyrics. They may also play the same types of music during times when they’re feeling stressed or anxious as a means of self-regulating.

Auditory-defensive people find noise hurts their ears. But not all noise. They may find the noise of leaf-blowers, vacuums, mowers and aeroplanes distressing and even the sound of large groups of people can easily overwhelm them and cause them to retreat. Echolalia (which refers to repeating the same sound over and over again)  is a common thing for people who are audio-defensive because despite it being noise in itself; because it is controlled by the individual doing it – it’s less confronting and difficult and can often be used to block out other noise.

 

 

Wilding is noise sensitive but finds visual stimulation calming.. She uses noise cancelling headphones to watch the iPad.

Wilding is noise sensitive but finds visual stimulation calming.. She uses noise cancelling headphones to watch the iPad.

Ideas for auditory-seekers are an iPod where they can play their favourite songs without it impacting on others. Audio-books are a great tool here as well, many can be downloaded for free using apps available at many libraries. Podcasts can also be something that may appeal. Libraries are awesome too as there is a wide range of different music to be sampled for free. And of course let us not forget instruments!

Ideas for those who are auditory-defensive can be: earmuffs, noise-cancelling headphones which block out external noise that can be used alone or connected to an iPod where the individual has control over their noise intake and also silicone earplugs purchased from a pharmacy which are discreet and effective at muffling noise. Sno uses these in particular whilst at school during assembly and some group work to enable her to concentrate. She also uses them in the car while her younger sister likes to verbally stim.

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