Holidays can be a stressful time for many, but can be especially stressful for children with sensory processing differences and other disabilities.Read More
Blog posts by the staff at sensational development. We post information and topics of interest for our clients.
It’s hard to believe that Summer is already coming to an end! The transition from summer back to school can be challenging for any child and even parents! Transitions in general can be anxiety provoking, especially a child who has difficulty processing sensory information. Let’s make sure your child is ready for that first day by following some of these back to school tips!
Get your child back on a routine! Summer can be a fun time to go with the flow; staying up late, sleeping in, more activities or maybe less activities than typical. It is important to be sure your child is prepared and well rested for school by making sure they get enough sleep! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics it is recommended a school-aged child gets between 10-12 hours of sleep each night. Get that bed time routine back, so it is not a shock when school starts again.
Prepare your child for their new grade or new school by talking with them. New environments and new people can be very scary for children. Make a social story that helps your child understand the changes that will be happening when school starts again. If possible, bring your child to their new school. Validate their feelings and explain to them that it is okay to be scared or nervous, because many of their peers probably feel the same way. Point out the positives of school and help get them excited!
Backpack safety! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics your child’s backpack should never weigh more than 10-20% of your child’s body weight. Pack heavy items closest to the center of the back and adjust the pack so the bottom sits on your child’s waist. Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back and remind your child to use BOTH shoulder straps!
Diet and nutrition! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, have improved concentration and more energy. Be conscious of the foods, drinks and snacks you are packing for your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child's risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options (such as water and appropriately sized juice and low-fat dairy products) to send in your child's lunch.
Continue to move and play outside! Take advantage of the beautiful weather and get your kids outside to play! Climbing playground equipment, side walk chalk and digging in the sand are all great activities for strengthening and ways to activate your child’s sensory systems! If your child has a sensory diet given to them by their occupational therapist, be sure to continue with those activities. Understand that when school starts, these activities might have to be done before school to help organize their central nervous systems and prepare them for the day. Also understand that with a new routine your sensory diet activities may not be working for your family or child anymore. Ask your occupational therapist for new ways to help prepare your child for school so they are ready to listen and learn! We are here to help!
Kerry Gilroy, MS OTR/L
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
When hearing the word “diet”, as a society, we immediately associate the word with eating healthier or limiting our intake of certain foods and beverages. For parents, when the term “sensory diet” is first introduced, a variety of questions of confusion and curiosity may come into play. Have no fear- this type of diet has no effect on what your child can/cannot eat but what in fact your child can do throughout his/her day to help and assist with attention, arousal, and adaptive responses. A sensory diet is a carefully planned program of specific sensory-based activities that are scheduled according to each child’s needs, consisting of specific components and “nutrition” for the central nervous system (CNS).
Children with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) may have a difficult time adjusting to everyday stimuli that may not appear as a problem to a person without sensory-processing difficulties. As a child who may have a difficult time adjusting everyday stimuli it may illustrate an under-responsive behavior (low arousal) or an over-responsive behavior (high arousal) (Wilbarger & Wilbarger, 2002). With these children who have a hard time adjusting or modulating his/her behaviors, this may effect a child’s participation in everyday childhood “occupations”, or behaviors and roles that are important to the child’s growth and development. Examples of “occupations” that are important throughout childhood are play, self-care, school, and sleep.
With all of this information the next step is asking; how is a sensory diet created? As an occupational therapist it is our role to help assist in creating the sensory diet, with the help of parents/guardians, teachers etc. that are with the child on a daily basis. The key to creating a successful sensory diet is by gathering information on the child's day, routines and schedules in addition to observations of the child and how they respond to sensory experiences. In terms of writing down your child’s daily activities, it is important to note/comment on your child’s performance or activity level during these times or activities. The more detailed you are the more helpful your information will be in determining sensory diet activities and/or tasks that will benefit your child in his/her environment.
For parents and children with a Sensory Processing Disorder, incorporating a sensory diet into his/her daily routine may be helpful in allowing the child to perform as optimally as possible in his/her environment. With this being said, there may be trial and error process, and this is not something to get discouraged about. With the help of your child’s occupational therapist, teachers, and supporters, your child will find a variation of different activities/tasks to helpful maintain an optimal arousal level, in order to find success in each activity throughout the day. Every child with Sensory Processing Disorder is unique and this will reflect each sensory diet differently. Some activities may work for your child and some may not; it is important to stay positive and work through this process- it will be worth the wait!
- Marisa DiRienzo, OTS
Motor planning is used to learn new things until those activities become skills and do not require planning anymore.Read More
What is postural control? Why is it important?
Whether you are eating at the dinner table or sitting down in the car, your posture is used as a support to help maintain an upright position and alignment while you engage in these tasks, against gravity. Postural control can be defined as, “the act of maintaining, achieving, or restoring a state of balance during any posture or activity”(Nichols, 1996). Although postural control is a developmental process, this does not mean that it develops normally in everyone. Development of posture is important in terms of having the appropriate muscles to keep ourselves in a appropriate position, but this is not the case in everyone.
Some signs of poor postural control include:
· Sitting on a chair in slouched position.
· Leaning far onto table top to gain support while sitting.
· Frequent falls while seated.
· Difficulty on playground equipment such as slides, poles, see saws, and swings.
- Walking with wide base of support and sitting in W-sit wide position.
According to Margaret Rood, and her theory, an important aspect of postural control is the development of antigravity movements. She proposed a four-stage sequence in the development of movement: 1) mobility, 2) stability, 3) mobility superimposed on stability, and 4) skill. This theory describes the way our stability and proximal mobility should be developed first for the maintenance of weight bearing postures and shifting positions. Once our body is stable, and muscles are strong enough for weight bearing is when more distal movement (hands, feet etc.) are used to perform skillful tasks.
Postural development is associated with maturational and experimental changes in the sensorimotor, musculoskeletal, and cognitive systems; any of these systems can result in atypical postural development. An example of a task that postural control is important for is toileting. Before children sit independently on the toilet, they need to feel posturally secure. Another task that postural control and proximal stability is important for is handwriting. Often, children with poor handwriting frequently exhibit poor proximal stability.
Activities to encourage cocontraction through the neck, shoulders, elbows, and wrists in young children include:
o animal walks such as crab walks, bear walks, snake crawl etc.
o wheelbarrow walks
o Playing games or doing written work while lying on tummy.
Older children may enjoy exercises such as exercises, using resistive object such as:
o yoga poses requiring weight bearing on the upper extremities.
· Change your child’s body position during activities e.g. kneeling to do an activity, propping on their arms/elbows when lying on their stomach.
· When sitting down to do activities, ensure any tables and chairs are at the correct height. Their feet should be flat on the floor and their knees and hips at a 90º angle. Their back should also be straight and their shoulders relaxed when their forearms are resting on the tabletop.
-Marisa DiRienzo, OTS