I find the best way to help my Sensory Seeker to cope with the School Summer holidays is to provide him with a Summer Sensory Diet. As he doesn’t like change, ideally, a visual aid. This would show a new summer routine, which meets all of his needs. I like to make sure I continue to provide educational stimulus, so that he does not fall any further behind his peers. I will also help him to develop his gross and fine motors skills. He needs plenty of outdoor activities to help burn off some his wild energy and meet his proprioception and vestibular needs; some noisy activities for his auditory sense; and of course plenty of tactile activities. Of course I will also set up just invitations to play, and use his imaginative (I love a bit of craft): These are also educational for him but in a less structured way. A plan not only helps him make sense of what is happening, but also gives him an idea of time, and when he will be returning back to school. I will also factor in down-time (he loves computer games and watching television) – both for his and my benefit.
Summer Sensory Diet Ideas from the Kids Co-op
There’s some great ideas on the Kids Co-op that inspire me, or I can utilise to help make my Summer Sensory Diet plan – here are a few of them:
I am keen to find ideas for Apps as he sees these as playing computer games. He needs to learn how to blend his sounds, count from 10-20 – and other Early Years Goals. He is going to go up to Year 1 but be measure with P scales.
My other advice is to have lots of snacks. These can be frozen! As well as great for touch and smell.
What are P levels?
When children are in Year 1 they have finished the Early Years Foundation and move on to The National Curriculum. This starts at level 1 (and goes to level 3 in infants, and level 6 in juniors). Those children who have not achieved a level 1 at National Curriculum level would be marked with a W (working towards). This can feel deflating and confusing for a child/their parent who has made so much progress but the assessment shows the same W. P levels used when a child does not meet the National Curriculum levels but still allow progress to be seen. They are designed to show layers of small change below that of the National Curriculum levels – 1-8.
I think the main problem I am having with deciding whether to hold our son back at school a year or not is that it means accepting there’s something wrong not quite right with him. Funny as we all know he is disabled, he gets disability money and has full-time one-to-one support at school. It is easy to compare him to others with disabilities and think that the term really does not apply to him. He is so behind his peers in so many areas, but yet he’s just our son. Sometimes it’s easy to think that it is me with the “problem” – not giving him enough attention, bad parenting, I do not have the patience. I would rather those things be true and strive to help him as much as I can. But the reality of it is it is him and the fear that he may never develop further is frightening.
Pushing all these fears away and just being positive not thinking that he is disabled really helps with day to day life. So he wets himself and doesn’t sleep at night – lots of children do that at aged 5, he is still young. If he moves up then I could see that as a problem as he may be the only child to do those things. If he stays down then those younger than him may overtake him.
I know this is covering old ground but the decision day is getting closer. I had a chat with him and he really wants to move up. On days when I forget that he is disabled he seems so level headed, and that it would just be stupid not to let him move up. Suggesting that he will fail before we even let him try. But should we not upset him and just wait for him to fail, or should we nurture him and prevent him from failing. I know that the education system is more likely to help the school financially after he has failed – but we are lucky that he’s at a good school and they do not want that. He’s had a lot of changes lately and he’s not been himself. I had the back door open earlier and I told him not to go outside. I said that it was too wet. It was fresh air – I didn’t add that. I just said, “Kyle, don’t go outside. It is wet.” He is five years old. He said, “What did you say?” and I repeated it. Then he repeated, “What did you say?” and I repeated it again. This happened another few times before I just kissed and hugged him. Then I went upstairs and cried. He is disabled and just because it is invisible does not mean that he does not need the help. I have to stop thinking in terms of failing him and think in terms of what is best for him. I wish I had the answers.
But after the decision is made I shall continue being positive for him. He has come such a long way. If he stays behind he will be ahead of his peers. Then that will be good for his confidence. If he moves up then it will be because it has been decided that it is best for him and he can cope. Either way I can forget that he is disabled then he can just be Kyle again.
Today at school the children were asked to wear something and make a donation for Just Different, a charity which helps raise awareness of disabilities. Of course my boys have some idea about disabilities, with 2 members of the house having them. Here is a guest post from the Charity Just Different to help explain what the charity is all about.
JustDifferent is a registered charity founded by Toby Hewson, a young man with Cerebral Palsy. Toby’s vision is of a world where everyone is accepted as equal regardless of their disabilities or differences. To achieve this vision Toby has a team of disabled adults who deliver unique workshops about disability and difference, which challenge and change negative perceptions held by children and young people.
“I always find it quite awkward around disabled people, and so when I first walked in, I didn’t really want to take part. But when you started explaining it, I got less afraid, and understand so much better now” Year 9 Pupil
Whilst PHSE education remains a non-statutory subject in the National Curriculum, the DfE states that the subject is an important and necessary part of the pupil’s education. In order to fulfil its duties relating to SMSC a broad and balanced curriculum is required, which meets the pupils’ needs and prepares them for the challenges and opportunities of adult life.
“For many children, contact and direct communication with someone with disabilities is limited or non-existent. This opportunity is an investment in children’s (and teacher’s) capacity to challenge discrimination” – Teacher Year3
Since 2008 JustDifferent’s workshops have benefited over 159,000 children and young people across the
UK with messages about acceptance and tolerance. These are a platform to dispel myths about disability, tackle discrimination and build a more inclusive society, focusing on children and young people – our next generation of employers, educators and policy makers.
“There is nothing like actually confronting the issues! I think I speak for a lot of teachers when I say that with little personal experience of disability, it is difficult to talk to the children with real meaning and understanding. The workshop was a real learning experience for me and I know that experiences like this are the best way to learn and gain an understanding for children and adults,” Primary Headteacher
If you would like further information about our unique “Disability & Difference” workshops please visit our website www.justdifferent.org or contact Sarah on 01243 778275 or by email at email@example.com
Some people never get to meet with an Educational Psychologist whilst today I met a second for my son who is only in his reception year at school. The first time was when I was wondering whether to send him to school. She came out to evaluate whether she thought it would be in his best interests to remain in Reception the following academic year. Apparently they do not like to use the term “held back” but that is what in effect it is.
She asked me what his strengths are – that’s easy he is happy. She said that was good, and to be honest if there was anything I could wish for that my children have it is happiness. She explained that research shows that children who stay back in reception year do not make much extra progress. I think that is because they compare themselves and try to identify with those around them. I am not sure my son has that ability to think that way.
He, in my opinion, is a very likable little boy. He has made good friends in reception (and has those all-important party invites that any parent may understand the fear of them possibly never receiving). Would he miss those friends if he was separated from them? Is he so lovely that he’d easily make friends again?
Year 1 is really fast paced compared to Reception – but my husband thinks that may be he needs the push. Currently though he is already falling asleep at school, and does get over-stimulated, or wet himself at school – and that’s with full time support. Would year 1 be too much and lower his confidence?
Also what if he does catch up when he’s older? He can never move back with his peers, and in secondary school everyone will know he was held back. He is a bright lad maybe something will click and he will be on par with his peers. Or there’s the possibility that he will never “get” some of the areas that he is struggling with so there would be no point him not moving up. He may need other ways to help him (he is a very visual learner).
Thankfully the Educationally Psychologist is supporting us whatever the decision. I am sure whatever is decided the school will fully-support him – I cannot say enough how grateful I am for all their help and support. We have his meeting for his review next Monday (and the first time I may hear about this thing that is replacing the Statement).
I have had some feedback of regret about keeping their child back, but then seen others who are pleased they have managed to fight for their child back. So if anyone has any experience or even feelings on this I would love to hear it please.
Obviously my son is a Sensory Seeker and so I am always on the look out for activities that help him fill his Sensory Diet. Play is really important and by making sure my Sensory Seeker receives the right amount of stimulation for him can make so much difference to his attention, learning, diet, sleep and so much more. So here are 10 ideas from last weeks Kids Coop for The Sensory Seeker.
I am sure we all know that imaginative play can be beneficial for children. For my Sensory Seeker he just loves dressing up. I think it was all those sensations of touch – which he is a major seeker in. This role play made it easier for me to engage in with him too. I think it is from this basis that we have been able to go on and develop his imaginative play in other areas. It is in fact the reason that Autistic Spectrum Disorder has been ruled out and he now has it in writing that he does have Sensory Processing Disorder.
So I thought that I would share some of the Dressing Up Ideas for Imaginative Play from The Kids Co-op.
If sensory issues impact on your child’s bedtime, here are five tips from Antonia Chitty and Victoria Dawson, authors of Sleep and Your Special Needs Child, to help you help your child to sleep more easily.
8 Sleep tips to help your child with sensory issues
Consider every aspect of your child’s bedtime experience in terms of sensory processing and try to think about what they are trying to communicate to you. For example one child got out of bed throughout the night to sleep on the floor, she was showing that she needed firm sleeping surface. Once this was recognised and a more appropriate mattress purchased her sleep patterns improved considerably.
Your sense of smell is at work even when you are fast asleep. For a child who is extremely smell sensitive this can create difficulties at bedtime. Consider any smells that may interrupt their sleep such as cooking late in the evening or a change in washing powder for the bedding that surrounds them.
Some children cannot tolerate the feel of certain textures, others prefer to sleep without clothing on. Experiment with different nightwear until you find something that your child tolerates. If they do not like to wear clothing you need to consider the fact that our body temperature dips during the early hours meaning they are more likely to wake up if they get too cold.
Weighted blankets can help some children to feel more grounded at bedtime. You should always take professional advice from your child’s Occupational Therapist before using weighted blankets.
Some youngsters are extremely light sensitive and prefer a completely darkened room in order to sleep more easily. Blackout blinds can be helpful in creating the right environment, some children cannot tolerate the LED light on a television or light seeping in from underneath the door.
Many children are sound sensitive and may awaken easily. Using white goods noise such as a fan whirring in the background can help to mask out background noises.
Some children like to rock in order to get to sleep, while this can look alarming it can help them to soothe themselves to sleep. Build in rocking activities during the run up to bedtime to help them to feel calm, such as using a swing.
We all have sensory preferences when it comes to sleep habits. Some individuals prefer a firm pillow, others a soft one. As adults we often inflict our own sensory needs on our child when choosing their bedroom and furnishings. Put aside your own preferences and think about what your child prefers, speak with their therapists to allow you to build in their sensory needs during bedtime.
Think about your child’s own preferences, and prioritise these tips to work through, starting with the one that is most appropriate for your child. Introducing one change at a time is easier for the child, can show you which change is most effective, and give you an indicator what else to change to help you and your child have a great night’s sleep.
Sleep and Your Special Needs Child is on offer at just under £9 at time of writing. It addresses sleep problems using a highly successful behavioural and cognitive approach to sleep management, and is the first book to explain these approaches in detail. The practical advice contained is invaluable for parents who want to feel more in control and more confident about tackling sleep issues in a way that is appropriate for their child.
For children with Sensory Processing Disorder parties are a whole different ball game. I am so proud of how far my Sensory Seeker has come with coping with them. In fact I would go as far to say that at the last party the parents who do not know him would never have thought that he has any additional needs at all. There were signs there (a bit of spinning on the floor and ok maybe the rubbing a cookie on his head) but nothing that couldn’t be put down to a quirky five year old. Of course the problems can change from child to child with Sensory Processing Disorder, and the same child at different times, dependent on whether they are seeking or avoiding, and which areas affect them.
I asked for advice from the experts of Sensory Processing Disorder – that is parents and those who have SPD themselves, through Facebook groups and Twitter, on how to prepare your child for a party and how to plan one yourself when consider the child with Sensory Processing Disorder.
You need to consider whether the child is an Avoider or a Seeker
Remember that your child can fit into both of this categories for the different Sensory areas, or at different times.
If you have a Sensory avoider they may not be interested in attending parties at all. They may be anxious before they even get there and then not even want to join in with the party. The Avoider may not eat, want to leave their parent’s side and become easily upset. They may not like the noise, colours, the crowds, the stimulations.
How to help an Avoider with Parties
Talk to the child about the party and what to expect in the days leading up to it. If possible show them visual aids to familiarise themselves with the venue, or read books about parties. You may need to take ear plugs/defenders and/or sunglasses to help block out the lights and sounds.
If it is not your party then make sure the host is aware of your child’s needs. If it is your child’s party then make sure you have means for the primary caregiver to stay with the child (helping with anxiety/safety and encouraging them to join in) and that you have enough help from others to ensure that the other guests can be looked after.
The Avoider may be upset at little things, so keep it simple. Make things quiet, avoid balloons, flashing lights, loud music/noise, just whisper Happy Birthday and have no singing or fuss, as it may be too much for the sensitive auditory system. A small party is easier to control. They may not eat so make sure you have the food they are most likely to eat. Give them a separate quiet room for them to go to.
May want all the stimulations – lots of balloons, colours, sounds, but over stimulate themselves. Or they may like the feel but be scared of the noise when they go pop. They may become over hyped up and excitable, want to touch everything/everyone, may be spinning all over the place and knocking into other people, jumping on balloons trying to make them burst.
My Sensory Seeker can get a bit hyper about when the party is as he has very little understanding of time. What we found worked is that he has “party clothes” and he now understands that we leave for the party after he has got changed into them. Luckily we have never had a problem entering a party as he is a Seeker – he loves the noise, the colours, and atmosphere, always wanting MORE, MORE, MORE. Now his patience and attention has increased he is able to join in with the party games, but a party that has structure is much better for him.
What we do need to be careful is that he does not get too over stimulated. He seems to self-regulate himself now by doing things such as spinning on the floor. I still have to watch that he doesn’t invade other children’s space too much, or if he spins on the floor that there’s room and he’s not going to trip people up. As I mentioned he has trouble visually seeing food he wants but cannot have. To be fair to him he has developed loads in this area and does no longer grab it, I do see him being more anxious/worked up due to it though. I also need to make sure that he does not put too much food into his mouth at once (stuffing). What food is available can be an issue but there’s usually something unhealthy that he will like (typical birthday food either sandwiches and biscuits or chips). He can be a bit messy and try to pile too much food on his plate. I just supervise him and make sure I take him to wash his hands (you could also take wipes but we are trying to encourage him to move forwards and feel he has an association with babies with them). Plenty of sweets throughout really help him as it gives him something oral he can touch and taste.
Planning a Party for a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder
Party Size and Location
When determining the party location you need to consider the time of year (indoors or outdoors), the number of guests you would like (think about whether the child will be under or overwhelmed and how many you can cope with), whether your child needs plenty of space to move around/a small quiet party – as well as your budget. Also will the other guests need someone to stay and supervise them? Are there any access requirements for the Birthday child or their guests? Also consider their developmental ages and abilities as to a venue’s suitability. If there is food included with the venue then does it meet the needs of the party guests?
Personally parties where the food is brought out when it is ready to be eaten suits us better, and it also means that Avoiders will not have the foods’ smells. Also we find cold food is better, as it is dry and not touching. Again you need to consider what the Sensory issues are in regard to the food on making decisions about it, such as whether it is hot or cold, textures and smells. Be careful when it is dished out – my son loves burgers and ketchup but when someone else put his burger in the ketchup he would not eat it.
Time, Duration & Calming down
Consider the time of day of the party, how long your child can handle the sensory input and somewhere/something to help calm them down afterwards. If the child cannot cope with stimulation for long consider having a shorter party. You may want a morning party because the child is anxious about the wait, or you may want a late afternoon party so that it is not long until bedtime.
To help settle down at the end of the party you could put on a film, have an area for playing with Lego, doing some craft or colouring: Use stickers and wax crayons to avoid sensory seekers eating the glue and licking the paint. Or the best calming device we have found technology! (DS or tablet). Or extra stimulus may be needed – such as an obstacle course, a dancing competition, lots of pressure/bear hugs/back rubs.
Party Entertainment & Decoration
The needs of the child with Sensory Processing Disorder are going to greatly determine what kind of party you have, what the entertainment and decorations is going to be like.
To engage the child and keep their attention, whether an Avoider or Seeker, utilising their interests is helpful.
“Does the birthday girl or boy have a love of something – anything… we had a London Bus party one year. Everyone got to take home a beaker, toy bus and pencil crayons.” RosyandBo
A Sensory Seeker is more likely to want music, bouncy castles, a place to run around, lights, balloons, lots of games (musical chairs/statues/bumps) – and so on. Consider the physical abilities of the child (fine and gross motor skills, physical abilities, spatial awareness, developmental ability to cope with losing).
Whilst the Avoider is more likely to prefer quite, calm maybe a craft party, with little stimulus. Use plain paper for pass the parcel to make it less visually stimulating and easier to understand which layer is being unwrapped. Use a small amount of tape so it is easy to undo. Keeping the music/passing short to avoid distractions/over stimulation.
Sensory Seekers want more more more utilise what they are interested in:
Dinosaurs, Superheros, Farm, Neverland, Cooking party, bouncing (castle or trampoline), swimming party, a scavenger hunt, art & craft – have a face painter. We sometimes find our Sensory Seeker does not want the feel of paint on his face or then has to rub it everywhere – we find a cheek or even better his arm suits his needs best.
For the Sensory Avoider how about a calm Movie party – with pillows and blankets laid out with a quiet film. Or a Colouring party with colouring in tablecloths or placemats, or just pictures. For more tips on a Simple Party.
Do you have any party ideas? Or more tips on helping with a Party with a Child with Sensory Processing disorder?
With thanks to Hannah for her help writing this post – visit for more ideas at RosyandBo.com
When you have a child with Special Needs in school you may find that they have many different people inputting into their education. So when it comes to Thank You Teacher gifts (I stick to the end of the academy year) then you may find that there are quite a few people to cater for. Personally I find home-made gifts not only cheaper but that the personal touch will mean much more than just a bunch of flowers/bottle of wine/chocolates. What a real special keepsake to remind them just how far they have managed to get the child to come.
I am super proud of my Sensory Seeker and very grateful for all that the school have helped him develop with. Some of his achievements are that:
What my Sensory Seeker can do now:
He can write his name.
He knows all of his phonetic sounds.
He can count to ten and recognise all the numbers in figure form.
He has become a lot more independent with many day-to-day activities that he previously could not.
He can recount the whole story of the 3 Little Pigs, in the right order.
He has better attention, more patience and good listening skills.
I am sure that there is much much more, every day he makes me so proud.
With just over 2 months until they break up for the Summer and he moves onto a new teacher I thought it a good time to start looking at some Teacher gifts craft ideas that may be easy enough for him to do.
Things to consider when making Thank You Teacher Gifts with a Child with Special Needs
The child’s ability. You can help them as much or as little as they need. Maybe they can paint but not precisely – how about a pet rocks as teacher gifts - simply by painting a rock and adding googly eyes. How about painting a toilet roll holder, adding a bottom to it with card, and putting some pencils in it – viola stationery holder. Or how about using stickers to make simple teacher gifts. Maybe they are good at colouring? Or like it in the kitchen. Are they a sensory seeker or avoider? If they are avoiding then something like a fingerprint tree may be good as you can just do 1, or as many prints as they will allow to help them get used to the sensation of the paint. Also maybe consider in what areas they have developed – my son has improved with his writing so it would be nice for that to be reflected in the gift.
Think about how long their attention span is. Can they sit to do the craft, or would running and jumping in and out of paint suit them better?
Be prepared for them to follow their own rules and for it not to turn out exactly how you had it in mind.
Reinforce their achievement and be proud, especially if they have struggled or found it hard to focus. A teacher gift is meant to be made with love.
Sensory Seekers will enjoy lots of textures and smells if you can incorporate them into your Teacher gifts.
Background music will help your Sensory Seeker and a quiet room your Sensory Avoider.
Think about how you will calm them down or clean them up. We have a bowl of water and towel next to the paint – as he has a tendency to paint himself and I don’t want all the walls and furniture covered.
Scotch Magic Tape making Life easier
Scotch® Magic™ Tape is good for my Sensory Seeker as it does not stick to itself, making it much easier for him to try and use independently. It also means that if he makes a mistake then it is easily rectifiable. The tape is also magic as you can write over the top of it.
Here is a simple idea – make a tape measure by marking out on a yellow piece of paper, then let your child tape it to a flower pot. You can either get your child to grow a flower or buy one. Then attach a note saying “Thank you for helping me grow!”
What problems and strategies do you have when it comes to craft with your child with additional needs?
I think these Yarn Wrapped Tulips from School Time Snippets would make a lovely Thank You Teacher Gift As well it would really help with his hand development and show how far he has come – he could cut the flowers out, would love to paint the lolly sticks and I could help him weave the yarn around.
I would love to see any Teacher Thank You Gifts ideas you have – or any other Child based craft or activity.
There’s nothing I like more about reading blogs than to find ways to help my children. I was particularly keen to focus on helping my Sensory Seeker learn the difference between he and she. He knows that boys and girls are different but calls them both “he.” Based on the work by Felicity Durham the activity we did was simple and great for the visual learner. It simply consisted on the child having a piece of paper divided into two. On one side there was a picture of a boy and the word he and a big empty box underneath, and the other side the same but with a girl and the word she. The same images were then repeated on another piece of paper but smaller (so that there were a total of 16 small image, 8 boys and 8 girls).
First we discussed the pictures by me asking which was a boy and which was a girl. I started with this because I knew he would know the answer. This helped him feel more confident which means it is easier to engage and hold his attention. Next I saw whether he recognised the words “he” and “she,” by sight. He didn’t and sounding them out was difficult as they are not phonetically sounding and so he was reading the ee as eh. I helped him understand and waited until I could hear that he knew and could say them both. Next I took my pile of small images and showed him that they were the same as the large ones. I mixed up the pile and got him to guess which card I would turn over, explaining that he needed to give me the answer “he” or “she.” He got really excited when he got it right and said that it was a point! Even when he did not correctly guess he was beginning to really say “she” (as he had previously only said he). I was firm in that I would not allow him to just point or refer to them as boy and girl. As there were only 16 images it was over quickly and so just right for his attention span.
Educational Ideas Round-up from the Kids Co-op
So I really focused on the Educational posts that linked up last week: