Category Archives: Diet, Health & Hygiene

Children with disabilities may find areas of diet, health and hygiene a struggle. Advice and products on how to try and make things easier.

aspergers bullying

Bullying & Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Bullying is a problem for too many children, but a child on the Autistic Spectrum may be more at risk than their peers. They are also less likely to be able to make it stop, as they struggle with social communication. They might not even be able to tell those close to them. The National Autistic Society have written a guide on bullying for parents. In this post I talk about bullying and Asperger’s syndrome, as experienced by my son.anti-bullying week

Victims of Bullying generally are either:  Passive Targets – those with low self-esteem, shy, academic, on their own, smaller, weaker OR Pro-Active Targets – those with inappropriate behaviour, socially clumsy, perceived as irritating, attention-seeking and not knowing when to stop. Children on the autistic spectrum are more likely to be a target for bullies because they may be seen as different because they cannot always relate to the situation they are in – or communicate what is going on. Children who are on the Autistic Spetrum are often perceived as being low in  social status & friendship (having few friends to defend them). They are naive, gullible,  & eccentric. They are neither cool, macho or popular and are perceived as ‘soft’

I remember my oldest son crying upset that he did not want to go to school when he was only 7 years old. Now granted, he was at a new school, where he had to make new friends and the rest of the children had known each other a long time – but we’d moved a lot and he was used to this. He loved  enjoyed school and has always worked hard, so it came as a bit of a shock. This actually was one of the first big moves towards him being diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome.

aspergers bullyingThings can be very black and white.

I remember my son being confused as to why he was in trouble when one of the boys told him it was “a good idea” to bend another boy’s fingers back.

Those on the Autistic Spectrum are unable to distinguish between who are bullies and who are friends. They are unable to differentiate between friendly sparring and physical attacks.

Our son often kept complaining to the teacher that he had been hit so many times that they stopped taking him seriously – they said he complained as if he had been punched when someone so much as accidentally brushed passed him. Fortunately, the school was very supportive. I went in and explained the situation and they put things in place to help him. They made break times (when he was less supervised) more structured by introducing chess club. He also had a dinner lady buddy – that if he had ANY problems (even the seemingly most trivial) he could go and speak to them. They encouraged circle time sessions where children would focus on each other’s strengths.

I hear of so many children who end up being Home educated because of bullying. Do you have a story to share about bullying and ASD? I would especially like to hear any success stories.

Images maybe subject to copyright, used for illustration purposes only.

Circles to Encourage New Taste Sensations

Circles to Encourage New Taste Sensations

Today I am going to share with you how circles can encourage your Sensory Seeker (and avoider) to try new taste sensations. Not just circles but how other shapes, sounds and interests can help prior to eating. Plus some ideas for inspiration.

Circles to Encourage New Taste Sensations

My Sensory Seeker as regular readers may know, is a bit (a lot) of a fussy eater. We try not to make too much of a fuss and provide him with foods throughout the day that we know he likes (so he doesn’t starve). See my previous post here. Well I was reading in the Out of Sync Child has fun about ‘Fed Up by Angela Gilbert. Basically it is about how playing with things associated with the food presented helps consumption, especially of new flavours/textures. This means that if before a meal consisting of say food shaped into circles, if the child plays with circles before eating then they are more likely to try new taste sensations.

So what foods are round?’

  • Carrots, peas, cucumber, tomatoes,
  • Pancakes, muffins, scones
  • Spaghetti hoops
  • Cheerios
  • Rice cakes
  • Blueberries, grapes, cherries, melon balls, oranges
  • Burgers

Can you think of others?

In fact with the use of shape cutters you could turn any food into circles. This could be adapted for any other shapes, including their interests – such as using Lego cutters for Lego obsessed children. This can also extend to noisy food – making loud sounds before eating food that can be loud too (popcorn, crisps, nuts,raw carrots, apples etc).

Activities with Circles

The most obvious choice for me at the moment is to let them play with Loom bands (age dependent and make sure they are not likely to put them in their mouth).Other ideas that spring to mind are with balloons, balls, bubbles, bubble wrap, beanbags. Make circles from toys – that can be anything cars, Lego, dinosaurs. Make sensory circles by drawing in mud, shaving foam, sand, rice, etc. How about craft – paper plates, toilet roll holders – again any material can be cut into a circle.  The sellotape and glue-sticks are also circular. The ideas are endless and can be adapted for the child’s interests and sensory needs.

sleep tips and special needs

Sleep tips for those with Sensory Processing Disorder

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.

sleep tips and special needs

 8 Sleep tips to help your child with sensory issues

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

sleep sen

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.

Health Hop

My Review post on Pinkoddy: Sleep and Special Needs

This is a Guest Post. I have received nothing in return for it I just wanted to share the advice.

Encourage Eating

When my Sensory Seeker was younger I wrote about Fussy eating. Since then we discovered that he has Sensory Processing Disorder, so encouraging him to eat food was not going to be as easy as we first thought. The thing to remember is that are lots of different senses at work when it comes to food. Writing down what he would eat made us feel better as the list was actually a lot longer than we first thought. Trouble is depending on how that food is presented can be a key factor in whether your Sensory Seeker (or avoider) will eat. With me I have found it is a lot of trial and error – maybe keep a diary.

encouraging eating

Our Sensory Seeker prefers food to be cold and he does not like foods to be touching. We found that a segregated plate helped, so that he could visually see that the foods were not touching. At a party someone asked if he wanted a cheeseburger but then put it on his plate on top of tomato ketchup. He just would not eat it. Now it’s not even that he does not like ketchup on his cheeseburger, and if he had put the two together that would have been fine. I have long since learnt not to try understand the logic behind how he behaves but just to try and best help him. In this instance I got him another cheeseburger (without ketchup on the bottom). Similarly he will not even try to eat toad-in-the-hole – but loves both sausages and Yorkshire puddings.

encouraging eating kids co-op

To encourage eating we tend to put at least one food on his plate that we know he does like, and one that is new, or we would like him to try. We often use bribery (pudding/computer games etc) rewards to encourage him. We start slowly – maybe getting him to touch the food for several presentations, then lick it, before eating a small piece. We pick our battles. So although we would love him to use cutlery we have decided that stretching his diet is more important for us at this time. Or if he wants to play with the food, and smear it over himself first, we tend to let him do that too – as we know it can result him in eating more. We do have to be careful that he does not stuff too much food into his mouth though – especially hard foods such as raw carrot. We have managed to get more foods into our Sensory Seeker by him seeing them as a treat – such as pancakes and bananas for breakfast.

encourage eating kids coop

Things to consider about mealtimes  for the child with Sensory Processing Disorder:

  • What smells are around – from food, other people and the general environment?
  • What is the temperature like – again from food, for the child, and in the environment?
  • The appearance of the food – how does it look? Do the foods touch each other? Is it clutter on the plate? Our Sensory Seeker will not eat chicken roll that has bread crumbs around the edges – even if you remove it first.
  • What colours – is your child with Sensory Processing Disorder under or over stimulated by the colours of the food or their environment?
  • The textures of the food – is it lumpy, smooth etc?
  • Is the food cooked? – Our Sensory Seeker loves raw carrots but will not entertain them cooked.

If you have any more hints, tips, problems or ideas please add them in the comments below.

fine motor development helping hands

Fine Motor Development Helping Hands at School and Home

Fine motor development is one of the areas that our Sensory Seeker needs work on. I think it is quite common in children starting school to need help to hold a pencil correctly. The Occupational Therapist thought that he is hyper-mobile in his hands and suggested types of exercises to strengthen them.

Things at School to help Fine Motor Development

To help his fine motor development at school he does activities such as threading, and using these tweezers to move small objects from one basket to another. Our Sensory Seeker has special scissors, which can be held by both himself and an adult. All the children work on their fine motor development by practising writing on white boards, first over the top of letters and then without. Well I am delight to say that our son is progressing really well. He can now write his name unaided (jut please ignore the fact that a few of the letters are backwards, small steps) even without the letters underneath.

fine motor development helping hands

Things we do at Home to help Fine Motor Development

At home helping him with his fine motor development has been largely through play. Now he is not putting toys into his mouth (so much) we have encouraged more small world play, with less chunky toys. This means he has to uses his fingers more to hold them.

fine motor development helping hands

Our Sensory Seeker really likes Superheroes and Villains at the moment. He is lucky enough that we have some in Lego form. Lego is just perfect for fine motor development and he loves changing the heads and bodies on the people, as well as building models. He is loving Lego even more since watching The Lego Movie.

fine motor development helping hands

We also have several Lego Superheroes sticker books for him. These are really good for his little fingers to get in and peel them off the book, and stick them where he wants them. He loves stickers of any type at the moment, and has them as rewards at school too.

fine motor development helping hands

Another favourite activity that helps with fine motor development is Playdough. I think it that Playdough is good for hand development in general, as well as imagination and mark making (amongst many many fantastic uses).

fine motor development helping hands

Of course all this play then helps with his fine motor development for school activities such as painting, writing, gluing etc – he is doing much better at holding things, and is less likely to use a grab hold, but still holds the very end until prompted.

fine motor development helping hands

We are encouraging him to do lots of colouring in to help with his fine motor development, and again finding pictures that interest him really helps.

fine motor development helping hands

Talking of keeping his interest, I bought some scissors that leave a crinkly pattern on the paper when you cut with them, and just let him free to cut plain paper how he liked. fine motor development helping hands

It is important for his future development that we keep helping him build on his fine motor development skills, to enable to do things independently. With encouragement, he is getting much better at being able to handle cutlery and eat smaller pieces of food (such as raisins).

   fine motor development helping hands

His diet remains fairly poor but I am happy that it is improving. We have discovered a love of pancakes, which he wants every morning! I am happy as they are egg, milk and flour, plus he eats them with bananas. This is also a great opportunity to help with his hands as he loves to whisk up the mixture.

fine motor development helping hands

Do you or someone you care for have trouble with fine motor development or your hands? Do you have any simple ways to help?

Ethans Escapades

unacceptable touching

Unacceptable Touching and the Special Needs Child

Unacceptable touching is one of our current biggest problems. We are pleased to say that generally he is much better at just hugging people. The school have been great in reinforcing that you must ask first, and it is unacceptable touching  if someone does not give permission. When doing so, they noticed how hard that was, because they themselves go to “touch” without asking first – a hand on the shoulder for example. The difference of course being that they can read the signals, and know what is considered unacceptable touching. Our Sensory Seeker still wants to give great big bear hugs even when the other person has said no, and can even be running away. I think one of the most difficult things for him to comprehend was the fact that he could ask and then the other person could say no.

unacceptable touching

Unacceptable Touching Himself in Public

Now it seems that this Sensory Seeking Sensation has shifted his unacceptable touching to himself, by this of course I mean his privates in public. He does not understand that it is unacceptable touching to himself, as and when he pleases (at school for example). He is constantly putting his hand down his pants, even in public. We keep telling him to take his hands out at home (and physically doing so), and I think he is a little too cognitively delayed to understand.

Well we talked about the unacceptable touching during #SENBloggers, and through talking I thought that I was maybe being a little harsh on him. I have to remember that he has a cognitive developmental delay, that actually if he was the age that he’s at developmentally for some areas then it wouldn’t be such a big deal. So to really just carry on with the methods I’d be using if he was younger – explaining it’s not appropriate to touch there at that time; to remove his hands to prevent him for touching, and so on. If this does not work, and another suggestion, was to use visual cues to explain this to him, I am going to look for social stories on the matter, or may even make my own.

Since having this conversation he does not even seem to have been doing it as much – but instead has been playing at being the Hulk and stripping all of his clothes off in the garden (fingers crossed he doesn’t do it at school!)

Do or have you had problems with unacceptable touching – or themselves or others? How do/have you handled it?

Hair Washing & JOHNSON’S Baby Easy-Rinse Foaming Shampoo Review

Many people whose children have Sensory Processing Disorder may find that they struggle when it comes to hair washing . The anticipation of water coming can be a threat to the nervous system, with the feel of water being uncomfortable or even painful when it hits the skin. It may be the temperature of the water. Children who over-register tactile input may also over-register temperature, they may feel things in extremes – so something cool could be experienced as bitterly cold; and something warm as scorching hot.

child in mirror

It important to consider that there are a lot of factors as to why a child does not like hair washing , and important to think about them individually. One of the ways to help a child is to slowly break it down into small steps. Explain what is happening and slowly build up to what you wish to achieve. It may be that they refuse even to go into the bathroom, for instance, so just start by letting them go in and then leave again straight away. Then build up to getting them to stay in there a little while: Until slowly you can eliminate a fear of the room. If they still are screaming just going in the room then it may well be worth considering changing the colour, feel, or flooring of the room. It may be you just need a new air freshener or a new rug. Try adding things that appeal to them – maybe with the use of bathroom tile stickers of say dinosaurs. Make it fun – provide plenty of bathroom toys.

The most important thing is to let them guide you. Try to establish what is upsetting them, rather than just trying to force them to do something that you feel they ought to do. Believe me I have a teenager with Aspergers – no-one died from not washing for a little while. Let them decide on the temperature of the water for example.

johnsons challenge independent hair washing

We were thrilled to try the JOHNSON’S CHALLENGE, with New JOHNSON’S Baby Easy-Rinse Foaming Shampoo, because it really did fit with where we are with our little Sensory Seeker. He is about to start school and needs a hand with his independence and more of an understanding about personal hygiene.

Challenge 1 DIY Fun Factor: this gave us the option of letting him wash his hair – so he had full control. I was really pleased to say that he managed the pump action soap (with a little difficulty at first), largely unaided. This is good for a few reasons – them being that he is hypermobile in his hands and all manner of other terms the occupational therapist said to me and forgot – but basically he needs to do certain things to strengthen them. That he didn’t get too much shampoo, as a seeker I expected him to just keep pumping it out, but he never, he was happy with the right amount and happily lathered it into his hair. I was also supplied with a frog mirror and jug for him to be able to see what he was doing whilst controlling where the water was going. We have also found that a mirror has been a great help in brushing his teeth. If he can see what is happening he is a lot less distressed. I believe it is because it makes things more predictable.

Challenge 2 Funky Foam Fun: This was about seeing what funky foam hairstyles you could make – this happened rather quickly as he is a sensory seeker and so was very keen to start tipping the water over his head again.

child smile in mirror

Challenge 3 Rinse Ease:

100% of the mums  who had already tested the shampoo agreed that it was easy to rinse off.

tip water over head in order to independently wash their hair

Yes I can agree there too – his hair is curly (although quiet short at the moment) and can be really difficult to get the bubbles out (one of the things I feel adds to his distress), but these bubbles came out with ease when he washed it himself. There was no need for me to help with extra rinsing.

94% also agreed that it made shampooing delightful.

It was indeed a delight to see him so happy to wash his own hair. It was such a proud milestone for me and made me feel very proud.

And 70% agreed that the shampoo kept the fun going all through bath time.

To be honest we have quiet fun bath times, so although it was nice to see him so happy to wash his hair it wasn’t the reason that the whole bath time was fun.

I received a free bottle of JOHNSON’S Baby Easy-Rinse Foaming Shampoo, a frog mirror, and jug. I have not been compensated in any other way. All opinions are completely honest and my own.