Category Archives: Sensory processing disorder

Sensory processing disorder identification and aid. In all the different areas.

sensory swimming

Sensory Processing Disorder and Swimming

Swimming is important for those with Sensory Processing Disorder as they may either be afraid of the water or not aware of the fact they can drowned – and therefore having the ability to swim may save their lives. Swimming is also good for developing fine and gross motor skills/motor planning, attention, listening to instructions, communication, social interaction, group work, and self esteem.sensory swimmingI remember when The  Sensory Seeker first went into the pool he loved the feel of the water so much he just tried to keep going as deep as he could (with the poor lifeguard keep bringing him back). It is such a great skill to learn and can be life changing. We have given The Sensory Seeker a mix of group, individual and intensive lessons and he has really come on a long way. And it is not just his swimming that has improved.

Swimming can be in lessons in a pool or the sea, or just family fun. Of course you can help slowly build up in the bath – or swimming could help develop water confidence to go onto the bath or shower!

Swimming and The Auditory Sense (Hearing)

You have to consider whether you are taking a Sensory Seeker or Sensory Avoider. There are going to be lots of sounds and they echo around – both above and below the water. Different times of day, and indeed different days, will have more or less sounds dependent on how busy/popular they are. If you have an Avoider you can buy swimming ear-plugs which may help to block out some of the sounds. Also consider the changing rooms – does the complex have a family change which may be more isolating and quieter?

Ideally it would be good if pools offered quiet times to swim such as the Relaxed Performances offer, or the Autism Hours that Supermarkets and now offering more and more. Or just to be able to show the individual around so that they can get used to their surrounds/what to expect. The trouble is more and more we are not allowed to take photos of the pools – but check their websites to see if they have any still or video footage of what to expect.

Swimming and The Visual Sense (vision/seeing)

When it comes to the visual sense it depends on where you go. Some pools are literally places to swim with just water and better for Sensory Avoiders. Others can have lots of stimulation including slides, tipping buckets, water spraying out, wave machines, waterfalls, inflatables, toys, Seascooters and so on. Just be aware of how much time you spend there as to whether the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder becomes overstimulated.

Swimming and the Tactile (touch)

I guess the tactile sense could be very problematic if you have a Sensory Avoider – from the touch of the costume to the feel of the water. You may want to consider which is harder for them – the costume or the water – and then decide whether you get one that covers them up (and a swim hat) or one that allows them to be as free as possible (check the pool rules as to whether they can wear “Bermuda style shorts”). They may need to gently become encouraged over time (especially if they are sensitive to the temperature of the water). Overall this may help with other hygiene issues as they get used to the feel of water on their body and overcoming the fear of putting their head under water – which will inevitably help with washing their hair.sensory swimming

Swimming and Proprioception (Sense of body position, from information received through the muscles, and joints – force, speed and control) and Vestibular Sense – Movement and Balance/Gravity

Swimming is good for Proprioception (muscles and joints) body positioning/awareness, movement and balance (vestibular). You may need to consider the other people around you but usually there is plenty of room. For Sensory Seekers pools with lots of slides and action can be great for this – and pools are certainly great places for them to move about a lot! Seascooters are great because it can really pull them along, moving their body right under the water – whilst they retain some control.sensory swimming

Swimming and Olfactory (smell)

The only problem I can think of with smell is the chlorine in the pool (and possibly the smell of other people). Apparently there are certain pools who do not use chlorine if this is a problem.

The Sensory Seeker and Swimming

As I say we have had to try a variety of different types of swimming lesson to help get The Sensory Seeker where he is today. He doesn’t always listen and can be slower than the others (in terms of time to actually swim across and picking it up). But when we consider how far he has come, and how well he is doing it is an amazing difference. Most importantly he can swim pretty well now. He loves the water – especially going underneath. In fact his favourite thing to do is bob up and down under the water vertically (it actually looks like he is drowning and am sure scared many a lifeguard!). At the end of the day we want him to see swimming as a fun activity so also regularly go as a family and actually travel quite far to visit pools with great slides and things to do.Sensory Seeker Progress Aged 6

Swimming and the Max Card

With The Max Card you can get discounted entry to pools such as The LC Swansea, Wales. At The LC Swansea it costs only £3.00 per person on presentation of a Max Card. There were no problems with this at all and the member of staff was very friendly and helpful. There is a carpark which offers disabled parking. It is £1 an hour and the pool will refund £1 (a swim session is up to 2 hours). There is a white-knuckle rollercoaster waterslide, an aqua slide, an aqua tube; wave pool; whirlpool; lazy river; min-slide (although great fun for adults!); tipping buckets, fountains and water spurting out from various places. The water is set around 31 degrees Celsius and the air temperature is around 32 degrees.Making days out more Financially Accessible for Families with Children who have Additional Needs

 

Our family was given a Max Card for purposes of review. To find out more about Max Card visit my previous post.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

I think that it is obvious from the mere mention of Disneyland that this is going to be a place with plenty of sensory experiences. How someone manages Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder is going to be determined by how they are effected. This post is written in terms of how we helped The Sensory Seeker when we visited Disneyland Paris and an insight into things you may want to consider if planning a visit. The things may also apply to other Disney parks.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

How old is the person you are taking to Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder?

We had previously taken The Sensory Seeker in the first two years of his life. Obviously we were unaware of his Sensory Processing Disorder at that time and believed things were due to his age. He pretty much cried and cried the whole time. Obviously we have also learnt a lot more about how to deal with his Sensory issues since but I do think you need to consider the person’s age. And height. As with all theme parks there are restrictions on rides with minimum height requirements. Some children are easier than others to explain this to. Find out which rides they can and cannot go on and plan accordingly.

When to go to Disneyland with Someone with Sensory Processing Disorder

I think you really need to ask yourself what is best for the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder. If they are an avoider then it is going to be much harder for them to cope with peak season for example. Or the added touches of celebrations of Halloween and Christmas may be far too overwhelming. What are their main sensory problems – for example Spring is more likely to have a very high smell from the flowers.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing DisorderHow long is the park open (as it is open much later with fireworks/music/lights display on selected dates not all). If they are of school age and not home schooled I think that you need to consider how missing school will affect them by going at a quieter period. Personally we went in the May half term holidays – this is slightly quieter as French children are still at school. We felt that The Sensory Seeker is behind his peers too far to miss school for that period of time. Also think about how long you are going for. Would it be better lots of days and spread it out, or would one day in the parks suit the individual better and get it all out of the way? Think realistically about what you want to cover. It really helped us that we had been previously so knew which rides to head for. Also check what will be open.

When to tell the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder that they are going to Disneyland

A lot of things I would agree that planning and preparation is key. With Disneyland I don’t feel so much. The Sensory Seeker was told the night before, and even then I feel this was too early. He knows what Disneyland is, it is on the television ALL the time. He was hyped and had trouble sleeping. My only real problem with not preparing him is that he thought that we were going to Disney World and so was disappointed to find a pink castle.

How going to Disneyland can affect those with Sensory Processing Disorder

Auditory – there’s going to be a lot of noise stimulation – from the crowds, music from the carnivals, the rides. This can be a problem for both avoiders and seekers (as they can become overstimulated) – you may want to consider the use of ear plugs or headphones. They could take an i-pod and have their favourite music on it, or some calming down sounds. We also took a Kidizoom Smart Watch as he was able to record sounds into it – which is what helps him calm down (and was great whilst he had to wait). Think about how much noise there will be on each ride – will you need to warn them? Will it have any sudden sounds? Before you go try to work out where the more noise and quiet areas of the park are. Offer breaks and seek solace in the quiet. If your child is not scared of hand dryers then I found that these were quieter and offered a welcome break. Listen to them and give them control about what they want to do.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

Visual – You cannot escape the visual stimulation at Disneyland. I couldn’t even begin to list it but the rides and special effects, the characters, the flowers, the Castle, the displays – I could go on.  Again consider the rides – is it dark or are there a lot of light effects. If they are a seeker think about spacing out the stimulating rides so that they do not over stimulate themselves. Sunglasses and hats are good at reducing the visual stimulation for avoiders. Seek places to sit in the shade or where it is darker – such as under trees. If a Seeker cannot get enough visual stimulation whilst at Disneyland (perhaps whilst waiting) then maybe take a toy spinner with lots of colours for them to focus on. This may also help you move on around the park if they get fixated with the visual stimulation in one part of the park/ride. If you take a pushchair (or hire one) consider getting a dark cover for it to block out the light and allow some chill out time.

Proprioception & Vestibular This is really a case of thinking about the rides again. Will they throw out their sense of proprioception – and how will they cope with this in such a crowded environment. Find the space for them if they need to spin around, or run, or allow them time out/let them rock, take weighted items with you if needs be, and consider hiring a pushchair (which isn’t like the “baby” versions). Let them carry the backpack – the weight of it will give them more of an awareness about where their body is.

Tactile – This will differ depending on the weather. Will you have a problem with getting them to wear sun lotion or a hat? Will hot or cold weather be better for their coping? Could they wear gloves/ear defenders/a coat? The Sensory Seeker actually got us to buy a new hat with ears that hang down the sides of his face.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

Think about how you cope normally with issues such as labels and textures in clothing. Might this change throughout the day with the different stimulation? Could you take alternate clothes? (We took them in case of a toileting accident too). What will they be like in the crowds? You can visit Guest Services in City Hall to get a green card which will help with queuing/parades/displays etc. Take with you proof of the condition (they recommended a blue parking badge). They will also give a guide to disabilities and are very helpful. This will allow the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder not to have to stand in the big queues. The Sensory Seeker is very much into touching people’s faces and licking them so this card helped a great deal. Again a weighted blanket is good, and/or something to fiddle with.

We took plenty of snacks – try to take ones with a variety of textures. Also think about whether the Character meet and greets are okay for your child or a bit too overwhelming. Alternative watch the carnival as they go by but do not get too close. If you are staying at night it can get very dark but there are also lots of lovely lights around the park.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

Note the worst part for me, never mind The Sensory Seeker, was getting through the bag check. It is crowded and people push (so desperate to get into the park). If you book a Disney hotel you get magic hours which means you can go earlier so it is less busy. There are quicker queues if you have no bag so I let my family go through and meet me on the other side.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing DisorderGustatory – check out what foods there are available before you go. You can take things in with you too. There are lots of water fountains about but we knew that The Sensory Seeker would not drink it so took some squeezy in to flavour it.

Olfactory – there are a LOT of flowers and smells from food. You could take your own scent in a bottle or on a cloth. Other than that I am not sure what you could do about it but it is something to be aware of. If anyone has any suggestions about this sense (or any of the others) I would appreciate your comments in the box below please.

Top Tips for Disneyland Paris and Sensory Processing Disorder

  • If you can book the on-site hotel – this will give you the opportunity for breaks, quietness, leaving things (such as weighted blankets) and so you can watch the firework display without it being too crowded/noisy (I say this I have never actually stayed so please check this is accurate).
  • Continue any Sensory Diet and Sensory exercises that you utilise at home.
  • Split up as a family if need be – allowing the individual time to relax or go on rides that suit their needs without the whole day needing to revolve around them.
  • Consider whether rides are proprioceptive (spinny), calming (water), dark or with lots of lights.
  • Listen to them – they may have loved spinning around at the beginning of the day but by the end it may all be too much.
  • Most importantly be flexible. For example if you were planning on staying for the fireworks and they just cannot cope then it won’t be enjoyable for anyone.
  • If you have a Seeker go and visit the big fan in Walt Disney Studios.

 

Visit Pinkoddy or tips on visiting Disneyland Paris on a small budget.  Plus see Top Tips for Disneyland Paris – Guide to EuroDisney. With special thanks to AttractionTix who made the trip affordable.

Sensory Temperature Issues and Possible Solutions

Sensory Processing Disorder is when the brain struggles with the ability to filter out stimulus from the senses, which  it does not need to function at that time. One of the senses that may be affected is that of temperature. However, sensory temperature issues are not often discussed in their own right. I believe that sensory temperature issues may just be the difficulty at work in many situations, therefore it is best to consider whether there is a problem. This is known as one of the problems with the interoceptive sense.

Sensory Temperature Issues with the Environment

Sensory Temperature Issues and Possible SolutionsThose with Sensory Processing Disorder may struggle for their brains to regulate the temperature of their bodies in the environment, in the same way neurotypical people do. For example those with sensory temperature difficulties may feel hot whilst others feel cold. It may be that they refuse to wear a coat, or in more extreme cases no clothes at all. I have not been diagnosed personally, but often find that when others are cold I feel really hot. Sensory difficulties with temperature can mean that heat can be really unwelcome and make those affected feel ill. Personally my skin goes all tight and itchy, my head hurts, I feel all dizzy and like I cannot breathe. It may be that the individual with Sensory temperature issues is having trouble sweating to cool down (or the opposite they might sweat too much).

It is important to make sure that their behaviours ARE sensory temperature related and not just behavioural (such as just not wanting to wear a coat), or other sensory issues such as due to tactile sensory issues (the coat feels uncomfortable due its texture). The main difficulties The Sensory Seeker has with temperature and environment are the fact that he finds snow too cold (but really wants to touch it) and cannot stand having sun lotion on. Temperature could affect how those with sensory processing disorder/autism react in many situations because the room is either too hot or too cold – including when they are brushing their teeth, refusal to have a bath (which also needs to be the right temperature – some like it really hot, others really cold and others tepid!), eating dinner, going to sleep, etc – make sure that temperature is ruled out!

Sensory Temperature issues with Food

Sensory Temperature Issues and Possible SolutionsWhether food is the right temperature is not just an issue for those with sensory processing disorder. Have you ever been served something you found too hot or cold? You know that if it is too hot you can blow on it (or wait). That if it’s too cold it will need reheating you simply cannot eat it. You also will appreciate that there will always be certain foods that you may prefer hot but will eat cold (in my case it is with pizza).The individual with sensory temperature issues is just the same, but may not have the same “tastes” as you. Also because it is a problem with the brain regulating the sense of temperature, they may not like the temperature to be the same every time! So one day you may cook them scrambled egg and they may like it as soon as it’s cooked, yet another time it is deemed too hot and they wait until it is stone cold before they eat it! We find that The Sensory Seeker is still developing an understanding of temperature (to regulate things himself) and sometimes needs persuading to try the food again (for example if it was previously too hot but now time has passed we know it will be cooler).

Ways to help with Sensory Temperature Issues

Sensory Temperature Issues and Possible SolutionsMy advice would be to really get to know and understand the individual with sensory temperature issues. Ask yourself if it really is a problem, and why – are they going to get ill for example. Think of ways you may be able to get around it for example, it is not very practical for the child to go out without any clothes on, but maybe you could find something very lightweight for them. Consider whether clothing covers the body or not. Those who are easily cold may prefer long sleeves. I cannot stand long sleeves as I am easily hot. What I tend to do is wear layers, with a short sleeved vest top on the bottom (well above my underwear) so that I can easily adjust my temperature that way (quickly). I take a coat that can be easily stored in a bag if there is a risk of it raining. There are special clothes that can be bought to help regulate body temperature, otherwise I have heard that silk and bamboo materials are good. Of course you may be able to manipulate the temperature of the environment with heating and air-conditioning – but this may not suit others, and the individual with the sensory disorder may not like the noise (or feel).

Be patient – can you just wait for food to cool down? Could you reheat food, because they have said it is too cold when normally they like it cold? Somethings I think have to just be accepted as being “difficult” – The Sensory Seeker often asks for ice-cream but then finds it too cold to eat. We just let him try it every time. Maybe one day he will even get the association that ice-cream is cold (and he doesn’t like that).

Do you have any sensory temperature issues or solutions?

Sensory Processing Disorder Auditory Sense Hearing

Auditory Sense

Sensory Processing – The Auditory Sense (Hearing)

Sensory Processing Disorder Auditory Sense HearingWe receive lots of information through all of the seven senses. They tell us what we can hear, feel, see, smell, taste, which way up we are and movement. We then filter out which bits of information we need to make sense of things, and to tell us how to behave. Sometimes we all can struggle with which of the senses to filter out.  This post looks at the auditory sense (hearing). Think of it like when there is the noise of a tapping pen, or water dripping, and we are trying to concentrate on something/someone. We may even have to do something about it to make it stop. We may even get annoyed and SHOUT.

People with sensory integration disorder (or sensory processing disorder) have trouble registering and organising the information, making it difficult for them to learn and function in the World. For them it may not just be the noise of the pen or water but all the sounds in their immediate environment – no matter how loud or quiet. There are times when the child is over aroused and needs calming down, or maybe the child is too calm and needs arousing, and it is also normal to switch between the two.

The Sensory Seeker and The Auditory Sense

I do think that when The Sensory Seeker is upset, or I am thinking about his Sensory Diet, the auditory sense is the hardest one (for me) to remember. We first noticed that he did not like hand dryers, fireworks, motorbikes, the vacuum cleaner, or even his brother talking could really irritate him. He would cover his ears in real pain and sometimes cry out too. Other times he really likes a lot of noise, and will make up little sounds to calm himself, or be very loud.

Auditory Hypersensitivity –  TOO MUCH

Sensory Processing Disorder Auditory Sense Hearing• Distressed by sudden or loud noises
• Distressed by sounds that don’t bother others (e.g. phone ringing)
• Cannot focus/ complete a task when there is background sound
• Scared of appliances like lawn-mower outside, blender
• Seek out quiet areas
• Hear sirens, aeroplanes, cars driving past before anyone else
• Vocalise loud/ constant noises (to block out other noises or sounds)
• Might be scared of, or avoid hand-dryers or toilets
 What we can do to help
• Warn them when possible if there is going to be a loud noise.
• LABEL the source of the sound e.g. “Johnny does that sound feel loud to your ears? It is the lawn-mower.”
• Give the option of a ‘time out/ quiet corner’ if there is going to be e.g. loud music. My son likes the book corner.
• Give them somewhere quiet to eat their lunch.
• Seat the child away from the door.
• Use fan or background noise to muffle loud/ unexpected sounds.
• Teach the child to hum to block out noise.
• Provide personal ear phones where possible.
Sensory Processing Disorder Auditory Sense Hearing• Give them control – like using the vaccuum cleaner.
• Start slowly -Let them help with noisy appliances whilst they are not noisy (like unloading the washing machine), then put the machine on whilst you are with them and warn them about the sounds – maybe start with ear defenders/covering their ears, and slowly build up to them being in front of the machine on their own.
• If they have made an association that something makes a loud sound they don’t like – such as a balloon bursting – then try to get them to play with them, and show them that no harm will come to them.

Auditory Hypo-sensitivity – NOT ENOUGH

Sensory Processing Disorder Auditory Sense Hearing• Seek out all the toys on the mat that make the most noise.
• Constantly vocalising loudly
• Talk louder than other people
• Like to make a lot of noise (e.g. banging on the table)
• Crave/ respond positively during or after loud music
• Enjoy strange or certain sounds
• Might float aimlessly & not follow your verbal instructions
• Not respond when you verbally tell them instructions
• Appear to ignore others voices
What we can do to help
• Use hand gestures to help get your message across
• Touch them firmly to get their attention before speaking/ giving instructions
• Allow time for noisy play (we have a noisy toy box)
• Where possible- use learning through sound/ music
• Provide lively music in the background during e.g. bathing, getting dressed etc.
• Use extra visual supports- e.g. visual schedule, social story, stand in one place when giving instructions

Sensory Processing Disorder Auditory Sense HearingCalming

  • Consistency in noise levels
  • Quiet calm and well paced voices
  • Consistent rhythms

Arousing

  • Variations in noise levels
  • Erratic, loud or screaming voices
  • Variations in rhythms eg. fast and slow music combined
  • Sudden unexpected noises
 
Many thanks to the Children’s Occupational Therapy Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust for supply this information and granting me permission to use it.
Sensory processing disorder and visiting at Christmas

Visiting family and friends at Christmas with Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing disorder and visiting at ChristmasChristmas is a time when we go visiting a lot of family and friends which can be difficult for individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder. But when it comes to Sensory Processing Disorder techniques to help with Christmas, what works for one individual will not necessarily work for another. You need to look at the individual’s Sensory Make-up – each of the seven senses (vision (sight), tactile (touch), auditory (hearing), gustatory (taste), Vestibular (movement & gravity), olfactory (smell) and proprioception (sense of body position, from information received through the muscles, and joints – force, speed and control) and whether there is a problem filtering with too much, too little or a mix of the two) and determine what their individual needs are based on that.

Problems visiting Family & Friends for individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder at Christmas

The individual with Sensory Processing Disorder may very well not like change: The brain is already struggling to make sense of the World without added pressures of it constantly changing. At Christmas people often go visiting friends and family that they do not see regularly, which can be hard on the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder. Added to that is the environment can be greatly heightened with lights, noise, and extra people – which can be quite an overload for the resister or they may want to touch, hug squeeze more (for example) if they are a Sensory Seeker.

Sensory Processing Strategies for Coping with visiting family and friends this Christmas

Planning. If possible know as much about what is going to happen as you can. This means you can prepare. Knowing how far it is, how long you will be, what will happen, who will be there will greatly improve the likelihood of smooth visiting.

How far: Will they need something to keep them calm on the journey. We have a ds, tablet and in car dvd player.  If there is an unexpected long journey with have apps on our phone. Although this is advice for any child to stop them becoming bored when visiting family and friends, for those with Sensory Processing Disorder it can help them calm down and remain focused.

How long: Knowing how long visiting will last can help better prepare the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder. Make sure you explain things in terms they understand; for example with the use of time. It would be no use telling our Sensory Seeker that we would be visiting until 7pm, but he would understand if we told him that the visit would end by bedtime. It also helps prepare for whether other things need to be packed – do they need to take an activity, favourite toy, ipad/ds, etc – are they likely to have an “accident” and need a change of clothes packing, will they need something to ensure they eat/drink – like a special cup? Are their Sensory Issues likely to become a problem whilst they are there? Do you need to take things to help deal with those issues whilst still there (will you need a weighted blanket/lappad with you, head phones, eye mask/sunglasses, squeezy, chewy or favourite toy.

What will happen whilst visiting and who will be there: if you can talk to them before you go then they can be prepared. If it is a party situation then it may be noisy – music and party poppers, or additional lights (see this guide on parties as it will be pretty similar). Is it possible to arrange a safe place to go, do they know where the toilet is – or who they should ask about it? Will there be people they do not know? Do they know what to do if someone wants to hug or kiss them? If they do not like it may be they could offer a hi-five or to offer to shake hands instead. Have they got something to help them cope if they want to kiss/hug people more than is socially acceptable (I tend to get him to come and give me a bear squeeze instead).

If you can think of any other problems and/or solutions for visiting family and friends at Christmas for the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder then please do reply below.

Touching - Sensory Processing Disorder (Tactile Sense)

Touch – Sensory Processing Disorder (Tactile Sense)

Touching - Sensory Processing Disorder (Tactile Sense)Touch is the area that sent off the biggest alarm bells for us that our son had Sensory Processing Disorder. I say us it was the Pediatrician who first noticed it, as we struggled to peel him from stroking her shiny tights. We had completely missed the fact that he loved to cover himself in paint, and stroke people’s faces – we just thought that it was his age.

Sensory Processing Disorder is when the information we constantly received by the seven senses is misinterpreted by the brain when it is processed. Sometimes our brains say there is TOO MUCH information coming in, and sometimes NOT ENOUGH. One of the areas this happens in is that of the Tactile sense – or touch.

Does your Child have Sensory Processing Disorder problems in the Tactile Sense (Touch)?

They may have problems with too much, too little or a mix of the two.

Signs of Too Much

Avoiding Touch

• Going barefoot, especially in sand or on grass, wearing sunscreen, hats, messy play with hands & feet (sand, mud, finger-paint). We often find a compromise of letting him wear sandals (no socks) even in Winter helps. Look out for any tags or labels on clothing/ hats that might bother them. Consider types of fabrics most preferred by the child. Use natural fibres e.g. cotton. Wash clothing before wear. Seam-less socks & underwear brands: online www.sensorydirect.com; or http://www.fledglings.org.uk sensorysmart.co.uk

They become distressed during hair-brushing or cutting (our son was actually physically sick when he felt the hair fall and touch his skin. He is getting better but it is usually a case of one parent restraining him whilst the other just gets on with it (shaving in the case of hair). Allow the child as much control & independence as possible (e.g. control force & duration of own tooth-brush). Give warning prior to a disliked activity & talk them through it. Let them know how long until activity is finished (e.g. brush hair for the length of a favourite song/ use a timer set for 1 minute). Touch FIRMLY but gently. Light touch= startling. FIRM touch= calming. Always approach from the front. Warn them before you touch them. Use mirrors (e.g. hair-brushing, cutting, nail cutting, teeth brushing) so the child can see what is happening & increase control. The brushing technique helps with personal grooming. Avoid fans or vents blowing directly on child.

Touching - Sensory Processing Disorder (Tactile Sense)They use finger-tips instead of their whole hand. Give opportunities to play but without their hands e.g. touch play-dough/ paint with a brush/ spoon etc. before fingers. Slowly build them up – ie just started with finger-tips, then fingers, and reward them for trying it. Even let them play with their food.

They complain of being poked or bumped (this was common for both my oldest and youngest not understanding how much pressure people had used when touching them).  They over-react to touch – e.g. lashes out. They avoid standing in line or close to others. They walk on their toes. They prefer to be in a protected place e.g. in a corner/ under a table. Pair them with a child that won’t prod or poke them. Have designated spots on the mat (e.g. carpet squares).Get the child to be the line starter/ ender/ hold the door.

Not Enough – The Sensory Seeker

Touching - Sensory Processing Disorder (Tactile Sense) They touch people & objects to the point of irritating them (our Sensory Seeker is forever holding people’s faces in his hands).

• They like people to touch him/ her (fantastic for cuddles).

• They are constantly touching other people’s hair or clothing (or just general touching – good idea to carry wipes. Do you have any idea how dirty the Tube is in London Underground but he HAD to touch it, then he didn’t want the black all over his hands and tried to rub it off on a stranger!!!!)

• They love to be barefoot (barefoot trails are just heaven).

• They pinch, bites, or hurts self (and/or others).

• They have a really high pain & temperature threshold.

• They hit or bang their head on purpose.

• They throw themselves on the ground.

• They enjoy rough play.

Touching - Sensory Processing Disorder (Tactile Sense)How to Help

• Allow them to fiddle with something that is appropriate & doesn’t distract others e.g. a pasta necklace/ bracelet; elastic necklace/ something with resistance. We have tags at the end of his weighted blanket. Allow a fidget toy in their pocket during seated time (e.g. car rides, mat time). *May need a social story to teach rules of use. Provide a squeeze/ stress ball for times that may be difficult.

• Be specific with words- “if you want to touch something- you touch …. Bracelet/ squeeze ball etc. so they have an alternative to their behaviour.

• Select highly textured clothing & lots of accessories e.g. head-bands, wrist-bands, belts.

Touching - Sensory Processing Disorder (Tactile Sense)Provide textured blankets or sheets for sleeping. We have surrounded him with teddies in his bed to aid night times as he was waking a lot and kept getting in or bed. But there he would really annoy us. There’s no other way to describe it – tickling, even scratching and kicking us – just really needing to get some sort of sensory touch input from us.

• Give opportunities to learn through touch experiences e.g. sand play, water play, messy play, finger-paints. Add textures to toy surfaces e.g. sand in finger-paints.

Touching - Sensory Processing Disorder (Tactile Sense)Products & Resources:

www.sensorytdirect.com

www.fledglings.org.uk

www.sensorywarehouse.com

www.specialneedstoys.co.uk

www.sensorysmart.co.uk

Many thanks to the Children’s Occupational Therapy Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust for supply this information and granting me permission to use it. This post is a redraft of a post previously published on Pinkoddy.

Vestibular Sensory Seeker - Movement and balance

Movement: Do you have a Sensory Seeker in the Vestibular Sense?

The Sensory Seeker: Vestibular – (Movement & Balance)

Vestibular Sensory Seeker - Movement and balanceOne of the areas of Sensory Processing Disorder is trouble with the Vestibular sense (that is movement to you and me). My Sensory Seeker is one of the ones who just cannot get enough movement (it also linked to balance but we will talk in terms of movement to keep it simple). One of the things people comment is does he have ADHD – because he is always on the go. Even when playing computer games he is constantly jumping (and I mean for ages), or if he has managed to sit down he is tapping his foot on the floor. He spins around on the spot or tips himself upside-down (usually a headstand on my sofa). He has always been an excessive risk taker – with no fear of heights and climbing really high even when he was really young.

How can you tell that you have a Sensory Seeker in the Vestibular Sense (Movement/Balance):

  • Rock while standing or sitting
  • Constantly fidgeting/tapping
  • Always on the go!
  • Jump & bounce a lot
  • Can’t sit still in the car/ on the mat
  • Rocking/ movement seems to be the only way to calm them (babies)
  • Seek out intense movement activities e.g. moving toys, merry-go-rounds, adult spinning, see-saws, hanging upside down
  • Take excessive risks with moving or climbing
  • Become overly excitable during movement activities
  • Runs rather than walks
  • Is fast but not always well-coordinated

Meeting the needs of The Sensory Seeker for Movement/Balance:

Basically provide as many opportunities for movement as possible. Big movements, not precise as your Sensory Seeker may struggle with this. Encourage movement throughout the day, star jumps, skipping, hopping,  dancing (musical statutes is good for the balance part), sing songs with actions etc – something that does not take long and can easily be fitted in wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Try to encourage back & forth movement rather than circular though, as it is more calming. Give them chores which require them to move around (setting the table, vacuuming, setting the table)

Outdoor Activities to encourage Movement/Balance:

outdoor movement opportunities for the sensory seekerOutdoor play is a really good idea – especially if they get a good chance to run. Before school my Sensory Seeker often goes on the trampoline (we have a 14ft so there’s lots of room for plenty of movement). I walk the boys to school – well I walk, my 7 year old rides his bike and my Sensory Seeker goes on his scooter. We found that a 3 wheeled scooter was much easier for him than a bike. Play games with movement – a favourite here is tag, plus we have a swing ball in the back garden. Go for walks – we like to make them more interesting for example by going at night and taking glow sticks. Give them a section of the garden to dig and tend to. Or you may want to think about getting a dog and have your Sensory Seeker take it for walks.

Days out or Activities to help the Sensory Seeker with Movement

I like to keep all my boys active anyway, so it is easy to incorporate movement into our activities.  Swimming is good for movement and our Sensory Seeker has a weekly lesson. This is not only good for meeting his movement needs but teaching him a life skill. Rock climbing is another good activity, our local center has special lessons for younger children as well as free climbing times. We love to visit theme parks and other day trips/activities that gives the Sensory Seeker plenty of opportunity for movement (spinning, being tipped upside-down, etc). Other ideas include bowling, ice-skating, canoeing. Our Sensory Seeker absolutely loved Go Ape – plenty of movement and balance.

I would love to hear about other ideas you have for encourage movement into the daily lives of children, to help my Sensory Seeker with his Vestibular sense.

This page was originally featured on Pinkoddy but has been updated for this blog.

party planning sensory processing disorder

Party Planning and Sensory Processing Disorder

party planning sensory processing disorderFor 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.

The Avoider

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

party sensory processing disorderTalk 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.

The Seeker

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.

party planning sensory processing disorderWhat 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?

Party Food

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.

Neverland Cake from Keep Up With The Jones Family
Neverland Cake from Keep Up With The Jones Family

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).

Tramplone Party
Triple Ts Mum Bubble Theme Party Ideas

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.

See Triple T Mum’s Bubble theme decorations

Ideas to focus the Party

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.

party sensory processing disorder

 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?

Sensory processing disorder vision @pinkoddy

Sensory Processing Disorder: Visual (Vision/Seeing)

Visual

We receive lots of information through all our senses. There are 7 senses which we use and filter out which bits of information we need to make sense of things, and to tell us how to behave. Sometimes we all can struggle with this – such as someone tapping a pen whilst we listen to someone else. But people with sensory integration disorder (or sensory processing disorder) have trouble registering and organising the information, making it difficult for them to learn and function in the World.

There are times when the child is over aroused and needs calming down, or maybe the child is too calm and needs arousing, and it is also normal to switch between the two. This post looks at the sense of Vision.

These are things to bare in mind whilst at school, they can be helped by simply moving the child. Say away from a lot of light streaming in through the windows, or away from the dark story corner – or the opposite – dependent on whether they are seeking or avoiding. It may be the reason why they are screaming that they do not wish to go outside at play time (simply because it is too bright). Or why they have trouble getting to sleep at night, or wake early (light coming into their room).

Wearing a hat may help with Sensory processing disorder vision
Wearing a hat may be needed to help with vision when going outside

TOO MUCH

  • Poor eye contact
  • Enjoy the dark
  • Turn off light switches
  • Object to going outside on a bright sunny day
  • Lots of squinting outside in the sun
  • Hide away from bright light
  • Can’t find their shoes in a large pile
  • Comment more than others on changes in lighting (e.g. cloud covering the sun)
  • Frequently rub, squint or cover their eyes

What we can do to help

  • Have a ‘time out’ area/ tent (keep it dark)
  • Sit them away from fluorescent lights, bright posters/ wall hangings, bright windows (Soft, consistent lighting/Minimal bright lights and visually distracting objects/ Natural lighting).
  • Sparsely decorated rooms
  • Pastel colours
  • Ask them to collect their shoes/ bag last
  • They might not be able to follow instructions on posters/ not respond as well to gestures
  • Allow them to wear hat or sunglasses outside.
  • Give them an eye mask to help sleep at night.
  • Blackout blinds or curtains.

NOT ENOUGH

  • Hand flapping/ waving fingers close to their face
  • Like watching spinning, shining objects
  • Repeatedly spin bright, reflecting objects
  • Love to flick lights on & off
  • Watch repetitive movements e.g. flipping pages of a book, opening/ closing doors & cupboards
  • Manipulate objects close to their face
  • Might bump into people or things (too distracted looking at other things)
  • Lose their place while reading

What we can do to help

  • Sit them under bright lights/ next to window
  • Variations in colour
  • Fluorescent lighting
  • Artificial lighting
  • Bright colours
  • Cluttered rooms
  • Use visual supports e.g. bright posters, visual schedules
  • Allow them to play with visual toys & games
  • Use high colour contrast e.g. dark food in white bowl; hang dark hat on light coloured wall

This is not a sponsored post.

Many thanks to the Children’s Occupational Therapy Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust for supply this information and granting me permission to use it.

The Sensory Seeker

We make sense of the World around us through our senses. We process so much information – about the sounds, smells, textures, our position, what we can hear, how much we are moving, and so on, and then the brain filters out which bits of information we need right now. They then tell us how to respond appropriately. For example, if we take a sip of coffee that is too hot, the senses will tell us not to drink it, to move the cup away from us – what position our body is in, in order to do this. We develop preferences for things, as some sensory input works better for some rather than others. For example, some people may work better listening to music, and others prefer the quiet.

Sometimes this can be harder than others, and can depend on your mood. For example, you may find it harder to ignore that annoying sound when you are trying to concentrate on something difficult, and when you are particularly tired.

Those with Sensory Processing Disorder have difficulty with the brain filtering out the bits it does not need. The first thing to do when you suspect Sensory Processing Disorder is to keep a diary. Consider things to do with the senses – vision (sight), tactile (touch), auditory (hearing), gustatory (taste), Vestibular (movement & gravity), olfactory (smell) and proprioception (sense of body position, from information received through the muscles, and joints – force, speed and control).

Keep track of when things are good, and when things are not so good. Consider whether the sense may be experiencing too much of something or not enough. What things help to diffuse the situation and what things help in maintaining a happy balance? Make sure you think about the times of day – does it always happen in the mornings? Does it only happen after they’ve been energetic?

Sensory Processing Disorder can affect many aspects of life including hygiene, sleeping, diet, relationships, self-esteem, danger, health, and education. Sensory Processing Disorder never goes away but it can be managed by a good Sensory diet. The earlier it is detected the better. There are many different Sensory Aids available to help.

Seekers often do not sense the movement/noise/touch etc and therefore need to make it themselves, (this is because the brain tells them that there is not enough input from these senses). They may have trouble sitting still and being quiet, always fidgeting and making noises. They may lick or touch things – even if this is a health and safety hazard.

Ways to help the Sensory Seeker:

  • Foods with flavour
  • Fizzy Drinks
  • Chewy Toys
  • Straws
  • Bubbles
  • Opportunities to move- the park, trampolines, etc
  • Fidget toys
  • Playdoh
  • Weighted blanket
  • Compression vest
  • Deep Bath
  • Space hopper
  • Various colours
  • Fluorescent lighting
  • Cluttered room
  • Artificial lights
  • Changing colour lights
  • Noisy toys
  • Mirrors
  • Fragrant toiletries
  • Electric toothbrush
  • Resistance tunnel or body sock
  • Offer different smells
  • Chewy and crunchy foods
  • Hats or hooded sweater
  • Encourage jumping
  • Lots of teddies in bed
  • Bear hugs
  • Messy play
  • Compression gloves
  • Vibrating pillow
  • Heavy work
  • Different textures to play with
  • MP3 player