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.

Advice on Periods

Getting your period for the first time can be confusing for any girl never mind one who is Autistic or has Sensory Processing Disorder. With sensory integration problems it may take longer to absorb the physical and emotional changes in the body, which can usually happen anywhere between the ages of 9 and 16 years old, so it is best to start the discussion early – possibly with the use of social stories and visual aids. You could also use PEC’s on a keyring as a visual reminder.

Problems with Periods for Autistic Females or those who have Sensory Processing Disorder

Communication and Emotions

As well as difficulties processing all the changes those who are Autistic or have Sensory Issue many struggle with communicating. This can be a difficult time especially if she finds it hard to regulate her hormones. A good way to help with this is to discuss what a period is and why we have them – this may start with an introduction in a physical way of this extra hole that they may not have noticed before, as it hasn’t been relevant.

Talk about the menstrual cycle, explaining that it happens to all women. Plot on a calendar the different stages (menstruating/ovulation) this will help her to keep track of when her period is due. Make sure you include the fact that they may have increased discharge on the lead up to their periods, and then on days in-between periods. Not only talk about how long the average length of a period will last each month, how much blood may be lost, and also how long she is likely to have periods in her life. It may seem strange to introduce the menopause before the first period but it might help them to have an idea of the time frame that this will happen over.

Talk about the different types of sanitary products and demonstrate how to use those them (like where to put the towel in a pair of knickers). Talk about how many of each type they might need (like only one cup or x amount of pads a day). Some disposable pads have arrows on them so this may help you decide on a preferable brand. You may or may not want to show her what used sanitary protection looks like – as not to shock her (but explain that people do not usually go around showing this!). Alternatively you could use food colouring. Either way explain that there may be blood clots – or that the blood can be either red or brown. They also need to be aware that blood slows down in water (so it is okay to get into the bath) but that when they get out it may come back suddenly so they may need a sanitary product straight away. Also that tampons can be worn in water (if they want to go swimming for example) but may change how they feel (heavy) and need changing when they get out too. Explain that the flow of blood changes too so there might be more or less at different times – throughout the cycle and throughout the day/night – with more coming at night so extra protection may be required.

period social story slide 1

Once she has had her first period you could get her to write a diary to help identify how she feels at various parts of each month – warning her previously what this may look or feel like. It may be that the days leading up to her period she feels more angry/upset/sad/frustrated but that this stops when her period starts. This will help her understand how things are for her because not everyone is the same – and that’s okay too.

It may be that she has trouble concentrating, feels depressed or sleepy; has sore breasts, stomach or lower back, she may be more hungry, feel bloated, need to go to the toilet more, and does not know how to express this – or realise why it is happening. If it is explained what this may be like for her, including how this may look and feel, and that these things are normal it will be less frightening for her. Such as that cramping may feel like an uncomfortable or sick tummy; there may be some tightness around the abdomen, or mild pain like a headache feels (I was told by a doctor that this was just migraine of the stomach for years on the build up to my periods). Others may describe cramping like bubble or gas. Offer her ways to deal with them – such as hot water bottles, paracetamol and even chocolate!

Throughout everything you discuss make sure she knows it is normal and just a part of growing up. You may want to explain periods as a rite of passage into adulthood – and even allow her to do something a little more grown up to compensate for them (such as having extra chocolate, having a later bedtime and so on).

Sensory Difficulties and Periods

Of course there may be new sensory difficulties which arise due to her periods. It may be that she cannot cope with the feel of discharge or blood, or the sensation of a pad in her knickers/tampon inside her. This could lead on to poor hygiene, especially if this is already a problem. You need to explore all the many types of products available (towels/tampons/menstrual cups/reusable pads/reusable knickers) to discover if there’s a particular one they are more comfortable with (you could donate surplus products that did not work out for her to a homeless charity perhaps). It may be that the different products have varying smells – therefore it may be a case that reusable pads would be the best option as you could wash them with the regular laundry detergent that they are used to. They may want to use toilet wipes or a flannel for cleaning themselves after they have been to the toilet if they cannot deal with the blood.

Explain that without using them that the blood could leak through their clothes and make them uncomfortable. That if they suffer with heavy blood loss that this could still happen and it may be an idea to carry around spare knickers and sanitary products with them. But also make them aware of how and where to buy products themselves. It may be that it is the visual sight of blood and so dark sanitary pants may be the only solution.

Together you could make a “monthlies” box for the bathroom with all the things she needs. Or order a subscription box for her.

period social story visual aid 2

Personal Hygiene

Puberty in general is a time when personal hygiene needs addressing and it may be that they struggle with the odours that come with periods. Again which type of sanitary products they use may help with this, as well as the right kind of spray to mask the smell.

It may seem obvious but she needs to be made aware of the importance of washing her hands after changing her sanitary wear and of course they also need to know when and how to change and the correct method of disposing (including how to wrap up disposable pads and place them in the bins provided and what they can do if there aren’t any available) or cleaning their sanitary products – and that they are not flushed down the toilet. Talk about the frequency because this could be the fullness or the time – even if a pad has not got a lot of blood on it it needs changing frequently, or it will start to smell.

If reusable products are being used that they know where to put them when they have finished with them (maybe have a wet bag that they can carry around and a wet bucket in the bathroom). But be prepared that they still will hide them – you just need to make sure this situation is as least embarrassing as possible. Or maybe even teach her how to do her own washing, with her own wash hamper (obviously depending on her age) so that she does not worry what others think (and depending on her capabilities). Plus advice on rinsing them or how to treat stains.

period social story slide 3

Social Rules

Obviously talking about how we take care of sanitary products after they are used are part of the social rules of our society – so you may want to explain this as a reason why as well as for hygiene reasons. But also mention about the vocabulary we use when talking about periods – plus how there is a time and place to talk about menstruation but that there are boundaries and appropriate social etiquette.

That all females have most likely had periods at some point in their lives and it is nothing to be ashamed about. A lot of us have been caught short with unexpectedly “coming on” and not had the right products to deal with it. In this case for a short while some tissue paper may help, or some toilets sell products in machines – or another female can be asked if she has anything that could be “borrowed” (this is the term used but they do not actually want it back!)

This will also include getting the attention of a member of staff if at school or college to help deal with any issues. If this may be the case it may be worth speaking to the school and see if they will help support them.

period social story visual aid slide 4

Of course if you have any further issues then do visit the GP, especially if her periods are very long in duration or heavy, or painful.

Recommended Reading and Other Resources

The Autism Friendly Guide to Periods – this has pictures which are taken over the author’s shoulder -and shows things like how to change a sanitary pad.

The American Girl Care Series

Keeping of You Series

Girls Only

Thinx (first period kit)

Social Story Images from Lil-Barb’s Delights used with permission. They were designed for a particular person with their own criteria. Some girls will be offended/upset by some of the content – or you may wish to use different products.

Thank you for everyone who helped contribute to this article, including the above recommendations.

The above is just my opinions and is not meant to substitute medical advice

Hair: Sensory Issues with Washing, Cutting and Brushing

Those with Sensory difference can have problems when it comes to touch, this can be really uncomfortable and sometimes very painful causing the individual to have a “meltdown.” In some situations this really cannot be avoided completely especially when it comes to taking care of their hygiene including their hair. Washing, brushing and cutting the hair can be a traumatic experience for the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder – so what can be done to help?man having hair shaved

Consider how Washing, Brushing and Cutting Affects them as an Individual

It is important to remember that with Sensory Processing Disorder (or Sensory difficulties for a person who has Autism) that everyone is an individual and will be affected differently – there’s not a one size fits all. You need to think about what it is that is causing them not to want their hair washed, cut or brushed – what is it about it making them feel distressed? If you can talk to them try to find out but if not you will just have to try different methods to eliminate the possible causes. For example, I know my oldest son with Asperger’s syndrome dislikes his hair being cut so much that he lets it grow for example, whereas I feel like pulling my hair out of the socket (and do often cut quite a bit off myself – this is called trichtomania and can be a sign of anxiety) because it just hurts so much. man having hair cutRemember that problems could be due to any of the senses so think about the situation in terms of them all:

The Environment where having their hair Washed, Brushed or Cut

Like most things when it comes to Sensory Processing the environment the individual is in can make such a difference. Consider the effect of noise, visuals, smells etc on them as well as what the textures are around them and how they are placed (for consideration on proprioception and vestibular senses). Make sure they are familiar with where they are having their hair done and are happy with it before attempting doing anything to the hair. Are they happier standing, sitting – or possibly even lying!? What have they got to look at? Are they content with just what is in the environment or would they benefit from being distracted by a television, games console, iPad, etc? Or maybe it is too much and they need sunglasses or to relax with an eye patch to lessen the visual overload. Is the lighting right? Would they benefit from coloured lights – or more or less lighting? Is there too much noise? Can they wear noise-reducing headphones to cancel it out? Or not enough noise? Could they have a radio on, or listen to music through some headphones? Is it the smell – is there a certain air freshener or products being used that they do not like?empty hair dressers chair and lightYou may need to slowly build up their compliance with going into this room (for example in a hairdressers); start by letting them go in and leave straight away, building up their tolerance for staying there. Take a look at different places and see which is the most suitable – some have cars children can sit in, or you may find a hairdresser who is very patient. When our oldest son with Asperger’s syndrome was small we found a hairdressers who would let him come back over a number of visits because he got so distressed trying to do it in one sitting. Also try to take with you things that will help them feel relaxed. Alternatively see if someone will come out to your home.

Things to consider to help the Individual with Sensory Processing when having their hair Brushed, Washed, or Cut

Wherever it is that the individual with Sensory Processing has their hair done there are some things that may be worth trying to think about whether they will make it easier for them:

  • Can they have advance warnings – with visual aids, social stories, videos, or watching others first? Do they know how long it will take? Have they a visual timer to help with this? As above can they have it done over several sittings?
  • Can they be distracted whilst someone is doing their hair (with a fidget toy, stress ball, iPad, etc)? Do they prefer to be in control and do it themselves (washing and brushing) – and would they benefit from a mirror (this may also be helpful if someone else is doing it too)? Or is it impossible and therefore would trying to do it whilst they sleep be a last resort option?mother and children around an ipad
  • Are they comfortable with the feel of a towel/shawl around their shoulders whilst having their hair done? Or would they benefit from a weighted lap-pad or a kick-band around the bottom of the chair whilst they have to sit?
  • Is the temperature of the water right? Are you trying to wash their hair forwards or backwards over a sink? Using a shower head or lying in a bath? Is a water spray bottle an option – or is the feel on their face unpleasant?
  • Obviously ideally when trying to brush the hair then clean hair is going to be easier, but this is not always possible. Is using dry shampoo possible? Consider the smells of the products and whether to use shampoo, conditioner or both. It may be a good idea to use leave in conditioner, Aragon oil, coconut oil, or detangler spray to make the hair easier to brush, and comb from the bottom in small sections, slowly going up to the roots. Afterwards consider tying the hair back and if possible plaiting it to avoid any further knots.
  • Different people will touch the hair/have a different pressure than others, as will different brushes and combs – can this be adjusted to try to find the right force for them? I know my teenager likes the feel of the nitty gritty comb and will only use that – so really experiment! Of course there’s a range of soft and hard brushes, combs with different spaces between the teeth and detangler brushes.open scissors
  • Do they dislike noises – so would prefer scissors over clippers? Or are they worried that their ears may be nipped? Do they need a warning when it will be noisy? And is it better to towel dry or use a hairdryer?
  • When cutting their hair consider swaddling. Our son was physically sick when the lose hair touched his skin and so a change of clothes may be a good idea.

 

Do you have any other problems or solutions when it comes to sensory issues and washing, cutting and brushing hair – please add them in the comments below. I would also love to hear if any of this has been beneficial to you.

 

Other Posts of Interest:

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

 

Brushing Teeth & Sensory Processing Disorder

National Autistic Society: Preparing for a visit to the Hairdressers

Sensory Help in the Bathroom

Sensory Help in the Bathroom

When we redesigned our bathroom we had to really stop and think about our youngest son’s disability. We took him along to make sure he approved of the colour scheme and had some real issues adjusting him to a square toilet. Our son’s needs are sensory as he has sensory processing disorder and rather individual to him. More physical needs can affect not just the disabled but the elderly too so it is useful to find solutions for their bathroom.

Sensory Help in the Bathroom

I felt mindfulness really helped me understand what the Sensory Seeker needed in the bathroom. I found that even the slightest tilt of my head under the shower can make the noises sound very different. This gave me an insight into the fact that even small changes can make a big sensory difference.Sensory Help in the Bathroom Sensory Processing Disorder is different for each individual and it can be every time they enter the bathroom, depending on their sensory diet that day. Knowing if The Sensory Seeker would be effected by colours, smells, touch or temperature etc are very important factors in encouraging him into the bathroom, and then using the products he needs when in there (see also my posts about brushing his teeth and washing his hair).Brushing Teeth & Sensory Processing Disorder

I previously wrote about Sensory Processing and Bathtime problems – but have since discovered additional solutions you can have added into a bath that may help with sensory issues such as Chromotherapy and Echo. Chromotherapy is based on light therapy and uses a visible spectrum of colours which help the body harmonise the emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. The colours can be fixed or run through a cycle of seven. Not only is this useful is you have a visually sensory seeker but it also encourages the mind and body to relax. Whilst Echo is a sound therapy which utilises sounds and music to create a relaxing environment. It works wirelessly from a music player using Bluetooth technology, with simple volume controls at the fingertips of the user. Again great for the auditory sensory seeker but also relaxing for mind and body.

Do you have any other helpful hints when it comes to the bathroom?

 

sensory emotions

Sensory Processing Disorder Dreams and Emotions

Sensory Processing Disorder and Struggling with Emotions

Individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder and/or Autistic Spectrum Condition are very likely to struggle with their emotions. Not only explaining them but understanding them in the first place. If you do not know how they are feeling that it is really hard to try and help. Emotional regulation is really important to help avoid meltdowns. Once the individual is able to identify them themselves they can then begin to self-regulate and take control of their sensory under and overloads.sensory emotions

How those with Sensory Processing Disorder may Struggle with Emotions

The individual with Sensory Processing Disorder or Autism may try and mirror other’s emotions – so if someone else is hurt they feel it too. They may feel upset if someone else is punished when they do not feel that the punishment was justified and have a sense of righteousness. Or they may become angry if someone is doing something they do not like – even if that is tickling them or being too loud.unhappy child

Helping those with Sensory Processing Disorder cope with Emotions

To help them better understand their feelings they need to be reassured that it is okay to have them, and then tell them what each one is called as they experience it. Offer reassurance and calming techniques (rubbing their back, firm hugs, music, lights, movement or a weighted blanket for example). It may help to have emotions printed on face picture cards so that they can see what they are feeling. These will also help aid the individual to communicate how they are feeling (especially good if they are feeling unwell). You may find it helps to have somewhere to put their problem (such as into a Worry Eater).sensory emotion regulation

Sensory Processing Disorder Dreams and Emotions

A good way to identify a child’s emotions is through that of their dreams. Dreams are about the self and can be symbolic or real. This can be confusing for anyone but particular those with Sensory Processing Disorder and/or Autism. They could be what prevents them from trying to sleep and/or waking them up in the night. If you can get them to talk to you about what happens in their dreams it may help to unravel how they are coping emotionally. Again using the visual aids may help with this process as you talk things through.

Ian Wallace, a well-known expert in the field of Dreams talks about children’s dreams interpreted in the following video:


in collaboration with Adjustable beds

sensory lights

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder

You know that feeling of getting back to your own bed – that nowhere else feels just quite right? It is the right temperature, the size of the bed (being just right for the position you want to be in), the feel of the sheets, blankets and pillows as well as the hardness of the mattress and maybe even the smell of the room. When you are away it is these little things that may mean you find it difficult to sleep – possibly even making you feel irritable. This is just a small insight into what it may be like for someone with Sensory Processing Disorder to get to sleep – even in their own room. When The Sensory Seeker struggles with sleep I try to consider each and every one of the senses and try to eliminate things that may be keeping him awake. The main problem is he may not even know what it is – so cannot really communicate what the problem is.trying to sleep

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Temperature is wrong

We know what it is like trying to sleep when it is too hot – or even too cold. But generally we are able to adjust this – turn on a fan, grab an extra blanket, wear more or less clothes. The individual with Sensory Processing Disorder may either not realise that this is the sense causing the problem, or be able to take action, or possibly it could cause more problems (eg the fan interferes with the noise sense, the extra blanket the touch sense and so on). I think it is important to also understand that just because you think it is getting cold at night now may not be how they are feeling – we are all different after all. You may really need to just experiment with fans, heaters, layers of clothing//blankets etc – and just keep listening to the individual with SPD (not just their words but how they react). It may change every night. They may be asking for water and you may think it is a distraction, but they could genuinely be too hot. Be careful not to give them too much to drink at night that results in a problem with bedwetting though!

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Touch is wrong

Do you have to sleep with a blanket touching you even though you are boiling hot? Trying to sleep when things do not feel right is probably the problem we can relate to the most. Again this is about experimentation and listening to the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder until the right combinations of touch are found: A technique called Brushing may help before bed or using weighted blankets (although they are controversial as to whether they could be taken off in an emergency okay). Try different nightwear (or without), blankets, pillows – even think about the air! For example is that fan blowing on them? This could be something they like or dislike! You may need to think about the position of the fan – is it blowing from above or to the side, can you move it? How hard is the bed? Could you put a blanket underneath the sheet to make it softer?sleeping in leaves

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Smell is wrong

I think smell is hugely neglected when it comes to considering how to help in general  but it can be just as much of an annoyance as the other senses. Before even thinking about trying to get to sleep I make sure that I open the windows in the day to allow fresh air in (and shut them at night to keep the noise out). For our Sensory Seeker what works is keeping a fresh smell (and sometimes using air fresheners). Again you really need to just try and smell the room, and work with the individual adjusting things that MAY (or may not) be the problem until you hit on the perfect combination (which can then just as easily change the next night).

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Light is wrong

Whether it is having the room dark or light which helps them to sleep, I think that it is one of the easier things to control. If the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder wants light there are all manner of different lights, designs, colours, shapes and sizes on the market to meet each of their individual needs, and allowing them to be positioned where they need to be. Of course there are even ones to meet any obsessions they have too.

sensory lightsThe Sensory Seeker says that he is afraid of the dark however (possibly just due to his age); that monsters are going to get him. Trouble is he is really sensitive to light and it wakes him up (yay for winter on its way!). To get around this we have a blackout blind and have positioned his bed away from the window. If this had not of worked we were going to try a sleep mask (which he would have liked as he likes the sense of touch). However, also consider whether they will be trying to get out of bed whilst still wearing the mask – my husband worried that if we got one then The Sensory Seeker half asleep would try to go to the toilet in the night without removing the mask and fall down the stairs. We also got him a Worry Eater to which we have told him will eat his anxieties and protect him from danger.

Of course you also need to take into account other visual factors such as the colour of the room, how cluttered it is with things to see, etc.

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Noise level is wrong

I like it quiet when I am trying to sleep in bed and would rather have a window shut on a hot day than hear the sound of a dog barking or a car alarm going off. Your child may be able to sleep with ear defenders or ear plugs if the noise is too loud. If you are really lucky you could sound proof the room. But not everyone wants quiet whilst they try to get to sleep or are sleeping – and some kind of radio may help with this – or reading/singing to them until they fall asleep. Or leave some white noise – like a vacuum on for them. In fact our own Sensory Seeker has been known to listen to Yoga Nidra to help get to sleep (this helps switch the brain between the nervous systems as well as providing him with the noise input he needs).

Also you need to think about body position – I said above I like quiet when trying to sleep in bed because I know if I am sitting up in a moving car I actually find it easier to sleep if the music is on (when I am a passenger I made add). This is just an example how things you may think you have found the answer to for one of the senses can change when you consider another.

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Taste is wrong

This goes back to what happens before bed – I guess how long before they go that they brush their teeth. We find allowing The Sensory Seeker to brush his teeth and get ready for bed a while before actually going to bed helps – and this may be to do with the fact that he is not distracted by the taste of the toothpaste flavour when trying to go to sleep. I know it sounds silly but it really is important just to focus on each sense and really have a good think about what could be stopping them.

Of course it could be that the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder you are trying to get to sleep is just a human being – and we all struggle or don’t want to go to sleep sometimes do we?! Especially if they are a child – I remember trying to stay awake all night with my sister, or they could be excited/anxious. Give them plenty of time to talk – however hard they find expressing their feelings.

 

Written in Partnership with The Lighting Superstore

Carex Fun Edition Love Hearts Review by The Sensory Seeker

Carex Fun Edition Love Hearts Review by The Sensory Seeker

When it comes to Sensory Processing Disorder you really do have to consider all of the senses. And wen it comes to hygiene the biggest obstacle we have to overcome is smell – because The Sensory Seeker is really sensitive to different ones, and if they are not right he will refuse to use whatever it is or want to escape from it (and there’s no point in forcing him because this just raises his anxiety levels and brings on a meltdown – or what appears to be a tantrum!). Therefore finding the right products for the bathroom have been a real game changer for helping him to keep clean. There are some things he is more particular about than others, or that he just likes more than the rest. Carex Strawberry Laces are one of the products he loves – so how would he feel about trying the new Carex Fun Edition Love Hearts?
Carex Fun Edition Love Hearts Review by The Sensory Seeker

Sensory Seeker and Carex Fun Edition Love Hearts

It always was going to be a tough competition as the Love Hearts went up against the Strawberry Laces. Our Sensory Seeker loves Strawberry Laces Hand Wash by Cussons Carex so much so that we have had to start just topping up the empty bottle a bit at a time, or he just uses it all. Although it was quite funny the time he told me to smell his armpits as he had even used it there! When asked to try the new Love Hearts I felt unsure of how well he would make the change.

Just like the Strawberry Laces the Love Hearts Hand Wash smells just like the sweets – it really is the perfect solution for encouraging our son to wash his hands. I think even the most reluctant of hand washers would want this smell on their hands. It effectively removes dirt and kills 99.9% of bacteria. It is dermatologically tested by experts and contains a special blend of moisturisers which helps to keep the skin soft. It certainly was a winner in our house with The Sensory Seeker (and well the whole family).

RRP £1.80Carex Fun Edition Love Hearts Review by The Sensory Seeker

You may also be interested in the following previous posts:

 

I received a free bottle of Carex Love Hearts for purposes of review. All words and opinions are honest and my own. I have not received any financial compensation.

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?

Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder

Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder

Sleep and Sensory Processing DisorderSleep is possibly the most significant factor with our son’s Sensory Processing Disorder, and when I say sleep I mean lack of it. Have no fear that he has burnt off the calories he has eaten because he doesn’t eat much or keep still. In fact even when he is playing a computer game he is jumping up and down. At almost 6 he still cannot sleep throughout the night. The paediatrician told us that she thought if we could manage to get him to sleep better, then it would help all other things fall into place. We have now managed to establish a good bedtime routine so that he is able to fall asleep every night. The trouble The Sensory Seeker has is staying asleep.

Things to consider about Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder

What is keeping them awake? Is it the noise? The visuals? The tactile? This could be because of the lights (do they need a light on? Or is there some sunlight seeping in that is annoying them?), textures – are their pyjamas annoying them or are they not getting enough tactile input?), are they disturbed by noise of others? Or is it too quiet? Is it too hot or cold? Do they have enough pressure on them (from blankets) or too much? Is their pillow soft enough? Or too soft? Do they need a tidy environment or one with lots going on?

Things that can help with Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder Prior to Bedtime

Once you have established what it is keeping them awake you can try to work towards trying to resolve it. Think about all the things that happen in the run up to bedtime that affect their senses. Think about all the things that the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder requires and try to match those needs.

Developing a routine and a consistent way of doing things is helpful and can reduce the impact of over-reacting. Organisation can give the child a sense of control over their day. Avoid television or computer games an hour or two before bedtime and provide a quiet winding-down time, with a low-key story. We have a bath routine, which then follows brushing teeth, getting into pjs and a story. We did start with a short story and a song, as his attention has expanded we have been able to make this longer. As he has become more and more interested in things we have been able to engage him more easily too (such as with his current LEGO book). You could also try providing a snack that can provide slow-release nutrients through the night to avoid a drop in blood sugar.

Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder – The Environment

Think carefully about the environment you are trying to get them to sleep in, and again try to adapt it to their needs. If it is too noisy then would they sleep with ear plugs in? Could you reduce the noise (shutting the door, not flushing the toilet at night)? Is it the birds – is there a window open? If there’s not enough noise is it possible for them to sleep with a radio on? Can you adjust the temperature with central heating or blankets? Are they comfortable in the bed – the mattress/pillow/pjs/blankets – could you help them with a weighted blanket or by surrounding them with teddies? Tuck them into the bed with their blankets. Could you cut out light with blackout blinds, a thick curtain or an eye mask? Or how about one of those tunnels that goes over the bed. How is the room decorated – what colour are the walls – is there too much information on them, or not enough?

The Sensory Seeker and Sleep

he is disabledWe are finding that The Sensory Seeker does sleep much better than he used to but still wakes throughout the night. We have kept him in “night pants” at night because he still wets in the day, and is not ready to be dry at night. We have tried to leave him in pants (as he is aware that he is getting older and does not want to be a baby) but this was further disturbing his sleep, which I agree is further adding to his problems of concentration and so on the next day. We have tried him in his own room and he kept coming in to us. So now he is sharing with his brother (on the bottom bunk) but still he is unable to sleep throughout the night. I think the main factor is noise that disturbs him but cannot be sure.

Please if you have any further tips on Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder then add them below.

Sensory Processing Disorder Bathtime Problems

Sensory Processing Disorder Bathtime Problems

Sensory Processing Disorder can be a problem when it affects day-to-day life, such as personal hygiene. Bathtime and keeping clean can be a problem but it is identifying exactly why, for each individual, in order to try to help it become more bearable. I have previously discussed teeth brushing and now to consider the whole bathtime experience.

Identifying the Sensory Needs at Bathtime

Sensory Processing Disorder Bathtime ProblemsFirst discover what it is that is bothering them. Keep a diary to determine whether your child is a seeker or avoider in the 7 sensory types. Note when things calm them down and when they arouse them. Try to note all the different things occurring. For example, if they do not like having their hair washed and are screaming, “get off me, get off me,” as if you are trying to kill them – don’t assume it is because they do not want the shampoo in their hair. There could be all manner of factors at work here. Bathtime may help calm them down, or rev them up. This may also depend on what their sensory diet (things they have done to satisfy their sensory needs and make sense of their environment) has been like that day, or whether it is morning or night. Even as a seeker bathtime may help calm them down (as they have got what they want) or it may overload them(as they are taking in too much). Make bathtime an hour before bed, as it  may help them calm down and establish a bedtime routine.

Think about the Environment at Bathtime in relation to Sensory Processing Disorder

Be aware of the environment at bathtime. Is there carpet on the floor? Or mats? The noise in the bathroom may echo, they may not like the sound of the running water. If the bath running is a problem then run it before hand, when they are out of ears reach. Invest in earplugs.Give them warning about what you are going to do and how it may upset them. Encourage singing and/or clapping to help regulate and be a distracting dose of sensory input; or put on some relaxing music. On the other hand, they may like the noise of the water, and a shower may provide more sounds.

Things to do for the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder in the build up to Bathtime

Before it is bathtime do activities that provide deep touch input, e.g. rest your hands on their shoulders and apply moderate pressure. The upset before getting in the bath could be to do with getting undressed – this could be to do with temperature or pressure. Make sure the room is the right temperature. Let them test the water with their fingers, to ascertain that it is the right temperature for their needs.  Again do deep pressure touch before washing, and wash with firm pressure (if they are seeking this), especially when shampooing and drying. Make the transition from getting undressed and into the bath as quick and smooth as possible. Make sure the towel and pjs are the right texture for them.

How to help the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder during Bathtime

During bathtime give them control. Let them chose the flannel, sponge or loofah – for size and texture.  If they don’t like being washed then encourage them to wash independently. Try letting them see what is happening in a mirror. Or tell them how long you will wash for – like until you have finished counting to ten. Offer a bubble mountain right before washing their face. If they do not like the water in their eyes have goggles – or a towel at hand so they can dry their eyes. After the bath rubbing lotion in may be effective. It may also be about the level of the water – do they want a deep bath – to cover them up, or do they only want a little bit – reassure them that it will not touch them too much.

Sensory Processing Disorder Bathtime ProblemsEncourage positive water experiences – make it fun and not rushed. For those who need the stimulation then why not let them have messy play. Take toys in that are their current interest, or ones that light up, and have different tactile stimuli. Take a doll that they can wash, whilst you wash them. Maybe consider making the bath glow in the dark,blow bubbles, or a product such as squishy baff. Consider the smell, how it appears visually, and the texture of the shampoo or soap. Or possibly dry shampoos. Those who need calming try epsom salts, benzonite clay baths, lavender oils & lavender soap, or natural (non-perfumed) soaps and shampoos. As you can see from the state of the soap are boy is a sensory seeker. Bars of soap are just no good for him, instead liquid is much better as he can get the sensory seeking tactile by rubbing it all over his body.

The ability to keep clean is a basic need. If someone you care for is finding it difficult then they may be entitled to financial help in the form of Disability Living Allowance (for the under 16s) or Personal Independence Payment (over 16s) to help manage this.

Brushing Teeth Sensory Processing Disorder

Brushing Teeth & Sensory Processing Disorder

Brushing Teeth Sensory Processing DisorderThose with Sensory Processing Disorder have a difficult with filtering out the senses in the brain to make sense of the World around them. One of the areas this can cause difficulties is with hygiene. I thought that I would share my thoughts on how to best help deal with Sensory Processing Disorder and brushing teeth. The Sensory Seeker used to hate having his teeth brushed, would scream, fight and refuse – even to the point of nearly being sick. Fast forward on a bit and now he is asking to have his teeth cleaned. Here I consider what happened to change that.

Sensory Processing Disorder Brushing Teeth: What is the Problem?

You need to consider what the problem actually is. In this case The Sensory Seeker has little oral awareness. This can also be seen at mealtimes when he stuffs as much food as possible into his mouth all at once. Our oldest son also had this; he would drool lots until all his mouth was sore and his clothes were soaked. Before even thinking about going as far as brushing teeth, things that can help are by providing different sensory inputs for the mouth – this can be with different textured foods or chewy toys or even try ice. If there is an aversion to things going into the mouth then try to discover exactly where the problem is – is it the lips, inside the mouth, the tip of the tongue, the middle of the tongue, the gums, or all of the above, that is causing the problem?

Sensory Processing Disorder Brushing Teeth: Get them to agree

I am sure it seems like such an obvious thing to say but having The Sensory Seeker on-board to the idea of brushing his teeth is the first step. Now it is much easier as he has a bit of an understanding that he needs to look after them. I am not quite sure how this happened, or to what extent, but since losing his first tooth it has been much easier to get him into the bathroom. Before this, or if he is in a defiant mood then we use bribery rewards. This may be that he can play with Lego when we are finished, it may be to watch his favourite TV show, even to leave some of his breakfast – we give him some control back to get what he wants if he does what we want. You may want to get them to agree in stages – entering the bathroom one day, massaging their gums another, rubbing toothpaste on their gums after that, until you slowly progress to a toothbrush.

Sensory Processing Disorder Brushing Teeth The Bathroom

You have to remember that the problem may be the bathroom itself. If you were to enter my bathroom you may feel that it is too cold for you. If this were your house you’d probably put something on warmer or turn on the heating. Those with Sensory Processing Disorder may not understand what the problem is though, or know how to fix it. What if you haven’t got the tools to fix it either? I think it is important to stand where you will be brushing teeth and put yourself in their position. Think – is the bathroom cluttered? How does the colour make you feel? What is the temperature like? How does it smell? What are textures like? What is the flooring made of? Are there any sounds? An extractor fan or an open window? Is there a tap running? Too many sounds from other people? Is there not enough noise? Could you put some music on?  You need to think about each individual with Sensory Processing Disorder as they may be a Seeker or Avoider or a bit of both. Really think about what they require for their Sensory Diet. Maybe you could brush their teeth in another room (a smaller one) or even start in their favourite room or sensory den (just take a bowl for them to spit in to). I noticed this morning that The Sensory Seeker uses the training step for moving up and down, and around whilst brushing his teeth, but that also he makes tapping sounds with his foot on it.

Sensory Processing Disorder Brushing Teeth The Toothbrush and Paste

Brushing Teeth & Sensory Processing DisorderIt took us a long time of trying many different toothbrushes and pastes before we found ones he was happy with. There are many different sizes, textures, colours, smells of paste and brushes you can ones that spin, musical, electric and main colours and shapes. We even tried electric ones. In the end I think it was the control The Sensory Seeker had over the situation and now he has a choice of brushes and paste in the morning. Again think about the individuals need. Let them familiarise themselves with the toothbrush and paste – even if that means letting them play with the paste – without even getting any in their mouth. We did as above and had a slow build up. One of the best products we found for The Sensory Seeker was a brush that slid over the finger. We always wet the brush before adding paste – do you do this? If so have you considered the temperature of the water? Have you tried it without? If you do not put water on then – have you considered the temperature and feel of the brush – could water help?

Sensory Processing Disorder Brushing Teeth

Brushing Teeth & Sensory Processing DisorderControl is an important aspect of successfully brushing teeth for the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder. I think that our success with getting The Sensory Seeker brushing teeth was when he could see himself in the mirror. He knew what was going to happen and could see exactly where the brush was being moved to. It also gives him the control of how much pressure the brush puts on him. Now he likes to brush his teeth at the same time as me, using me as a model and mirroring where I move the brush. Prior to that I also held him firmly under the chin – and think this helped with the tactile sense. I have to admit myself that sometimes brushing my teeth makes my nose itch. Again communication has played a big part in this development. Letting The Sensory Seeker know how long it would happen – starting small and then building up. You could do this by letting them count or sing. Sand timers are great though, as they are visual display of the time that would be required to be brushing teeth. Another good visual is disclosing tablets that colour the teeth and gums so that they can see where they need to brush to get rid of the plaque.

Sensory Processing Disorder Still Difficulties with Brushing Teeth

There are some with Sensory Processing Disorder that none of the above works. The only way to get their teeth done is to restrain them and get the job done. I think that if this is the case you just have to remember how much more difficult it would be if they had to have work done at the dentist – an unfamiliar place with new noises, smells, textures.

If you have a problem with Brushing Teeth I would love to know in the comments below all about it. Or alternatively can you help give any further advice on this issue?

You may also be interested in this post about making it easier