A Sensory Friendly Fourth of July

The Fourth of July can be an exciting and eventful time for most children, but for a child with sensorySensory Friendly processing difficulties, it can become overwhelming. Children with hypersensitivities to visual and auditory input may have a difficult time staying regulated and engaging in the activities that this holiday has to offer.

Here are some strategies for you and your child to have a sensory friendly holiday:

  1. Although fireworks can be a fun event for your family to attend, many children find the excess noise to be overwhelming. One strategy that might be helpful is to utilize noise-canceling headphones. If these are unavailable to you any type of ear buds you may have lying around the house could also help to muffle the sounds of fireworks. The bright flashing lights of fireworks can also be discomforting to a child with visual hypersensitivities. Bring along some shaded glasses to help block out some of that excess light.
  2. Parades may also be a very overwhelming activity for your child to engage in. The large crowds, loud music and bright colors can all be very stimulating and your child may have difficulties handling this overstimulation. One strategy that you could implement would be to avoid the crowd and watch from afar. Look around for a nearby building that you could watch from a window or find a designated area with fewer people.
  3. For a sensory seeking child you may want to create some sensory bins or activities for your child to engage in to help them feel more regulated. Mix red and blue paint into shaving cream (or uncooked colored rice or noodles to avoid the mess) and hide 4th of July themed items for your child to find. Your child may also need to engage in some heavy work activities before going to fireworks, parade, etc. so that he/she is regulated before these events. Some heavy work activities may include animal walks, carrying, pulling or lifting heavier objects, climbing, or crashing into pillows/cushions.
  4. Bring familiar items with you to these events to provide your child the comfort of home. Bring a favorite blanket or toy and let your child utilize it at times when they are feeling overwhelmed.
  5. Also remember to set expectations for your child. Let them know what the plan is for the day so they are more prepared for what they may encounter. Let them help you in planning out what to do for the day. This will make them feel more comfortable in these settings and can also give them the feeling that they have a choice. Having a plan will reduce anxiety for a child who is rigid or struggles with change. Visual schedules can also help to prompt your child as to what activities you have planned for the day. You can bring this along with you and take it out while transitioning from one activity to the next as a reminder.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

For additional information, watch our Facebook recording of A Sensory Friendly Fourth of July:

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

Social-Emotional and Behavioral Red Flags for Toddlers and Preschoolers

It might be hard to imagine what mental health concerns may look like for your toddler or preschooler. Red FlagsHowever, it is important to realize that children experience the same emotions as adults do. They experience happiness, sadness, anger, fear, loneliness and embarrassment, however, they do not always know how to express these feelings in appropriate ways, so it’s important to look for red flags. When their feelings get too big, children do not always have the words to use to express themselves, resulting in using challenging or unsafe behaviors to express these big feelings. These behaviors make learning, play and relationships at home, and in the classroom difficult and can be very distressing and frustrating for everyone involved.

Here is a list of common red flags that can help you to determine if your child needs support:

  • Separation Anxiety:
    • Extreme distress (crying, tantruming and clinging to you) when separating from you or knowing that they will be away from you.
    • The symptoms last for several months versus several days
    • The symptoms are excessive enough that it is impacting normal activities (school, friendships, and family relationships).
    • The continuation or re-occurrence of intense anxiety upon separation after the age of 4 and through the elementary school years.
  • Social Concerns:
    • Little interest in playing with other children.
    • Poor body awareness that impacts relationships with peers
    • Failure to initiate or to participate in activities
    • Difficulty making eye contact with others
  • Behavioral Problems:
    • Defiance: Failure to follow rules or listen to directions and is often argumentative with adults.
    • Overly Aggressive Behavior:
      • Temper tantrums that last more than 5 to 10 minutes.
      • Excessive anger through threats, hitting, biting, and scratching others, pulling hair, slamming/throwing objects, damaging property, and hurting others.
  • Difficulty with Transitions:
    • Difficulty focusing and listening during transitions
    • Extremely upset when having to transition from one activity to another. Before or during each transition, your child may cry excessively or have temper tantrums that last more than 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Excessive Clinginess or Attention Seeking with Adults
    • Excessive anxiety related to being around new and/or familiar people/situations.
    • Child freezes or moves towards you by approaching you backwards, sideways or hiding behind you. Your child behaves this way in most situations and no matter how you support them, they continue to avoid interacting with others.
  • Attention concerns:
    • Difficulty completing tasks and following directives on a daily basis.
    • Easily distracted and has difficulty concentrating or focusing on activities.
  • Daily Functioning Concerns:
    • Toileting: Difficulty potty training and refuses to use the toilet.
    • Eating issues: Refusing to eat, avoids different textures, or has power struggles over food
    • Sleeping problems: Difficulty falling asleep, refuses to go to sleep, has nightmares or wakes several times a night.

Children can exhibit concerns in the above areas off and on throughout their childhood. It is when these behaviors begin to impact peer and family relationships, cause isolation, interfere with learning and cause disruptions at home and in school that it is time to reach out for support.

Who can help?

  • Licensed Clinical Social workers (LCSW),
  • Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors (LCPC),
  • Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT)
  • Psychologists

Therapists will work with your child to help them to learn how to handle their big feelings and behavioral challenges. Therapists will use a variety of modalities during sessions including play, art, calming and self-regulation strategies, behavioral therapy, parent-child therapy, and parent education and support. They can also provide parent support and coaching to assist in diminishing the challenging behaviors at home. Often these professionals will collaborate with your child’s school and can provide additional support for your child within the school setting.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

New Call-to-Action

Food Milestones: From Mashin’ to Munchin’

Mealtime and achieving food milestones can be a stressful time for many families, especially for those whose kids demonstrate Food Milestonesdifficulty consuming a variety of flavors and textures. Instead of stressing over consuming those calories and pumping on the weight, take time to relax and enjoy a meal. Take away the stressors from your day and use mealtimes as an opportunity to bond with your little one. There is great variety in the development of infants and toddlers due to differences in the rate of physical and mental development as well as how often these skills are promoted by caregivers. As children develop their preferences for different foods (tastes & textures), they learn to accept or reject specific foods, which is OKAY!

The old mother’s tale “you can’t get up until you finish your peas” has proven to be an ineffective way to have children smoothly go through the realm of trying different foods. Instead of “forcing” your child to eat different foods, give them options…”you can eat 5 or 6 peas…you pick!” Give great verbal praise despite how big of a gain the child has made that meal.

Please see the developmental chart below that guides you through a variety of food milestones while providing ideas on how to keep mealtime positive!

Age Strategies and foods that should be introduced Tips and Tricks
Birth-2 months
  • Nipple feeding by breast or bottle
  • Semi-reclined position during feeding

Foods:

  • Breast milk or formula (approx. 18-28 ounces)
  • Sing songs or tell stories while you feed your infant, build a rapport
2-3 months
  • Start forming a consistent schedule

Foods:

  • Breast milk or formula (approx. 25-32 ounces)
  • Make silly faces with your infant, make meal time a reciprocal relationship
3-4 months
  • Infant starts to put hands on bottle during feedings

Foods:

  • Breast milk or formula (approx. 28-39 ounces)
  • ˷4 mo, rice cereal trials
  • Always avoid television or electronics during meal time, practice songs or rhymes
  • Have your infant sitting at the table during adult meal times

 

5-6 months
  • Start to introduce pureed spoon feeds
  • Tongue will continue to “mash” the food to consume

Foods:

  • Breast milk or formula (approx. 27-45 ounces)
  • Overly ripe fruits/vegetables
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice or wheat cereal
  • Puree a food that you are having for dinner to make it easier with food preparation

 

6-9 months
  • Moves to a more upright position during feeds
  • Helps caregiver with moving spoon to mouth

Foods:

  • Breast milk or formula (approx. 24-32 ounces)
  • Sweet potato mash
  • Cottage cheeses
  • Puff cereal bites
  • Encourage infant to hold bottle independently
  • Think of a variety of different flavors to introduce, even mix flavors based off babies preference
  • Take small trials of foods from your plate to give baby to try
9-12 months
  • Progresses from pureed to more textured food
  • Increases finger feeding
  • Introduction of straw based cup or open cup
  • Moves to a more “munching” formation with jaw and tongue

Foods:

  • Breast milk or formula (approx. 24 ounces)
  • Egg-free noodles
  • Variety of fruit/vegetables
  • Mild cheese slices
  • Offer new foods without the expectation of eating the food (he/she can poke, smell, lick, etc)
  • Always offer small portions on a child sized bowl or plate (don’t overwhelm)

 

12-18 months
  • Grasps utensils and self-feeds
  • Complete transfer from bottle to straw based cup or open cup

Foods:

  • White potato mash
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Beets
  • Offer foods of different textures: pudding, soup, crackers, mashed sweet potatoes, etc
  • Have child come with you to the store to pick out their “special cup” to encourage discontinued use of nipple based bottle
18-24 months
  • Primarily self-feeding
  • Able to chew different textures and flavors

Foods:

  • Eggs
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Cantaloupe
  • Never ask a child “Do you want ____” because you will have to respect if they say “no”
24-36 months
  • Holds open cup independently
  • Eats a wide variety of solid foods

Foods:

  • Cleared to try any food
  • Have your toddler “get messy” with their food, spread the different textures on their hands, face, or even nose
Continuum into childhood
  • Continue to use choices to give your child the “control” during mealtimes
  • Have your child participate in mealtime prep as much as possible

 

Remember, mealtime goals shouldn’t be about consumption, but about a positive experience for the child. Always consult your pediatrician about diet concerns or questions.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

References:

Developmental Stages in infant and Toddler Feeding., Infant & Toddler Forum., 2014.

McCarthy, Jessica., Feeding Infants & Toddlers: Strategies for Safe, Stress-Free Mealtimes. Mosaic Childhood Project, Inc., 2006.

1998, The American Dietetic Association. “Pediatric Manual of Clinical Dietetics”. 1998.

Meet-With-A-Speech-Pathologist

Autism Friendly Activities in Milwaukee

With school out, parents may have mixed feelings about the summer ahead. What will my child do all Milwaukeeday? How can I keep them entertained? What can I fill their time with educationally since they are not in school? Well, fear not parents, there are a lot of fun, but educational activities you can do for your child with autism this summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

AMC Sensory Friendly Films

Mayfair Mall’s AMC movie theater features a few sensory friendly films each month, ranging from animated kid’s movies to action/thrillers. During the films, they keep the lights on and turn the volume down, which allows families safe access to the bathroom and alleviates any sensory tolerance concerns. Follow the link below for a listing of the upcoming films.

https://www.amctheatres.com/programs/sensory-friendly-films

Betty Brinn Children’s Museum

Betty Brinn Children’s museum has several rooms filled with educational toys as well as a rotating seasonal exhibit for your child to explore. Betty Brinn Children’s museum understands that access to educational and social opportunities for children with special needs can be difficult. As a result, they created a Family Focus Membership, that families can apply for, that provides free access to the museum for children with autism. If your application is accepted, you will need to attend a mandatory class at the museum, but then you will be given free access to the museum for a year. Follow the link below for more information on the Family Focus Membership.

http://www.bbcmkids.org/

Kids in Motion

Kids in Motion is an indoor play area for all children. They have several themed rooms with a variety of educational toys, a snack counter, and a main gym area that has a slide, tubes to climb in, and a roped in ball area. Kids in Motion in Brookfield, WI offers half off admission on Sundays for special needs families, which includes half off admission for siblings that are not on the spectrum. Follow the link below for more information on Kids in Motion.

http://www.kidsinmotionwi.com/

YMCA- programs for special needs kids

Several local YMCAs offer programs for all children, including special needs children, during the summer months. Whether you are looking for a class or all day summer camp, the YMCA has several different opportunities for children with special needs. If you are looking for a baseball camp, a great option is the Miracle League of Milwaukee, which accepts all children regardless of ability or prior experience. Follow the link below for more information on the Miracle League of Milwaukee.

http://www.miracleleaguemilwaukee.org/

While all of these options are affordable or free, there are several other great activities you can take part in Milwaukee with your child, such as the Milwaukee County Zoo or attending one of the many festivals Milwaukee has. In addition, Milwaukee County Parks are always free and can be fun for daily trips or to the Farmer’s Markets. While the summer months can seem long, keep all of these great opportunities in mind as you plan your summer months.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

To schedule an Applied Behavior Analysis assessment, complete the form here.

Encouraging Muscle Development in the Infant Stage

Importance of Tummy Time for Muscle Development

Tummy time is a great way for infants to strengthen their muscles and develop age appropriate motor Muscle Developmentskills. When a baby is born they are in a position referred to as physiological flexion which simply means they are in a “curled up” position. All their back muscles are stretched and their core muscles are tight. By incorporating as much tummy time as possible, babies are allowed to strengthen their back by extending and stretch their tummy and core muscles at the same time. Encouraging floor time is key to developing motor skills such as rolling, sitting, crawling, and eventually walking.

Jumpers, Swings, and Exersaucers

Devices that aid in childcare can be lifesavers, such as when you are taking a shower or cooking, however, they should never replace the benefit that a child receives from floor time. When a baby plays on the floor they are using their entire body to explore their space. On the contrary, when they are in a swing or jumper, something is not being utilized. Excessive use of swings can result in flattening of the skull or a preference to tilt their head to one direction which can then lead to muscle shortening that requires intervention. Jumpers, exersaucers, and bumbo seats can also result in muscle disuse since the hips are frequently placed in unnatural positions and the core is not allowed to rotate as much as when a child is working to navigate the floor. When using devices such as the ones mentioned above, be mindful to limit their use in order to maximize muscle development.

Developmental Red Flags to Be Aware of

Sometimes babies will discover a pattern that is different than what we typically expect. Below are some movement patterns to be aware of and mention to your pediatrician should you notice them.

  • Scooting on their bottom to get around rather than crawling. This does not allow for the proper leg strengthening and cross lateral movement that crawling incorporates.
  • Pulling up to stable surfaces using only hands and not adjusting legs in order to push themselves up.
  • Stiffness in the legs or trunk that is constant and impacting movement; may first become evident with a lack of voluntary rolling.
  • Head position that is not in line with the body or a preference to only look in one direction, roll in one direction, or reach with only one hand.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood,Glenview, Lake BluffDes Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-A-Physical-Therapist

Teaching Children to Accept, Love and Embrace Others

In the wake of this most recent Orlando Night Club Tragedy I am reminded of the importance of three things children must learn:

1.)    The importance of understanding/accepting and loving others who have points-of-view that are different than theirs.

2.)    The knowledge that asking for help with uncomfortable feelings is not only okay, it is the right thing to do. Orlando Graphic

3.)    Flexible thinking is essential to function well with others and be comfortable and healthy in life. Children need to be taught to seek help when they experience intense feelings that they are not able to manage on their own.

Asking for Help

Often times, hate stems from fear and lack of understanding. When children are taught to recognize and name their feelings and are taught effective, socially appropriate ways to manage uncomfortable feelings, they are able to explore ideas and concepts that are different than what they are used to, rather than rejecting others who are different than they are. It is never too early to develop your child’s emotional vocabulary.

Look for opportunities to ask your child how he/she is feeling. If you see him getting impatient in line at the grocery store ask him how he is feeling. Point out other shoppers in line and ask him to guess how they are feeling. If you are watching a funny movie together or enjoying time at the park, ask your child how she is feeling. If you child is showing signs that he is angry (e.g. stomping his feet, knocks over a game board) ask him to use his words and tell you what he is feeling. Provide verbal cues if your child is having difficulty naming his/her feeling (e.g. “Hmm, when I go to get my keys and I can’t find them I feel frustrated. Is that how you feel?”).

Flexible Thinking

Teach your child that feelings are natural and healthy, and that we have to learn appropriate ways to express our feelings. Explain that very strong feelings are normal and that there are healthy ways to express strong feelings such as drawing a picture, jumping on a trampoline or talking about our feelings.

Children learn a great deal by what they observe their family and friends doing. Model acceptance. Talk with your child about his unique qualities and point out similarities that he has with classmates and neighbors. When you are in public with your child seek examples of people who look different: different clothing, speaking a different language, possibly exhibiting a special skill (an artist painting in public). Use those moments as opportunities to teach about similarities and differences. Ask your child what he has in common with the artist on the street (both are male, both are in Illinois, both are standing and breathing and alive). Help your child to understand that it is okay to have friends who have different ideas than they do. For instance, you might state that you are a Cubs fan, but that your good friend is a Sox fan.

Accepting Differences

Instill in your child the concept that although a person may look different, speak a different language or have different beliefs, that person is still a person who eats, sleeps, has feelings, family and friends who love him just as your child has all of those things. Teach your child to respect all people.

As parents, it is our duty to teach our children to recognize and manage their feelings and to ask for help with strong feelings. It is also our responsibility to model flexible thinking and teach our children to look for things they have in common with others rather than focusing on differences. We need to model and teach acceptance of points-of view that are different from our own. One way to eliminate hate is to teach our children to accept and love others.

Talking to Your Child About Tragedy

If you’re looking for a way to talk to your children about the recent tragedy in Orlando, please visit our age-by-age guide.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake BluffDes Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!


New Call-to-Action



‘Act First, Think Never’ – Warning Signs That A Child May Have ADHD

In the United States, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has become a very common Blog-ADHD-Red-Flags-Main-Landscapechildhood diagnosis (NIMH, 2015). Parents and teachers may often wonder if their child or student fits the criteria for this diagnosis. There are several common indicative signs and symptoms of ADHD; however, the best way to be sure is to get a proper assessment by a psychologist/neuropsychologist. There are various factors that may influence a child’s behavior, causing them to appear as though they have ADHD. Additionally, anxiety and depression are common mood disorders that resemble ADHD symptoms. Because, ADHD is more complex than inattention and restlessness, it is imperative that an assessment is conducted.

Some red flags that may warrant concern and need for an ADHD assessment are:

  1. Behaviors are frequent and negatively impact quality of life
  2. Behaviors impact school performance and everyday life
  3. Inability to regulate emotions- seeming impulsive and “over reacts”
  4. Short attention span
  5. Talkative
  6. Always moving, running, jumping, and fidgeting
  7. Forgetful- “where?” “What?” Uh?”
  8. Disorganized
  9. Curious- interested in a lot of things but has poor follow through
  10. Cannot wait turn- very impatient
  11. Often loud and struggle to play quietly
  12. Avoids tasks that require mental effort
  13. Makes careless mistakes, and does not seem to work to potential
  14. Difficulty following multiple step directions
  15. Often unaware of time and gets lost easily

It is important to distinguish what is normal childhood behavior from behaviors that are impairing developmental growth and academic performance. There are also gender differences in symptoms. Boys and girls often do not display symptoms in the same manner; boys tend to be more impulsive than girls and equally inattentive.

A standard rule of thumb is that children with ADHD display symptoms three times as much as their peers (NIMH, 2015). If you suspect that a child may have ADHD, it is best to refer for assessment from a qualified professional. Remember to be aware that the child’s behavior can be caused by a host of influential factors, i.e. neurological, psychological, and environmental. Nonetheless, if the behaviors persist and are worsening, thus essentially negatively impacting their quality of life, socially, academically, emotionally, and physically, then it is time to seek help.

References

Hasson, R. & Goldenring Fine, J. (2012). Gender differences among children with ADHD on Continuous Performance Tests A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Attention Disorders, 16(3), 190-198.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2015). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Find-Out-More-About-ADHD

Pronunciation Library /k/

How do you say a /k/?/k/

A /k/ is produced with the back of the tongue raised, creating a complete blockage of the outward airflow in the back of the mouth. The build-up of air pressure occurs until the tongue moves away from the top of the mouth and releases the air.

Types of Misarticulations & Pronunciation Suggestions

  • The most common misarticulation of a /k/ is substituting it for a /t/. Ex: “tat” for “cat”
  • To try and elicit a /k/ you can use a tongue depressor to hold down the front half of the tongue during production or try gargling with the head tilted backward before trying to produce the /k/ sound.
  • Once you have achieved /k/ in isolation, try pronouncing it by combining the /k/ with back vowels. These vowels best facilitate the pronunciation of /k/.

Did you know?

  • /k/ is among the top 10 most frequently occurring consonants!
  • /k/ can occur at the beginning or end of a word.
  • Consonant clusters with /ks/ at the end can signal plurality

References:

Bauman-Waengler, J. (2012). Articulatory and phonological impairments: A clinical    focus. (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-A-Speech-Pathologist

Self-Care Skills for Children with Autism

Self-care skills such as brushing teeth, washing hands, and dressing are important for children to learn Blog-Self-Care-Skills-Main-Landscapeas they affect their everyday lives. For children diagnosed with Autism, they often experience delays in learning these skills and may need a different way of teaching to acquire them. Using some behavior analytic techniques, these skills can be taught in an appropriate way suitable for your child to be successful.

Is your child ready to perform self-care skills?

  • Component skills: In order to ensure success with the desired self-care skill, make sure that your child can perform the basic skills necessary for the task. For example, for the skill of brushing teeth, this may include: pincer grasps, holding a toothbrush, moving a toothbrush in a back and forth motion, spitting out toothpaste, squeezing toothpaste tube, gargling water.
  • Attending: Can your child pay attention and tolerate the duration of the skill?
  • Complexity of composite skill: Can your child put together the component skills to perform parts of the desired task?

If your child is unable to perform the component skills, attend to the desired self-care task, or combine component skills, work on building up this repertoire before moving forward. Providing help and lots of positive reinforcement with these tasks will make learning the desired skill easier!

Now that your child is ready, how can you teach your child to perform self-care skills?

  • Chaining: This strategy involves breaking down the steps of the skill into multiple pieces. Once the steps are broken up, teaching can occur by linking steps together.
    • The steps can be linked together from the beginning of the skill. For example, brushing teeth can begin with allowing the child to put toothpaste on the tooth brush and run the tooth brush under the water. The rest of the steps of the skill can be prompted by an adult. As the child becomes more independent with the first few steps, more steps can be added for him or her to perform independently as a chain.
    • Steps can also be linked from the end of the skill. For example, for hand washing, you can have the child wipe his or her hands independently on the towel. As the child becomes more independent with that skills, you can also introduce turning off the water to the chain of steps. All the steps prior to those mentioned steps can be prompted by an adult.
  • Social Stories: These stories outline the appropriate way to engage in the desired task. Each page can describe the steps and how to complete the skill. They can be in the form of videos, audio, or written (with pictures). Each child may respond better to one form over another.

What supports can you use with these strategies?

  • Visuals: You can provide visuals of each step of the task posted in the location that the skill will occur in. For example, with hand washing, some pictures can include turning on the sink, hands under the soap dispenser, or rubbing hands with soap. Modeling the skill before the child engages in the skill may also help the child learn by imitating your actions.
  • Physical prompts: You can physically guide your child with your hands on top of theirs to allow them to get used to the motion of the task. Then, you can reduce your physical prompts (e.g., move your hands to their elbows or moving farther away and pointing to the correct step) until they can complete the skill independently.
  • Vocal prompts: You can vocally instruct the child to perform each step as they are performing the skill. Then, you can fade your prompts until they can do the skill independently.

Working on the component skills independently until the child can easily and reliably perform them can greatly increase their success with putting those steps together. A combination of different supports listed above can provide a way for you to teach your child how to engage in complex self-care skills. Providing and fading your physical and vocal prompts can take some practice. It may be beneficial to work with a BCBA to ensure the success of your approach and the acquisition of these skills.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-An-Applied-Behavior-Analyst

Horrible Haircuts and Terrible Toothpaste: Helping Your Child With Sensory Processing Disorder Tolerate Hygiene

Children of all ages often find basic hygiene tasks boring, annoying, and tedious. Who wants to brush their teeth when they can go play outside? While it can be difficult to get any child to perform these tasks, it is exponentially more difficult for a child with Sensory Processing Disorder.  Sensory Processing Disorder

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) involves atypical processing and integration of incoming sensory information. A child with SPD may have difficulty processing any of the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell). They also may have difficulty processing the two “hidden senses,” proprioception (processing input from muscles and joints) and vestibular processing (processing input regarding movement and head position). Children with difficulty modulating incoming sensory input often have strong sensitivities to certain sensations, which can interfere with their ability to participate in age-appropriate activities.

Why Do Children with Sensory Processing Disorder Struggle with Hygiene?

Many children, especially those with tactile and auditory processing difficulties, have difficulty with hygiene and grooming. Engaging in these activities with children with SPD can often feel like a fight. This is because children with sensory sensitivities often go into “fight or flight” mode when presented with aversive sensations. While the buzz of an electric trimmer, the cold metal of a nail clipper, or sticky soap that just won’t seem to rinse off may not be your favorite, for a child with SPD if may feel like walking the plank!

How Can I Help My Child?

The good news is there are many strategies to help your child with SPD tolerate hygiene tasks with fewer outbursts. Below are a few steps involved in creating a grooming routine that works for you and your family.

Step 1: Figure out what your child is afraid of.

It is very important to determine which particular sensations are the problem. If your child is old enough, you can ask him or her about which specific sensations he or she dislikes or fears. This may also help you find some quick and easy solutions; perhaps the smell of the particular brand of soap or taste of toothpaste is the culprit.

If your child is too young or does not have the self-awareness or communication skills to discuss hygiene tasks, it will be your job to figure out what is bothering him or her. Think of yourself as a “sensory detective” and examine your child during these tasks. Does she pull away at the touch of a brush? Does he cower at the sound of the hair dryer? Observing your child and spending some time analyzing what bothers him or her will get you closer to finding a solution!

Step 2: Change your routine based on their particular sensory sensitivities:

If your child has tactile (touch) processing difficulties or sensitivities:
– Engage in deep touch pressure activities before and after the hygiene task. By providing deep touch pressure to a child’s body, he or she becomes less sensitive to undesired “light touch” inputs. There are many ways to provide deep touch pressure: firm massage to the limbs, upper back, and head; use a therapeutic body brush if you have been trained by an occupational therapist to use one; apply firm pressure on a large pillow or blanket to give your child’s body “squishes.” And don’t forget- tight hugs are a highly underrated mechanism for deep touch pressure!

– Provide pressure during the task. Try applying more pressure to the head when brushing hair. Utilize a weighted or heavy blanket on your child’s lap during a hair or nail trim. Have your child wear a compression shirt or compression vest during activities.

– Consider temperature. If a cold nail clipper feels sterile and uninviting, warm it up. If the faucet is normally on cold when your child washes hands, add some hot water and give a few minutes to warm up. Temperature can make a huge difference!

– Consider purchasing an electric toothbrush. For some children with tactile sensitivities, vibration can be a very regulating sensation. If you are unsure how your child will respond, experiment with a vibrating oral massager (e.g. Z-Vibe, Jiggler) before investing in a pricy electric toothbrush.

If your child has auditory (sound) processing difficulties:
– Warn the child before your turn the device on. This allows the child to mentally prepare for a hair dryer, electric toothbrush, or razor to turn on.

– Allow the child to wear headphones, if it does not interfere with the activity.

Step 3: Build a consistent grooming routine.

Children with SPD rely on routines to help them make sense of the world. The more your child can expect and rely on a familiar routine, the calmer he or she will be.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist