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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!

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sensory strategies for swimming

Sensory Strategies for Swimmers

The water is cold! My swimsuit is too tight! It is too loud! The water hurts!

For many adults, summers spent lounging by the pool are some of the fondest memories. Swimming,sensory strategies for swimming whether it be at a pool, lake or ocean, and learning to swim, is considered a right of passage. The activity provides an array of learning experiences, including gross motor skills, balance, core strength, endurance, sensory processing opportunities and social interactions. However, with the many sensory demands that are involved in swimming, the task can become overwhelming for some children. Below is information regarding the many sensory systems that require integration within the brain while participating in a swim lesson.

Sensory Systems and Strategies for Swimming:

Sensory System How the Sensory System is Affected by Swimming Suggestions to Promote Processing of this Sensation
Motor Planning Motor planning is the groundwork for sensory integration. Swimming is an opportunity for your child to learn motor planning for symmetrical and asymmetrical movements, bilateral movements, crossing midline, learning to invert the head, and separation of upper body and lower body movements. ·         Practice riding a bicycle·         Practice reciprocal arm movements while lying prone on a scooter board.·         Jumping Jacks

·         Somersaults

 

Proprioception The ability to sense your body in space and movement of the body and its parts. Proprioceptive difficulty for swimming can present with little motor control, difficulty in motor planning, difficulty in modulating the sense of pressure and postural instability. ·         Water play in the bathtub.·         Heavy work and deep pressure input to the legs, arms and torso: log rolls, burrito rolls, nig bear hugs
Vestibular The vestibular system is controlled by the inner ear, mainly the movement of fluid within the three ear canals, and is the information gathering and feedback source for movements. All other sensations are processed in relationship to basic vestibular information. Swimming can be difficult in terms of vestibular processing due to head inversion, head turning and buoyancy. ·         Somersaults·         Swinging·         Jumping

·         Scooter board activities in different planes of movements: prone, supine, kneeling, criss-cross apple sauce,

·         Spinning

·         Log rolls

 

Tactile Water provides 600-700 times more resistance to the body than air. Movement through the water is a full body experience, thus providing tactile stimulation to every inch of the body. Water can also provide information regarding temperature. In addition, the act of swimming provides tactile input through the wearing of swimsuits, which can feel tight and restrictive in some cases. ·         Water play with warm water and with cold water·         Wearing tight clothing, similar to spandex or Under Armour·         Wearing swim suits and swim trunks as play clothing to get accustomed to the fabric; wear during dry and wet activities

·         Slip and slide activity

·

Auditory The amplitude of sounds underwater are affected by the pressure, which can cause a higher sensitivity to these amplitudes. This means, as sounds across air can be managed and integrated into your sensory system, the same sound under water can feel louder, causing discomfort in the ear drum. ·         Try wearing ear plugs while under water·         Play a sound game prior to swimming; place one ear in a small bucket of water and have one ear exposed to the air, listen to the same sound both above and below the water

Swimming can be both challenging and fun, but know your child’s limits as well. Continued exposure in a controlled and safe environment can help to establish safe and error-free learning along with confidence!


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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

sensory activities for home

Sensory Activities in the Home

See, smell, touch, hear, taste and move. 80% of your brain is used in the processing, translation and use of sensorysensory activities for home information while your entire childhood is a process of learning, development and play! From early ages we learn what we should touch and what would burn us; we learn what sounds make us fall asleep and what sounds make us cry; we
also learn what foods we crave and which ones we say “yuck!” toward. All these sensational experiences help to shape our brains and help us engage in everyday activities, including play!

Without realizing it, the play scenarios you create with your child provide learning opportunities through every sensation. Though it may look like a child at play is only playing, he is in fact learning HOW to learn by engaging his sensory receptors to provide his body feedback. Of course, sensory play and sensory learning can be incorporated into your every day.

Here are sensory play activities you can engage in with the materials you have at home:

 

SENSATION INPUT TO YOUR BODY ACTIVITIES TO TRY AT HOME
Vestibular (movement balance) The three-dimensional sensation that places your body “here”, allowing you to understand where your body is in relation to the ground Crab walks

  • Somersault tumbles
  • Inversion yoga poses (downward dog, headstands, handstands)
  • Cartwheels
  • Spinning in circles (either assisted or independently)
  • Playground swings
  • Going down slides in different positions (on butt, on stomach feet first, on stomach head first, on back)
Proprioceptive (body position) This is your body awareness system, knowing where your body parts are in relation to one another.
  • Simon says for body movement
  • Animal walks (crab walk, bear walk, penguin walk)
  • Burrito rolls inside a blanket
  • Riding a bike
  • Dancing free style or the hokey-pokey
  • Bunny jumping

 

Tactile (touch) Through touch you get sensations about pain, temperature, texture, size, pressure and shape.
  • Play-doh
  • Shaving cream play
  • Sand boxes
  • Finding toys in rice or dry beans
  • Slime
  • Finger paint
  • Balloon volleyball
  • Secret message back writing
Visual (seeing) Your sight provides you with information about color, size, shape, movement and distance.
  • Bubbles
  • Eye-spy
  • Floating balloon
  • Mazes
  • Interactive iPad games (I love fireworks, pocket pond, glow free)
  • Play a game of “how far is that” (will need a measuring tape to confirm)
Gustatory (taste) A “chemical” sense that gives you information about the objects (edible or not) that you place into your mouth.
  • Guess that taste!
  • Play restaurant
  • Explore different tastes: sour, sweet, bitter,
  • Allow oral motor exploration during tummy time
  • Explore different textures: crunchy, smooth like yogurt, thick liquids like apple sauce, thick solid food like meat
Olfactory (smell) Another “chemical” sense that registers and categorizes smells in the environment.
  • Smell candles
  • Guess that food!
  • Scented markers
  • Make cookies
  • Label different fruits by smell
Auditory (hearing) Allows you to locate, capture and discriminate sounds in your environment.
  • Sing and dance
  • Guess that sound!
  • Directions based games (Simon says, Hokey Pokey, Bop-it, Hullaballoo)
  • Guess that animal sound!
  • Listen to different types of music
  • Hide a sound making device in the room and have your child locate it.



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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

Common Household Materials for Tactile Exploration and Learning

At times, the best source of entertainment can be found in the simplest materials! Use these readily available household items for a child playing with ricerich tactile sensory and learning experience right at home.

Common Household Materials for Tactile Exploration and Learning:

  • Beans or Rice tubs- Find buried treasures hidden within! Fill a small container that can be used more than once and add fun treasures for you child to dig for. These items can include creepy crawlers, toy cars or action figures. In addition, while playing games with small pieces, have you child find them in the bean or rice bin. The textures of the rice and/or beans provide different textures for you child to explore.
  • Shaving cream– Use shaving cream on a mirror, table, the bathtub or anywhere else that can be easily be wiped clean. Kids can simply explore their tactile sense by covering their hands with this fluffy foam. They can also spread a thin layer over a flat surface and practice their pre-writing or writing, For example, have your child draw pictures….like Pictionary!
  • “Goo”– Mix cornstarch, water and food coloring in a bowl and mix ingredients together. This slimy substance will feel dry when it is squeezed, but then drips through your fingers.
  • Hair Gel– Put colored hair gel in a secure plastic freezer bag, add tape over the zipper for extra protection. Kids can use their finger to draw letters, shapes and designs.
  • Paint– Ditch the brushes and have fun with finger paint! Create an extra challenge by painting on a vertical surface, such as an easel or on paper attached to the wall. Performing any tasks on a vertical plane can improve shoulder stability. It can also provide the needed support for your child’s handwriting and fine motor control. Touching the paint with your hands provides the tactile input and also promotes body awareness.
  • Art Dough– In a bowl, mix together 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of iodized salt and 1 ¾ cups of warm water. Have your child knead this mixture for about 10 minutes. Mold the clay with your child…the possibilities are endless! Once the creation is perfected, bake at 300 degrees until hard and let it air dry for a few days. Once dry, these can be painted or decorated. The activity also improves hand strength as well as provide tactile input.

Overall, these are quick, fun and easy activities that not only provide your child with a rich sensory experience, but they all address many other areas of development! Other areas that are addressed include, but are not limited to, fine motor coordination, motor planning, should stability and visual motor skills. Please consult a occupational therapist for additional information or more tactile activities. Happy exploring!

12 Ways to Help your Child who is Sensitive to Textures (tags, socks, sand)

Children with tactile defensiveness or hypersensitivity will avoid, become fearful of, or bothered by  various, every-day touch experiences that typically would not cause alarm or issues for others. Their avoidance of tactile experiences and lack of engagement in tactile play ultimately limits their learning experiences and development of gross and fine motor skills.

Tactile defensiveness and hypersensitivity happens because the nervous system is not interpreting touch sensations and stimulation accurately, resulting in a child responding with fear, avoidance, withdrawal, or acting out with a “fight-or-flight” response. Your child is not acting this way to intentionally make life difficult for your family. Don’t get upset, blame your child, or punish your child, but advocate for your child’s difficulties, and help them get the treatment and accommodations they need!

Following are 12 ideas to help your child who is sensitive to textures:

1. Seamless socks (www.smartknitkids.com )Boy putting on Sock

2. Cut tags out of clothing

3. Go shopping with your child and allow them to choose clothes and shoes that they like

4. Make your own Play Doh:

CHOCOLATE SCENTED PLAYDOH:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup salt

1/2 tablespoon cream of tartar

1/2 tablespoon cooking oil

1 cup boiling water.

Mix flour, cocoa powder, salt, and cream of tartar together. Add cooking oil and boiling water to mixture. Stir quickly and mix well. Cook over low heat until dough forms a ball. When cool, mix with your hands. Store in airtight container.

5. Administer deep pressure when a child is irritated by texture… Practice deep pressure often. “Deep pressure” refers to a type of touch that may help to desensitize your child’s tactile experience. This could include massage, a “bear hug” or wrapping your child snugly in a blanket.

6. Wearing spandex or lycra clothes under regular clothing has a calming effect because deep pressure is distributed over the body/limbs.

7. Engage in play with undesirable textures for short periods of time and in a non threatening way. Try to slowly increase the time that it is tolerated. For example, shaving cream, glue, sand, dry rice, etc.

8. Keep crunchy foods on hand for your sensory-sensitive child, as these foods facilitate an important “sixth sense” called proprioception, which allows a person to accurately perceive body awareness, movement and body position. Crunchy foods may help your child to develop better proprioception.

9. Separate textures during meals. It may help to avoid mixing foods together that have conflicting textures, such as mashed potatoes and gravy.

10. Fun activities to try:

  • Play Doh, Moon Sand
  • Finding objects buried and hidden in dry beans or rice (uncooked)
  • Fingerpainting with pudding or fingerpaints
  • Towel rub down after a warm bath (firm, quick strokes)
  • Messy play with paints, foams, etc. in the tub where they can immediately wash off if bothered by it
  • Lotion massage to extremities

11. An Occupational Therapist (OT) may guide you in administering the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol, which has the purpose of decreasing tactile sensitivities.

12. A child with tactile defensiveness and sensitivity needs to be in Occupational Therapy. Tactile hypersensitivity and defensiveness will not go away on its own! Tactile sensitivity is often part of a larger problem, called Sensory Processing Disorder. An occupational therapist can help your child decrease sensory sensitivities and improve overall sensory processing for improved daily functioning in all areas. It is an OT’s goal to introduce tactile experiences slowly and gradually as the child is ready to experience them, so this defensive/aversive reaction is avoided! In order to achieve proper developmental milestones and develop social skills, these children need to have the underlying sensory defensiveness addressed.

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Go Outside! The Many Benefits Of Outdoor Play For Children

These days, technology has made everything more convenient for us, including play. Children don’t have to leave their house as they have a wide assortment of video games and educational Outdoor Play Blogcomputer games to choose from, as well as educational toys that talk and move and as a result, we see a decrease in outdoor play. These advances can be great and very beneficial for a developing child; however, technology cannot replace what is most important- the real, natural experience.

The benefits of outdoor play on children:

Children need to engage in outdoor play to experience the smells, textures, sounds and movement of the world in order to help their nervous systems develop. Children need the natural sensory experiences to learn about the world, and how to react to and adapt to their surroundings. Sometimes children really want to stay inside to play video games and sleep, but when they do this they are deprived of these developmentally important, sensory-rich experiences.

The tactile sense, for example, is a very important sense as we need steady tactile stimulation to keep us organized, functioning and healthy. Tactile information helps to develop visual perception, motor planning, body awareness, social skills and emotional security, among others. The vestibular, proprioceptive, visual, and olfactory senses are very important as well, and children need to utilitze these in order to help the development of their gross and fine motor skills.

Some fun activities to stimulate children’s senses during outside play include:

  • Splashing and playing in puddles
  • Playing in the mud and making “mud pancakes”
  • Picking flowers to make a wreathe, or to play “flower shop”
  • Climbing trees
  • Running around barefoot in the grass
  • Playing in sand and making sand castles
  • Swimming in a lake
  • Riding a bike on a bumpy driveway outside
  • Crunching dried leaves with your feet
  • Raking leaves and jumping into the piles
  • Making snow angels, snowmen, igloos, forts and having snowball fights in the winter

The benefits are many; one mother has even said that her “picky eater” child “is so much more willing to try new foods after he comes home from playing outside.” Children also need some time for relaxation and unstructured play to learn about the world and to help develop their imaginations. So go ahead, relax, and let your children go outside!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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