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Sensory Tips for Crowded Holiday Spaces

The holidays are a festive, fun and exciting time to celebrate with family and friends; however, they also bring about a plethora of sensory stimuli everywhere you go! Between the sights, sounds, smells and crowds our senses are overloaded with the spirit of the holiday season. For some people, particularly children with sensory processing difficulties, this time of year can cause stress, anxiety and uneasiness. blog-holiday-sensory tips-main-landscape

In addition to increased environmental stimuli around the holidays, typical routines are thrown off due to breaks from school and travel plans. Children with sensory processing difficulties benefit from a schedule that is predictable, so they know exactly what to expect and how to plan for new or different sensory experiences.

Below are 8 sensory tips to help make the holidays and crowded holiday spaces more enjoyable for your whole family:

  1. Prepare your child for the various events that he will experience over the holidays including specific parties, shopping events or travel. Give explanations of where you are going, what you will do there, what he may see, hear or smell. This will help him to know what to expect at these different places without being worried.
  2. Practice! Before going to various holiday events or places, practice. Stop by the mall with your child for a few minutes a few times before the holiday season, spend time at family or friend’s houses that will be visited over the holidays or visit the airport a few times ahead of your travel day. Giving your child an opportunity to experience these places when they are not as crowded will help him be successful during the busy times.
  3. Use a visual calendar that identifies daily activities over the holidays so your child feels comfortable with their winter break routine. Review each day’s events prior to leaving the house, so your child can better prepare himself for what to expect.
  4. Review pictures or videos from the previous year’s holiday events to remind your child of the sights, sounds, smells and crowds he will experience.
  5. Be prepared! During over stimulating situations your child may benefit from sensory strategies such as headphones, ear plugs, sunglasses, weighted objects or a favorite toy. Be sure to be prepared with these items during crowded holiday events. These strategies will help decrease the intensity of environmental stimuli.
  6. Be proactive! If you see your child becoming upset or overstimulated, find a place to take a break from the situation (bathroom, car, quiet hallway) and help him calm down.
  7. Arm your child with strategies ahead of time to help him through a situation where he feels he is becoming upset or overwhelmed. Strategies such as deep breathing or counting to 10 may help decrease anxiety. Encourage your child to let you know when he feels he needs a break.
  8. Talk to family members and friends about the difficulties your child may have and educate them on how they can help.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

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!

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Happy Travels with a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

Throughout the year, you and your family are bound to hit the open road a time or two forTraveling with Sensory Processing Disorder one of a number of reasons. Many families may want to check out the scene in a new city. Others, will seek thrills at an amusement park or visit a family member that lives out of town. These trips can provide children with priceless learning opportunities and families with memories that will last a lifetime. For children with Sensory Processing Disorders however, these trips can be also be extremely challenging. Below are 5 tips and tricks to use in order to best support children who have difficulty processing sensory information on your next family vacation.

  1. Discuss what to expect: Talking about the specific logistics of a trip can help to ease your child’s anxiety about the ambiguity of what’s coming next. Similarly, it’s important to talk about what will be expected of your child while traveling. Here are some questions that your child may have prior to traveling. Think through each one and discuss them as a family before your next adventure begins:
    1. What is the mode of transportation (ie. plane, train, or automobile)?
    2. What will you see? Will there be a lot of people?
    3. What will you smell?
    4. What will you hear? Will it be loud?
    5. How much time will it take? What will you do to pass the time?
    6. How much space will your child have? Will there be time or room to play?
    7. What are the rules while traveling?
  2. Decrease the amount of extraneous and unfamiliar noise: Use noise cancelling headphones or calming music. Both strategies can help your child to calm themselves and more effectively process auditory sensory information, especially with the added stressors of travel.
  3. Prepare a backpack of travel essentials: Many adults pack a small carry-on bag with a few items that will help them pass the time. Items often include shoulder pillows, eye masks, ear phones and iPods; as well as a favorite book or magazine. For children with various sensory processing disorders, include some of the items listed below:
    1. Snacks, water, gum, or hard candies.
    2. Pack a heavy object to help your child regulate. A book or weighted blanket are great options.
    3. Bring a comfort object such as a blanket or favorite stuffed animal.
    4. Include fun activities such as mini board games, coloring pages, books, or playing cards
  4. Call the airline or tourist destination ahead of time: Explain your child’s sensory needs. Certain airlines, parks, and museums have special accommodations for children with sensory processing disorders.
  5. Preparatory Heavy Work: Before taking off for your trip, or during breaks in travel, engage your kiddos in Heavy Work activities. Tasks include animal walks, pushing or pulling luggage, push ups, or big hugs from mom and dad. All of these activities provide your child’s big muscle and joint groups with proprioceptive input. This input is extremely regulating for children, like exercise could be for an adult, and will help to calm your child for the next leg of travel.
  6. Expect some ornery fellow passengers: While it is unfortunate, you may come across someone throughout your travels who will have a low tolerance for kids being kids. Depending on your comfort level in doing so (or your ability to turn the other cheek), write out small note cards explaining that your child has a Sensory Processing Disorder and that as a family, you are doing the best you can to travel with minimal interruptions to the routines of those around you. You could even offer nearby passengers earplugs to help block out any extraneous noises.

The bottom line is that while traveling can be challenging, it can also be an extremely rewarding experience for everyone involved. With a fair amount of foresight and appropriate preparation, you can help to shape your trip into an experience of a lifetime for your whole family. Happy travels!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, 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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speech and language activities for travel

Speech and Language Games for Traveling

Vacations are wonderful times to make memories and experience new places. Likewise, these experiences offer unique opportunities to expose your child to new vocabulary and practice language skills in a new environment. Although the hours spent in a car or on a plane seem anticlimactic and dull, this time offers the perfect opportunity to mix fun and language practice to maintain skills while away from therapy. Check out this list of speech and language games for traveling that will keep children entertained while also practicing various speech and language skills.

Speech and Language Games for Traveling:

  1. I Spy: This traditional game is a great exercise to use adjectives and to target expanding a child’sSpeech and Language Games for Travel utterance length. A player can provide clues that include descriptive words or colors (e.g., “I spy something that is shiny” or “I spy something that is blue”). This is a great opportunity for repeated practice of the meaning of an “adjective” as well as for improving a child’s vocabulary.
  1. Category Game: The Category Game is an easy adaptation of the game Concentration that is more appropriate for the car. The Category Game involves thinking of one category/group of items (e.g., Disney movies) and then taking turns until someone can’t think of anything. This is a great vocabulary activity that targets enhancing a child’s lexicon and improving his or her word retrieval skills. As children become more advanced, the category can also be more difficult.
  1. The Picnic Game: The Picnic Game is a great way to exercise memory and pre-literacy skills. The Picnic Game starts with the phrase, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring…”. The first player picks an item that starts with the letter “A” (e.g., apple). The next person then recites what has been previously said, adding their own item that starts with the next letter of the alphabet (e.g., “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring an apple and a banjo”). This game will test a player’s short term memory, as well as give him or her added exposure to the alphabet.
  1. Speech Sound Game: This game is similar to the Category Game, but rather than focusing on vocabulary, this game will target a child’s phonological awareness skills. To start, a player will pick a speech sound (e.g., “s”). Players will then have to think of words that start with that sound (e.g., “sit….sand….sun”). The first one who can’t think of a word is out. This game can be made more difficult by starting with just a random word (e.g., “pot”). Rather than thinking of words that all start with “p”, the next player will have to think of a word that starts with “t” (i.e., the last sound of the word that was said before). This is a great way to practice segmenting the sounds within a word, as well as give extra practice for producing certain speech sounds. Phonological awareness skills provide a foundation for later developing literacy skills.
  1. 20 Questions: This game is a great way to target receptive and expressive language skills. To begin a player will think of a person, place or thing and announce what category that is in. The other players will then ask yes/no questions in order to try to guess what the player is thinking of within 20 questions. This game requires answering with a reliable yes or no, as well as using a variety of vocabulary words to ask creative questions. 20 Questions can also be adapted to a variety of levels, making it as easy or hard for each player’s skills.

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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!

Travel Tips For Kids With SPD

Seat belts, exit doors, floor path lighting, oxygen masks, life vests, preparation for takeoff, and in-flight rules such as no smoking, follow the directions of the crew, and the appropriate use of the lavatory are all included in the flight attendants’ cadence preceding take-off. While these safety speeches vary slightly between airlines, one commonality rings true for many parents: Instructions are not given for how best to support children who have difficulty processing sensory information.  Below are 5 ways to ease your travels the next time you and your family fly on an airplane.

Discuss what to expect

Discuss the trip in detail in the days and weeks preceding your trip. What will the airport look like? Will there be a lot of people? What are the behavioral expectations for your child? What is the process for checking luggage, the security line, and waiting to board the plane? Then, what will the inside of the airplane look and sound like? How long is the flight? Where will your child sit and who will be seated beside them? How will the flight attendants prepare the aircraft for take-off? What will it feel like when the airplane leaves the ground? What might happen in your child’s ears? What are the rules while you are in-flight? Then, what will it feel like to land? What is the process for getting off the airplane and collecting your baggage?  While some of this information may seem trivial to frequent flyers, for children, especially those with difficulty processing sensory information, the more detail you can discuss before the big event occurs, the easier it will be for them to prepare themselves for the experience. One way to discuss the process of flying on an airplane is to write a short book, inserting your own family as the main characters. Parents can write the storyline of the book, including answers to the questions above, while their kids can create personalized illustrations using markers, crayons, stamps and stickers. Read your family’s travel story every night before bedtime to help your child prepare for the big day. You can even bring the book along to the airport to follow along with the storyline as you progress through your trip.

Decrease the amount of extraneous and unfamiliar noise

Use noise cancelling headphones or calming music. Both strategies can help your child to self-regulate and more effectively process auditory sensory information.

Prepare a backpack of “travel essentials”

Many adults pack a small carry-on bag with a few items that will help them pass the time during the flight. Items often include shoulder pillows, eye masks, ear phones and ipods; as well as a favorite book or magazine. For children with various sensory processing disorders, items to include:

      1. Snacks and water. Gum or hard candies (if your child is old enough) may be good options to help your child pop their ears during flight.
      2. Pack a heavy object to help your child regulate. A book or weighted blanket are great options.
      3. Bring a comfort object such as a blanket or favorite stuffed animal.
      4. Include fun activities such as mini board games, coloring pages, books, or playing cards

Call the airline ahead of time

Explain your child’s sensory needs. Certain airlines have special accommodations for children including the opportunity to board the plane early to get situated in your seats before other passengers.

Expect some ornery fellow passengers

While it is unfortunate, you may come across at least one person on your flight who has a lower tolerance for kids being kids. Prepare yourself for an eye-roll or a muttered complaint hidden under your neighbor’s breath. Depending on your comfort level you could write out small note cards explaining that your child has a Sensory Processing Disorder and that they are doing the best they can to get through the flight. You could even offer nearby passengers earplugs to help block out any extraneous noises.

The bottom line is that while traveling with children who have sensory processing disorders can be stressful, with foresight and appropriate preparation it can be done and can even prove to be a fun experience. The most important part of travelling is creating warm and lasting memories with your friends and family. Try your best be prepared for the flight but remember not to sweat the small stuff- after all, you’re on vacation! Safe travels!


 

8 Tips for Flying with a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

Taking a flight with kids is hard enough!  Flying with a child with Sensory Integration takes special planning!  Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration (SPD) occurs when Child on plane with SPDthe nervous system has difficulty regulating, processing, and interpreting information from one or more of the senses.  Different children perceive and process sensory information differently. Some children find loud noises scary, while others like to bang objects and search for interesting ways to create noise. Similarly, some children may only tolerate certain fabrics or textures for clothing, while others may enjoy rolling around in grass, sand, or on the carpet. All children and adults have different sensory preferences, and while most adults have learned to adapt to their specific needs, some children need guidance in processing sensory information to reach their full potential.

8 Tips for Flying with a Child with SPD:

  1. Bring noise canceling headphones.
  2. Make sure your child has slept and is well fed prior to the flight so he or she is regulated.
  3. Be prepared with food and water during the flight, especially if the flight is long.
  4. Bring a heavy object to help calm your child.  Examples include a book, laptop, or a weighted blanket or vest.
  5. Try to schedule your flight during nap time or at night if your child is able to sleep comfortably on planes.  If the flight is during the day, try and have your child run around and use his or her energy before the flight.
  6. Gum chewing or sucking on a lollipop may be helpful to help regulate your child.
  7. Have activities ready for the plane. It can be a good time to practice fine motor skills.
  8. Create a visual schedule for your child.  Include everything from driving to the airport, waiting in the terminal, taking off, eating snacks to landing and  getting luggage.  This way your child will be prepared and feel less anxious about what to expect.

If you would like more tips  and information on Sensory Processing Disorder, click here

How To Pack “Smart” For Your Child On Vacation

Summertime travel can be a fun and exciting experience for you and your family. Follow these tips to make the most of your vacation by keeping your children occupied and happy:

Packnig for your child on vacation

  • Before you go, prepare your child for what they can expect by making a simple schedule of events throughout the trip. Include layovers in airports, time in the car, and things you will do once you arrive. Tell your child what to expect during each event.
  • To keep your kids content during the trip, pack each of them a light-weight bag with toys, games, and books.
  • In addition to packing their favorite toys and books, surprise them with a few new and inexpensive things to do.
  • Pack a stuffed animal, blanket or other comfort item to help them adjust to sleeping in a new environment and to put them at ease along the way.
  • Don’t forget snacks and drinks! Travel can be unpredictable, so it’s best to be prepared with easy treats just in case.

Keep toys small and compact so you can take them anywhere.  A bag of small toys can go a long way when you are sitting in a restaurant waiting for your food, and stickers are great on a plane (no mess)!  Keep these items with you throughout your trip and you will be guaranteed less STRESS!