sensory diets

Sensory Diets

A diet is defined as the food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health. A well-rounded nutritional diet promotes appropriate development and growth. In the same manner, the sensory system needs a proper “diet” of stimuli in order to process information, promote regulation, and promote efficient processing of sensory information. A sensory diet, a term coined by occupational therapist, Patricia Wilbarger, is a personally designed and individualized set of activities prescribed to an individual for regulatory and attention needs.

As an adult, you have most likely learned the activities you need in order to stay “organized”;  chewingSensory Diets gum during a conference to stay alert, listening to music to “unwind” after a long day, going for a run, etc. A child, especially one with sensory processing difficulties, sometimes needs to be taught these regulatory behaviors. Unwinding for a child could mean swinging, doing heavy proprioceptive work, or eating crunchy food.

Each child has a unique set of sensory needs. A child who always appears “on the go” would require a sensory diet full of calming and “grounding input”. A child who appears “tired/sluggish” would require a sensory diet full of alerting and arousing input.

A sensory diet can be created by an occupational therapist to be implemented in both the home and academic atmospheres. The good news is, as a sensory diet is fully incorporated into the daily routine; the short term effects of sensory input are immediate and cumulative to create long term lasting effects of regulation. As the sensory information is processed in the nervous system, the following positive results can be noticed:

  • Improved processing and understanding of sensory information
  • Increased attention and self-regulation
  • Encourage movement seeking behaviors in “tired/sluggish” children
  • Decrease non-purposeful movement seeking behaviors in “on the go” children
  • Ease difficulty in transitions and changes in routine, encouraging cognitive flexibility.

 

Is it Bad Behavior or SPD?

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 strategies for school

Sensory Strategies for School

Preparing your child to go back to school can be both exciting and challenging. Research suggests that approximately 1 in 6 children experience sensory symptoms that are significant enough to interfere with everyday life functions occurring at home and in the school.[1] Targeting the body’s sensory systems of oral, vestibular (movement), proprioceptive (body position), tactile (touch), visual, and auditory will help them to stay motivated and engaged in the classroom. Check out these 5 tips that describe various sensory strategies for school.

Sensory Strategies for School:

  1. Send your child to school with a healthy, crunchy snack in their lunch such as carrots,Sensory Strategies for School celery, granola bars, licorice, or gummy worms. Research suggests children with sensory processing difficulties, specifically those who are underresponsive to sensory input, benefit from crunchy snacks to improve their attention and arousal levels.
  2. Offer a move-n-sit cushion, wiggle seat, or theraband seat modification– Children who seek out movement often have difficulty sitting still in class. These children may benefit from some added movement opportunities to assist their body in focusing and attending to tasks. Often, move-n-sit cushions, wiggle seats, or tying a theraband around the two front legs of the chair offers the child just enough opportunity to stay aroused and attended without becoming too distracting.
  3. Assign classroom chores– for those children who are underresponsive to proprioceptive input, activities such as watering flowers, carrying books to and from the library, sweeping or mopping the floors, and cleaning the chalkboard are all effective ways to target the body’s proprioceptive system, which gives the body’s muscles and joints the resistant heavy work they crave. Often, these children require an adult to help them identify when their body needs to take a break and move around[2]. They may not register that their body is in an awkward, uncomfortable position when seated at their desk. Heavy work activities are often helpful in allowing their body to become more regulated and aware of their surroundings.
  4. Reduce visual clutter and auditory noise– For those children who are overresponsive to visual and/or auditory input, try and use natural light versus fluorescent lighting and reduce classroom background chatter whenever possible. Reducing visual and auditory external stimuli may help with overall attention and focus.  For grade school children, decreasing the amount of math problems on a page, and leaving plenty space between each problem may assist with better performance when working.
  5. Give children their own space– For children who are overresponsive to tactile stimuli or who have difficulties with tactile discrimination, it is important to decrease instances of accidental touch from classroom peers. For younger children, having separate carpet squares for them to sit on will reduce the amount of unexpected distracting touch from other classmates. For grade school children, it may be helpful to place their desk at the front of the class to avoid any unnecessary touch from others, or let the student walk at the end of the line to avoid anyone bumping into them[3].

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, Lake Bluff, LincolnwoodGlenview 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!

Resources:

[1] Sensory Over-Responsivity in Elementary School: Prevalence and Social-Emotional Correlates By: Ben-Sasson, A., A. S. Carter, and M. J. Briggs-Gowan. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology J Abnorm Child Psychology 2009-01-20

[2] Kranowitz, C. (2005). How to Tell if Your Child Has a Problem with the Proprioceptive Sense. In The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: A Skylight Press Book/A Perigee Book.

[3] Kranowitz, C. (2005). How to Tell if Your Child Has a Problem with the Tactile Sense. In The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: A Skylight Press Book/A Perigee Book.

Is It Bad Behavior or Sensory Processing Disorder?

A behavior is an action that can be observed or measured. This can include eating, running, jumping, laughing, screaming, kicking or punching. With such a broad definition of a behavior it is hard to decide whether a behavior is adaptive or maladaptive. In order to determine this, you must decide what the function of a behavior is.

Functions of a Behavior:

Attention maintainedIs It Bad Behavior or Sensory Processing Disorder?

  • Receives positive and negative attention contingent on the behavior occurring
    • Ex: Mom on the phone/tantrum
  • This means that the child always gets attention immediately after the behavior – good OR bad attention.

Escape maintained

  • Escapes the instruction/task given contingent on the behavior occurring
    • Ex: Time to brush teeth/tantrum
  • This means that the child always gets out of a direction/task after the behavior occurs

Access to tangibles (items)

  • Receives item (toy, electronic, food, etc.) contingent on the behavior occurring
    • Ex: iPad
  • This means that the child always gets some object after the behavior occurs

Sensory maintained

  • Receives a good “feeling inside” contingent on the behavior occurring (A bit different than Sensory Processing Disorder-SPD) This means that the child is not getting much else out of the behavior other than the feeling itself.

If the behavior can be classified by one of the first three categories of behavior, then it can be modified by changing your response to the behavior.

Remember that Sensory Processing Disorder can result in behaviors that are a result of a difficulty or inability to process sensory information. These behaviors may also be unconscious and used as a form of “relief”. For children with sensory integration dysfunction, consider their behavior as defensive, rather than defiant.  They may be pushing themselves to the limit of their processing capabilities, rather than challenging authority.

If it is a “bad behavior”, create a proactive and reactive plan. A proactive plan is one that gives access to the maintaining function of the behavior through the use of an appropriate behavior. A reactive plan is one in which you do not allow the “bad behavior” to access the maintaining function. Here are examples to help identify a proactive plan and a reactive plan for the four categories of behavior.

Proactive and Reactive Plans for Encouraging Good Behavior:

Attention Maintained:

Proactive Plan Teach your child the appropriate way to get your attention, and highly reinforce each time he or she uses the appropriate behavior

Reactive Plan Do not give ANY attention (or at least as possible) after the behavior occurs.

Access to tangibles:

Proactive Plan- Teach your child the correct way gain access to items.  At first you may need to reinforce asking appropriately, but as your child is successful, fade bake reinforcing instances of appropriate requests for tangibles.

Other Ideas:

  • Give your child a 5 minute warning as to putting toys away
  • Let your child know the expectations when going to a store (no toys)
  • Use a timer to indicate a transition from preferred items

Reactive plan Do not allow the child to gain access to the item as a result of an inappropriate behavior.

Escape Maintained:

Proactive Plan create reinforcement system that the child can earn reinforcement for completing tasks.

Other tips:

  • Use first/then (first brush your teeth, then we will read a story)
  • Visual Schedule of tasks to do
  • Help with difficult tasks

Reactive Plan The child needs to follow through with the task given, regardless of the behavior occurring.

Sensory Maintained:

Proactive Plan – Allow the child to access the feeling in a more appropriate way. Reinforce the amount of time child goes without engaging in the behavior. As child is successful with not engaging in the behavior over a short amount of time, expand the amount of time slowly.

Reactive Plan The huge focus is on the proactive plan with sensory maintained behavior

Always give the least amount of attention to the behavior, make sure the child follows through on tasks given, and the behavior doesn’t inadvertently allow the child to gain access to items.

The behavior could turn into a “bad behavior.”

Other tips:  Time outs don’t typically help nor does yelling at the child.

Information for this blog was taken from the webinar: Is It Bad Behavior or Sensory Processing Disorder? Click here or below to watch the full recorded version.


Is it Bad Behavior or SPD?

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 overload

A Child’s Response to Sensory Overload

Nails on a chalkboard. The teacups at a carnival. The feeling of a mosquito on your back that you just can’t quite reach. As adults, we are all familiar with different types of sensory stimuli which can negatively affect our attention, mood, or state of arousal. Children with sensory defensiveness experience similar reactions described above, which can often lead to sensory overload. The main difference is that sensory overload, which largely occurs in children with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder, is caused by an aversive reaction to everyday, non-threatening input which negatively affects performance in activities of daily living and social participation.

Functional examples leading to sensory overload include the following:

  • Background chatter or noises at restaurants or in school, loud and vibrant birthday parties, hairSensory Overload dryers or background noise from an air conditioning unit (auditory stimuli)
  • Fluorescent lighting, colorful or cluttered environments, flashing street lights, making eye contact (visual stimuli)
  • Application of hand cream, face wash, soap, or toothpaste. Clothing items with tags on the back, socks that are too tight, pants with buttons or tight waist bands (tactile stimuli),
  • Climbing up stairs or playground equipment, escalators in the grocery store, swings on the playground (vestibular stimuli)
  • Foods with different textures or temperatures, foods that are overly spicy, sweet, or salty (oral or olfactory stimuli).

The result of experiencing sensory overload can vary among children and can include both visceral and emotional responses. In children over responsiveness may manifest as physical illness, including vomiting, yelling, crying, running away, or general avoidance to events.

Sensory defensiveness is treatable! Existing literature indicates the nervous system is changeable due to neural plasticity. Occupational therapy is recognized as one of the leading professions capable of treating children with Sensory Processing Disorder.  The goal of OT treatment is to produce an adaptive and organized response to the aversive sensory input. During the evaluation, the OT will conduct an interview with the caregiver and may administer checklists to identify presenting problems. They may also inquire about the impact on the child’s occupational performance and daily functioning in an attempt to discern which specific sensory systems are inhibiting functional performance at home, in school, and in the community[1]. Through intervention and treatment, these aversive responses will evolve to become more mature and integrated so that the child is better able to participate in their chosen occupations.

If you notice your child exhibiting any of the symptoms above, it is important to immediately remove the stimulus that is causing the sensory overload. This may include decreasing their exposure to vibrant lights or overpowering smells, helping them avoid light touch, and providing deep proprioceptive input to their muscles and joints through bear hugs or pillow squishes which can often assist their sensory system in returning back to homeostasis. Continue to monitor your child to ensure they don’t become drowsy or ill from being too overstimulated.

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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!

[1] Case-Smith, J., & O’Brien, J. (2010). Sensory Integration. In Occupational Therapy for Children (6th ed., pp. 346-356). Maryland Heights, MO: Mosby Elsevier.

sensory strategies for road trips

Sensory Strategies for Road Trips

It would take five pairs of hands and feet for me to count the number of family road trips I embarked on as a child. My family and I would load up our van and drive everywhere; we explored everywhere from Florida to New York City!

Road trips, whether they be taken with family or friends, have been a staple of American culture for decades. There isSensory Strategies for Road Trips an undeniable appeal for many to take the adventure and see the beautiful country sides, mountain towns, and valleys that the United States have to offer. While many families can plan a road trip with no second thought, many other families have become mindful of the sensory demands that a road trip has on their child.

Road trips come with sensory demands in many forms: visual, tactile, auditory, proprioceptive and vestibular. Road trips also bring the possibility of car sickness. Nausea can be precipitated by head motion. Car sickness, specifically, is caused by the discord within the brain’s ability to process movement with visual input. For example, your visual system says you are moving as the landscape passes by; however, your body and the proprioceptive receptors of the brain say you are sitting still. As your sensory receptors cannot find a way to process both sides of the sensory input, your body begins to have a visceral reaction, leading to nausea.  Another example occurs as you are trying to read a book in the car; your eyes are stationary on the book while the fluid in your ear canals are moving as the car goes over bumps and the car accelerates/decelerates; your brain has difficulty in processing if you are moving or if you are stationary as the input it is receiving does not match up.

Worry not, though! Here are some sensory strategies to incorporate into this summer’s road trip agenda:

  1. If your child requires movement breaks, do not wait until you need a bathroom break to stop. Allow scheduled stops at rest areas or parks to stretch, jump and run. Though it may add time to your trip, it will be beneficial for your child as a means to regulate.
  2. If your child is visually sensitive, provide him with sunglasses or even an eye mask.
  3. Keep in mind that seatbelts can be difficult for children with tactile difficulties. Place a soft piece of cloth or invest in a seat belt cover to ease the tactile input.
  4. If your child is of age or weight, allow them to sit in the front seat to help ease motion sickness. Sitting in front helps to alleviate the vestibular input of bumps and hills in the road.
  5. Provide your child with calming or preferred music. Auditory input can be used to help “ground” your child and assist with self-regulation and even sleep.
  6. Set your child up for success with comfortable and preferred clothing. Be mindful of removing their outerwear, as well.
  7. Proprioceptive input via a weighted blanket will help to provide body awareness and grounding abilities to your child, serving as calming input.
  8. Provide your child with snacks and drinks as preferred. Nutrition and appetite have a great influence on your body’s ability to regulate and calm.


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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 experiences in nature

Sensory Experiences in Nature

School is out and summer time is finally here! After months of being cooped up inside, it’s time to take full advantage of the warm weather, longer daylight hours, and extra free time that summer affords us. Nature offers an incredible array of sensory experiences that are vital for our children’s development. Whether you live near mountains, beaches, in a farm town or big city, there are endless opportunities. So get out there, be creative, explore, and grow!

Here are 10 ideas to enjoying sensory experiences in nature:

  • Go for a hike! In addition to providing great exercise, going on a hike stimulates almost everySensory Experiences in Nature sensory system. Compare the trees and other plants you see along the way, feel their bark, collect some leaves, listen to the birds, insects, water, or wind blowing through.
  • Go to the beach. Feel the sand on your feet, swim or tread in the water, search for seashells or other hidden treasures, listen to the water and watch the tides.
  • Find an open grassy hill or field. Don’t forget about fostering our sense of movement! Find an open space and do all the running, jumping, spinning, cartwheeling, log rolling, and somersaulting that was difficult to do inside all year long. Our body craves different types of movement that many children are simply not getting enough of. This is so important for a child’s development of balance, coordination, visual control, and other foundational skills that support success in daily activities.
  • Climb trees! This activity should be a childhood staple. It develops coordination and motor planning skills as well as providing us with input to promote body and spatial awareness.
  • Go bird watching or just listen to the birds chirp. This is another great experience for development of spatial awareness.
  • Find a meadow or conservatory to smell flowers and compare their qualities.
  • Spend some time being barefoot outdoors. Of course be sure the area is safe for this but feel the grass, mud, moss, sand, or whatever your environment has to offer under your feet. The soles of our feet are very sensitive and we can therefore process a great deal of tactile information this way.
  • Try going for a blindfolded walk. Take turns blindfolding one another and rely on voices, nature sounds, and touch to find your way along a path.
  • Spend time in a garden. This not only provides a child with wonderful sensory experiences, it encourages responsibility to provide ongoing care for the garden and learn how plants grow.
  • Visit a farm. Depending on what is available to you, farms can offer sights, smells, and tactile experiences that are difficult to find elsewhere. Many areas around the country have working farms that invite families to come visit. Try out different types of farms to get a range of experiences. Some offer time with animals, while others may allow berry or vegetable picking.


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olfactory system

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: Olfactory System

Although our olfactory system, or sense of smell, is working all day, we generally only notice scents that produce some sort of emotional response or connection. Whether it is a foul smell that tells us to plug our nose or the pleasant aroma of baked goods that draws us in, odors have a distinctly strong effect on our state of mind. Our sense of smell is known for its link to memories and ability to impact our mood. While many scents have a similar effect on most people, sense of smell is also a highly individualized phenomenon based on past experiences and the strength with which we detect various odors.

How Does Our Sense of Smell Work?

Odor molecules are detected through nerve fibers in our nose and sent to the olfactory bulb, where they are interpretedUnderstanding SPD: The Olfactory System as various smells. This information is then processed in different brain regions, both as conscious thought and as instinctual reactions. The olfactory system supports our ability to discriminate between odors as well as filter out those we should ignore and enhance those we should give attention to. As mentioned in the previous gustatory system blog, our sense of smell is also tied closely to our sense of taste, providing us with the sensation of flavor. The olfactory system has a direct connection to our limbic system, explaining why scent has such a strong relationship to our emotions, memory, and behavior. For those with an over responsive olfactory system, smell may be a constant source of anxiety. Not only are odors more intense, the associations between scent and emotion are often much broader and more extreme. Alternatively, those with an under responsive system must work much harder to get the input their body needs, often to the point of interference with routines or social norms.

Red Flags for the Olfactory System:

  • Strong reactions to smells that others may not notice -refusal to try foods or be in the same room as others eating them based on their smell
  • Aversions to scented materials such as cologne/perfume or flowers
  • Strong need to smell objects (may or may not be known for having a strong odor) such as soaps, markers, clothing, other people, flowers, trash, or gasoline
  • Doesn’t seem to notice unpleasant odors or changes in smells
  • Decides whether or not they like people based on scent

Suggested Activities:

  • Guess the scent: soak cotton balls with various essential oils, use scented candles, scratch and sniff stickers, foods/drinks, or flowers to conduct a “blind scent test”
  • Discuss scents throughout the day; put labels to them and discuss emotions or memories tied to them
  • Acknowledge hypersensitivities and emotions linked to them. For example, if your child becomes upset or angry about someone eating a type of food near them, acknowledge that as a valid emotional reaction and help identify appropriate responses, whether that is calmly leaving the room temporarily, moving away from the stimulus, or taking a moment to remind themselves that the smell will not harm them
  • Work on desensitization to smells in increments. Start with small doses in brief amounts of time and always read your child’s cues and respect his boundaries

More on the Subtypes of SPD:

  1. Sensory Processing Disorder: The Subtypes
  2. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Tactile System
  3. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Auditory System
  4. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Vestibular System
  5. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Visual System
  6. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Gustatory System


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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!

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Gustatory System

The gustatory system, or our sense of taste, allows us to recognize the five basic taste sensations of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. This sense is meant to keep us safe from ingesting things that are toxic, spoiled, or inedible. It plays a very important role in eating and drinking but is not the only sense that allows us to perceive flavor. It would be very difficult to identify the foods we eat without additionally relying on texture, temperature, and sense of smell. When the gustatory system and its closely related senses in the mouth are over or under responding to oral input, you may see a range of disruptive behaviors in children with sensory processing concerns. The need for adequate oral input may cause a child to constantly put inedible objects in his mouth. These may be the children who always seem to ruin their shirt sleeves or collars no matter how many times you remind them not to chew their clothing. Or perhaps the more intense input of oral stimuli are causing your child to refuse all but a select few foods. As frustrating as it can be, the threat of certain tastes, smells, and textures feel very real to a child who is over responding to oral input.

Red Flags for Hyper or Hyposensitivity to oral input:Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Gustatory System

  • Considered a picky eater, often with a food repertoire that is specific to brand or the way in which food is presented. These children often become very anxious at the thought of trying new foods and may gag when presented with one. Mixed textures tend to be particularly difficult for these children.
  • Limited variety in the types of tastes, textures, or temperatures of food; may eat food only near room temperature and with bland flavors
  • May prefer food either very hot or very cold. May also enjoy heavily seasoned foods or frequent use of condiments
  • Dislikes brushing teeth, complains about toothpaste, or has a strong fear of the dentist
  • Loves going to the dentist or using strong toothpaste flavors. May also love to use vibrating toothbrushes
  • Frequent drooling
  • Licks, chews, or mouths inedible objects frequently, such as clothing, hands, toys, pencils, or small objects they find on the ground

Strategies to provide adequate oral input:

  • Provide a chewy tool; there are now a variety of ways to discretely utilize them. Whether using a chew tube, chewlery, or a chewy pencil topper, your child will have frequent access to a more appropriate chew toy than his t-shirt!
  • Incorporate snacks throughout the day that are crunchy, chewy, or otherwise resistive. Think granola, pretzels, carrots, taffy, jerky, gum, or drinking thick liquids such as smoothies, yogurt, or applesauce through a straw.
  • Regularly use a water bottle with a straw throughout the day.
  • Use tools or play games that require your child to forcefully blow air out of their mouths. Try whistles or kazoos, blowing bubbles, blowing up balloons, using a straw to blow a cotton ball across the table, using a straw to blow bubbles into a drink, or making art with Blo-pens.
  • Try gum or hard candies with strong sweet or sour flavors. Sucking on popsicles or lollipops is a great strategy too.

Consulting with an occupational therapist can be helpful in understanding your child’s specific needs. Because children with significant over or under responsive behaviors to oral input may develop habits that are potentially harmful to their health (i.e., mouthing inedible objects or a severely limited diet), it is important to seek guidance when needed. Incorporating appropriate oral input within a sensory diet or participating in feeding therapy to expand food repertoire can greatly improve your child’s response to or need for oral input.

 

More on the Subtypes of SPD:

  1. Sensory Processing Disorder: The Subtypes
  2. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Tactile System
  3. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Auditory System
  4. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Vestibular System
  5. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Visual System

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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 Summer

Sensory Play for Summer

Sensory play and multi-sensory approaches to learning have been incorporated throughout many learning opportunities to encourage versatile growth and development. Providing children with an opportunity to learn via tactile, auditory, visual, and even movement input has proven to show faster incorporation and carry-over of skills across environments. Sensory teaching techniques also stimulate learning by encouraging children to some or all of their senses to do the following:

  • Gather information about an assignment using both visual information and auditory informationSensory Activities for Summer
  • Synthesize and analyze material
  • Solve logic-based problems with multiple perspectives
  • Develop and utilize problem-solving skills
  • Use non-verbal reasoning skills
  • Understand and make connections between concepts
  • Store and recall information easily and efficiently

These skills can be cultivated during the summer months as well. The summer provides an array of its own sensory experiences that can be used to promote sensory learning while out of school. Here are some activities for the while family to encourage whole body learning and development.

 Sensory play activities for summer:

  1. Play a game of eye-spy outside! You can make it more of a challenge by using clues of size, shape, or clues of purpose.
  2. Play pictionary on the sidewalks with chalk, for a tactile and visual experience.
  3. Enjoy water play. Play a game of slip-and-slide while trying to retrieve an object on the way down; providing sensory play, motor planning and visual-motor integration skills.
  4. DIY play-doh is great for tactile play and executive functioning skills to follow a recipe.
  5. Make tactile balloons. Fill balloons with different textures (beans, beads, sand, rice, play-doh, coffee grinds, marbles, water, hairgel, corn starch and water mix) For more fun, place balloons in a tub if water, then guess and write what is inside each one!
  6. Have a Hippity Hop scavenger hunt.
  7. Play a game of edible shapes. Gather foods that have distinctive shapes (ex. cheese puff balls, gold fish, marshmallows, starburst, Hershey kisses, pretzel sticks tortilla chips). Blindfold the children playing and have them guess both the shape and the food!
  8. Create an obstacle course on a playground for motor planning, proprioceptive input and vestibular input. For added fun have your child draw out or write the steps of the course prior to completing it.
  9. Do Spice painting. Mix white glue with a bit of water to dilute it and add some spices (no hot spices). The activity will provide various aromas and will have different textures when dried.
  10. Visit the beach and play hangman, tic-tac-toe or write messages in the sand.


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Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder Visual System

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: Visual System

Most people have heard the saying that their “eyes are playing tricks” on them. This is a very real phenomenon for everyone at one point or another, due to the complexity of our visual systems. The visual system uses light to detect information through our eyes and then interprets or makes sense of that information in the brain. It works closely with our vestibular and auditory systems to help us safely navigate our environment by orienting us to where we are in relation to other objects. There are many components of an optimally functioning visual system. This means that activities like reading, catching or hitting a ball, locating an object, or giving directions can be challenging even for those with 20/20 vision if there are deficits in ocular motor control or visual processing.

In addition to how clearly our eyes register images, our eye muscles play a significant role in how well weUnderstanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Visual System control our gaze to adjust to movement, shift between focuses, and how we use both of our eyes together. Without adequate ocular motor control, a child’s school work, balance, depth perception, and eye-hand coordination will likely be impacted. Another level at which a child may have difficulty with visual information is the processing of what they are seeing. The ability to cognitively process information we take in through our eyes can be broken down into several categories, called visual perceptual skills. Those with trouble in one area of visual perception may present with strong skills in another area, meaning that deficits in processing of visual information can take on many forms.

 

Red flags that may indicate difficulties with visual processing or ocular motor control:

  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Easily distracted by visual stimuli or difficulty sustaining visual attention to an activity
  • Frequently squints, rubs eyes, or gets a headache after visually demanding tasks such as reading, using a phone/tablet/computer, or watching television
  • Trouble finding things they are looking for, even when they seem to be “right in front of them”
  • Difficulty initiating or holding eye contact
  • Increased fear of or desire for being in the dark
  • Difficulty discriminating between similar shapes, letters, or pictures
  • Difficulties with handwriting such as letter reversals, sizing, spacing, or alignment of letters.
  • Frequently loses their place while reading or copying
  • Often bumps into things
  • May be slow or hesitant with stairs
  • Difficulty with visually stimulating activities, i.e., puzzles, locating objects in pictures, completing mazes, word searches or dot-to-dots
  • Trouble knowing left from right

Activities to develop visual skills:

  • Work on visual tracking skills by engaging with moving objects or with stationary objects while the body is moving. This could be catching a thrown or bounced ball while standing, walking, or swinging; using a bat to hit a ball on a T-stand or tossed in the air; identifying a series of letters, shapes, colors, etc. while jumping, rolling, crawling, or swinging
  • Crawling and rolling activities are great for development of eye control
  • “Spot the difference” or “hidden object” pictures
  • Activities such as puzzles, “I Spy,” “Where’s Waldo?” or word searches
  • Games such as Tetris, Speed Stacks, or the Memory game
  • Always encourage eye contact while speaking
  • Set up scavenger hunts or play “hot and cold” to locate items
  • Tap a balloon back and forth or see how many times your child can tap it without touching the ground
  • Blowing bubbles and popping them with one finger
  • Play flashlight games to track the light in a dim or dark room
  • Match or sort objects

More on the Subtypes of SPD:

  1. Sensory Processing Disorder: The Subtypes
  2. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Tactile System
  3. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Auditory System
  4. Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: The Vestibular System


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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!