Dressing Strategies to Help Kids with Sensory Sensitivities

Getting dressed and ready for the day can become a big challenge for those children who do not like the feeling of their clothes (e.g. tags, seams, twisting). Try these strategies to make the process go smoother, quicker and less threatening for your child.

7 Strategies To Help A Child With Sensory Sensitivities Get Dressed:

  1. Have your child engage in heavy work to warm up their bodies prior to dressing. For example push a laundry basket full of blankets, wall pushes, animal walks, etc.
  2. Provide your child with calming pressure. There are many strategies to provide pressure, including a weighted blanket, weight stuffed animals, hugs, or slowboy getting dressed massage.
  3. Keep auditory distractions to a minimum while dressing being performed. For example turn off television or radio.
  4. Set out clothes the night before with your child. This will help the task run smoother if your child already picked out an outfit. Having your child help with picking out their clothes provides them with a choice of preferred clothing and some control over the task. Examples of preferred clothing may include tight, loose, cotton, no tags, etc.
  5. Make a dressing routine and stick with it. This will provide a comfortable environment for your child, as they will know what to expect and when.
  6. When helping your child dress, approach from the front and provide a warning before touching to avoid unexpected touch which may be startling for you child.
  7. Leave extra time and discuss how much time the task should take prior to starting. A timed timer can provide a visual cue for your child of how long the task of dressing should take (e.g. timed timer, kitchen timer, watch).

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Sensory Strategies for Kids with ADHD

Sensory strategies are one of the most common and least invasive suggestions made to assist children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder  (ADHD) function more successfully in their day to day lives. Because of the increased awareness surrounding ADHD, it has become a popular topic for many adhd boyprofessionals. While this means that there is an ever-growing supply of research and increasing amount of resources for parents, teachers and medical professionals to reference; it also has the potential to be both overwhelming and confusing. Many of the professionals researching ADHD publish articles, books, and research papers with strategies they have found to be beneficial to children with ADHD. This has potential to be very informative and helpful but there is no unified terminology being used, and thus, the same suggestions are being made using different terms, creating a difficult system to navigate. Sensory strategies are included in some form in almost all approaches suggested for children with ADHD. Sensory strategies are also often referred to as “movement strategies,” or other similar titles, but provide the same suggestions and at their core are truly sensory strategies.

Sensory Strategies for kids with ADHD:

  • Allowing the child to take a 2-3 minute break every 10-15 minutes. This break should involve intense movement when possible, such as jumping jacks, pushups, jumping on a trampoline, etc. When intense movement is not appropriate, breaks may involve the student walking to the drinking fountain, getting up to sharpen his/her pencil and/or walking to the bathroom.
    • If an assigned task involves intense academic work, such as testing, lengthy projects or problem-solving assignments the child should be given the opportunity to take a longer break (approximately 10 minutes) to allow time for more intense physical exercise.
  • Provide a toy or item for the child to manipulate during solitary work. These items are often referred to as “fidgets,” and provide the child with an outlet to release their restlessness. Rather than continuously moving his/her body, the child can move his/her hands quietly in their lap or on their desk while manipulating the fidget.
  • Another way to incorporate physical work into settings where children are expected to be able to sit and attend to a task is to adapt the child’s seat. There are a variety of seating options available that involve the child working to maintain balance and an upright posture. Exercise balls are often provided in the classroom as an alternative to a standard chair, this allows the child to slightly move and requires him/her to use their core muscles to maintain seated. A T-stool is a flat, bench-like seat that is mounted on a single upright post. This provides similar sensory input to the child, without the possible temptations surrounding a ball. Rocking chairs have also been used both at a child’s desk and during circle time, and prevent much of the “disruptive” behaviors that teachers often observe during these quiet sitting periods of the day.
  • Gum is often not allowed in the school setting, but it can be an invaluable tool to a child with ADHD. Oral-motor input is something many children crave, hence why so many kids stick their pencils in their mouths or chew on their clothing. Providing gum to a child with ADHD provides them an outlet for their restlessness. The constant chewing/movement of the jaw and flavor options can act as an alerting stimuli as well as a grounding force, helping the child have the ability to better focus on the task at hand.

These sensory strategies can be implemented in the classroom, at home and in most other settings where a child is expected to be able to sit and attend to a task (church, Sunday school, music lessons, camp, etc.). Incorporating these strategies into particularly difficult parts of the day can also have an immense positive impact on the child; for example, incorporating physical exercise into transitional periods may lessen the stress that these times put on both the child and the adult. These sensory strategies are not strict rules to abide by, but are general guidelines to be expanded upon or adapted to fit each child’s individual needs.






Eight Tips For Helping Your Sensory Sensitive Child While Dining Out

Family With Young Children At RestaurantEnjoying family meals out at a restaurant can be a lot of fun. However, for some children, this experience can also be a source of sensory overload with all the sights, sounds, smells and movement throughout the restaurant. Below are a few ideas to help you and your child have a pleasurable meal at your favorite neighborhood spot!

How to Make A Restaurant Manageable For Your Child

  1. Engage in heavy work at home such as frog jumps, wheelbarrow walks, or household chores before going to your meal
  2. Use a Lap Lander or Sensory Snuggle to provide deep pressure input Read more

The Oprah Winfrey and Sensory Processing Disorder Controversy

There has been a loud voice from many people who advocate for sensory processing disorder (SPD) after a segment on the Oprah Show which aired on Friday February 18th, about a seven year old boy with multiple mental health diagnoses, one including sensory processing disorder.  http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Children-Dealing-with-Violent-Rage/1

What The Oprah Show and SPD Commotion Was All About: Oprah Show

Many advocates have voiced concern that sensory processing disorder has been misrepresented on the show, leading viewers to believe that a child with SPD is violent, aggressive and gets pleasure from events that may cause pain for others. I do not believe this was the intention of the family or the show, but it still may have been perceived as such.

The explanation from Oprah’s summary on her website states SPD is “a condition which alters the way one processes stimuli- sound, touch, smell- from the world”. The mother does explain that Zach has a combination of hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity and that he would do things like throw his body on the ground and would get pleasure and laugh when other children would be hurt. His mother also explains that sounds, light and clothing bother him.

Why Sensory Processing Disorder Advocates Were Upset With The Oprah Episode:

I understand the focus of the episode is about this young boy’s tragic story and his family’s struggles through their journey, not to focus on defining sensory processing disorder because let’s face it, SPD can not be simply summed up in one sentence, but this is such a simple explanation for such a complex diagnosis. There was no explanation of which diagnosis affected the boy in which ways, what diagnosis medication was given for, the different patterns of SPD or how it may present differently in each child that has SPD. The show also does not mention that SPD can affect movement, social skills, posture, participation in daily activities, fine motor skills, attention or even school performance. SPD may affect one or two areas of one child’s life or just about every aspect of someone’s life including their entire family’s dynamic. There was no discussion of how SPD is treated or what treatment consists of.

I think it’s great that the not-so-well known disorder is getting national recognition on a well-trusted show such as Oprah, even though it may have been brief and unclear. However, like I mentioned above, this was not, nor should have been, the focus of the show. The many responses to the episode just demonstrate a need for continual advocacy and education for sensory processing disorder. My hope is that SPD will be more accurately represented and understood in the future, as more media coverage completes stories on those affected by the disorder.

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I would love to hear your opinion on the show!

Halloween Tips For Children With Sensory Processing Disorder

Halloween SPDHalloween parties, costumes, make-up, masks, trick-or-treating, and treats. This all sounds like fun to many children, but Halloween “fun” can be a sensory nightmare for children with sensory issues. Fortunately, there are ways to help make Halloween more enjoyable for the child who struggles with sensory issues.

SPD For Halloween Tip 1 – Exposure to Halloween early and often

Start early in explaining Halloween to your children to ensure a successful night. Repetition helps kids with sensory processing difficulties understand an event or holiday.

SPD For Halloween Tip 2 – Pick the right costume

  • Choose a non-scary costume
  • Let your child help select a costume. A bumblebee suit with wings and bobbing antennae may be too much to handle, but a silly shirt or a handheld prop might be perfect.
  • Try out the costumes, make sure they are a good fit.
  • Practice walking and sitting while wearing the costume.
  • Wearing a mask may be uncomfortable. He may prefer to hold the mask or just skip it. 
  • If costumed, make sure it’s something she can partially or fully remove so she doesn’t have to go home if she becomes uncomfortable.
  • If your child is not wearing a costume, make sure they know there is nothing wrong with them.
  • If your child is afraid of trick-or-treating and seeing others dressed up in costumes, stay home and hand out candy from the front yard or the doorway.  
  • Your child can wear his costume in safe and familiar environments such as the neighbors’ and relatives’ houses. 
  • Never force your child to wear a costume. If they do not want to wear one at all, that’s okay!
  • Experiment with face make-up as tactile exploration. However, bring baby wipes to remove it just in case.

 

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