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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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 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!

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!

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: Proprioceptive System

Proprioception, sometimes referred to as the sixth sense, informs us of our body position in space. Receptors for this system are located primarily in our muscles and relay information on muscle length and tension. This allows us to know where our joints are positioned as well as the amount of force against our body and the effort our muscles need to apply at any given time. To get an idea of how the proprioceptive system works, imagine closing your eyes and having someone move your arms to anSPD Proprioceptive system extended position in front of you. Even though you can’t see them, you can feel that your arms are outstretched. Now if someone were to place 10 pound weights in each hand, your proprioceptive system would signal for you to make one of two decisions. Either let your arms fall to your sides due to the increased force or contract your muscles with greater effort to match it. We rely heavily on this sense throughout the day to keep track of what our bodies are doing. Much like the vestibular system, proprioception is necessary for building body awareness and security in how we fit in with our environment.

Short term impairments in proprioceptive processing can happen, for example, following a growth spurt or when a person is tired. However, for a child whose proprioceptive system is not functioning as it should, the messages that tell him where he is, how to move, and how much effort to exert just aren’t as strong. These difficulties may manifest in a number of ways.

Signs of difficulty with proprioceptive processing:

  • Easily frustrated or lacking confidence
  • Frequent crashing, bumping, climbing, falling, or jumping
  • Frequent kicking while sitting or stomping feet while walking
  • Enjoys deep pressure from bear hugs, being “squished,” being wrapped in tight blankets, or lying under something heavy
  • Uses too much force for writing or coloring. They may break the tip of the writing utensil, rip the paper while erasing, or complain about hand fatigue
  • Often plays too rough with peers, siblings, or pets
  • Wants to wear clothes and accessories too tight
  • Misjudges the amount of force needed to pick up objects (may often spill, break or drop things, or complain that objects are too heavy to carry)
  • Difficulty isolating body movements or locating body parts, such as touching the tip of their noise with a finger, particularly when eyes are closed

Activities for proprioceptive input:

  • Heavy work! This is a phrase you will often hear occupational therapists use as a go-to strategy in almost any sensory diet. This can mean much more than just carrying something heavy; it is simply resistive input. This could be squeezing something in your hands, chewing something particularly hard, or pushing, pulling, lifting, climbing, or crawling with the entire body
  • Provide deep pressure by squeezing them in a “burrito” or “sandwich” using a blanket, pillows, or cushions. You can also deliver deep pressure through shoulder squeezes or massage
  • Spend time at the playground and allow movement as often as possible! Kids often don’t have opportunities to run, jump, and play nearly as often as their bodies crave
  • Have them help with chores such as carrying laundry, pushing a vacuum, cleaning off windows or tables, rake/shovel, carry groceries, etc.
  • Build body awareness with activities that require locating body parts (Simon says, Hokey Pokey) or imitating a body position or movement sequence

Adequate proprioceptive processing is fundamental in building a child’s sense of self and in achieving important developmental milestones. If you suspect that your son or daughter is experiencing difficulties in this area, working with an occupational therapist can provide further insight and help develop a plan for your child.

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

NSPT offers occupational therapy 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!

what to expect in an occupational therapy evaluation

What To Expect In A Pediatric Occupational Therapy Evaluation

Whether your child has already been referred to an occupational therapist (OT) or you’re simply wondering if this would be a helpful route, there are a few things to know going into an occupational therapy evaluation. Occupational therapists are concerned about an individual’s level of participation in daily activities that are important to him or her. For many children and their families, this means that an OT will be curious about a child’s skills related to self-help, play, peer relationships, academics, and self–regulation. An occupational therapist will want to know what is important to you and set attainable goals that reflect priorities of the child and the family. Not all practitioners will gather this information exactly the same way but the general components of an Occupational Therapy evaluation will include background and developmental information, interview with parents or caregivers, assessment and observations directly with the child, and finally a comprehensive report that summarizes information gathered and sets goals for therapy based on those results.

Background and Developmental Information

Many therapists will request information on birth and developmental history prior to meeting for the first time. If youwhat to expact in an occupational therapy evaluation are able to provide other records that you believe would be helpful, such as reports from previous assessments, teacher summaries, or other pertinent medical history, include these in the evaluation process to generate a complete picture.

Caregiver Interview

Interview with the parent or primary caregiver is an extremely important component of the evaluation process. No one knows your child better than you. The information you provide is vital for identifying priorities and setting realistic goals that will make a difference in your child’s life. The occupational therapist will guide the conversation by asking about your main concerns and what you hope to accomplish through occupational therapy. Depending on the issues you identify, she will want to know more about your child’s adaptive behavior habits such as level of independence with self-care, skill level with fine and gross motor tasks, social and play skills, self-regulation abilities, and executive functioning. The information you provide will allow the therapist to choose the most appropriate assessment tools in the next portion of the evaluation.

Assessment and Observation with the Child

Once the OT has gathered necessary information from you, she will spend time with your child. This time is focused on building rapport, utilizing standardized assessments to identify developmental skill levels, and completing clinical observations that inform her of your child’s motor and sensory development, self-regulation abilities, and executive functioning skills. Specific skills that may be assessed include:

  • Visual motor and visual perceptual skills
  • Fine motor development related to dexterity, strength, grasp efficiency, range of motion, and bilateral use (how well the hands work together)
  • Gross motor strength, endurance, and coordination
  • Motor planning abilities
  • Self-help skills related to dressing, grooming, and feeding
  • Executive functioning skills related to attention, organization, flexibility, etc.
  • Self-regulation (how a child calms themselves or adapts to their environment)
  • Sensory processing abilities (how a child processes what he sees, hears, feels, etc. and produces an appropriate response)

Evaluation Report

The final piece of the evaluation process is reviewing the report, which summarizes all information gathered, the clinical impressions of the therapist, and treatment goals that address identified concerns while utilizing a child and family’s strengths. Often this report will also include general recommendations and a time frame for the treatment plan before a reassessment is warranted.

NSPT offers occupational therapy 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: Vestibular System

The vestibular system might not be one of the five basic senses we were taught as children, but it is arguably the most fundamental sense. It is the first sensation a fetus experiences prior to birth and as our other senses develop, they in many ways depend on the vestibular system to integrate properly. Along with the cochlea of the auditory system, it comprises the labyrinth of the inner ear. Movement of the fluids in these semicircular canals inform us of changes in our head position, gravitational pull, and direction and speed of movement. The vestibular system signals to our other senses when it’s necessary to make adjustments so that we can maintain balance, clear vision, adequate muscle tone, and coordination.

Difficulties with vestibular processing can make many aspects of everyday life challenging. These children may appear lazy, hyperactive, clumsy, inattentive, impulsive, or anxious. Dysfunction can present as hypo or hyper responsive and, much like the other sensory systems, a child may exhibit behaviors of both.

Signs of difficulty with vestibular processing include:

  • Dislike/fear or craving/seeking out activities requiring feet to leave the ground such as swings, slides, riding aSensory Processing Disorder the vestibular system bike, jumping or climbing.
  • Clumsiness or frequent falling
  • Often moving slowly/cautiously
  • Frequent motion sickness/dizziness
  • Appearing to never become dizzy with excessive spinning
  • Seemingly unaware of danger/risks or impulsively jumping, running, and/or climbing
  • Appearing frequently “lost” in their environment or having difficulty locating objects
  • Dislike of being moved to stomach or back as a baby or having their head tilted back
  • Rocking, spinning, twirling, or frequent head tilting. May also intently watch moving objects
  • Often prefers sedentary activities
  • Difficulty sitting still or unable to sustain attention without moving
  • Difficulty with reading, writing, and/or math
  • Often slouches, holds head up with hands, or prefers lying down

If you notice these red flags in your child, it is important to provide as many child-directed movement opportunities as possible. Be careful not to swing or spin your child excessively, as this can cause adverse reactions such as nausea or changes in breathing and heart rate. Consultation with an occupational therapist can help you identify activities that incorporate additional sensory systems while keeping in mind your child’s current level of security.

Below are just a few suggestions for important movement experiences to incorporate throughout your child’s weekly schedule:

  • Somersaults and cartwheels
  • Log rolling
  • Jumping rope
  • Bike riding
  • Swimming
  • Gymnastics
  • Lying on the stomach to complete activities
  • Climbing across or hanging upside down from monkey bars

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

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 processing disorder the auditory system

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: Auditory System

“I know there’s nothing wrong with her hearing but I have to call her name 100 times!”

Sound familiar?

Much like the tactile system, discussed in the previous post of this series, the auditory system refers to our ability to take in information, process it, and produce an appropriate response. When a child overreacts to sounds or seems easily distracted by noise that many of us can tune out, she is demonstrating auditory hypersensitivity. This may be due to an improperly functioning stapedius, which is a middle ear muscle that contracts in response to loud noise in order to protect the hair cells of our inner ears. When this muscle is not properly contracting, sounds may seem louder to these children. This understandably puts extra stress on them and causes difficulty filtering out background noises that most of us don’t even notice. On the other hand, you may see a child with a hyposensitive auditory system seeking out loud noises or demonstrating difficulty localizing and distinguishing sounds.

Below are red flags for hypo and hyper sensitivity to noise:Sensory processing disorder auditory system

  • Fear of sounds from hair or hand dryers, vacuums, flushing toilets, etc
  • Overreaction to loud or unexpected sounds (covering ears, crying, running away, aggression)
  • Annoyed or distracted by sounds most of us either don’t notice or become used to such as fans, clocks, refrigerators, outside traffic, etc
  • Becomes upset with others for being too loud (but are often times very loud themselves)
  • Prefers to keep television, radio, or music very loud
  • Dislikes noisy places such as malls, movie theaters, parades, fairs, etc…
  • Enjoys making noise just to make noise
  • Doesn’t respond promptly to name being called
  • Needs you to repeat yourself often or doesn’t seem to understand what you said
  • Unable to recognize where sound is coming from

It’s important to note that terms related to auditory processing are not always defined consistently. While auditory hyper and hypo sensitivities could be considered an auditory processing disorder (since they refer to a dysfunction in the processing of sound), this term is commonly used to describe dysfunction in the brain’s ability to translate sounds. Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), now commonly referred to as simply auditory processing disorder (APD), is when normal hearing is present, yet the brain has difficulty interpreting what it hears. Symptoms of this condition can look similar to auditory hyper and especially hypo sensitivities in many ways, yet key symptoms include difficulty with interpretation of sounds or language, speech delay, and difficulty learning to read. In this instance, an audiologist will help identify the issue and may refer to a speech and language pathologist for treatment.

However, if you have concerns that your child is exhibiting some of the red flags listed above for hyper and hyposensitivity, it is worth consulting with an occupational therapist to identify helpful supports for your child. There are a variety of sound-based programs out there and an occupational therapist (OT) can help identify if one may be beneficial for your child. Additionally, issues with the auditory system are often accompanied by issues with other sensory systems and a comprehensive plan should be put in place. Your OT may also provide you with useful tips to minimize distractions for activities in which concentration is required, guide you on the use of noise cancelling or minimizing headphones, and offer other suggestions such as repeating back instructions prior to beginning a task.

Click here to learn about the subtypes of Sensory Processing Disorder.

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Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: Tactile System

The tactile system, or sense of touch, refers to the information we receive though the receptors in our skin. It alerts us to pain and temperature and helps us discriminate the properties of things we come in contact with, i.e. texture, shape, size, and weight. From very early on in development this sense plays a crucial role in helping us gain awareness of our own bodies and understand everything we come in contact with. Touch is considered one of our most basic senses since body awareness, motor planning, visual perception, and social/emotional development are so dependent on it.

 The Tactile System:

There are general patterns to how different types of touch affect us. Short, light touch, like the tickle of a feather or anSPD Tactile ant crawling on your skin can cause alertness such as a quickened heart rate and an immediate need for response. On the other hand a prolonged, deep pressure, such as a hug, is generally calming and can provide a sense of security. But what happens when a person’s tactile system is over or under responsive to touch? What would happen if an affectionate caress caused irritation or panic, or if objects always seemed to drop from your hands as soon as your attention moved elsewhere? Just imagine how stressful it would be to live in a constant fight or flight state because so many day to day events caused physical discomfort. And how frustrating it must be to learn new skills when you can’t adequately feel the objects you’re using!

Red flags that your child may be experiencing difficulties with tactile processing include:

  • Becoming overly upset about having his hair washed, brushed or cut
  • Having his nails cut, or teeth brushed
  • Avoiding or overreacting to touch from others, particularly when it’s unexpected
  • Showing irritation over tags or particular types of clothing such as jerseys or jeans
  • Isolating themselves from groups or preferring to play alone
  • Over sensitivity to temperature or decreased awareness of extreme temperatures
  • Over or under reactive to pain
  • Frequently dropping objects out of his hands or using inappropriate force on objects such as squeezing his pencil too hard or crumpling his papers
  • Having difficulty with, or being frustrated by, fine motor tasks such as drawing/writing, cutting, zipping, buttoning, tying laces, etc.
  • Being a picky eater or showing a strong preference for specific textures/types of food
  • Anxiety over standing in line or being in crowds
  • Disliking socks and shoes or alternatively, avoiding walking barefoot, especially on textures such as grass or sand
  • Seeking out deep pressure rather than light touch
  • Preferring tight clothing rather than loose-fitting garments that may rub on skin
  • Insisting on pants and long sleeves even in hot weather, or very little clothing even in cold weather
  • Avoiding or overreacting to wet or messy textures
  • Not noticing a messy face or hands

A general rule of thumb for these kids is to engage in deep pressure or heavy work activities often, as this is the most organizing and grounding form of touch. If these sound like things your child is struggling with, consult with an occupational therapist to get a clearer profile of his sensory needs. Your OT can help you gain a better understanding of why your child exhibits certain behaviors and create an individualized plan to make him more comfortable in his own skin!

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 processing disorder

Understanding The Subtypes Of Sensory Processing Disorder

The term sensory processing disorder(SPD) is one that’s been buzzing quite a bit in recent years. It’s a complicated and frequently misunderstood topic as these children who have SPD can look so different from one another and will often display inconsistent behaviors themselves from day to day.

What is Sensory Processing?

Sensory processing refers to the way in which we take in information through our senses, process sensory processing disorderwhat that information means, and then produce an appropriate response. For example, if you step on a tack, your tactile system sends the message that you’ve stepped on something sharp, you determine this is painful, therefore you quickly lift your foot and inspect the damage. Other responses are less reflexive and we react with learned or conditioned behaviors. Upon hearing a dog bark, many of us may orient our attention briefly to the sound before carrying on with our business. However, an individual who has had a negative experience with one of these animals may jump at the sound. His startle response can cause him to feel anxious until he feels assured he is out of harm’s way and has had enough time to move on from any negative association triggered by the sound. For some with sensory processing disorder, this heightened state of alertness is how they live most of their day.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

With sensory processing disorder, sensory information is processed in a disorganized way. We ALL have differences in the way we perceive our world; a smell that makes you feel nauseated may be one that another person seeks out. Or a favorite food of yours may have a texture that someone else can’t stand. This type of variation is normal. We begin to consider these differences to be a sensory processing disorder when an individual’s day to day life is significantly impacted by their difficulty taking in this information and producing an appropriate response. The result of which may be anxiety or hyperactivity, depression or sluggishness, clumsiness, difficulty with peer relationships, or struggles with schoolwork to name a few.

Sensory processing disorders have been grouped into three categories:

  1. Sensory Modulation Disorder: In this group, individuals experience sensation at varying levels of intensity and have difficulty regulating responses. They may be more sensitive to one or more sensations such as noise, touch, or movement, or on the other hand, they may have difficulty even registering this input. Within this category, we often see children who either seek out extra input or who avoid input many of us would consider innocuous. It can be confusing to dissect behaviors of these children. For example, those who are more sensitive to touch or noise may become overly upset by others standing too close to them or by noise produced by others, yet they are the children who don’t seem to understand personal space or are scolded for being too noisy themselves.
  2. Sensory-Based Motor Disorder: For these kids, disorganized processing causes less than optimal motor output. We may see issues with balance, motor planning, coordination, postural control and/or endurance. These are the kids who appear clumsy, lethargic, or have difficulty keeping up with their peers.
  3. Sensory Discrimination Disorder: Those in this group have a more difficult time perceiving details of sensory input. It may take them longer than average to determine exactly what they’re looking at, hearing, or feeling. This could be the child who appears awkward with many fine and gross motor tasks or who often seems unaware of his surroundings.

Sensory processing disorder can look many different ways and children often fall within more than one category. We additionally have to consider which sensory systems are affected. In the remainder of the Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder series, we will touch on each system along with red flags and helpful strategies!

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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!


 

Picky Eater

Picking Apart the Picky Eater: 5 Tips to Address Your Child’s Problem Feeding

In an era with Whole Foods, Paleo diets, and organic produce at our fingertips, how do we improve a child that is a picky eater? Modern day life can be hectic and as the result feeding may reflect fast, convenient options that taste good but are not always the most nutrient-dense. So, how does one correct picky eating to support a more balanced diet?

5 Tips to Address a Picky Eater

  1. Re-create expectations around feeding. Eating does not just have to be about pleasure, it can be about sustenance, nutrition, and a time for social interaction/community. To frame feeding in terms of just for pleasure, we overemphasize the role of taste in our feeding practices; if it doesn’t taste goodPicky Eater or initiate our pleasure receptors, we shouldn’t eat it. Really, we eat for a variety of reasons and taste can be one of them. If we re-create our expectations to encompass eating for nutrition, sustenance, as well as taste it can become easier for your child to engage with non-preferred, more healthful foods.
  2. Motivate compliant behaviors through incentives. Feeding is a behavior just like any other so if you want to target increased compliance with eating certain foods, provide incentives to encourage the desired behavior. For example, if your child refuses to eat vegetables with dinner, create a log that tracks compliance with trying at least 3 bites of the non-preferred food. Upon completion of the bites, the child can get a sticker, equating with a long-term prize at the end of the week for compliant behaviors or result in shorter-term gratification which can look like being served dessert. Identify what may motivate your child the most to get through challenging tasks and work with this to create investment towards a new mode of eating. The 3-bite rule can help the child also determine if this is truly a food they like or not as they engage with it more.
  3. Debunk negative thinking. Chances are your child’s refusal of food is due to negative thoughts around how they perceive the food to taste or impact them. For example, if a child fears that a food will make them gag, taste disgusting, or make them sick, it would make sense that they would want nothing to do with these foods. The fact of the matter is, there may be limited to no evidence supporting these interpretations so it is important to challenge or debunk this negative thinking. If the child asserts that they don’t like broccoli, inquire about what they believe will happen to them if they eat it. Will they gag? Will they dislike the taste? Will it make them sick? Likely, they will report they just won’t like the taste. If that is the reality, this is a small problem that they can overcome with practice, perseverance, and supplemental positive thinking. Thinking that broccoli is just “ok” but nothing bad will come as the result can facilitate easier engagement and consumption with the non-preferred food item.
  4. Pair foods together. No one says that a meal will only consist of just preferred or just non-preferred foods so it is important to teach balance This can look like pairing favored foods with non-favored foods to emphasize this point; incorporating chicken nuggets with vegetables or fruit instead of French fries or dipping peanut butter and apples together can make unpleasant foods more pleasurable.
  5. Model. Model. If you want your children to get healthy foods and interact with a balanced plate so do you! Align with your child and demonstrate for them that these foods are good and good for you.




NSPT offers Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)  and Nutrition 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!