Tag Archive for: sensory integration

Are Premature Babies Delayed?

The term premature refers to any infant that was born earlier than 37 weeks of gestation. Premature births occur in 10% of all live births. Premature babies (“preemies”) are at risk for multiple health problems, including breathing difficulties, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, and delays in their gross and fine motor skills.

Premature baby

Why are babies born pre-term?

The cause of premature labor is not fully understood. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase the likelihood of premature labor: a woman that has experienced premature labor with a previous birth, a woman that is pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, etc), and a woman with cervical or uterine defects. Certain health problems can also increase the risk of premature labor, including diabetes, high blood pressure and preeclampsia, obesity, in-vitro fertilization, and a short time period between pregnancies.

What are the effects of being born pre-term?

In addition to multiple medical complications, a baby that is born before 37 weeks of gestation is at risk for developmental problems in gross motor skills, fine motor skills, sensory integration, speech and language skills, and learning. The baby may take longer to reach specific developmental milestones or need help to reach those milestones. The earlier babies are born, the more at risk they are for having delays. Each child is different as well, and no two preemies will be delayed in exactly the same manner.

If you or your pediatrician suspects that your baby is developmentally delayed, there are a variety of professionals that can assist your child in achieving his or her full potential. A physical therapist can help facilitate development of gross motor milestones such as sitting, crawling, walking, running, or jumping. An occupational therapist can help develop fine motor skills such as object manipulation, hand-eye coordination, and reaching, as well as sensory integration. Speech therapists can help improve language skills and articulation.  Consult with your pediatrician or talk with one of our Family Child Advocates to receive more information on setting up an evaluation with a skilled therapist at NSPT.

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Why Is My Child Sensitive To Clothing?

One of the most common questions that parents ask us as occupational therapists is: “why is my child sensitive to her clothing?” Or, “why won’t my child putting shirt ondaughter wear jeans?” Or, “why doesn’t my child like to wear certain shoes and socks?”.  While this may seem like an odd behavior, it is not unusual in the life of a child who has Sensory Processing Disorder. More specifically, sensitivity to clothing is very common in the life of a child who has tactile defensiveness.

Below is a breakdown of tactile defensiveness and how it relates to your child’s clothing:

  • Sensory integration is the connection between your body and your brain. It tells you where you are in relation to space (body awareness) and allows you to process everything that is happening around you (e.g. sights, smells, noises, touch).
  • Sensory hypersensitivities, such as sensory defensiveness, can either be something that a child is born with or it can occur after birth/later in life due to any stress that disrupts the nervous system.
  • Touch receptors provide information to the body in relation to pressure, texture, temperature and pain.
  • A child who processes sensory input efficiently is not overly-bothered by others that touch her or by the clothing that touches her.
  • A child with tactile defensiveness perceives tactile input as being unpleasant or threatening to her body (e.g. clothing feels irritating and bothersome).
  • Areas of sensitivity vary from person to person; however, some parts of the body are usually more sensitive than others (e.g. hands are more sensitive than back).

Overall, as chicago occupational therapists, our goal is to help children with tactile defensiveness by re-training their brains to identify and process various tactile inputs appropriately. This is done in order to best engage in age appropriate activities, which includes wearing a variety of clothing. Stay tuned for my next blog in which will summarize therapeutic activities that occupational therapists use within your child’s sessions to address their tactile hypersensitivities.

Too Loud Too Bright Too Fast Too Tight: What to do if you are sensory defensive in an overstimulating world.” By Sharon Heller, Ph.D.
Sensory Integration and the Child: Understanding Hidden Sensory Challenges. 25th Anniversary Edition.” By A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D.

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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.

3 Things To Help A Child Focus With Sensory Processing Disorder | Pediatric Therapy Tv

A Pediatric Occupational Therapist shows us 3 things that can help a child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) sit and or focus more.

In This Video You Will Learn:

  • What a weighted blanket can do
  • How a fidget toy can help your child with Sensory Processing Disorder
  • What product can help your child sit in a chair

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I am your host,
Robyn Ackerman. Today I’m standing with Lindsay Miller, a
pediatric occupational therapist.

Lindsay, can you show us three things that a child may benefit
from using who has Sensory Processing Disorder?

Lindsay: Sure. I’ve got to start off with showing you a weighted
blanket. A weighted blanket is great for kids with Sensory
Processing Disorder who need a lot of movement to function to
their maximum ability. I think using a weighted blanket is a
great option. It’s basically just a regular blanket that’s much
heavier. They can put it on their lap, or when they’re lying
down they can put it on top of themselves.

It provides a lot of deep pressure input to their muscles and
their joints, which is very calming for the body. It decreases
the amount of movement that they need so that they can sit and
do homework or play a game, or whatever it is that they need to

The next thing is a fidget toy. A fidget toy is also good for
kids who like to touch a lot of things or like to move around a
lot. It’s a really simple thing. It could be something like a
koosh ball or a stress ball. They can keep it in their pocket or
hold onto it. It’s to help them have something they can play
with and keep their hands busy while they’re doing homework or
when they’re supposed to be listening so that they can attend to
a task.

Robyn: And those are good for circle time, right?

Lindsay: Yes, great for circle time. It’s also good for when they are in
school and they need to be sitting and doing their work. They
can have something to play with while they’re writing.

Robyn: Wonderful.

Lindsay: And the other thing is a Move-n-Sit Disc. This is essentially a
plastic desk that has a textured side on one side and the other
is a little bit smoother. You put it right on their chair and it
allows them to wiggle around so that they get the movement that
they need instead of wandering away from their chair or rocking
in their chair.

Robyn: Great. Thank you so much, Lindsay, and thank you to our
viewers. And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To
subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit
our website at LearnMore.me. That’s LearnMore.me.

How To Prepare Your Child With SPD For a Birthday Party | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s webisode a Pediatric Occupational Therapist gives practical tips for a child with Sensory Processing Disorder to get the most out of attending birthday parties. To read a blog on SPD and parties click here.

In This Video You Will Learn:

  • How to prepare your child with SPD prior to the party
  • Strategies on how to calm your child down during the party
  • How to make your child feel involved at the party

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I am your host,
Robyn Ackerman, and today I’m standing with Marissa Edwards, a
Pediatric Occupational Therapist. Marissa, our viewers would
love to know how you can best prepare a child with sensory
processing disorder to go to a birthday party.

Marissa: Every child is going to be different. So different sensory
strategies are going to work with different kids, but these are
some general things that you can try out.

So, first of all, help the child to get lots of heavy work and
movement in before the party. It’s going to help their body to
feel very regulated, and it’s going to help them to participate
too. You want to talk with your child ahead of time about what
to expect at the party, what’s going to happen. It would
probably be helpful if you could get a hold of the birthday
child’s parents ahead of time and ask them what is going to
happen at the party, so that you can review all of those things
with your child, they know what to expect.

If any games are going to be played during the party, you can
practice those games ahead of time. If the birthday party is
going to take place at a venue other than the birthday child’s
house, you could take you child to go visit the venue ahead of
time, so that they can scope out the place, they can see what
the environment’s like, see what the energy is like inside the
place, and that will help them to feel prepared.

If your child does become overwhelmed at the party, you want to
come up with some strategies ahead of time so that your child
has some ideas in their head before the party of things that
they can do to help themselves calm down. One thing that they
could do is they could have a fidget with them. This can be
anything. It could be a stuffed animal. It could be like a
little koosh ball that they can play with. It could be putty,
something to just help their fingers and hands to be occupied.
It can help to calm them down.

Another thing that you can let you child know, as a strategy, is
that if they do feel uncomfortable, if they do feel overwhelmed,
they can remove themselves from the group and go to the bathroom
for a minute, just to kind of, you know, regroup themselves.
They also can know that they don’t have to participate in
everything that’s happening in the party. If they want to sit
out, that’s fine. If they don’t want to sing the happy birthday
song, because a lot of times that can be very overwhelming for
kids, they don’t have to sing with the rest of the kids. It’s

Another idea is that you can have your child help to pick out
the birthday present ahead of time. By involving them in that
process, that can create some investment with your child in
what’s happening so that once they get into that situation
which, you know the opening presents time is often very exciting
and loud, they will know what’s happening, they can maybe be
excited about having their friend open their present, which can
help them feel involved and excited.

Robyn: All right, thank you. It sounds like a lot of preparation is
needed to make these children feel more comfortable.

Marissa: Yeah, it really kind of is, and hopefully as they get older and
they get more birthday party experiences under their belt and
they know more of what to expect, it will get easier as they get
older and mature.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, Marissa.

Marissa: You’re welcome.

Robyn: And thank you to our viewers and remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To
subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit
our website at LearnMore.me. That’s, LearnMore.me.

10 Tips to Help your Middle Schooler or Teen Sit Still During a Test.

Test taking in middle school can be stressful for your child and he/she may find it difficult to sit still throughout the duration of the test. There are a number of different strategies that you can teach and provide your child to help organize his/her body for improved focus during a test.

 10 Tips To Help a Child Sit Still During a Test:

1. Eat well and sleep well on the days leaving up to the test: This will ensure the body and brain are well nourished on the day of the test.bored boy taking a test

2. Work out before the test: Getting exercise and activity can help the body and mind to focus and organize for a day’s work, particularly on testing day.

3. Take deep breaths: Prior to test day, review deep breathing techniques with your child so that he/she can exercise the deep breaths during the test. Deep breaths will help calm your child and help him/her focus.

4. Drink from water bottle: Encourage your child to keep a water bottle with a straw on his/her desk during the test. Have him/her take sips from it when he/she begins to feel antsy during the exam.

5. Fidget tools: Small items such as stress balls, rubber bands or bean balloons can be manipulated with the hands while seated at the desk during the test. .

6. ChewEase pencil toppers: An alternative to a fidget tool, the chewy pencil topper can help direct your child’s extra energy during the exam and help with concentration.

7. Wall pushes: Have your child take a break from the test to do wall pushes. Similar to push ups on the floor, place hands shoulder width apart at shoulder level on the wall and keep the back straight. Do 10 wall pushes by bending elbows and bringing the nose to the wall, while keeping the back and hips in line.

8. Use a timer or a stopwatch: This will help your child time him/herself throughout the test and know how to pace him/herself during the exam period.

9. Chair push ups during the test: Place hands on either side of the chair near the hips. Push through the hands and shoulders to lift bottom up off of chair. Do 10 repetitions.

10. Sit on large exercise ball/move-n-sit cushion: Sitting on a therapy ball or move-n-sit cushion will provide your child with controlled movement and vestibular input while seated during the test. This will aide in your child’s focus without him/her needing to get up out of the desk.

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Top 5 ways to Prepare your Child with SPD for a Birthday Party

For many children, the best part of a birthday party is running around playing with lots of friends and family, eating birthday cake, popping balloons,  tearing apart wrapping paper, and wearing party hats! However, for children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), all of these events may be extremely overwhelming and hard to take in. Below are some tips to try and make the party scene more enjoyable for everyone:

 5 Tips To Prepare Your Child’s Sensory System For A Party

1. Practice practice practice: Practice birthday party activities that may be over-stimulating for your child when at home, in a safe environment. This will best prepare them for what songs and games may be part of the actual birthday party (e.g. practice blowing up/playing with balloons; practice birthday party childrensinging “happy birthday” with the family; practice playing with party favors/horns/noise makers).

2. Talk: Talk with your child about where the party will be held (e.g. home; restaurant; community venue) and what she will be doing. When a child is well prepared about anything that will or might happen, she will feel more in control and aware of what is going to happen, and hopefully more excited to participate with their peers

3. Take a Break: Talk with your child about ways to “take a break” if he begins to feel overwhelmed (e.g. go get a drink of water, step outside with an adult for a breath of fresh air, chew a piece of gum, use the restroom, do frog jumps in an open hallway).

4. Comfort item: Help your child to choose a comfort item to bring along; if it’s small enough, he can even keep it right in his pocket (e.g. small stuffed animal/blanket; a small toy, such as a car; a squeeze toy, such as a stress ball or a balloon filled with beans/rice/sand).

5. Get involved: Allow your child to help you choose the birthday gift and/or help to wrap the gift, so that he or she feels involved and excited about the birthday process, and can help to choose a gift they feel the birthday girl/boy would like!


Kids playing Football

5 Heavy Work Activities For Your Child

Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas can be overwhelming for adults and children alike, especially children with sensory processing  disorders (SPD). Holidays entail being around a lot of family and friends, eating lots of different foods, and oftentimes getting off of a “typical” daily routine. Here are some great heavy work activities to help your child feel more regulated:

5 Activities For Children To Regulate Themselves:

1. Raking leaves: Have your child help you rake leaves in the yard or at a park nearby; once they create a sufficient pile of leaves, have your child take a big jump into the leaves to give them lots of proprioceptive input. Change up this activity a little bit by having your child log roll through the pile of leaves to provide them withKids playing Football vestibular input and helps to work on their motor planning skills.

2. Pulling wagon/stroller: After a long day full of eating and socializing, take your child outside for some fresh air by going for a walk around the neighborhood. Have your child push/pull a younger sibling in a wagon or a stroller to provide them with heavy work, and help improve trunk control and upper body strength. If there is not a younger sibling to push/pull, feel free to place household items into a wagon instead to increase the load (e.g. lots of blankets, dumbbells, balls etc).

3. Stirring recipes: Involve your child in preparing your  feast by allowing them to stir the batter and/or roll out the dough for your favorite recipes (e.g. pie crust, potatoes, stuffing, cookies etc.) Stirring resistive batter provides your child with heavy work, and also helps to work on hand and upper body strength, motor planning, and following directions.

4. Building a scarecrow: Bring out your family’s creative side by building a scarecrow together. Have your child create a cardboard scarecrow for an inside project, decorating it with glitter and puffballs. Cardboard provides a resistive material for your child to cut through, making it more of a challenge, and helping to work on hand and upper body strength. A life-size scarecrow can also be made by using old clothes stuffed with straw or crumpled newspaper for an outside project. Stuffing old clothing works on motor planning, heavy work, and fasteners depending on the clothing used (e.g. buttons, ties, and zippers).

5. Football: Fall is the perfect time of year to get outside and work on ball skills and hand-eye coordination by tossing a football around. Teaching your child the rules of football and the goals of the game help to work on following directions and being okay with winning/losing. Add resistance by having your child wear wrist or ankle weights or carry a filled backpack (e.g. folded blanket, books, stuffed animals etc). Add an extra challenge by incorporating various ways to get across the football field, such as: single-leg hops, frog jumps, skipping, and galloping; this will help your child work on motor planning, body awareness, and trunk control.


Hassle Free Haircuts For Children

For some children, hair cuts can be a stressful experience, whether it’s the first time or the twentieth. The North Shore Pediatric Therapy team of occupational therapists has  developed a list of ideas to help make those hair cut times easier for you and your child.

How To Help Your Child Get A Haircut

  • Heavy work (proprioceptive input) before the hair cut appointment to help organize your child’s body for sitting in the salon chair and tolerating the feel of the hair being moved around on the head. This can include frog jumps, bear crawls, wheel kid crying at haircutbarrow walks, climbing, lifting heavy objects or crawling over large pillows for an hour or so before the hair cut appointment.
  • Increase tactile play: Draw in shaving cream or take a shaving cream bath, have a treasure hunt in rice or beans, finger paint or use play dough.
  • Facilitate pretend play about hair cuts: Have your child glue yarn (hair) on a Styrofoam ball (head) and have him/her cut the hair on the head.
  • Social Stories: Read a story about a child having his/her hair cut so your child knows what to expect.
  • Online videos or DVDs: Have your child watch videos of kids and adults getting hair cuts.
  • Listen to music during the hair cut: Have your child listen to calming music on headphones during the hair cut.
  • No looking!: Have your child’s back towards the mirror during the hair cut. Turn him around when the hair cut is completed.
  • Allow your child to stand: If your child prefers to stand, have him/her wear a weighted vest (proprioceptive input) while standing during the hair cut.
  • Hair cuts in the shower or bath: A shower or bath may provide a calming environment for your child and he/she may prefer to have his hair cut while in the water.

Additionally, child friendly salons, like Kid Snips or Snippets, may offer appointments during quieter times, which can help with reduced sensory stimulation that typically occurs in salons.

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