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It’s a Sensory World

So I was that kid, the clumsy kid, shins always bruised, chewing on my shirt sleeves, always grubby. I didn’t learn to write my own name until I was in year 2. I can remember begging my best friend to tell me how to spell it just one last time. I promised I would remember it this time ….

My memory of my preschool is the scratchy hessian under our sheets on the cots we used for nap time.

In year 5 I changed schools and went suddenly from the bottom of the class to the top of the class. I ultimately graduated high school with Dux in 2 subjects and an excellent result allowing me to attend an excellent university in the degree of my choice.

The new school had far fewer resources, in fact, the teacher was absent for most of the year and was replaced by volunteers. There was no playground, a sad comparison to the extensive, age-appropriate, multi-level playgrounds of my previous school, so large it seemed like parkland to my small eyes. The new school’s playground was the car park of the church built beside the school.

In reflection, the only thing I could identify that changed in my favour was the school uniform. My previous school was a private ladies college and our uniform included a tie, beret, and a blazer. All irritating and scratchy. Wearing the tie meant I spent much of the day feeling like I was choking. The new school had a loose cotton dress and I flourished.

There’s many stories I could share with you of how the different way my body seemed to process sensory information impacted on my life, how I would carefully select the pen I used in high school because of how it felt on my fingers when writing, how if the edge of the bed sheet came up and exposed the mattress I couldn’t sleep. How I cut open the neck on the brand new skivvies that my mother had brought me (that went down well you can imagine!)

As I grew older and wanted to fit in I experimented on myself and trained myself to wear sunglasses standing in the kitchen in front of the microwave timer ticking down until I had worn the glasses for 30 seconds, then building up eventually to 5 minutes when I felt I could then continue to increase the time without the timer. I gradually learnt to tolerate wearing a hat and how used an odd strategy involving jelly and green peas (it’s a long story!) to learn how to swallow tablets when I was a university student.

How even as an adult a ticking clock or drip would keep me awake for hours, how smelling the artificial air purifier at my workplace felt like someone had physically hit me in the face every time it sprayed and caused migraines by the end of the day.

How I decorated my apartment with white walls and cream curtains because my workplace was so visually over stimulating my eyes felt like they were aching when I got home. How the skin on the back of my hands used to irritate me when I typed.

Now I work with young children who experience similar differences in the way their bodies take in and interpret the complicated symphony of sensory input that washes over us daily.

The difference is I can see how in so many instances these sensory processing differences have been an advantage. Sensitive hearing, sensitive smell, sensitive tastes would have protected my family or my tribe from many calamities in a simpler time.

The heavy work of the lifestyle we lived not that long ago would have dulled some of the sensitivity I was feeling, things like carrying armloads of wood, carrying buckets of water, digging in a garden, using a washing board or a mangle during laundry. Now in our push-button, largely sedentary world there is little “heavy work” that might take the edge off my over active tactile system.

That being said I can without much reflection identify a few practical things this has helped me with including this such as I am always able to detect when food is just about to start to burn, have saved many meals and in a few instances I have adverted a fire (Not my cooking!)

I can hear the electrical hum in devices and know they aren’t turned off (in a time before modern switchboards this could have been a lifesaver).

I am always the first person in the room to hear and react to the baby crying, I have saved people from drowning by being able to spot the change in the visual pattern of the swimmers while working as a lifeguard and swimming teacher.

I won a competitive job application based on my visual processing skills, I have found so much money dropped on the floor over the years it’s ridiculous!

These differences have been a major advantage in so many instances in my life. I remember when I realised not everyone saw everything the way I did and I walked into a room choosing to ignore things and wondering how it felt to live like this all of the time.

To the parent who is worried about their sensory child, I would say, it’s not necessarily the sensory stuff that’s the issue so much as anxiety and the self-esteem your child has that has the biggest impact on them.

I can remember walking home from work one day as an adult and I decided, I made an active decision to be confident. This was after a lifetime of not knowing why everything seemed that much harder for me compared to other children.

I was fortunate to stumble by accident into occupational therapy after I had finished my undergraduate degree. After completing the master’s degree again it was fortunate that my first job was with a clinic that sent me to complete post-graduate training in sensory processing disorder.

That was when I finally saw I ticked all the boxes for sensory processing disorder (SPD) 2 years later when I was at a conference to learn a treatment protocol for sensory sensitivity and followed it strictly myself and I saw and felt the change in myself.

Unfortunately, sensory processing disorder is not yet officially recognised in the diagnostic manuals this means that research into treatments is poorly funded.

Understanding of just how many children and adults experience the world in this slightly different way is poorly understood and both children and adults who have these differences are left with vague a sense of there being something wrong or different but not really being able to put it into words.

So, parents, I will tell you that if your child has sensory sensitivities it does improve as they get older largely because as you get older you have choice and control.

You can provide this to your child now.

My wardrobe consists primarily of brushed cotton fabrics. Fortunately, now more clothing companies are producing clothes without tags and even seamless clothes.

Allowing your child to make decisions such as which scent for shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste (they even have taste free now), fabrics for clothes can greatly help your child by allowing them to chose which is more easy for them to tolerate. I have noticed many people find artificial scents difficult to tolerate, not just people with sensory processing differences. I have found quality natural scents such as essential oils easy to tolerate in comparison to air fresheners or laundry detergent fragrances.

Providing choices to your child doesn’t have to be a major chore. Once you know your child’s preferences for things like toiletries and fabric styles it will get easier.

If your child is sensitive to sound there is a lot you can do. For example, use a digital clock in your house, turn off all devices that aren’t being used at the wall. Remember just because you can’t hear it doesn’t mean your child can’t hear it.

Just knowing that your child’s experience of the world is a little different – a little more or less like your experience can be helpful. Your child’s self-esteem can be built to encourage them to participate in things that interest them and build on their strengths. Additional support to overcome challenges and achieve their individual goals can help them to keep up with their peers.

This is my personal experience. Every child’s experience of the sensory world is going to be different.

If you think you or your child might have differences in the way they take in or process sensory information that is impacting on their development or learning I encourage you to contact the Occupational Therapy Association in your area. They will be able to provide you with a list of occupational therapists practising in your area.

If you would like to read more about this topic you can see my #SensoryAwareness series over at www.otworld.com.au

If your child school-aged child is experiencing meltdowns and tantrums you can access my free short course at www.sensorymadefun.com/freecourse

Coffee as Self Care

On just about any mother’s group or social media page you will see memes and jokes about wine and coffee time. We are all joking about surviving on caffeine during the day and drinking wine to relax (to wind down so we can sleep) at night.

While we are all joking about our caffeine addictions I want to ask you, can you actually name one truly nourishing thing you have done for yourself today? This week? This month?

Self care for mothers is often a major challenge. Now when I say “mother’s” I’m an occupational therapist, we like to talk about roles so if you’re in the “mother” role this includes you!

When you find yourself grabbing that lukewarm coffee, chugging it down and call that “me” time, we have a major problem. I’m a mum of 4. I am in the lukewarm cup of tea/coffee stage. I get time to make it but most of the time there’s not even time to sit down and drink it. When it comes to self-care it’s a “what’s that?” response for the most part. It’s hard to get to the bathroom on your let along have some peace an quiet for meditation or reading or any of the other things I’d like to make time to do.
Nourish your soul

I have 4 children. I have to make a conscious decision to model to my children how they can perform the role of “parent”. Does that mean overworking myself until I am left in a state of loneliness and exhaustion? No. If I model this how will my children become parents who practice self-care?

Self care can be uncomfortable like going for your dental check up, pap smear, or having that uncomfortable conversation where you establish a much needed boundary in your life.

So for those overwhelmed parents out there; I ask, “What do you believe self care would look like for you?” I’m going to share some aspects of self care that come up for me as a mother of 4 young children.

Eating nourishing foods? How can I make that easy? Is there a way I can do some preparation in advance? Is there a way I can make shopping easier? Do I have long forgotten devices in the cupboard that make meal preparation, fresh food storage or cooking easier or faster?

Being outdoors in nature? Where can I go? When can I go? If you are in an apartment is there a park you can visit? If you literally can’t find a garden or park put some pot plants on your window sill it’s a step in the right direction. Book it into your schedule weekly, daily if possible. If nothing else making sure you are exposed to some sunlight each day can help you feel good.

Social contact? Having social connections with your community is essential for well being. This includes those loose connections between people that just recognise you. Humans need in-person contact, not just contact over social media. If you work from home you may need to build going out into your community as a way of building these connections. Volunteering can be a great way to build a connection with your community.

Bathing? If you’re in a stage of your life where your feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed even managing to have a shower or bath can become a major challenge. You may need to put it on your to do list, you may find playing music helps, setting a time limit — just one minute then I’m done and build it up to the time frame you enjoy.

Clean House? Cleaning as self care? Really? You ask. Some studies have been completed that have shown reducing clutter helps improve mood. Minimalism may not be for you but having a cluttered messy house is overwhelming. Setting a cleaning routine can be helpful so you don’t have to think about it as much. Flylady.com greatly helped me when I first moved out of home and had to start learning how to manage my own home. I really love how she says, “you can’t clean clutter”.

If you’re feeling really overwhelmed in this department you may find great pleasure in hiring a cleaner and using that time to do some other self care tasks like cooking a meal ahead, exercising, calling a friend, reading a great book or something you’ve been putting off for a while (we all have that mental to do list)

Journaling? It might be as simple as writing down your mental to-do lists, or writing down all your worries and tearing up the paper. I have been completing a quick daily gratitude exercise over the last 2 months and I have found it immensely beneficial and it helped me keep things in perspective.

Music? We all have our favourite songs that make us laugh or cry, making time to listen to music can be a great way to boost your mood but often we get so busy we forget to enjoy this simple pleasure.

Exercise? This is my biggest challenge personally. As someone who is always trying to do multiple things at once I like to walk for errands, but going for a walk around the block? I find that uninspiring, that’s where music can help, YouTube has thousands (if not more) exercise videos. For me personally I love the fun of going to a boxing for fitness class, they have great music, I get social connection with the other class regulars and the instructor and of course it’s a great workout.

Is there any way you can make including exercise in your day any easier? Sleeping in your yoga gear? Having a packed gym bag in your car?

Exercise is essential, we all know that, but it greatly boosts your mood and when completed at the right intensity for your fitness level has massive health benefits. Talk to your GP about what exercises would be appropriate for you, especially if it’s been a while or if you have health conditions.

Sleep? Mother’s often talk almost competitively about how little sleep they get. It is taken for granted that a new baby will be disrupting sleep but older children wake during the night too. Many parents find that it’s been years since they slept through the night uninterrupted.

Chronic sleep deprivation can affect your mood, it has health effects too. While there isn’t a lot we can do about the young people in our lives waking us up we can develop evening habits that promote sleep for both them and ourselves.

Exercise can help with sleep but you may find exercising different times of the day helps you sleep while another time of the day wakes you up and makes it difficult for you to fall asleep. So it is worth experimenting with the timing.

Some people find a bath before bed helps them sleep, others report a cool bedroom helps.

Avoiding screen time in the evening is one habit. Easier said than done I hear you say! Audiobooks, music, games (not on a device but actual games), reading is a nice way to unwind without losing hours of time on a device.

There is now some technology to help reduce the effects of the screen light on sleep and over time this will no doubt continue to improve however this does not reduce the mental stimulation that occurs when accessing social media, doing online shopping or checking emails. Sleep experts repeatedly encourage people to leave their devices out of the bedroom.

Meditation or breathing exercises can help you fall asleep. If you find you are unable to fall asleep regularly I would recommend speaking to your GP who may recommend different options, for example, counselling, based on the possible causes.

Difficulty sleeping? This is where that over reliance on caffeine to get through the day really starts to take effect. If you have difficulty winding down and falling asleep in the evening, cutting back on that coffee and switching to a herbal tea or a cool glass of water could greatly help you. I know on the days when I’ve had too many coffees I have trouble getting a good nights sleep.

Having an evening routine that helps your children and yourself get a good nights sleep can be the simplest and best self-care you could do in your day.

I invite you to ask your self some questions about your self care. Are there things you are missing in your life? Can you identify some ways you can make it easier for these things to happen? Do you have something you look forward to in your life? Can you make self care on the “path of least resistance”? I encourage you to see how you can make self care easier to do in your day.Nourish your soul

Strategies to reduce the “clean up your bedroom” meltdown

IMG_5106Breakdown this task into small steps then attempt one step at a time.

Things can easily seem very overwhelming for children when they are asked to complete a task. They don’t have the ability to stand back and put things into context. When asking your child to clean their bedroom, this can seem like an insurmountable obstacle to some kids. It can feel overwhelming to adults too looking at all the mess that can accumulate.

So we are just going to do one swap Instead of giving one instruction “clean up your room” x10 we are going to break it down into steps 1. “Pick up your clothes”.

Once this is done then give step 2.

“Put your clothes in the laundry basket”.

After each step stop and acknowledge what they did, “you picked up your clothes That’s a great step! Now lets look, what’s next? It’s time to put them into the laundry basket.”

You can give your child a time limit, there are visual timers that make tracking time easy and fun for children who can’t yet understand time. Playing a song and doing the task until the song ends is another good way of creating a time limit for a task. If your child loves playing with your phone allowing them to set a timer on the phone can be helpful. So they know how long they will be completing the task for, this can help reduce their resistance.

This step-by-step, time limited strategy is a non-judgmental way of stepping through a task that actually does have many mini steps. It helps reduce distractions. How many times have you asked your child to clean up and come back to find them playing with their toys in the middle of their mess?

You are breaking one big overwhelming task into steps. You are building self-care skills for life and developing your child’s independence.

If you find your child struggles to complete daily tasks like this I recommend taking photos of each step and make a visual support for them.

It might be easy to do this for your child but you’re teaching them how to complete a complex task, how to break a big job into do-able steps, how to take care of their things, how to take pride in their work. You are giving them skills for life.

 

For more tips on reducing meltdowns and tantrums so your child can get back to having fun in their life, I have created a free course: https://sensorymadefun.com/free-three-video-course/

 

#autism #sensoryprocessingdisorder #anxiety #spd #understandingspd #neurodiversity #spdawareness #autismawareness #SEN #inclusion

 

#adhd #sensoryplay

#sensoryprocessing #sensoryintegration #occupationaltherapy #diversity #tolerance #childhood #gifted #meltdown #coping

 

#visualschedules #socialstory #socialstories #visualstories

#tantrum #clumsy #breathe #justbreathe #breathewithme #paediatricOT #executivefunction #kidsplay #empowerdplay #otworld

The little known sensory strategy that helps reduce the risk of meltdowns throughout the day.

My favourite word when it comes to reducing meltdowns: Proprioception

Let me explain ….

This is the sense that tells your brain what your muscles and joints are doing. This is how you know what your body is doing even when you can’t see what you’re doing. Think it’s not important? Next time you are reversing your car and you handle the steering wheel expertly to do a three-point turn … that’s proprioception. When you grab a plastic cup of water or a mug of water, do you think and make a calculation of how tightly to grab the cup or do you just reach out and grab it? This is another example of proproiception.

Giving the body this type of information is food for your brain. Our bodies were built to move, grab things, pull things, push things, lift things, jump, run, roll … while we live increasingly sedentary lives our need to move remains.

Proproceptive input is thought to be calming, help regulate the central nervous system and to reduce sensory sensitivities.

The type of activities that will help calm and regulate involve deep pressure on the muscles and joints. This can be active proprioception where your child hangs from monkey bars at the park, climbs a rope swing, does wall push-ups against a wall, plays tug of war with you. Or passive proprioception where your child relaxes and you provide the deep pressure such as a bear hug or a massage.

Including both active and passive proprioception, that is, active PLAY, into your child’s day as a daily activity just like we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner will help meet your child’s natural need for movement and proprioception.

Let me know what you think about including these fun activities in your child’s day. You can reach our Facebook Group at www.facebook.com/groups/otworld

For more tips on reducing meltdowns and tantrums so your child can get back to having fun in their life, I have created a free course: https://sensorymadefun.com/free-three-video-course/

happy smiling kid outdoor doing OK portrait green tone
happy smiling kid outdoor doing thumbs up.  portrait green tone

#autism #sensoryprocessingdisorder #anxiety #spd #understandingspd #neurodiversity #spdawareness #autismawareness #SEN #inclusion

#adhd #sensoryplay #sensoryprocessing #sensoryintegration #occupationaltherapy #diversity #tolerance #childhood #gifted #meltdown #coping

#visualschedules #socialstory #socialstories #visualstories #tantrum #clumsy #breathe #justbreathe #breathewithme #paediatricOT #executivefunction #kidsplay #empowerdplay #otworld

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Your sensory needs are essential for life

Meeting your child’s sensory needs is like giving your child a cup of water. It is essential to life. Their body relies on it to function. You can wait an hour to drink a cup of water, you can wait 2 hours, you can wait 6 hours. But sooner or later you will get to the point that you will fight for your life to get that water.
Children have sensory needs and they can often wait for an hour, some can wait for 2 hours, some children can even wait for 6 hours but at some point they will start fighting to get what their body needs. If you have ever experienced your child coming home from school exhausted and exploding now that they are in their safe place you will appreciate how their body will fight for an outlet to meet their sensory needs.
It is essential we meet our children’s sensory needs in a safe, appropriate way throughout the day. We can help our children grow to be able to self manage their sensory needs. We can support them by having communication systems that allow them to request their sensory tools, by having adults that understand and can allow them to access what they need and give them time to access their tools.
I challenge you: All children have sensory needs. Each child needs movement, touch, taste, visual, auditory and deep pressure experiences. Some children move away from experiences and seek others. Do you know which sensory tools help your child to remain calm and alert? Can your child request these tools or activities? Do they have safe access to options throughout their day in the different environments they are in? Can they access any sensory tools safely themselves?
Every child is different, if you need some support to meet your child’s sensory needs you can discuss with your occupational therapist.

For more tips on reducing meltdowns and tantrums so your child can get back to having fun in their life, I have created a free course: https://sensorymadefun.com/free-three-video-course/

#autism #sensoryprocessingdisorder #anxiety #spd #understandingspd #neurodiversity #spdawareness #autismawareness #SEN #sensorytools #sensory diet #inclusion #adhd #sensoryplay #sensoryprocessing #sensoryintegration #occupationaltherapy #diversity #tolerance #childhood #gifted #meltdown #coping #visualschedules #socialstory #socialstories #visualstories #tantrum #clumsy #breathe #justbreathe #breathewithme #paediatricOT #executivefunction #kidsplay #empowerdplay #otworld

clothing tags

Understanding SPD Series

This week we will be publishing a short series of posts addressing Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). This can present

Sensory Processing Disorger can present in a range of ways in people. Each child and adult with SPD have their own way of coping and their own pattern of differences in how their sensory system works. You may recognise some of these challenges. It is currently thought that up to 1 in 20 children are affected by SPD. (SPD Australia http://www.spdaustralia.com.au/)

Your sensory system takes in sensory information from the environment and your own body. The well-known senses: vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell are not the only senses. Proprioception – the sense of where your body is and the and Vestibular sense – processing movement and giving you your sense of balance are vital systems allowing you to function in your everyday activities. The final sense is Interoception. This little-known sense is involved in the internal regulation responses, such as hunger, feeling full, needing to go to the toilet, respiration rate, and heart rate.

People with SPD can experience differences in processing the information from one sense or multiple senses. They can be over responsive – Hypersensitive and avoid the sensory input or under responsive – Hyposensitive and they seek the sensory input.

The sensory system provides information from your central nervous system to your brain which is then processed and prioritised.

What is tolerable one day can be unbearable the next as irritating sensory inputs can compound. Thought processes can impact on how the sensation is processed. Picture the already late, stressed parent struggling to get the kids out the door when the baby spits up over their shirt and the dog gets out, making them late for school drop off and work. A child with SPD that might have the overwhelming experience of getting up, having to eat a texture that is uncomfortable then brush teeth which could cause nausea, having hair brushed that feels painful, smelling fragrances from soaps, perfumes, shampoos or deodorants can cause discomfort including headaches, having to wear a school uniform that is itchy and being overwhelmed by these feelings forgetting their lunchbox or dropping their homework and having a meltdown.

Sensory information can be overwhelming, particularly for children who have little to no control over their environment and cannot communicate their experiences. These children may not understand that their experience of the world is different from their peers and may not realise that there is an alternative way of existing and moving through the world.

A challenging sensory experience may lead to anxiety and produce a flight, fight, fright reaction in the person. These reactions are often misinterpreted as bad behaviour, tantrums, ignoring, being overly emotional, being inattentive.  A child under extreme stress may have a melt down or may actually shut down. Our bodies and minds work hard to protect us from possible threatening situations.

When there is SPD it is thought that the brain is not processing and prioritising the incoming information correctly. For example the background hum of a central air system in a school would fade into the background for most people, a person with SPD would potentially hear that hum for the duration of the class, unable to ignore it and keep their focus only on the teacher’s voice. Walking into the classroom if I mentioned the air conditioning the students would easily direct their attention to the sound and back. This ability to focus in on certain background sounds and then ignore them when they are no longer relevant is essential for attention and learning.

When you are in a crowded room, if the person standing next to you engaged in a conversation with anther person starts mentioning your name you will quickly find your attention diverted from your current conversation and turned over instead to your neighbour’s conversation. If you discover it is not you that they are talking about your mind quickly returns to your current conversation. This “tuning in” and “tuning out” happens throughout the course of the day as your body takes in the sensory inputs from the environment quickly scanning all incoming information to produce the correct response. If your child seems to ignore their name yet has been tested and found to have normal hearing and language skills they may be having difficulty prioritising that collection of sounds over the other sounds in their environment at that time. These examples are referring to sound modulation, but this skill is relevant to the other senses. Difficulty in sensory MODULATION can be exhausting and can cause significant anxiety. Difficulties with sensory modulation can affect learning and memory.

These challenges can result in additional difficulties as children may start to avoid experiences, seek other experiences and may struggle with increasingly complex demands. Emotional outbursts, meltdowns and behavioural challenges, self-esteem, and confidence can be affected.

Understanding SPD can be the first step towards helping your child.

Start to learn the signs for your child that indicates what is sensory and what is behaviour.

Provide control and choices to your sensory sensitive child where possible and safe.

Provide safe access to sensory play for your sensory seeking child.

Provide sensory play options that feel safe for your sensory sensitive child.

Heavy work / proprioceptive play such as climbing, crawling, lifting, pushing play and chores (age appropriate) can be very helpful to meet the sensory needs of our brains.

 

 

IMG_20160801_0002

Play Groups – Lithgow

We spent a lovely time this morning with the Galloping Gumnut Playgroup in Lithgow and these supported playgroups are a wonderful way for children to develop their play skills in a social group! Thank you to Galloping Gumnut for permission to share their playgroup information

Quick update: I just received this update from LINC:

LINC Community and Kids, we noticed your post regarding local Playgroups, the information on the LINC run groups is out of date, we no longer run Parenting young or the Wallerawang group.

Our schedule is, Monday 9.30am Portland central school Tuesday, 10am to 11.30am we run an Early Learners group at Cooerwull Primary hall, this group is for children with Speech and or OT needs, in partnership with the Speech Therapists and OT from Lithgow Hospital. Wednesday Supported Playgroup at Fatima Hall Bowefells 10am to 12pm. Thursday Supported Playgroup at Cooerwull Primary Hall 9.30 to 11.30 am. All our groups are free to attend. Families are asked to bring a piece of fruit for morning tea. Thanks so much for your support.IMG_20160801_0002

Apartment Friendly Water Play Ideas

Apartment friendly water play ideas

While living in a small apartment it was often a struggle to find a way to allow our children to have sensory play especially when they were so young and we didn’t have a balcony.

I would set up play inside a blow up swimming pool in the lounge room with towels down on the ground around it. The idea of the pool was that there was an edge to show where the messy play could happen. When things were going to be very messy I would even just set up the play in the bathtub.

 

Here are some little ideas for the water play:

If your child is hesitant with water play set up the water play table with a very small amount of water that you play with to show hoe it can be used. Then just gently invite your child to watch and join you when they are comfortable.

Use a cup to tip water back and forth you can add food colouring with a dropper to watch it disperse and make this more interesting.

Pour water from a bottle into another container experiment with funnels.

Poke holes in a milk or juice bottle to create a ‘watering can’ and use to shower dolls, toys, toy cars, or even water plants.

Drop food colouring  into a clear water container to watch the colour of the water change. Adding an effervescent tablet will cause lots of little bubbles.

Pour water along a path like your drive way with a water can

Use a soup spoon to scour and pour water

Cut a pool noodle in half to make a “river” and pour water along it

Use a spray bottle to spray water – you can add food colouring or liquid paint to make the water coloured. If you add paint you can do “spray painting”.

Use a syringe to draw up the water and squirt onto a target.

Use a dropper to water you magic seeds (these could be beads, seeds, rocks).

Use water pistols to shoot at a target (if you have a child that is keen on shooting things you could shoot down little arm men or less violent they can shoot an actual target image).

Water plants with a watering can (can make one from a plastic milk bottle – put one hold in handle to allow air to enter. Pierce the lid a few times to allow water to come out).

Give a doll a drink.

Bath a doll.

Wash a doll’s hair.

Give a dinosaur or any other plastic toys a drink from a “river” or “pond”

Set up a car wash complete with a sponge and car wash (detergent) to give them a really good clean.

 

If your child is sensitive to water play I suggest using smaller amounts of water, allow your child to use a tool to handle the water (such as a soup spoon or cup) and gently invite them to play while you are already playing with it. Make it look like it’s the best fun you have ever had to peak their curiosity. As you do everything you explain to them what you are doing, this will help reduce their fear while building your connection and provide opportunities to develop their language skills.

 

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Thirsty for Sensory Experiences

Meeting your child’s sensory needs is like giving your child a cup of water. It is essential to life. Their body relies on it to function. You can wait an hour to drink a cup of water, you can wait 2 hours, you can wait 6 hours. But sooner or later you will get to the point that you will fight for your life to get that water.

Children have sensory needs and they can often wait for an hour, some can wait for 2 hours, some children can even wait for 6 hours but at some point they will start fighting to get what their body needs. If you have ever experienced your child coming home from school exhausted and exploding now that they are in their safe place you will appreciate how their body will fight for an outlet to meet their sensory needs.

It is essential we meet our children’s sensory needs in a safe, appropriate way throughout the day. We can help our children grow to be able to self manage their sensory needs. We can support them by having communication systems that allow them to request their sensory tools, by having adults that understand and can allow them to access what they need and give them time to access their tools.

I challenge you: All children have sensory needs. Each child needs movement, touch, taste, visual, auditory and deep pressure experiences. Some children move away from experiences and seek others. Do you know which sensory tools help your child to remain calm and alert? Can your child request these tools or activities? Do they have safe access to options throughout their day in the different environments they are in? Can they access any sensory tools safely themselves?

Every child is different, if you need some support to meet your child’s sensory needs you can discuss with your occupational therapist

marbles in sensory play

Sensory Cheat Sheets

Sensory Processing is one of my favourite topics and as someone who grew up with some sensory processing challenges and now as a professional working in occupational therapy I always find myself loving it when the topic of sensory processing comes up!

Read more

motivation and children

Focus on Motivation

Find what is motivating for your student and incorporate this into the activities. If your student is motivated you will find they are able to maintain their attention for longer, will remember more of what you are teaching and will be better able to generalize these skills to other activities because they will have more engagement in the materials.

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Developmental Milestones diagram

Developmental Milestones

It’s challenging to set goals. Having a clear idea of where your child is up to will also be helpful when discussing their progress and your goals with your child’s therapist and teachers.

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goal setting

My Favourite Goal Setting Tool

Get started by watching our free short video on Goal Setting for Parents.

I’m definitely one of those “goals” people. I love setting goals, I love reading about how to set goals and when I get emails from Amazon there’s usually a goal book in their list of recommended books which means that even when I’m not buying books about goals I’m checking them out online!

Now I prefer to support my local library and have started buying less books (one of my personal goals!). One of the books is Brian Tracy’s Goals and I listen to the audio book version in the car. I’ve gone through all the processes of writing out the goals each day and have been able to cross out 8/10 of those goals. Still my favourite goal-setting tool hands down has to be the COPM.

That’s the OT in me! COPM is the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure. Unless you’re a fellow OT or other allied health professional I’m pretty sure you won’t have heard of this particular goal setting tool, but I want to give you a quick explanation and a link to get more information because I believe this can be invaluable in everyday life.

COPM is deceptively simple, which I love, it’s been in use around the world since 1991 and it’s available in over 35 languages! There’s a ton of research behind it and the underlying concept can be adapted to suit your own situation.

At it’s heart, the COPM asks you to look at different areas of your life – self-care, leisure and productivity. Here are some examples that could be used for a school student.

Self-care: While at school a student must be able to take off / put on school shoes, jacket, change into and out of physical education / sport clothes, open and close water bottles and snack containers, feed themselves, toilet themselves and more.

Leisure: While at school a student should be able to engage in enjoyable recreation and play (many will rightfully argue that play is actually in the productivity category for a child). Relaxation in-between active play, reading for leisure and enjoyment. Sports, crafts, music and art completed for enjoyment and personal expression rather than learning or skill development may fall into this category.

Productivity:  This category would include activities completed for learning and enrichment. Mathematics, language, literacy, science, social studies, arts, music, drama, and sports completed to develop knowledge and skills could be placed in this category.

This goal setting tool allows you to take in a wide range of factors when helping someone to set goals. Their age, interests, roles and responsibilities, environment, motivation, current level of skill can all be taken into account. The COPM is completely individualised. It allows you to measure performance on a task and most importantly measures satisfaction with your performance. While the COPM is a standardized test that is implemented by trained clinicians you can apply the idea behind it to goal setting in your own life.

  1. Problem Definition: What do you need to do, want to do or are expected to do but cannot currently do?
  2. Rate Importance: How important is being able to do this activity to you? Rate importance on a scale of 1 to 10.
  3. Choose Problems: Choose up to 5 of the issue that have been identified.
  4. Score Performance and Satisfaction: On a scale of 1 to 10 rate how you feel you currently perform this skill (1 is poor performance and 10 very good performance). Rate how satisfied you are with your performance on this skill (1 low satisfaction and 10 high satisfaction).
  5. Reassess: After working on the areas identified again self-rate your performance and satisfaction for each of these areas.

You can see these steps in action by jumping over to the COPM site where there are examples for each step.

You may also enjoy reading the author’s comments on using the COPM with children

set your goals

Goal setting

You have probably heard the acronym “SMART Goals”

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Time-bound

When a parent or therapist is creating goals for a child these goals should be child centred and wherever possible the child should be enabled to set their own goals.

In a school context an Individual Education Plans (IEP) is created by a team. In some instances the child will attend the meeting and will be able to contribute to the development of their education goals. Goals should always be meaningful to the child and should make a difference in their lives.

Goals must be functional and they must be measurable. O’Neill and Harris (1982) propose goals should include the following:

Who

Will do what

Under what conditions

How well

By when

Applying this to an IEP:

Who – The student’s name

Will do what – For example will sit on the carpet for 20 minutes during circle time in the classroom.

Under what conditions – Sitting on a move n’ sit cushion, with access to fiddle toy of their choice with Learning Support Assistant (LSA) seated behind the child.

How well – Student will remain seated without verbal prompting in 9/ 10 instances

By When – by the end of the first month (or give dates).

Now we’ve set the goals..

It is very important when considering goals to take into consideration “So What?” What does achieving this goal mean for the child?  What will this goal actually enable the child to be able to do? Is achieving this goal actually going to produce any meaningful change anything for the student?
In the above example: Our goal is for the child to be able to use sensory supports to enable them to participate in circle time in the classroom with their peers for 20 minutes at a time. Our “So what?” for this goal: This will enable the child to have access to the curriculum being taught at this time.

This allows the child to be with their peers in class (by reducing distracting behavior, or by reducing running from class or other applicable change).

This allows the child to be more independent by reducing reliance on the LSA to be with their class in a meaningful way.

This actively encourages the LSA to reduce their prompts to the child.

Enabling the student to self select or manage a sensory tool can be included in a separate goal in their IEP if relevant.

Reference:

O’Neill DL, Harris SR. Developing goals and objectives for handicapped children. Phys Ther.1982 ;62:295–298.

confident children

Building self-esteem and confidence

Self-esteem and confidence are major traits in individuals that affect their success. While these are a lifelong process, the foundation of it needs to be established in early childhood. Building self-esteem will allow the child to deal with difficult situations that they will encounter during their lifetime.

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anxiety and children

Managing Anxiety

Anxiety is something that exists in everyone’s life to a certain extent, and in a way it is medically known to be helpful as well. Because, anxiety helps us stay alert and be reactive to our circumstances, whether joyful or painful. However, when the anxiety reaches the stage where it overwhelms you mentally and physically, and affects your normal routine of life, you need the help of a clinical psychologist.

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