Seamless Clothing for Your Sensitive Kid…

 

I love living in a state that has four seasons. I love the beach in the summer, skiing in the winter, and pumpkin lattes in the fall.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years as a therapist is that not everyone loves the change of seasons. Children with sensory processing difficulties, in particular, have a hard time adjusting to the changes.  I’ve explained to many parents over the years that their little guy with sensory processing problems doesn’t see, hear, or feel things the way we do.  Holiday lights and decorations may be too much, Halloween costumes may be too itchy or uncomfortable,  and the flowers blooming in the springtime can really affect a child’s allergies and overall behavior.

When the seasons change, I inevitably see a rise in children’s “bad days”, with parents complaining of cranky kids or tantrumming.

As an OT, I’ve worked with many parents who struggle with clothing and dressing issues with their child with sensory processing issues.  Moms are frustrated because their little one will only wear dresses  or refuses to wear underwear.  Dads complain that their child tantrums about tee-shirts and socks.  Over the years, I’ve made behavior charts, and recommended tag-less shirts and under armor.  Every child responds differently to different interventions.  One line of products that I am excited about is the SmartKnitKIDS line.

As the weather begins to get cooler, clothing will change from short sleeves to long and from light to heavy.  While this seems like no big deal to many of us, it can be very upsetting for a child with sensory processing issues.  Options that I’ve tried for students in school include compression vests, weighted vests, or weighted lap pads.  However, there are options for home, too.  Some kids don’t want to “look different” or have anything “special” for their sensory processing difficulties.  That’s what I love about the SmartKnitKIDS line.   SmartKnitKIDS offers invisible options for  underneath the clothes.  I learned about this line of products at a conference and was immediately impressed by the variety of products and the quality of the materials.   As I looked through the different options, students kept popping into my head. “This would be perfect for Grace, these socks might be good for Tommy” etc.  I know from experience that parents will try anything if it will make their child comfortable.  I left that conference ready to recommend this line of products to a bunch of parents that struggle with the morning routine, dressing, and a very limited number of clothing options.

Children with sensory processing issues often find comfort in constant firm pressure.  The Compresso-T is super soft and looks like a regular undershirt.  There are no seams and its material is designed to stay dry and cool.  The Compresso-T provides the same input as a compression vest, which can help a child with sensory processing issues feel calm and self-regulated.  And it’s invisible to the eye, so sensitive or anxious kids can get the input they need without feeling the social worry of being different.  It comes in a Bralette, too, which is perfect for tweens or young women who find the discomfort or a typical bra unbearable.

seamless bra smartknits

Socks have been the detriment to many of my parents’ morning routine.  Getting the heel in the right spot, managing seams, etc.  Socks are often the root cause of a child’s (and therefore the parents and the rest of the family’s) meltdown in the morning.  SmartKnitsKIDS seamless socks have absolutely no seam anywhere, and they are designed not bunch up or fall down.  A lot of my little ones with sensitive feet get uncomfortable if/when the socks starts to fall down.  The SmartKnitKIDS Seamless socks are made of stretchy corespun and lycra yarns,which result in a form-fitting design that “hug” little feet and help eliminate wrinkling and bunching.  My research into the design taught me that the socks are spun from the tip out, like a caterpillar spins his cocoon.  Because socks fit snugly, they won’t slip off those wiggliest toes.

 

SmartKnit kids socks

Years ago, I had one adorable little girl on my caseload who was very uncomfortable wearing underwear.   Her mom and dad were awesome about trying to accommodate her, trying to desensitize her, allowing her to wear long dresses whenever possible.  However, we wanted her to be able to wear pants and underwear on gym day, her soccer uniform, and more than two pairs of leggings.  Underwear problems were often the cause of this beautiful family struggling to get out of the house in the morning, with this sensitive little girl and her mom fighting tears over the upsetting situation.  Seamless Undies would be a perfect thing to suggest for a kid like this!  No seams, soft stretchy material, and no elastic to bother sensitive kids.

 

Seamless Undies, compression underwear, sensory processing dysfunction

 

I’m excited to announce a Give-Away from SmartKnitKIDS!

*This post sponsored by SmartKnitKIDS. All opinions expressed are mine and mine alone. For more information, read my disclaimer.

 

Miss Jaime OT

~Have A Seamless Day!

 

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How to Throw a Kids Halloween Party…Sensory Style!

sensory processing, spd, sensory recipes, Halloween slime

Autumn:  pumpkin pie, costumes, and everything else.

As an OT, I love to get into the “Halloween Spirit” of things at school with my students.  Sensory recipes are always a great way to work on multiple skills at once, including Mixing, Measuring, Pouring, Stirring, and Kneading.

Cooking is a great way to work on fine motor skills, bilateral coordination (using two hands), dexterity, and functional life skills.

 Sensory recipes are a non-edible method of working on all the above skills, which is perfect for school.

Food Allergies at Halloween

It’s important to make sure that none of your students have food allergies or aversions when you bring a Sensory recipe into a classroom. Some of my kids have gluten-free diets or nut allergies, so when in doubt, I send a letter home with the ingredients a week before the activity to get permission from the parent.  Better to be on the safe side.

Halloween parties often include lots of candy and junk food. Instead of the typical sugar overload, why not set up a bunch of fun Sensory activities to get your kid’s friends in the Halloween Spirit?

Halloween Sensory Recipes

Here are my five favorite Sensory recipes – with a Halloween spin!

1) Halloween Dirt Doh

I’ve written about this recipe before, it’s a simple recipe with used coffee grinds.  Make a large batch and it’s perfect for a Spooky Coffin!

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups used coffee grinds (wet or dry)

2 cups of water (add it little by little until you get the consistency you want)

2 cups of flour (add more if you need to make the doh a little more doughy)

I asked my local bagel store to save me all their used coffee grinds for a few days before our Halloween party.  When I went to pick it up, they had three bags full.  Perfect!  I filled an “under the bed storage” tupperware container with my ingredients.

I let my students mix it up with spoons and their hands.  Then we hid some “spooky” items in the dirt – eyeballs, fingers, and bones.  Add a fake tombstone and voila!

Now you have an awesome spooky sensory activity that addresses tactile defensiveness, hand strength, and bilateral coordination.   Also – used coffee grinds have a distinct odor.  Kids who are picky eaters usually have a strong sense of smell, which can trigger a gag reflex.  Engaging in “smelly” activities is a good way to work on desensitizing the sense of smell.   Finding things that are hidden in a busy background is a visual perceptual skill called visual figure-ground.

Add a blindfold that takes away the visual component, and now you are working on stereognosis.  Stereognosis is the ability to recognize an object by using tactile information.  This means a person uses their tactile sense without using their vision or sense of vision or hearing to figure out what they are touching.  Just like digging in your purse for your phone, while looking at something else.

sensory processing

Sensory Processing 101 is a vital resource for parents, therapists, and teachers who work with children with Sensory Processing Difficulties.

Bet you do that a lot! I know I do…

sensory recipes, halloween sensory, SPD, oobleck, slime

dirt doh, coffee grind doh

2)  Halloween Slime

A simple slime recipe can be altered a million different ways.  Add a bit of food coloring or washable paint and you can color it to fit any holiday or theme.  I used my go-to slime recipe, added a bit of orange food coloring, and gave my kiddies some cheap Halloween manipulatives to play with.

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups of Elmer’s glue

2 cups of water

2 cups of liquid starch (found in the laundry aisle)

Mix the glue and the water together to thin out the glue.  Then, slowly add the liquid starch. Mix together with a spoon, then knead with hands.  Add coloring to your liking.  Once the starch is all blended (I let the kids take turns kneading and squeezing the whole batch), split the batch into individual portions for each child.  Then the fun begins!  The texture of the slime can vary, which can alter your activity. I had one class that ended up with very “stringy” slime, which reminded us of spider webs!  Another class had very firm slime, which was perfect to make Jack o’ lanterns.  Add some cookie cutters, manipulatives, etc. and let the kids get creative!  You can even leave it white and let the kids create their own mummies or ghost faces!

 

slime, Halloween, oobleck,

slime, Halloween, pumpkin

 

3) Halloween Play-doh

– you can go simple and just buy playdoh, or you can whip some up the old fashioned way.

You can use cookie cutters to make witches, pumpkins, spiders, you name it!  I like to use a chip tray to give my kids cut up pipe cleaners, wobbly eyes, and tiny spiders.  The kids can make a Halloween creation of their own design.

spidertray, sensory activities, HalloweenHalloween playdoh, spider

 

4) Pumpkin Pie Playdoh

I am a pumpkin lover. I love the taste, but I also really love the smell! Like I said, it’s good to incorporate olfactory (smelly) stuff into your activities. It can help picky eaters to broaden their boundaries and it is a great way to incorporate multi-sensory learning into your lessons.

You can use a simple play-doh recipe and add some Pumpkin Pie Spice and some orange food coloring and you have the perfect Pumpkin Pie Playdoh!

Halloween sensory, sensory recipes, oobleck, slime

Here’s what you need to make the doh:

2 cups of flour (you can use gluten-free if you need to)

1/2 cup of salt

1 cup of water

a dash of pumpkin pie spice (a make your own recipe listed below if you can’t find it)

a couple of drops of orange food coloring or washable paint

Mix the flour and the salt together. Add the water bit by bit and keep mixing and kneading until you get a firm, doughy texture.  Add the pumpkin pie spice and the orange paint. I like to do this at the end because the kids can see where the paint isn’t mixed.  This gives them a visual cue to keep kneading, twisting and squeezing until the colors are blended nicely.

To make pumpkin pie spice:

1/4 cup of ground cinnamon

4 tsp. ground nutmeg

4 tsp. ground ginger

1 tbs. ground allspice

This results in quite a bit of pumpkin pie spice – you can half it if you want, but I love to keep it around and use it to flavor my coffee. Add a teaspoon to your regular coffee grinds and you’ve got some fabulous pumpkin flavored coffee.  Who needs Starbucks!? Budget Divas make their own!

sensory processing, sensory recipes, spd

The Sensory Processing 101 Bundle sale ends Oct 31, 2017!

 

5)  Ghost Guts

My kids got a giggle out of this one!  I took a simple sensory recipe and gave it a Halloween name.  It went great!

Here’s what you need:

2 parts corn starch

2 parts shaving cream

You can give each kid a bowl or make it in one big batch.  I made it in a big Tupperware bowl and let my kids do the mixing.  I also hid some little white bones and spiders in there for my kids to pull out. They loved it.

ghost guts

 

I hope your Halloween party is a smashing sensory success!

Do you have any great Halloween Sensory Recipes to share with us?

Miss Jaime OT

Happy Halloween! ~Miss Jaime, O.T.

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Resistance band, Handee band, strengthening games

Easy Classroom Strengthening Games

Strengthening is easy to include at school

One of my favorite exercises to do with both adults and kids is resistance band. There are dozens of ways to use resistance band to improve strength, balance, posture, and coordination. One problem that I often encounter with children is that they can’t figure out where to put their hands during the exercises.  Even if I start them off in the right spot, their hands slip too far down for correct positioning.  So I was thrilled to find the Handee Band, a yellow resistance band with two hand prints in the perfect spot for little hands.

 

Handeeband

The stand-up easel book is easy to flip and utilize for kids, teachers, and parents!

An easy “Brain Break” and it strengthens, too!

I discovered the Handee Band at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conference Expo.  I was excited about the hand prints on the band, but I was even more  psyched about the Handee Band booklet with exercises, stickers, and checklist for the kids to check off what exercises they’ve done.  It’s so easy to use and it’s perfect for a quick brain break, warm-up, or transition activity.  Kids love to move, and the Handee Band flip book and resistance band is a fun easy activity that a teacher can use throughout the day.  Teachers often ask me for ideas or materials for kids that “can’t sit” during circle time, etc.  I am definitely adding the Handee Band to my bag of tricks.

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The checklist is dry-erase, making it easy to use to track the whole class or an individual child. Just erase and use again next time!

resistive band exercises, handeeband flip book

Each monster features a different exercise, making it fun and easy to perform each activity.

My mind immediately started spinning about all the games and activities I could create for my classroom push-ins.  In the past, I’ve also created homework programs so that the parents of my kids could work on strengthening and fine motor skills at home.  The parents and the kids have always responded really well. Of course, I started brainstorming right then and there about the homework program I could create with the Handee Band.

This is a sponsored post, which means that I was provided with materials in order to write this post and put all my ideas into play. However, all of the opinions and ideas expressed in this post are mine and mine alone.  For more info, read my disclaimer.

motor homework program, Handee band

The flipbook includes an easy zip-up bag to hold the resistance band and dry erase marker. Easy to store and easy to transport!

 

About the Handee Band:  The Handee Band exercise kit was created by an Occupational Therapist named Francesca Avalli.  The booklet explains 15 different exercises, each with its own cartoon monster.  Each page lists the name of the exercise with simple, easy-to-read directions to ensure that teachers and parents are helping their students to perform the exercises correctly. The booklet is a stand up easel which makes it is easy for kids to flip over the pages.  It also has two checkoff pages in the back, so kids can visually track and match the monsters with the days of the week.  The checkoff and dry erase marker are perfect for keeping track of how many reps of each exercise the child performed.  I also find that when kids are figuring out how to do the exercises with the bands, they are working on their  motor planning skills and their ability to follow directions.

Handee band classroom games

Using the Handee Band for  Classroom Strengthening Games:

The Handee Band exercise kit works great all by itself. It’s easy for a parent, teacher, or therapist to use the book or the E-book.  Extra bands are available for separate purchase  for as little as $5 so that there is enough for each child.  Once I bought the Handee Band, I started using it right away.  However, I am a little crazy that I like to change things up and give the kids “something different” when I push-in.  The stickers in the Handee Band booklet are perfect for creating classroom games and activities.  The Handee Band is also available in 5 or 10 packs, which is perfect for working in groups or with a class.  You can buy extra stickers, too. They’re my favorite! So here are some of the games I  came up with…

The kit includes a flip book with different exercises, a "Handee Band", and a dry erase checkoff sheet and marker.

Get 15% off until May 31st, 2018

Use the Promo Code: MISSJAIMEOT

1) Handee Band Memory 

I love to combine gross motor exercise with visual perceptual skills.  Memory is a classic game that can be played individually or with a small group.  I  decided to create a “Handee Band” Memory game using the Handee Band Monster stickers.  Each Monster has a Character name under his picture.  I decided to adapt the game by having one version with the picture of the monster on one card  and the name of the character on the other card.  This was perfect for my 3rd grade self contained class.  I made a simpler, more classic version for my self contained Kindergarten class.  Both versions were a hit! And, after I played the game with the kids a few times, they grew familiar with which exercise each Monster represented.  I was able to leave the game and the Handee Bands for the teachers to use as a warm up or a sensory break.

Classroom strengthening OT

Instructions:  Like the classic memory game, with a twist.  A child attempts to find two cards that match.  When any child in the group makes a match, ALL the children do the exercise that Monster represents. After the class does a set of ten, the kids get back to the next turn.

2) Handee Band Dice

Handee band dice game

My students love to play gross motor games using dice. I’ve adapted these dice from the Dollar Tree for other gross motor games in the past. So I thought, “Why not Handee Band Dice?”  Again, I used the stickers to create a simple easy game to play during class Occupational Therapy sessions.  The kids had a blast!  I was able to leave the Dice game for the teacher to use with the kids as a reward, as a sensory break, or as a quick warm up.

Instructions:  The children stand at their desks or in a circle on the rug, each with their own Handee Band.  One child picks a die and rolls it.  Whatever “Monster” the die lands on, everyone does a set of ten for that exercise.

3) Handee Band Spinner   

Handee Band Spinner

Every kid loves a Spinner!  Flicking a spinner is hard work; requiring separation of the two sides of the hand (pinky side  and  thumb side), motor planning, and dexterity.  But even when a child can’t flick a spinner, they can still swipe or hit it.  For this game, the children take turns flicking the spinner. When the spinner lands on a certain monster, the kids grab their Handee Bands and do that exercise ten times.  As the children grow stronger, the repetitions can be increased.

The rules are simple:  The children take turns flicking the spinner. Whatever “monster” the spinner lands on, the whole class does that exercise.  Then the next kid gets a turn.

4) Handee Band Class Checkoff

Handeeband checkoff, OT homework

This magnetic dry erase board is perfect to stick right on the teacher’s desk!

I loved the Dry Erase Checklist in the back of the book so much that I decided to create a larger “class wide” version for the kids to use during the Handee Band classroom games.  I used the stickers to copy the chart in the back. Again, the checklists require visual tracking and matching skills, so the kids are working on visual perception as they keep track of their progress.  I just used a plain dry erase board .  I arranged the stickers on the board and made lines so that it could serve as a Class chart.

Resistive band, Handee band homework, OT chart

My favorite thing about the chart is that the kids can use it to track the number of exercises they did. It also works on math skills, because the kids need to add by ten each time they do another rep.  In a pinch or a rush, the teacher can keep track on the board while the kids keep working.  Either way, my students love having a “chart” to represent how hard they’ve worked.  When I made the chart, I made the lines with a sharpie (permanent marker), but I wrote the initials of my kids in dry erase.  This way, I can use it over and over for years to come!

handeeband, resistive exercises for kids

The E-Book comes with a downloadable checklist, perfect for keeping track of hard work!

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Using the Handee Band for a Homework Program:

Resistive exercise band

Kids love to show off to their parents and caregivers, but they love to show off to their friends even more!  Once the kids understand how to do each exercise, the Handee Band Kit is perfect to send home as “OT Homework”.  I have put together homework programs for my classes before in an effort to ensure carry-over into my student’s homes.  Most parents love an easy fun way to help their children grow stronger.  The Handee Band Exercise Kit is the perfect lightweight homework that kids can take turns bringing home.  OT’s and teachers can make an “O.T. Homework Chart” to keep track of whose turn it is to take the Handee Band Kit home.  My kids love to come in in the morning and put their sticker next to their name to show that they did their “O.T. Homework”.  I always include a letter to the parents explaining why the students have “O.T. homework”  and why carry-over is an important part of progress.

Strengthening Homework! What a great idea!

Handeeband homework

HandeeBand

Get 15% off until May 31st with the promo code: MISSJAIMEOT

Handee Band: Resistive Band Exercises for Kids *The Handee Band kit and E-Book are available for purchase at www.HandeeBand.com.    You can also purchase individual or class packs of the bands and extra stickers.  It’s perfect for home or the classroom!

Get 15% off till May 31st, 2018!

Use the Promo Code: MISSJAIMEOT


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Dirt Doh, sensory craft, coffee grind craft,

Y is for Yucky…

Alphabet Sensory Activities Facebook

Welcome to Alphabet Sensory Activities, hosted by The Jenny Evolution along with their partner site The Sensory Spectrum! 26 amazing bloggers have gotten together to share a sensory experience based on a letter of the alphabet every day this month. dirtdohThis post contains affiliate links.

Dirt Doh…totally yucky!  

As a contributor to the Alphabet Sensory Activities Series, I am responsible for the letter Y.  For me, the first thing I think of is  “YUCKY!”   I love to do sensory activities, especially recipes, with my class push-ins.  There are so many functional skills to work on; no matter the age of level of your students.  Stirring, Pouring, Kneading,  and Squeezing are just a few ways to work on hand strength and bilateral coordination.   Measuring, Sequencing, Calculating, and Adding are just a few ways to add Math to the Mix.

Depending on the class I am with, I like to have the children practice opening the packages, walking across the room with water from the sink, and find the measuring cups they need.  For older children, I add a math component by asking them to “double” the recipe or “half” the recipe.  If the recipe is edible, I even include daily living skills such as washing hands, setting the table, or cutting with a knife and fork.  Literally, one recipe can yield endless activities. This is one recipe that I have used in a few different ways and I am so excited to share my recipe for …

“Dirt Doh”

Dirt is Yucky! Therefore kids love it!  This is a great recipe that is also a “green” activity.  Used coffee grinds are the main ingredient, and you can switch up the recipe to change the consistency.

Here’s what you need:

1 parts used coffee grinds (wet or dry)

1 part water

1 part flour

Mix all the ingredients.  Add more flour if it’s too wet.

I’ve used this recipe in October to make a Halloween “coffin” filled with “dirt”, bones, fingers, and eyeballs. I’ve also used it in the spring as science lessons to talk about how flowers grow and how bugs live.  And worse comes to worse, just make “mud pies” because it’s fun!  Dirt Doh is so versatile!

Dirt doh, coffee grinds, sensory play

Using “dirt doh” as a spring sensory activity while learning about how flowers grow and how bugs live.

Coffee coffin, Halloween sensory

Using “Dirt Doh” to fill an under the bed storage container to make a “coffin” in October to dig for eyeballs, bones, and other Yucky stuff.

Strength, dirt doh, coffee doh

Using “dirt doh” to work on hand strength and bilateral coordination just because its fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirt is “yucky” and kids love “Yucky!!!

If you like Dirt Doh, please make sure to check out the rest of the Alphabet Sensory Activity Series on the Jenny Evolution.com.

sensory processing

Sensory Processing 101 is a vital resource for parents, teachers, and therapists who work with children with Sensory Processing difficulties.


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Miss Jaime OT

Have any other “yucky” recipes for us? Please share!                   ~Miss Jaime, OT

coping spd

Coping With Sensory Processing Dysfunction (SPD): A Young Woman’s Personal Story of Survival

Foreword from Miss Jaime, O.T. :

A few months ago, I came across a post in a Facebook support group that really moved me.  It was written by a young woman who has Sensory Processing Dysfunction (SPD).  She praised and encouraged the stressed out, besides-themselves-with-worry parents who often use the forum to ask questions, vent frustrations, and just seek support for their sensory kid.  I’m sure she didn’t realize what a comfort she would be offering these parents when she wrote it.

She just wanted to tell them that they were doing a great job and that her parents had been the ones to help her to with coping with SPD.  The responses from the parents; however, were amazing.  They seemed to cling to the hope that they were doing the right thing for their child and that their child would be okay despite the day to day struggles that they were dealing with.  As I read the comments that started pouring in for this woman, I was struck by the fact that these parents were so grateful.  They were grateful for the praise and the support from a young woman who had been through all of these day to day struggles and survived.

Not just survived but prevailed.  I reached out to Abby to ask her to write a guest post for my website.  What she has written is one of the most moving and inspiring stories I’ve ever read. For a young woman of 17 years, she is wise beyond her years.  Her story is a touching tribute to what it really feels like to have Sensory Processing Dysfunction.  Thank you, Abby for sharing this personal story.

Disclaimer:  This post is a personal story written by a young woman with Sensory Processing Dysfunction.  This is not meant to imply that you or your child will experience these struggles. Sensory Processing Dysfunction affects people in many different ways.  Please contact your physician for more information or go to https://www.spdstar.org/basic/understanding-sensory-processing-disorder to learn more

Guest post from Abigail Ralstin:

Coping with Sensory Processing Dysfunction: The Struggle from Childhood

It’s no secret that adolescence is a difficult time for most people, and the same is true for myself. My story is not meant to invoke pity or awe, I am nothing extraordinary and I know that. I have had a life much better than some, and much worse than others. My experiences have shaped me into the young woman I have become, and I wouldn’t change them for anything, despite having nearly not made it out of a few hardships. Most anyone who knows me knows I’m not like the people around me in a few particular ways. My entire life I’ve been called the drama queen, and it’s true. I’m passionate to a fault, I feel incredibly too much, and sometimes I have to hide from the world in order to feel okay again. I’m sure my quirks are somewhat just part of my personality, but what very few people know about me is that at times I genuinely cannot control my emotions or reactions. It’s not just an “Abby thing,” as my friends would put it. It’s a medical condition not many know of.

 

Coping with Sensory Processing Dysfunction

The first time I heard the words “Sensory Integration Dysfunction” I must have been six years old, or thereabouts. It was always just something I’d been diagnosed with as a child, I paid no mind to it, never connected my little quirks with an actual diagnosis. My parents, however, understood that wearing my socks inside out or my abnormally intense tantrums weren’t just who I was, it was this obscure disorder I had. From an early age they knew I was different. I’m sure they knew I’d struggle more than an average child, and I did. I don’t remember my childhood as vividly as they do, for obvious reasons, but I remember being affected by Sensory Processing Disorder; then called Sensory Integration Dysfunction. I used to be late to school because I would throw fits over my shoes feeling too tight, or my undergarments feeling itchy, as embarrassing as that is. I spent my childhood as a relatively happy child when at home, despite the itchy socks. School, however, was never good for me. Academically I suppose I’ve always been above average, not to toot my own horn, but socially school was always a necessary evil. Throughout elementary school, I was bullied, for various reasons, but one, in particular, I remember relating directly with SPD. As a child, up until I was about ten or so, I never wore jeans. I always wore skirts or dresses, specifically because jeans set my nerves on edge for whatever reason. Tight clothing, in general, was never my friend as a child. Anyway, apparently my never wearing jeans bothered some of the kids I went to school with and suddenly I was the new form of entertainment. It wasn’t all bad, I had a few friends here and there, but they always seemed to be very abusive friends. Never respectful or just nice, it always seemed that I had done something wrong. Little did they know, I honest to God could not help the things they found so odd about me.

Coping with Sensory Processing Dysfunction

 

 

Coping with Sensory Processing Dysfunction in High School…

Fast-forward a few years and a lot of awkward, puberty related incidents, and I was finally entering high school. Freshman and sophomore year were probably the most difficult years of my short life, and not for the normal, teenage reasons. Along with being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, as well as the SPD, I was faced with entering an entirely new territory. Genius that I am, I also chose this time to come out to my friends and family, and consequently the entirety of the town, apparently. Small towns, huh? Right, so; incoming freshman, queer kid, depressed, anxious, and scared out of my wits. Great way to start high school. Long story short, it didn’t go well.

(Please let it be known that I am not bringing attention to these details for any personal gain or to get anyone’s pity. I’m sure it may seem that none of this can relate to SPD at times, but I promise it will make sense in the end. These events in my life, the choices I made, are not something I am proud of. However, I believe they are necessary aspects of my story, which is why I’ve included them. Additionally, the next section may be a trigger for anyone who has dealt with addiction, depression, anxiety, or self- harm.)

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Coping with Sensory Processing Dysfunction

As stressed and alone that I felt, I started a very bad habit. I turned to self-harm as a form of escape, per se. I fully believe that my struggle with this habit, addiction really, is directly related to Sensory Processing Disorder. That’s not to say that all kids with SPD are going to turn to something like this, of course not. I suppose it was just my incredibly unhealthy way of coping with my senses, both mental and physical, being entirely too stimulated. Unfortunately, after some time, the depression and self-harm led to multiple suicide attempts. I won’t get into the details, because they’re not something I’d like to relive, nor something I believe anyone would like to hear. What I will say is that even the most recent suicide attempt relates to my diagnosis.

The effects of SPD are not only physical but emotional as well. For me, the emotional aspect probably affects me most seriously. When I love, I love so much it’s almost too much. When my heart breaks, it can seem like the end of the world if I don’t regulate what I’m feeling. At this point in my life, I did not know how to control my emotions, what I was feeling the night I made the decision to end my life was very real and very intense. My entire life my emotions have always seemed too much as if they were a burden. I have felt many emotions very intensely, but I can honestly say the night I made this decision was the worst instance in which I have ever been overcome with emotion. If you don’t struggle personally with SPD, or maybe you aren’t affected by the emotional aspect, imagine the worst emotional pain you have ever felt. Now, imagine sitting in a dark room with that emotion for hours letting it eat away at you. Now, imagine that multiplied by ten. That’s what I was feeling that night. Thankfully, I was found and taken to a hospital before my heart stopped.

Coping with Sensory Processing Dysfunction – Two years later…

Two years after my last suicide attempt and a week spent in an inpatient facility, I am the healthiest and happiest I have ever been. Thanks to multiple forms of therapy and an incredible support system, I am two years self-harm free. I’ve learned to control my emotions, more or less, and I now know how to handle it when my SPD acts up. As weird as it is, I never actually made a conscious connection to SPD and my previous hardships until very recently. A few months ago, I took to the internet and decided to search SPD and it’s the connection to the diagnoses I had as well as my struggle with self-harm. The internet isn’t the best resource obviously, but after a lot of research, I found multiple connections to so many of the things I’ve struggled with. I found articles about how SPD can truly affect my emotions, how it can be connected to self-harm through stimulation, how many other people with SPD also struggle with depression. I can’t begin to explain how excited I was, I’ll admit to even shedding a few tears. It was like after so long of feeling misunderstood and wrong, it all made sense. Maybe all the things people thought were just “Abby things” were things I really couldn’t help. After all of this self-discovery though, I realized there was something else missing. It came to mind that I had never once talked to another person with Sensory Processing Disorder, which kind of sucked, honestly.

So, I took to the internet again. More specifically, facebook, and I found a group for people with Sensory Processing Disorder. Reading through the posts was a feeling like no other, seeing other people dealing with the same things I thought were just quirks was incredible. So, I decided to make a post praising and encouraging all the parents on the page trying their best to help children going through a lot of the stuff I did. The response was extraordinary, my mom and I read through the wonderful comments with tears in our eyes. I think the most important thing I’ve learned throughout this crazy journey, though, is this: no matter what you’re going through, no matter how alone you feel, and no matter how much you feel like giving up there is always someone out there who understands and wants to help you. I spent so many years thinking there was something wrong with me and feeling like it would never get better, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I just couldn’t feel anymore.

 

Now, though, I know who I am. I know that SPD is a part of me and it always will be, and even if it feels like a burden sometimes, it’s part of what makes me unique. I may feel too intensely, but that makes me passionate, it makes anyone who receives my love incredibly lucky. I may seem too much to handle to the wrong people, but to the right people I am so important. I may not be able to wear those shoes I liked or that dress I wanted because they don’t feel right on my body, but there are other shoes and dresses. For every burden it seems that comes with this diagnosis there is always a gain, and I hope that if anything comes from my life, it’s that I’m remembered as someone who could always find an upside in the face of adversity. Most of all, I hope whoever is reading this can realize how incredibly special they are. This disorder is not an easy one to face. I’m sure there are many more obstacles to come my way, but I am better because of the challenges I’ve faced and I promise you that you will be too.

sensory processing disorder, SPD, sensory issues, sensory teens, MissJaimeOT, Miss Jaime OT


About Abigail Ralstin:

Coping with SPD, SPD and Suicide

Abigail Ralstin is a 17 year old student in Indiana. She has grown up with SPD and continues to educate herself on her diagnosis as often as possible. Abigail will start her senior year of high school in the fall and hopes to attend Ball State University in the fall of 2016. She plans to study Zoology and hopes to work at a wildlife rehabilitation center in the future. Along with her studies, Abigail plans to continue to write about her own experiences as she moves forward in her life. Abigail owes much of her success in overcoming her hardships to her wonderful parents, Tammy and Danny, and an incredible support system through her friends and family.


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Sensory Processing 101 is a vital resource for parents, therapists, and teachers who work with children with Sensory Difficulties.

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hair pulling

Ask Miss Jaime OT: How do I stop my child from pulling/playing with hair at naptime?

 

Hair pulling during nap time…

Question from Jamie  in Naples, Florida:

“Hey Miss Jaime! Wondering if you have any sensory ideas to keep my daughters hands busy. She will be three in April.  She would always play with her hair when she was tired and during self soothing before bed, but it’s escalating to some pulling of her hair at school during nap time out of boredom I believe since she will no longer take naps. I suggested giving her books to read, but is there anything else you would recommend?”

Replace the behavior…

Thank you so much for taking the time to write in. Most children (and adults for that matter) have habits or self soothing behaviors that they find calming. Using her hands to play with her hair seems to be your daughter’s way of relaxing. Books are a good idea, but if your daughter is seeking sensory input, you may want to give her a tactile toy or blanket to replace the hair habit.   You could also try pulling her hair back for a while so there is nothing to play with (if it is long enough!)   Here are some cute tactile blankets and toys that might help.  I listed some “Taggies” products, but there are some popular fidgets and sensory products as well.  Good Luck!  I hope it helps!

 

*Affiliate Links

 Taggies Monkey Blanket

 

 

 Taggies Plush Toy, Cow

 

 Tactile Hand Fidget

 

 Pull and Stretch Ball 

 

 Stringy Play Ball

 

See-Me Sensory Balls

 

   Touchable Texture Square 

 

Slumbers Bedtime Bear

 

 

Happy Fidgeting!

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~Miss Jaime, O.T.

* I am an Amazon affiliate, which means that if you click on something that I link and purchase it, I will receive a small commission.


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Using Aerial Yoga for Kids with ADHD, ASD, and everything else!

As I’ve mentioned before, I love yoga.  Recently, I had the opportunity to observe an Aerial Yoga class for children.  After that, I just had to try an adult class myself.  I kind of had an idea of what to expect, but the class totally exceeded my expectations.   I practice yoga and I use it with my Occupational Therapy students all the time.  I think yoga is such a wonderful way to work on strength, balance, and coordination.  It also helps to quiet the mind and increase focus.   Aerial Yoga has all the benefits of traditional yoga, as well as the added benefits of sensory input.  Traditional yoga provides sensory input, too, but in a different way.  I am writing this blog post about my experience as an OT in both observing and participating in an Aerial Yoga class.  I recommend that you also read the post “Aerial Yoga from an OT’s perspective”  by the owner of the facility, who is able to give her perspective as a Occupational Therapist specializing in the treatment of Sensory Processing Disorders.   I’ve attached the link for you at the bottom of the page.

You may be wondering exactly what Aerial Yoga is.  Have you ever seen Pink do one of her performances where she sings as she hangs from the ceiling and twists, swings, and flips herself around?   Picture that! Ok , ok. I didn’t hang or twist like a rock star… but the theory is there.  And I felt like a rock star!

Lycra “hammocks” are suspended from two hooks in the ceiling.  The height can be adjusted based on the size of the person who will be using it.   The stretchy  material hangs in a “u” shape.  The material is super stretchy but also very strong, so it can support a child or adult size body midair. The instructor and staff members measured each person to make sure their hammock was the right height.   Aerial Yoga focuses on strength, balance, and coordination through different poses with the Hammock.  The children’s class that I observed was at Sensational Development in Massapequa.  There were 8 students, a Yoga Instructor and three staff members assisting the kids.  The therapists at Sensational Development are trained in Yogapeutics.    For more info on Yogapeutics, please check out the link at the bottom of the page.

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Even the room itself was cool!  The lights were dimmed and soft music was playing in the background.  The floor looked exactly like a hardwood floor, but when I looked closer I realized it was made up of foam mats!  The kids ranged in ages from about five to sixteen.  The students seemed familiar with the yoga instructor’s verbal cues and were able to follow the directions.  The music really helped to provide a calm and relaxing aura. Later, when I would get into the complex inverted positions myself, I was able to feel my body become “un–calm”.  My heart would be racing from physically exerting myself as well as whatever else I was feeling from being upside down. Somehow, the instructor Linda, knew how I was feeling too.  After the “stimulating” poses, she would go back to a relaxing, calm pose.  She called it “chill-axing”.  I loved it. She really knew how to get our bodies back to right “state”.  Not too high, and not too low: Just right. The class consisted of children of all different levels of ability or “disability”. There were children on the spectrum, children with impulsivity and hyperactivity, and children with low tone.  The instructor, Linda, had an awesome way of providing the kids with the cues and descriptions to follow her instructions.   I was amazed at how the kids were able to follow up to ten step directions to perform the different moves she was showing them.  I was also surprised at how well the staff was able to manage all of the kids.  They were all different ages and abilities!  The owner told me later that the parents have to sign up their children for the class in advance so she can make arrangements to have the appropriate staff members present based on which kids were attending.   That made sense.  No wonder everything ran so smoothly.  They had it down to a science.

Aerial yoga is one of those wonderful activities that works on a bunch of goals at once.  Here are just a few of the areas that I saw being addressed:

Attention and focus – as I watched the children adjust their bodies according to Linda’s instructions I noticed that each child had a different way of listening and attending to her words. Some of the children stopped moving and watched her quietly and others kept bouncing as though they were on a trampoline. Each child was able to control their bodies and their positions to what felt comfortable for them. In the classroom, there are children who cannot sit still and listen. But just because they aren’t sitting still and just because they aren’t looking at the teacher doesn’t mean they aren’t listening and they aren’t learning. Some children need to move more than others. And some children need to move all the time. This class was the perfect example of showing that you can still listen when you’re moving around. All of the children followed Linda’s instructions. Occasionally one of the kids would try a different move than what Linda was explaining. The staff just gently went over and redirected them to stay on task and with the class. Some children needed more direction and more physical assistance than others.  So the children who needed less assistance were able to “play” in their hammocks until everyone was ready. This worked out great for everyone.  In the school setting we sometimes talk about a child’s need for self-regulation in the classroom.  What we really mean is that we want the child to be able to keep their own body awake and alert without being hyper or “wild”.  The point is that every child’s body and sensory system is different and their needs can be met in different ways.  It doesn’t mean that they have to sit still.

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Strength– the kids used their core (abs and back) muscles throughout the session to arrange their bodies according to Linda’s instructions.  When I had the chance to try the poses myself, I really felt the muscles in my back and abs working to keep myself in the right position. I also felt the strength in my arms and legs during every pose. When we did the upside down poses, we had to use our arms to pull ourselves back up.  You know in the action movies when someone is hanging from a bridge or a train or something and they miraculously pull themselves back up? Yeah.  That was me!  One thing I didn’t expect was the amount of fine motor coordination and dexterity that was incorporated into the aerial yoga class.  Linda often had us re-orient our swing, to make sure it wasn’t all bunched up, so that our bodies would end up in the correct positions. She used cute expressions like “make a bikini bottom”  to help the kids understand what she wanted. The kids learned to use their fingers to bunch up the material the appropriate number of times according to Linda’s request.  It kind of reminded me of scrunching up a sock or a pair of stockings before you put them on. It takes a lot of small movements in your fingers and hands to get that material all bunched up. We had to do it over and over again, so those muscles got a great workout. What an awesome way to hide fine motor strengthening in a gross motor activity.

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Motor planning – as I mentioned before, following Linda’s instructions required a lot of listening and watching her physically demonstrate the movements. She made it look so easy!  It was much harder to get my body to do what she just did. Motor planning is the ability to cognitively plan out how you’re going to move your body to complete an activity. We take motor planning for granted, but it can be really hard for some people.  The  entire one-hour session was filled with motor planning challenges.  Any new movement can be tricky if you’ve never done it before.  The staff was awesome about making sure that each child in the children’s class as well as every adult in the adult class was able to complete the movements either with or without assistance from staff.  

Tactile and proprioceptive input – As the children stretched and pushed their bodies against the Lycra Hammock, they were receiving tactile and proprioceptive input throughout their entire bodies.  Our largest organ is our skin. So when you engage in an activity that stimulates your entire body, the receptors in your skin are sending a ton of feedback to your brain. This can be calming or alerting; it depends on the child as well as the setting of the activity. Proprioceptive input is also known as deep pressure.  Inside that Lycra swing, your whole body is pressing against that material. And the material is pressing back as you hang against gravity, providing proprioceptive input throughout the entire class.  When I had the chance to do it myself, I was surprised at how my perceptions of the input changed throughout the hour-long class. There were times when I was calm and relaxed and there were times where I felt a little nervous or anxious. The sensations and my emotions changed in different poses.

 

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Vestibular input – Hanging from the ceiling with nothing holding you but a large stretchy sock (hammock) can be a little unnerving. Most adults rarely go on rides. I am no exception to this. In fact, I’ve been on a roller coaster twice since the eighth grade. The reason for this is that most rides make me feel sick. Even swinging on a playground swing too high or for too long can make me a little nauseous, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Aerial Yoga. The instructors told me that it’s normal to feel a little lightheaded or dizzy after class. For the most part I was totally fine. Vestibular input can be extremely calming or alerting to a person’s sensory system. Many children actively seek out vestibular input by swinging, rocking, or hanging upside down. They simply know what their body needs. Then, there are other children whose bodies need vestibular input, but it makes them uncomfortable. Some children avoid having their feet off the ground at all. This is called gravitational insecurity and it can really interfere with typical childhood play.  I thought it was amazing how aerial yoga, with one piece of equipment, could provide so many different kinds of sensory input. How awesome!

Self Esteem and Confidence -There was one student, a teen-age girl, who was the sibling of one of the kids in the class.  She was very quiet, but she was great at the poses; maybe even the most comfortable and skilled in the class. The staff told me that she attends the class every week with her sister, who is on the spectrum.  This is one of her “extra-curricular” activities, such as taking dance or gymnastics.  When I commented on how good she was, the staff told me that she progresses each week, learning new and more difficult poses. They tailor certain things to meet her need for a challenge, since she is capable of more than some of the other children.  The best part was that the staff reported that this girl had really transformed since coming to aerial yoga.  She has become more confident, more self-assured, and more outgoing.  How cool is that?

 


For a more detailed description of how Aerial Yoga can impact a child’s sensory system, you should read this post by Sara, an Occupational Therapist specializing in the treatment of Sensory Processing Disorders, and one of the owners of the facility where I took the class. Click here for the link.

 

So, are you willing to try an Aerial Yoga Class? Want to see if your child likes it?  Sensational Development is offering a deal with this blog post; “Buy five classes, get one free”.  Mention “Miss Jaime, O.T.” to get the deal.

 

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~Namaste!

 

 


 

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