Posts Tagged ‘sensory issues’

Changing seasons can be tough for a child with sensory issues

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

change of seasonsChange. Change. Change. For kids with special needs, change is one of the hardest aspects of their lives.

Just when your child has mastered adjusting to a new school experience, she is then faced with having to get used to the change in season. The difference in going from wearing summer clothes to fall clothes may not seem like a problem to you – but for a child with sensory issues, this can be a HUGE hurdle.

There are different kinds of sensory issues, also known as sensory processing disorder (SPD) or sensory dysfunction. Whether SPD is considered its own diagnosis, or a symptom of a larger diagnosis is still being debated by experts. However, if your child suffers from sensory issues, understanding their world and figuring out how to help them is key.

In this post, I am going to focus on the sense of touch.

For a child who hates the feel of certain kinds of fabric or tags on their clothes, changing from a summer to a fall/winter wardrobe can be traumatic. A short sleeve t-shirt does not feel the same as a long sleeve t-shirt. A collarless shirt is much more comfortable than a collared shirt that touches the neck. A blouse with ridges where the buttons meet the fabric may cause distress. The switch from shorts, where legs are not dealing with the light touch of a pant leg, to that of long pants, can be a huge feat to master.

Fabrics can have a huge effect on a child with sensitivity to touch. The “feel” of every material is different. For example, a soft flannel without buttons or zippers is usually much more acceptable than a wool blend or polyester.

And, then there are shoes…putting on closed toe shoes after a summer of toes free to wiggle inside open sandals can be like trying to cage a lion.

Some tips that may help

  • If your child can’t adapt to the sudden change from a short sleeve shirt to a long sleeve shirt, try dressing him in a short sleeve shirt, but give him a soft sweater or sweatshirt to put on it if he gets cold.
  • For girls, instead of going straight from shorts to long pants, try a middle approach first – Capri pants (below the knee), skirts, or even skirt/short combinations known as “skorts” that end just below the knee may be a good middle ground before you graduate to long pants.
  • It is tougher for boys who usually have to go straight from shorts to pants. In this case, if soft cotton sweat pants are allowed in school, this may be your safest transition pant. (“Sweats” would work well for girls, too.) Once he gets used to having his legs completely covered, he may be more able to tolerate pants that are stiff or hold their shape, such as jeans or khakis. Keep in mind that some clothing companies make flannel lined jeans and khaki pants – they are soft inside, so the stiff fabric and the seams will not irritate your child’s skin.
  • Parents should keep in mind which fabrics work or don’t work for their child. My daughter used to tell me which fabric gave her “pinches and itches.” It does not help to push a fabric on your child if her skin can’t tolerate it. Let her pick the fabrics that feel good to her – you’ll both be happier.
  • As far as shoes are concerned, for girls, “ballet flats” which are more open than sneakers or lace-up shoes can be a good transition shoe. They are not as rigid as typical shoes which will be more comfortable. For boys, short spurts of wearing shoes or sneakers may help your child slowly get used to the weight and feeling of a closed toe.

Other ideas

Your child can’t help the way she feels. The more you understand her issues, the more you can help her.

 

Halloween ideas for kids with food allergies or sensory challenges

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

pumpkinWhen you hear the word “Halloween” do you think of candy? Chocolate? Fun costumes? For children with food allergies or sensory issues, Halloween can be a frustrating evening. The thrill of getting treats can quickly become a letdown if there is nothing that your child can eat. And, the thought of wearing a costume may be the last thing your sensory special child will want to do.

Non-foods gain in popularity

Years ago, in my neighborhood, we knew of a child on our street who had food allergies. As a result, some moms decided to have an assortment of other acceptable treats to give out, so that the child with food allergies could enjoy Halloween, too.

We offered the kids non-chocolate choices, such as bags of pretzels, crackers and pops. But, surprisingly, the most popular alternatives were non-food items. Crayons, tiny notepads, little cars, plastic jewelry, glow stick necklaces, stickers, and other inexpensive but fun playthings soon became an equally desired treat for many children. I was surprised to see kids who did not have food allergies choosing stickers instead of a chocolate treat. Their eyes lit up when they saw my bucket filled with non-candy gifts. The best part is that you can get most of these items at dollar stores or discount centers, so offering alternatives won’t be a costly venture. Just be careful that you do not get tiny toys, as they can be a choking hazard to small children.

My colleague here at the March of Dimes said that the “best” house for trick or treating in her neighborhood was the one where they gave out quarters instead of candy. She and her friends loved it, as they could buy whatever treat they wanted. (But again, be careful you don’t give coins to young children as they are liable to put them in their mouths.)

When you stop to think, it makes perfect sense to widen the net of Halloween treats. Food allergies are becoming more common, so offering non-food treats is a perfect way to keep Halloween safe and yet be tons of fun. Why not think about offering non-candy treats this year and start a whole new tradition? But watch out – you may well end up being the most popular house on the block for trick or treaters!

Can’t wear a costume?

Little Red Riding HoodIf your child has sensory issues and can’t fathom the idea of putting on a costume, don’t fret. Just yesterday, a little 2 year old in my neighborhood toddled by my front steps as I was sitting there enjoying the sunshine. Her mom told me that she is sad because her daughter refuses to even try on a costume. I suggested she create a “costume” out of her regular clothes. For instance, if she has a red dress or a red hoodie, she can carry a little basket and be Little Red Riding Hood. (True confessions – I did this for my daughter when she was about that age!) Here are more ideas on how to prepare your child with sensory challenges for Halloween.  Also, you can ask your child’s Occupational Therapist for specific ideas that can make him comfortable.

Just remember, the most important thing is that your child is comfortable and safe, and has fun on Halloween.

What tricks have you tried to help your little one have fun on Halloween? Please share.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also see a Table of Contents of prior posts, here.

If you have comments or questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We welcome your input!

Table of Contents for the Delays and Disabilities series

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

If you are new to this series, or if you want to catch up on posts you may have missed, this is a good way to see all the posts. They are grouped by topic to help you navigate your way.

Table of Contents

Why this blog series?
A new blog series is here

How to get early intervention and special education services
Babies and toddlers:

Understanding Preemie cues

Understanding developmental milestones and delays

Vocabulary at age 2 may predict kindergarten success

Preemies- adjusted age and delays

Here’s a tool to monitor your child’s physical development

Early intervention for babies and toddlers

From NICU to EI services

What is an IFSP?

Guest post from the CDC on early intervention

Don’t delay with delays

How does your state define developmental delay?

Kids ages 3 and older:

Prematurity, disabilities and special education

Turning 3 – the leap from early intervention to special ed

Early intervention and special ed for children ages 3 and older

What is an IEP?

What are related services?

IEP or 504 – that is the question!

IEP reviews in April

IEPs on TV

April is IEP month

IEP season is here

What is Prior Written Notice or “PWN?”

IEPs and LREs – the nitty gritty

An easy way to find resources for kids with special needs

Summer programs for kids with special needs

Delays, disabilities and the law

Learning the lingo

Words and terms – a whole new world

Changing a program for a child with special needs

What is peer-reviewed research?

Keeping track of your child’s records

How to get your child’s records organized

The special language of special needs

Happy 25th Anniversary ADA

Good-bye NICHCY. Hello CPIR.

Pediatric medical specialties

Getting to know your NICU healthcare team

What are pediatric specialties?

Finding pediatric specialists

What is a developmental behavioral pediatrician?

What is a child psychologist?

How to find a specialist for a birth defect or rare disease

Therapies and Treatments

What is physical therapy or “PT”?

Physical therapy – can it help your preemie?

What is occupational therapy, or “OT”?

What is speech therapy?

Respiratory therapists help babies and families breathe easier

Pragmatics – helping your child learn the rules of social language

What are hippotherapy and therapeutic riding (THR)?

What are recreation services?

Kids with challenges zoom on souped up kiddie cars

Sensory issues

Light and sound in the NICU

Sensory difficulties in children

Everyday tips for dealing with sensory special kids

Help for sensory issues

Changing seasons can be tough for a child with sensory issues

Fireworks are not fun for kids with sensitive hearing

Fourth of July – fabulous or frightful for kids with special needs?

Sensory friendly malls

Halloween ideas for kids with food allergies or sensory challenges

Heavy backpacks hurt- Here’s how to lighten the load

Understanding the diagnosis – in preemies and babies with special needs

Preemies and asthma – how to help your child

RDS and BPD – breathing problems in preemies

Pneumonia and preemies

Brain bleeds in premature babies

An allergy or a cold – learn how to tell the difference

Preemies and hearing loss

Hearing loss in babies

Did you hear me? What is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)?

Learning differences, disabilities and disorders – are they all the same?

What are learning disabilities (LDs)?

LDs – What they ARE and are NOT

What is dyslexia?

What is dyscalculia?

What is dysgraphia?

What is dyspraxia?

Prematurity, learning disabilities and ADHD

Understanding intellectual and developmental disabilities

Oh to be understood! Learn what your child with LD experiences

Parenting your child with a heart defect

Preemies as adults – are their health problems due to prematurity?

Helping babies with FASD

Talking to your child about his medical condition

How knowing your family health history may help your baby

Tracking birth defects helps states help you

Thalidomide and Dr. Frances Kelsey

Coping – day in and day out

Staying positive in the NICU

How to cope when your baby is in the NICU

Skin to skin contact helps your baby AND you

When can your baby go home from the hospital?

NICU parents can develop PTSD due to stress and trauma

Caring for yourself as you care for your preemie

Recognizing families who care for preemies 

The NICU dad – Superman has nothing on him!

Do you know your baby’s different cries?

Breastfeeding a baby with a cleft lip or palate

Parenting your child with a heart defect

Medication mistakes are common

It’s good – no, great – to read to your baby

Avoiding and handling tantrums

More resources for handling meltdowns

Positive reinforcement – the power of one M&M’s® candy

Positive reinforcement – fortune cookie advice

Caring for your sick baby (understanding signs of illness and learning when to call the doctor)

Flu can be serious for kids with special needs

Flu is dangerous for certain people

Shingles, kids and pregnant women – know the facts

Can sleep affect your child with special needs? Or you?

Research shows a consistent bedtime routine can help your child sleep

A social skills tip for kids with special needs

Apps for math LD and other disabilities

There’s an app for that (for kids with learning challenges)

Knowing your family health history  may help your baby

Getting through transitions, holidays, vacations and disasters

A transition tip

Bracing for the holidays

Spending holidays in the NICU

Holidays and your child with special needs – tips for the NICU, visiting Santa, dinners and traveling

Taking Thanksgiving in stride

Holidays 🙂 or 🙁

Visiting Santa is do-able for kids with special needs

Toys glorious toys! (for kids with special needs)

New Year’s Resolutions – good or bad for kids with special needs?

Let it go! Let it go! Let it go! (an inspirational holiday poem)

Adjusting to life after the holidays

Getting back in the swing (after a holiday)

Camps and vacations

How to find camps for children with special needs

Tips for family travel when your child has special needs

Vacationing with your child with special needs

Accommodations help vacationers with special needs

Re-entry: life after vacation

Back to school

Kids with special needs head back to school

Summer to September

From summer to school – the big transition

Back to school is hard on kids and PARENTS!

Shopping for toys for kids with special needs

Preparing for disasters when you have a child with special needs

Surviving and thriving – Your child with special needs, your other children, and YOU

Stop. Rest. Relax…Repeat.

Getting guilt-free time off – what worked for one mom

Special moms need special care

Caring for the caretaker – put on your oxygen mask

Caring for yourself as you care for your preemie

Caring for the siblings of a child with special needs

Having a baby in the NICU can be stressful for siblings

Sibling visits to the NICU can be helpful

Do siblings of children with disabilities need help?

Fathers help mold their children’s future

Avoid a tragedy – learn safe sleep strategies

Laughter helps your body, mind and mood

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Resilience. When struggles can be a good thing.

Have you found your child’s passion?

Brace yourself: the ShareUnion message

Living with loss

What’s Happening

World Birth Defects Day gets the word out

First ever World Birth Defects Day

You can also see all of the blog posts by clicking on Help for Your Child under “Categories” on the menu. Scroll down to read the blog posts in reverse chronological order.

 

Help for sensory issues

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

child in ball pitSensory issues can make or break your child’s day, and yours. Last week I discussed the different kinds of sensory problems that many kids experience. Today I offer some treatment options based on parent feedback.

For all of the senses, and especially for tactile sensitivities (touch), Sensory Integration (SI) therapy, a specific kind of therapy used by occupational therapists, has been a popular form of treatment. A recent study showed that a group of autistic children who received SI therapy reduced sensory difficulties in contrast to the children who did not receive SI therapy. It is thought that this form of therapy helps your child’s brain adapt to sensory information so that he can make adjustments in his daily life.

The therapy is lots of fun – it usually involves balls, swings and other game-like movements that engage the senses. It also can include wearing compression clothing to help decrease sensory seeking behavior. Although it has been around for several decades, SI therapy has not been studied until more recently. The American Occupational Therapy Association has information about sensory issues and SI therapy on their website and on this factsheet. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reminds parents there is limited data on the use of sensory based therapies and recommends that parents and pediatricians work together to determine if SI therapy would be appropriate for your child.

Treatment for eating issues

Since good nutrition is important for health and growth, you may find yourself at your wits end to get your child  to eat a balanced diet. For children with aversions to many foods, occupational therapy may help, too. There are various methods that a therapist may use to gradually get your child used to different textures or tastes.

You might also ask your pediatrician if multivitamins or other supplements are recommended, especially if your child’s taste issues has made it so that he does not eat many foods. I used to open vitamin capsules and mix them in my daughter’s food (such as spaghetti sauce) in order to ensure she got her daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals. Smoothies with vitamins or protein powder may also be a good substitute or addition to a meal.

Another option is to speak with a Registered Dietitian (RD) who specializes in children’s eating issues; they are trained to know how to create balanced diets and often have experience with children who have sensory issues. Ask your child’s doc or call your local hospital for a referral.

Other treatments

Some parents report that acupuncture as well as other kinds of treatment have helped their child decrease sensitivity.  Again, consulting with your child’s pediatrician is important before deciding on a treatment plan.

Where to get more info

  • The March of Dimes’ online community Share Your Story offers a way for parents to share their experiences and treatments for children experiencing sensory problems. Feel free to log on and join a discussion or ask a question.  Parents sharing ideas and information is key to helping your child overcome obstacles.
  • Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org and request additional resources. We can refer you to a list of books written for children (to help them understand why they feel sensitive) as well as books written for adults (to help you understand your child’s sensory issues). We’re happy to help you!

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.

Sensory difficulties in children

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Itchy shirt. Icky foods. Hair brushing is a nightmare. Shoes won’t stay on. Sounds make him cringe.
child dislikes food

Picky child or sensory dysfunction?

Our five senses: taste, smell, hearing, touch and sight help us navigate so much of our world. But for some children (and even adults), their senses are especially heightened and can interfere with daily life in a negative way.

•    Taste and smell
Parents often complain that their child can’t tolerate the taste or smell of many foods. Feeding their child becomes a nightmare. When my daughter was little, she would only eat approximately 10 foods (if that). She did not like the taste or smell of most foods and could not stay in the same room when I was cooking broccoli or another offending food.  She preferred sweets to salty treats, and a vegetable would not pass her lips (she would rather die fighting!).  Even if cajoled or bribed (yes – I bribed her) to eat a new food, she would often gag on it because the taste, smell or texture was too awful for her. As she grew up she would relate that she wanted to eat more foods, and was not happy that she had such a limited range of foods she found acceptable to eat. But, alas, it was not something she could control.

•    Sound
child coveringn earsAnother common sensory complaint is that of a hearing sensitivity. Certain sounds or noises are painful to hear. I am not talking about a rock concert or music being cranked on the highest volume. The bothersome sounds could be the barking of a dog, the crinkling of tin foil, the din of the voices in a cafeteria, the sound of a blender, hair dryer or vacuum cleaner. Typical sounds are abnormally loud to a child with a sound sensitivity and may cause him to cover his ears (at best) or disengage socially (at worst).

•    Touch
Other children are extra sensitive to touch. For example, they hate the feeling of certain clothes against their skin. They dislike getting dressed or undressed, and may have a vast wardrobe but will only wear three outfits! Clothes that are scratchy, have tags or are not soft enough for their skin will be tossed aside.  They may resist going into a bath (or getting out of the bath) due to the uncomfortable sensory changes on their skin. Similarly, applying sunscreen becomes a feat in and of itself.

•    Sight
Lastly, some children are extra sensitive visually. For example, bright lights, flashing lights and the change from indoor light to sunlight can make them close their eyes or head in the opposite direction.

Any one of the above sensory issues can wreak havoc on your child’s life – and yours. Some children have difficulties with more than one sense, too. There is debate as to whether sensory dysfunction is a diagnosis in and of itself, or if it is a symptom of a larger diagnosis (such as ADHD, autism, or another disorder). The important thing to remember is that for whatever reason, and whatever you want to call it, these sensory issues are real challenges in your child’s life.

In many cases, these sensitivities may be reduced through occupational therapy (read this post on OT) and through other kinds of treatments. If your child is extra sensitive, speak with his pediatrician and ask if OT or another kind of treatment may be helpful.

Stay tuned for future blog posts on treatment options and helpful hints for the above sensory issues.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Sensory friendly malls

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

child-on-santas-lapMany kids with special needs have sensory issues. They may be extremely sensitive to sounds, lights, foods, certain fabrics on their skin, etc. Shopping at a mall or visiting Santa can be a harrowing experience for these children and their families. Yet, it is a shame for kids to miss out on the festivities of the season, such as having a photo taken with Santa, if that is something that they wish to do.

Fortunately, some malls in the United States offer “sensory friendly” times so that families can take their children with special needs to the mall to see Santa, without having a negative reaction to the noise, lights and commotion. Check with your mall to see if they are offering a “sensory friendly” day for children with special needs. Often, a visit with Santa is offered to children with special needs before the mall is open to the public, or at other specific times.

If your mall does not yet offer such a program, and if you participate in a support group for kids with special needs, perhaps you can have the group request a day/time for a sensory friendly visit with Santa. If your mall can not accommodate a sensory friendly visit, then try to make your visits to the mall at the least crowded times, (eg. when the mall first opens on a weekday.)

If all else fails, consider inviting “Santa” to your home for a personal visit with your child. It may be the least stressful option of all. Hopefully, with a little creativity and resourcefulness, your child will not miss out on the joyful aspects of the season – like visiting Santa!

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.