Posts Tagged ‘SI’

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.

 

Everyday tips for dealing with sensory special kids

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

hair washingMany kids with sensory issues struggle with typical everyday activities. Here are suggestions from parents of children with sensory difficulties to help you get through each day in a sensory friendly way. Some kids find bath time and hair washing to be a stressful experience. For other children, getting dressed in the morning or eating meals can be incredibly challenging. Yet others cringe at hearing typical sounds or noises. Here is what some parents recommend:

Tips for bathing

•   Let your child get in the bath when the water temperature feels right to him. He may need to stand in it a while before sitting down, in order to adjust to the feel of the water on his skin.

•    During hair shampooing, use a little pail or plastic bucket to rinse hair instead of using the shower nozzle. Water coming from a shower nozzle can be too direct and forceful.

•    When your child is old enough, allow him to rinse his own hair. Being in control of the pail and the water on his own head is less shocking to him than when someone else pours water on his head.

•    Use a facecloth to cover his face if water on the face will cause distress. Then allow your child to wipe his own face with a damp facecloth.

•    Use distractions in the bath, such as bath foam or toys, to make bath time more appealing.

•    Let your child decide if showering is preferable to bathing (when he is old enough).

Tips for dressing

•    Remove tags from clothing before wearing.

•    Let your child decide what kinds of clothes feel good on his skin. Usually brushed flannel or soft cotton or acrylic fabrics work well, but your child will know.

•    If your child hates getting dressed in the morning (due to the sensory changes), dress your child the night before in the clothes he will wear the next day. In other words, let him wear his clean clothes to bed. He may look a tad more wrinkled in the morning, but he will get his day off in a sensory calm way.

•    When you find a pair of pants, a shirt or outfit that your child loves (i.e. it “feels right”), buy two of them. This way, one can be laundered when the other one is being worn. Or, buy them in different colors if possible. Comfort – not fashion – is key here.

Tips for eating

•    As much as possible, have healthy choices available. If you know your child loves chicken with pasta, then child using forkmake a double portion. This way you can feed it to him another night in the same week, even if the rest of the family is eating something different. This allows you to eat together as a family and yet you did not cook two meals in one evening.

•    Freeze individual portions for meals on the fly, for the babysitter to serve to him, or when the family meal is sure to be too hard for your child to swallow (literally).

•    Ask your child’s pediatrician or consult with a Registered Dietician who is familiar with sensory issues to learn other ways of getting your child to eat a healthy diet. Perhaps mixing vitamin powder into your child’s food (such as spaghetti sauce) or offering protein shakes will substitute nutrients that your child may be missing.

Tips for sound sensitivity

•    Prepare your child for events that may be uncomfortable, such as large assemblies with people clapping, musical events, a meal in a big restaurant, birthday parties, etc. Soft ear plugs are often helpful to use at these events so keep them handy. Other children prefer noise-cancelling headphones.

•    Once home, provide a quiet environment so your child’s ears can rest.

Learn more

These are just a few tips for getting through a day in a sensory successful way. See my prior posts: Sensory difficulties in children to learn more about the different kinds of sensory problems that exist, and Help for sensory issues to learn about different treatments. Ask your child’s pediatrician if a treatment such as Sensory Integration Therapy (a form of Occupational Therapy) may be helpful. You can also discuss other treatments which are available.

Feel free to share what has worked for you and your child. We’d love to hear from you!

If you have questions, or would like more information, please email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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.