Monthly Archives: March 2010

Helping Kids with SPD at school especially with handwriting

While this Pedia Staff interview with my coauthor Lindsey Biel, OTR/L is aimed at professionals, her straightforward way of explaining how she helps kids with handwriting, and setting up accommodations for helping kids with SPD (sensory processing disorder) at school, and more are helpful for any parent.

Does your child receive OT for handwriting? Remember, handwriting and composing written work are two different skills. Your child may need the two separated out from each other in order if her poor handwriting abilities are holding her back from expressing her thoughts “in writing.”

This week I got an ultra ergonomic keyboard and mouse and dictation software to help reduce the stress on my hands from keyboarding. I stopped handwriting anything other than short grocery lists long ago, and yet I am a full-time writer. Perhaps that’s why I totally get why kids need the skills of handwriting and composing separated out, not mushed together as if they were one thing! Ask your school about handwriting help via occupational therapy services and ask for an evaluation (follow up your request in writing by certified mail to ensure they follow through promptly). Ask about keyboarding and assistive technology, and an IEP accommodation that allows the child to dictate her answers.

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Filed under handwriting, Lindsey Biel, OT, Practical tips for sensory issues, Raising a Sensory Smart Child, schools, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder, special education

School for Teens with Asperger’s

While my child is not on the autism spectrum, I was fascinated by this TV news report on a west coast school for teens with Asperger’s Syndrome. So many kids with autism, SPD, ADHD, and other biologically based learning differences have to put forth a Herculean effort to learn in a typical school environment. It seems to me that we should have more schools devoted to helping kids who have a certain set of weaknesses and strengths so that they can focus on learning what they have to learn and doing it in an environment that is supportive in every way.

Does your child’s classroom have carpeting and no bells, as in this school? My intermediate school, which my son will attend, was a newer building and it had these sensory friendly features. It was so wonderfully quiet that even with my difficulty blocking out background noise I was able to do self-study math in the back of the room while the teacher taught the other kids the standard curriculum in the front of the class. With sensory kids, the environment of the classroom and other school areas, such as the cafeteria, really matters!

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Filed under autism and sensory issues, learning differences, schools, sensory processing disorder, special education, teenagers and sensory issues

Are Schools Boy Friendly?

Now if you could tie the social studies lesson into monster trucks...

Here’s a PBS article on the difficulties boys face in school.

Do you find your son’s teachers are impatient with or devalue his interests?

My son’s lucky to have an SLP who totally gets boys and their obssessions with Lego, Godzilla, Star Wars, and videogames. She knows how to engage boys at where their interests are, which is invaluable!

How about your son’s reading interests? Does he prefer nonfiction, pictoral encyclopedias, and coffee table books? Do you feel his teachers honor those preferences?

Or, do you have a girl whose interests are more like those we traditionally associate with boys? Does she have a hard time with teachers and other girls who put subtle (or not so subtle!) pressure on her to be interested in “girl things”?

Our kids need to be pushed out of their comfort zone and exposed to different interests and different types of books, but we also need to honor their proclivities and interests.

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Filed under boys in school, learning differences, schools

DSM-V May Add Sensory Processing Disorder

As reported recently in USA Today, a committee is currently putting together the update of the DSM (the book that physicians, health care professionals, and insurance companies use as their “bible” for diagnosing psychological, learning, and developmental disabilities). They are seriously considering adding SPD, that is, sensory processing disorder. Sensory issues only “exist” in the current DSM-V as a secondary characteristic of autism. Of course, 85-95 percent of children with autism have SPD but not all children with SPD have autism. Mine falls into that category.

What would having a diagnosis with a little number next to it for insurance coding do? It would legitimize this disorder and cause insurance companies to cover it (well, in theory–who knows what you can get insurance companies to cover these days?). Right now, if your child gets his OT for SPD covered, the OT using SI therapy is probably coding for a diagnosis like apraxia or fine motor delay. At as much as $100-$200 an hour for private therapy, and many school districts being without a sensory smart OT, we desperately need OT for sensory issues covered!

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Filed under autism and sensory issues, OT, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder

Two Secrets to Being a Happier Parent

I love this Yahoo article on how to be a happier parent based on the principle of mindfulness. It really boils down to being aware of when you’re most happy parenting and being with your child, and when you’re most stress. Recipe: Do more of what makes you a happy parent. Change what makes you an unhappy parent, whether it’s stressing out over the morning or bedtime routine, fights over toothbrushing, grooming, or videogames, or dealing with sibling rivalry. Focus on fixing the problems rather than doing the same old same old, reacting in the usual way but expecting different, better results (that’s the definition of insanity!). But don’t forget to spend time doing what makes you happy.

I have to say that it’s easy for me to forget about the latter. I get too focused on what I have to do and not on what we could do, as a family, to create more joy. It doesn’t have to involve spending money. Sometimes, it’s as simple as remembering to take a favorite CD in the car with us and play it as we’re driving to a family gathering many miles away. Eventually, all the stuff on the To Do list that really needs to get done gets done, especially if you can find a way to make at least some of the chores fun. Shoveling? Add some snowball fighting. Emptying the basement? Play some good music and crack some jokes, then reward everyone with a special treat whether it’s indulging in watching a favorite DVD or buying ice cream. Whenever it gets too hectic, my husband likes to say in a mock announcer’s deep voice, “Is EVERYbody happy?” And my son and I dutifully play along and shout “Yeah.” It’s funny–you do that, regain your sense of humor, and the happiness does come back. But you have to remember to make the time to do the fun stuff.

Forget girls…we ALL just wanna have fun!

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Filed under family fun

Calming Head and Forehead Input & Headbanging Advice

Tip for the day: Give calming input to the child’s scalp and forehead.

While we often think of giving deep touch input to a child’s limbs or entire body, it’s easy to overlook how

While we often think of giving deep touch input to a child’s limbs or entire body, it is easy to overlook how comforting and calming to her system it can be to get deep pressure against her scalp and forehead. To massage a child’s head or forehead, use your fingers gently, moving your fingertips or the heel of your hand in a circular motion and pressing firmly. Some children enjoy the sensation of a hand-held vibrator pressed to the forehead or scalp, or even a vibrating hairbrush. They may also enjoy activities where they push items with their forehead, such as pushing a toy across the floor.

Encourage her to wear a headband, stretchy cap, or kerchief that puts pressure against her forehead. She can wear these items alone or under another hat. Also, a hoodie sweatshirt can provide pressure on the scalp if the child puts his hands in the pockets and pulls down, stretching the material and pulling the hood down tighter on the top of his head. You can also ask your OT about using a weighted cap, sold in therapy catalogs.

You may find that if you give regular deep pressure input to hisforehead as part of a sensory diet, he is less likely to engage in head banging when frustrated. However, head banging can also be a sign of an ear infection, vision problems, teething, food intolerances, headaches, and even in some cases, seizures, so check into these possibilities as well (your pediatrician can refer you to a pediatric neurologist if seizures are suspected). In severe cases of head banging, an OT or other professional may suggest that the child wear a helmet to protect hisscalp. But if your child is verbal, ask him about why he is head banging, and whether these activities and accommodations might give him the nice, firm pressure against his forehead or scalp that he is craving. Then too, consider changing his hairstyle to one that is more comfortable for him, as an irritating hairstyle may cause him (or her) to seek out calming input to the head.

You can find a vibrating hairbrush here.

The information contained in this blog is provided as a public service. It is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as personal medical advice. Although every effort is made to ensure that this material is accurate and up-to-date, it is provided for the convenience of the user and should not be considered definitive.

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Filed under sensory seeking head