Monthly Archives: November 2010

Travelling with a Child Who Has SPD: Cars, Buses, Airplanes

Traveling for the holidays?

Sensory kids need lots of movement breaks, activities to keep them busy (well, all kid do, but sensory kids especially), and oral comforts. Here are some important tips if you’re preparing for a road trip: Car and Bus Tips

This blogpiece from a Dallas mom has some  fabulous ideas:


Some airports in the U.S. now have implemented advanced screening techniques for travellers. If you haven’t flown recently, you may not have experienced (I was on 5 flights a week ago, through O’Hare, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Milwaukee, and at that point, none had these new procedures). I am currently trying to get info from the TSA on what the OFFICIAL policies on screening and patting down children are because the info on their site is ambiguous and many rumors are flying. What’s more, as we’ve seen in the past, some TSA agents are not “up to speed” on the official procedures and may make judgment calls. I’d say that you should be prepared for your child to be screened–that is, to be asked to stand in front of a machine with his arms up while a scan is taken. The other option is a pat down and apparently they can do a “modified pat down” on children under 12 but I haven’t been able to get details on this yet.

Note that the TSA claims that the x-rays in the scanner are at a safe level (just flying in a plane exposes you to natural x-rays) but some reporters and scientists are saying they may not be as safe as the TSA claims (see a PDF of a letter from some scientists at Univ. of California-San Francisco) I imagine that the pat-down, even a modified one (although I don’t know what that would entail as there are no details on the TSA website)  is likely to upset any child with tactile issues or anxiety, so I feel you are probably better off consenting to the screening for now. In a regular pat down, the agent will run his or her hands up the legs very close to the genitals, and near the breasts.

The scanners do pick up details of genitalia BUT they do not have the person’s head in the picture, and the scans are read by someone who is not seeing the people in line. This may address some of your or your child’s privacy concerns.

The TSA website is here, and they have a page on traveling with children with disabilities.

It’s my impression that not all children and adults are being screened in airports with the new scanners. If your child doesn’t set off the metal detectors, it may be that he then won’t be subject to a scan or pat-down. If he is, remain calm so that you can make sure the agent understands your child’s needs. Do not panic or get angry! And be sure to allow plenty of extra time for air travel this year (always a good idea anyway to avoid the stress of rushing about with a child who is not great with transitions).

I’ll do my best to post info from the official TSA blog as soon as I can get it. They are, as you can imagine, rather swamped with inquiries.

On a less stressful note…

Wherever you are going for Thanksgiving–“over the river and through the woods” or simply to your own kitchen or dining room–I hope you have a stress-free, safe, and happy holiday!

And please know that I am grateful for all of you who are helping not just your kids but others to become sensory smart and respectful of those with differences. You make the world a better place! Thank you!



Filed under Uncategorized

New to SPD? First Order of Business: BREATHE

I absolutely loved Hartley Steiner’s blogpiece on what you need to do once you learn your child has sensory processing disorder. Over the years on the many online support group forums I’ve read, I’ve noticed that the typical chain of events is that the parent

1) knows something’s “off” or wrong,

2) seeks help,

3) gets told by well-meaning people that she’s “worrying too much” and second-guesses herself,

4) eventually comes across a description of SPD and thinks, oh wow, THAT is the missing piece,

5) stands there stunned, upset that there really IS something wrong, thrilled that she finally has some answers, confused by what to do next, sad because her illusion that her kid has no problems after all has just been shattered.


I always say that first, just take a deep breath and recognize that you are more empowered now than you were yesterday. You have more knowledge, and you’re going to build upon it. Your child is already benefitting from your hard work and diligence in finding answers. If you simply start there, feeling good about what you’ve already done to help your child, the fear starts to dissipate.

Know that there is a LOT of support. People can be incredibly generous in sharing ideas, giving feedback, and offering encouragement. If you can, join an in person support group for parents of kids with SPD (try The SPD Foundation’s Parent Connections). If not, join an online support group such as the ones through (SID_DSI_AllAboutKids, sensoryintegrationgroup, sensoryintegrationdysfunction, and SID_DSI). Heck, do both!

There are so many resources out there–don’t get overwhelmed. Learn just a little each day. Poke around my website,, and check my award-winning book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues, coauthored with Lindsey Biel, OTR/L. Don’t feel pressured to become an expert overnight or “inhale” every book on the topic (as I did years ago–talk about information overload!). Focus on what’s most important to you: Your child’s tantrums in public or school? Her picky eating? Bedtime battles? As you start to implement some practical solutions (there’s a HUGE section on them in my book and lots of info on my site as well), you’ll start to realize you really can help your child with her sensory issues. And I promise, it gets much better!


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Filed under books on SPD, online support groups, OT, Practical tips for sensory issues, Raising a Sensory Smart Child, sensory processing disorder diagnosis