Category Archives: autism and sensory issues

Alex Doman, coauthor of Healing at the Speed of Sound, on Sound Health, The Listening Program, and His Amplified EBook

I had a fascinating conversation today with Alex Doman, coauthor (with Don Campell, who wrote The Mozart Effect) of Healing at the Speed of Sound: How What We Hear Transforms Our Brains and Our Lives, on my online radio show. We talked about sound health, The Listening Program (a therapeutic listening program incorporating classical music and nature sounds, produced by Alex’s company, Advanced Brain Technologies), auditory processing issues, and the amplified eBook, also known as an enhanced eBook, version of Healing at the Speed of Sound. You can listen to the archive (it’s halfway in to our 30 min. show) at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/letstalkaboutbooks

I learned about how sound affects us and how listening to and creating music is something all human cultures have, so our brains are actually wired for music. Did you know that the auditory sense is the first one a baby develops in utero? Or that our hearts “entrain” to music, so that music can slow down or speed up our heart rate?

Sound health is something we often don’t think about, but even if you or your child don’t have auditory processing issues, you should check out this book in order to learn how sound and music can drain you and make you irritable, or actually improve your health, your mood, and your energy level. It can even speed up post-operative surgery and help you manage physical pain.

Now, if you get the hardcover version, you’ll have to pop over to your computer to check out the audio, visual, and informational links (most of which are at http://www.healingatthespeedofsound.com But you can also buy the amplified version for your electronic device (such as an iPad, smart phone, or the new Kindle Fire) and click through the links, or enjoy digital material that is embedded into the “book” itself. In fact, the amplified version has some bonus extras you can access, such as interviews with the authors. Hmm, maybe I will talk myself into buying the Fire ($199 compared to $499 for the iPad) now!

Learn about sound health and auditory processing in Healing at the Speed of Sound, released in traditional book form and as an enhanced eBook (or amplified eBook) for electronic reading devices.

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Filed under auditory processing disorders, auditory sense, autism and sensory issues, Healing at the Speed of Sound, SPD and auditory, The Listening Program

Strategies to Help Kids with SPD or Autism Focus in the Classroom

Here’s a wonderful blogpiece from National Autism Resources on helping kids focus in the classroom CLICK HERE.

It’s fascinating to see how much difference and inflatable cushion or fidgets can make. There’s a Canadian company called Kid Companions that sells chewable jewelry and you can also find nontoxic chewables, and hand fidgets and inflatable cushions, in catalogues such as Southpaw Enterprises.

Wintertime is especially challenging because kids don’t spend as much time outdoors running around and using playground equipment. Encourage your child at recess time to kick a snow or ice pile, carry snow and make snow forts and snow men, and of course, shovel! But then too, check with him or her, the teacher, and the school OT to ensure your child is getting enough sensory diet activities throughout the day to stay focused in the classroom.

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Filed under affordable sensory items, autism and sensory issues, classroom accommodations sensory, heavy work, OT, playground issues, recess, schools, sensory diet, sensory diet at school, sensory seeking

60 first graders, 4 teachers, one open classroom = Sensory Hell

Do I laugh or cry at the misguided professionals who borrowed an idea from an elite private prep school to create a overpopulated first-grade classroom¬† for public school children, a group that includes kids with sensory processing issues?¬† According to the New York Times article, the class is held in an open area with 60 first graders and 4 teachers who can all hear and see what’s going on with the other groups. Transitions that involve a change of activity and moving the children to a different part of the room are a nightmare, which is frustrating for the teaching team.

Up to ten percent of children have sensory processing differences that make everyday sensations such as background noise or visual clutter incredibly intense experiences that are difficult for the brain to process, distracting, and anxiety provoking. Although we can be grateful our own kids aren’t in the sensory hell of 60 kids, 4 teachers, no walls, this story is a good reminder of how important it is to be aware of how sensory kids experience auditory and visual clutter.

Neurotypical people and children have the ability to automatically “turn down the volume” on sensory input that isn’t important and “turn up the volume” (that is, pay attention to) priority sensory input. Neurotypical children can usually tune out the sound of a truck rolling by a classroom, a dog barking outside, a chair scraping as someone pulls it out, or the squeak of a marker on a whiteboard isn’t important noise–unless they’re bored or antsy because they’re hungry or tired of sitting. However, most of the time they probably won’t notice the sound or, if they do, they automatically know it’s unimportant and they don’t instantly break their focus. Of course, younger children do get distracted by sounds they find especially interesting–the sound of money jangling in a bag, described in the article, would probably excite a six-year-old eager to see how much money it is. The sound of a dog barking outside a classroom door might elicit excitement (“Ooo, there’s a doggie in the building? Can I see him? Can I pet him?) or anxiety (“Oh no, a dog. I’m scared! My aunt’s dog bit me once!”).

Imagine, though, that your brain simply can’t block out the sound of children’s feet as they move across the room, or the teacher talking to a different class. Imagine that your brain is taking in the sight of 60 kids all moving, some of them moving suddenly, or bursting into giggles that pierce your ears because of your auditory sensitivities. Your brain can’t process all this information quickly enough and some of it is being processed as danger signals. Sudden high-pitched sound? Sudden movement to your right? Your body responds with panic: the fight or flight response. You start chewing your fingertips and rocking, shutting down and not hearing the teacher’s instructions. You feel yourself getting agitated, and when another child moves too close to you, you take a swing at her. You feel yourself so excited by all the stimulation that you start hand flapping and making silly noises–which the other kids laugh at, which makes you more excited, so you start bopping your head side to side and rolling on the ground. Fight, flight, sensory overload–these are not responses that will help you learn in this environment. And if you have poor self-regulation, which many sensory kids have much longer than neurotypical children do, you’re not going to come back to a calm and alert state simply because the teacher says, “Tommy, calm down now.”

Does this sound familiar? Are you seeing these behaviors and situations in a classroom of just 20-25 kids? If there’s a child with SPD in that classroom, and statistics tell us there is, the answer is “absolutely.”

So what’s a parent or teacher to do?

In general, kids with sensory issues function better in smaller classrooms because of the lower amount of stimulation. Any time you can reduce sensory stimulation and sudden transitions, it will be easier for all children, but especially those with sensory processing differences, to focus and remain calm and alert. Many parents have found that having their child with SPD in a private school classroom with 8 children is more supportive of him than a public school classroom with 30 children, but then there’s the issue of can you get special educational services (such as OT for sensory issues) paid for by the school district if your child is in private school? It’s very difficult.

Small private school classroom but no services, large public school classroom but services, including in-class services? It’s a tough call for many parents. Whatever choices you have before you, do check out the information on my website, SensorySmartParent.com, about helping your child at school (start HERE) and the chapter on Advocating for Your Child at School in Raising a Sensory Smart Child. There are MANY ways to make classrooms more user friendly for children with sensory processing issues, and many of the accommodations are simple, low cost, or no cost. You can begin to set up a sensory diet for your child today (hopefully, with the help of a sensory smart OT). No child should be put in “sensory hell.”

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Filed under anxiety, auditory processing disorders, autism and sensory issues, back to school for sensory kids, books on SPD, boys in school, schools, sensory diet at school, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder, sensory processing disorder symptoms, sensory seeking, SPD and auditory, special education

New Study Linking Autism and Sensory Processing Difficulties

This study on children with autism showed that their sensory processing is slower and they take longer to manage and sort through multisensory stimulation. I believe that as we learn more about the brain and its functioning, we’ll better understand sensory processing disorder.

Does your child with SPD have difficulty with background noise and distractions? Does she hyperfocus to get away from stimuli?

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Filed under autism and sensory issues, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder, sensory processing disorder in the news

“Parenthood” missed the boat this week

On this week’s episode of Parenthood, the parents of Max, the boy with Asperger’s syndrome, met with the emotional behavioral aide who would be working with him. They mentioned that he only likes his eggs a certain way and they have to be cooked in the orange frying pan. When they asked if this was unusual, the aide said it had nothing to do with Asperger’s and the dad made a comment about how wouldn’t ya know it, their Max is odd even for a kid with Asperger’s.

ARRRGGGH!

If the writers and producers of the show intend to educate people about what it’s like to live with a kid who has an autism spectrum disorder, they really need to do better research. This is CLASSIC SPD BEHAVIOR and of course, parents of kids with autism have plenty of stories about rigidity and control issues. It’s one of those areas where those of us whose kids aren’t on the spectrum meet on common ground with those whose kids are. We know the tantrum potential when the Elmo sippee cup cannot be found. We have tensed up when noticing that the yogurt manufacturer changed the look of the container because now we’re gonna have to explain to our hyper observant child who could recognize Van Gogh’s painting style before he could talk that really, no kidding, it’s the same stuff inside. The anxiety, the rising pitch of a child’s voice when the food isn’t just so and worse, is prepared and served in a “weird” and unpredictable way. Moms, dads, you know what I’m saying!

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Filed under anxiety, autism and sensory issues, picky eating, rigid thinking, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder

Temple Grandin influential? You bet! Please vote!

Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people this year should surely include the marvelous Temple Grandin. Temple, who has autism and sensory processing disorder, is a tireless educator and advocate. The made-for-HBO movie of her life, starring Clare Danes, which aired this year, truly helped people to understand what it is like for Temple to deal with her autism, sensory issues, and anxiety. My son loved seeing how Temple sees–just like him, in pictures–and was fascinated by her squeeze machine invention, which she created to reduce the severe anxiety she experienced as a result of her sensory processing disorder. Please help spread the word about this amazing woman who has done so much for our kids! Vote for Temple Grandin as one of the 100 most influential people this year!

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Filed under autism and sensory issues, Temple Grandin

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