Category Archives: family fun

Helping Your Child with Sensory Issues Enjoy Swimming

Are you caught in the “heat dome” as they’re calling it? Do you want your child to enjoy swimming but are finding she’s resistant due to sensory issues? The following is from a newsletter I created a while back, which will give you some ideas on how to make swimming, pools, and lakes more sensory friendly for your child with sensory processing disorder and/or autism.


HELPING YOUR CHILD WITH SENSORY ISSUES ENJOY SWIMMING

Why is it that kids with sensory issues so often heartily take to swimming despite the sensory challenges that this activity can present? Perhaps it is because swimming offers sensory input they yearn for along with a sense of independence, and because many kids, neurotypical or not, just find it fun to splash around. As a sport, swimming allows a child to avoid competing with other children and instead compete against himself or herself. What is more, swimming is an important skill for anyone and great exercise.

 

But what if your child resists swimming or learning to swim? Here’s how to get around some of the swimming challenges sensory kids face so that they can truly enjoy the experience.

 

Smells. Chlorinated water has a powerful smell and lake water can have a distinct odor that may disturb some sensory kids. Check out your options, which may include swimming in a pool that is cleaned by an ozone generator or reverse osmosis method.

 

Noises and movement. Kids will often squeal, run, and splash near or in the water. For a child with auditory and visual processing differences, such unexpected and sharp sounds and movements from others can provoke anxiety. Outdoor pools and swimming areas at least crowded times may be more tolerable. Call the pool or waterpark ahead of time and ask when it’s least crowded.

 

Temperature. You may be surprised by your sensory child’s ability to tolerate the coldest water if he is eager to swim, but some kids with sensory issues may be very reluctant to enter a pool or water that is cold or is a very different temperature from the air. If your child will tolerate a shower beforehand, you might have her shower and gradually adjust the temperature to make it colder and prepare her for the chilly plunge. Teach her that she can get her feet in first, then splash water on to her arms, and gradually immerse all her body parts, giving her a sense of control over the feeling.

 

Getting his face wet. Very often, the biggest challenge for a child with sensory processing issues is to get her face (and eyes, or eyelids) wet. You can work on this at home in the tub or shower, slowly getting her used to the feeling by working with a shower head, a big cup for pouring water, and a washrag she holds over her face to slow down the feeling of her face becoming wet. Wearing goggles and masks often is very soothing to kids because these items keep the child’s eyes dry, help her see better in the water, and provide a nice amount of calming pressure against the back of the head. You may find that the child with sensory issues likes to wear goggles or a mask and swim underwater rather than on the surface where her face is alternately in and out of the water.

 

Suits and hair. Some kids can’t bear the feel of loose, floppy wet hair or suits. Fortunately, there are many options for swimwear and bathing caps, many of which are calmingly snug and yet stylish. Try the short-sleeve, snug, two-piece surfer suits for boys and girls which have the added benefit of protecting against harmful UV rays by providing more coverage.

 

Footwear. Walking on rough and even hot surfaces such as sidewalks, asphalt in parking lots, grass, sand, and cement near pools can feel excruciating to a sensory kid. Flip flops, sandals, and water shoes are likely to help, but also consider massaging your child’s foot providing deep pressure or even vibration from a vibrator or vibrating toy if that’s tolerable to him, before he sets foot on these surfaces. Park in the shade if you can (such as under a tree or awning) and walk where walking surfaces are likely to be cooler.

 

Motor planning. Swimming takes motor planning skills, which many sensory kids find challenging. Try private rather than group lessons, and look for an instructor who can break down strokes into various parts and who teaches in a way that your child can both understand and tolerate. For example, one instructor may instruct using touch while another may simply demonstrate and use words to describe physical motions. Sit in on a session if you can to see how your child is able to follow that particular instructor’s directions. You might also check out some of the  instructional videos on YouTube to get ideas for helping your child learn to swim.

 

Overstimulation. Some kids may withdraw at the intensity of the swimming experience (especially at a crowded, indoor pool cleaned by chlorine, or a busy water park). However, some may get overstimulated and need lots of deep pressure input to “take it down a notch.” Hugging and gentle, subtle massage of limbs, wrapping the child in a tight towel, and breaks to go to a quieter, less stimulating area often help. You may need to inform the instructor that your child needs to wriggle a lot while waiting her turn for personal instruction or demonstrating her strokes; this activity may be necessary for your child to be able to focus once her turn comes.

 

Safety. Every pool or beach has safety rules. Find where they are posted and have your child read them aloud to you, or read them to her. While we may take for granted such “obvious” rules as “do not run on the wet surfaces” or “no diving in shallow areas,” your child will need to have them repeated for the rules to sink in, so take the time to read them with her. Then too, always err on the side of caution and never leave your child unsupervised near water even if he has floatation devices on him or near him (in fact, floating devices may provide a false sense of security). Know where your child is at all times and be sure there is a lifeguard on duty.

 

Have a wonderful swimming experience!

Kids with SPD, whether sensory seekers or sensory avoiders, may LOVE swimming!

By the way, if you’d like to subscribe to the Sensory Smart News and receive helpful articles such as this one, you can do so at www.sensorysmartnews.com 

 

 

And if you’d like to check out the archives for the Sensory Smart News, check my website.

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Filed under exercise and movement for sensory kids, family fun, Practical tips for sensory issues, swimming, tactile sensitivity

Dads, Roughhousing, and Self-Regulation

I’ve written before about what an important contribution Dads (and Dad-figures) can contribute to our kids by roughhousing with them appropriately. Finally, someone’s actually done research on this!

I attribute much of my son’s development of self-regulation and improvement in his sensory issues to my husband working with him daily, roughhousing before bedtime. He also worked with him at the playground, doing activities such as getting him down that slide, getting him to tolerate and enjoy various swings (while stopping the movement at intervals to let it register in the brain, as directed by our marvelous OT, Lindsey Biel), using the monkey bars, doing sand play (OK if the child needs to wash off a lot), water sprinkler play, etc. He had him on a seat on the back of his bike as he rode over cobblestones, and hugged him often (affection and deep pressure–how can you beat it?). On outings, he encouraged our son to push his own stroller, filled with packages if possible, and taught him to push and run at a clip without plowing into other people. Now that our son is older, there’s still a lot of physical play: Sledding, hitting the heavy bag, climbing and hiking, playing stickball. A sensory avoider may well have to be coaxed into such activities but a patient Dad, or other sensory smart adult, may be able to do this.

Yes, some kids can go into sensory overload if pushed too far, but an attentive dad can use deep pressure, a quiet and loving voice, and loud/soft games such as having the child vary his drumming on a pillow or exercise ball or dad’s back from quiet and gentle to louder and more intense and back.

I love the “steal the socks” game!

Here’s to dads on Father’s Day!

Roughhousing and physical play can benefit kids who have sensory issues as well as typically developing children

The researcher’s report.

The really sweet Diane Sawyer report on the research.

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Filed under Dads of kids with SPD, exercise and movement for sensory kids, family fun, Lindsey Biel, Moms of kids with SPD, playground issues, Practical tips for sensory issues, proprioceptive input, Raising a Sensory Smart Child, sensory diet, sensory seeking

Sounds Good? Sound and the SPD Child

What is the sound environment your child with SPD experiences on a daily basis?

Many of our kids have auditory processing differences that make it difficult to block out background noise, locate where in space the sound originates, or discern different qualities or types of sound. They may have sound sensitivities and even sound cravings. As a small child, my son loathed and feared the sound of brass instruments, such as a saxophone (which we’d encounter occasionally when walking through Central Park), yet would impulsively dash across the playground to get closer to the sound of a violin playing.

Here’s an interesting TED lecture on our sound environments that will get you thinking about your child and his or her experience of sound in the environment. One thing that struck me is the speaker’s discussion of compressed music, such as mp3 files listened to over personal music players or the computer. A recent flood in our home unearthed our overlooked vinyl record collection. As we replaced the soggy and destroyed cardboard covers, we spun a few disks (remember that lingo? Or am I dating myself?) My son was amazed at how different a Beatles or AC/DC song sounds on an old-fashioned vinyl record played through a stereo (or should I say “hi-fi stereo”? As opposed to a “low fidelity monophonic player” which we owned back in my childhood).

Even better, listening to live music can help a child notice where a sound is coming from–can he hear the guitar sound better when he’s standing to the left of the stage or the right? Of course, live music is often challenging (too loud, for one thing) for our kids, but I think it’s worth trying to get them to listen to it and pay attention to where the sounds are coming from and how a small band sounds different in different spaces (basic acoustics).

I also think it’s a good idea to identify nature sounds, their location, and their meaning. I’m chagrined to admit that despite logging many years in Girl Scouting, I never realized that cardinals have several different calls, or that the trilling sound I hear near cattails at the edge of the lagoon is the call of the red-winged blackbird.

 

"What kind of bird is making that sound? Where is it located?" This is a great listening game to play with your SPD child!

 

Now that we live in an area with easy access to wildlife and nature, my son’s being exposed to the sounds of birds, rain pattering on leaves, the river rushing, crisp snow crunching and squeaking under our boots, and the waves of the lake gently breaking on the sand. We try to get out to hear these natural sounds as much as possible.

How do you alter the sound environment to help your child with sensory issues who has sensitivities and auditory processing issues? Are you finding ways to expose her to “good sound”?

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Filed under auditory processing disorders, family fun, nature and SPD, sensory diet, SPD and auditory, Uncategorized

Make Swimming Easier for Your Child with Sensory Issues, Part I

Why is it that kids with sensory issues so often heartily take to swimming despite the sensory challenges that this activity can present? Perhaps it is because swimming offers sensory input they yearn for along with a sense of independence, and because many kids, neurotypical or not, just find it fun to splash around. As a sport, swimming allows a child to avoid competing with other children and instead compete against himself or herself. What is more, swimming is an important skill for anyone and great exercise. Here’s how to get around some of the swimming challenges sensory kids face so that they can truly enjoy the experience.

Sensory kids often love swimming and water sports.

Smells. Chlorinated water has a powerful smell and lake water can have a distinct odor that may disturb some sensory kids. Check out your options, which may include swimming in a pool that is cleaned by an ozone generator or reverse osmosis method.

Noises and movement. Kids will often squeal, run, and splash near or in the water. For a child with auditory and visual processing differences, such unexpected and sharp sounds and movements from others can provoke anxiety. Outdoor pools and swimming areas at least crowded times may be more tolerable.

Temperature. You may be surprised by your sensory child’s ability to tolerate the coldest water if he is eager to swim, but some kids with sensory issues may be very reluctant to enter a pool or water that is cold or is a very different temperature from the air. If your child will tolerate a shower beforehand, you might have her shower and gradually adjust the temperature to make it colder and prepare her for the chilly plunge. Teach her that she can get her feet in first, then splash water on to her arms, and gradually immerse all her body parts, giving her a sense of control over the feeling.

Getting his face wet. Very often, the biggest challenge for a child with sensory processing issues is to get her face (and eyes, or eyelids) wet. You can work on this at home in the tub or shower, slowly getting her used to the feeling by working with a shower head, a big cup for pouring water, and a washrag she holds over her face to slow down the feeling of her face becoming wet. Wearing goggles and masks often is very soothing to kids because these items keep the child’s eyes dry, help her see better in the water, and provide a nice amount of calming pressure against the back of the head. You may find that the child with sensory issues likes to wear goggles or a mask and swim underwater rather than on the surface where her face is alternately in and out of the water.

Goggles may make swimming easier for the child with SPD

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Filed under exercise and movement for sensory kids, family fun, Practical tips for sensory issues, sensory processing disorder

How to Get Your Child to Play Outdoors

If you’re like many parents, you have trouble finding ways to get your children to play outdoors. Studies show that just 20 minutes walking in nature makes a difference in a child with ADHD’s ability to focus and attend. Being in nature seems to slow down time, encourages children to engage in imaginative and exploratory play, and is healthy all around. But what do you do when it feels unsafe to get them playing outdoors, or they resist your efforts? Here are some fabulous tips.

I love the one about “half hour media time has to be counteracted with an hour outdoors.” I’m going to try that!

Also, I think it’s a great idea to go on walks with the whole family, along a bike trail or at a nature center. Challenge your child to find as many different types of flowers as he can, to find poison ivy (she probably won’t but it feels exciting to look for it!), to find evidence of animals and birds (holes pecked by woodpeckers, nests left by squirrels, and so on). Make “boats” from leaves and sticks to float down a creek, and practice skipping stones or just throwing big rocks into the water to make a satisfying “plunk”!

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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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