Category Archives: SPD and auditory

Going to Sleep: Bedtime Tips for Toddlers and Children with Sensory Issues, or Who Just Have Trouble Falling Asleep!

Quality sleep is crucial for quality functioning, and yet we are a sleep-deprived culture. Adults drink coffee and push themselves past their tiredness, while children will naturally push themselves to be more alert and then not be able to calm down. Children with sensory processing issues usually have poor self-regulation, meaning they can’t easily bring themselves from one state of alertness to another. When tired or feeling lethargic, they will rev up to a hyperactive state and remain there. They may even endanger themselves as they get toward bedtime and become more giddy and unmindful of where their body is in relation to people and objects. Accidents are more likely to occur just before bedtime when kids are getting wired as they are getting tired. Making bedtime for children with sensory issues drama-free and easy can be a challenge.

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Going to sleep will be easier for your child with sensory issues if you ease the transition with a predictable, calming bedtime routine.

For safety’s sake, and to get kids in bed on time to get the necessary amount of sleep, begin the children’s bedtime routine at least 30 minutes before their actual bedtime, if not longer. A few minutes between the announcement that it is time to go to sleep and lights out is not enough time for a sensory child’s body to adjust. Turn off the television and DVD early. Both are hypnotizing and overstimulating. The minutes will slip away as your child watches “just this last scene” and the next, and the next.

Dim the lights. The bright lighting that is right for playing with toys in the bedroom is too stimulating before bedtime. Read bedtime stories by lamplight not by a bright overhead light. Install dimmer switches so it’s easier to bring the level of light down as your child’s bedtime approaches.

Stick to a routine. The bedtime routine should include toothbrushing and putting on pajamas, and perhaps a bedtime story and a bath (note that bath time at night is too stimulating for some sensory kids). Many sensory kids have an easier time settling down if they perform each of these tasks in order. A visual To Do list made of stick figures, or a simple list for a child who can read, can help make the abstract agenda concrete: “Oh, I did that, now I have to do that.” Use a Time Timer® to show him when the lights will be turned out. Making time visible using a device like the Time Timer® can help a lot!

Winding Down. It can be tempting to turn on a television or put on a beloved DVD or video for your child to help her wind down before bed, but a better option is to read a book to her and discuss the events of the day in a loving and supportive way. Let your child pick a favorite story or nonfiction book. If you’re bored with the same old one, exercise your creativity. Can you alter your voice, ask your child questions, and encourage her to sound out words and read them?  You might also review significant events of the day in a positive way. For instance, if your child pitched a fit after school because she had to go to the dentist, talk it through and validate her feelings, and have a short discussion on how to make things easier the next time she has an appointment. Help her to go to sleep believing that tomorrow she will do better, with your support.

Block background noise. Close doors so she can’t hear the television or a conversation going on in another room. Consider using a fan (not necessarily blowing on your child, just “on”), aquarium, white noise machine, soft music, or even a radio turned to static to block out background noise that will keep her awake. You don’t want your child to get used to dead silence before bed if you can help it, but you also don’t want to make it very difficult for her to fall asleep because of all the activity going on in your home. Turn the television down in the living room or family room, close doors, and listen when your child says, “It’s too noisy and I can’t sleep!” Keep in mind that auditory listening programs such as Therapeutic Listening and The Listening Program can make it easier for your child’s brain to develop the ability to block background noise.

Provide deep pressure input. It may help if you massage her limbs, squeezing them gently and then releasing, to calm her body. You can teach her to tighten her muscles, then release them, body part by body part, in order to self-calm any time she needs to go from an alert to calm, or sleeping, state. She may need hugging, pillows pressed against her, or a weighted blanket to help her body to fall asleep. If you want to use a weighted blanket, consult a sensory smart OT about the proper weight and use. Or, use heavy cotton blankets, if they don’t make your child too warm.

All of these strategies will help your child with sensory issues relax his system and have an easier time transitioning from an alert to a calm, then asleep, state.

Some of the bedtime stories I recommend are:

Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Look for where the mouse is hiding on each page.

Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. Look for where the yellow bug is hiding on each page. Talk about the many cars and motorcycles, and what Lowly the Worm is doing.

Go Away, Big Green Monster! By Ed Emberley. This clever book allows a child a sense of control over a scary green monster, easing anxieties and reminding him that he is safe. I especially recommend this one for anxious children.

Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt. This sweet storybook features textures, a mini mirror, and other interesting interactive features.

It’s Okay to Be Different, and other titles, by Todd Parr. These gentle, humorous books have bold graphics and simple, whimsical storylines about how it’s okay to be different, to have feelings, and so on. The I’m Not Scared Book is especially good for kids who need to talk about their fears and anxieties.

NEW WEBSITE AND BLOG! If you liked this article, PLEASE come join me at the new www.SensorySmartParent.com and sign up for my NEW newsletter and blog. Thanks!

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Filed under anxiety, bedtime and sleep, Practical tips for sensory issues, sensory issues in babies, sensory processing disorder, SPD and auditory, Uncategorized

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

Sensory Processing Disorder and the Seven (yes, 7!) Senses, a New Video

Here’s a video I made about the seven senses. Yes, there are 7, not 5–they include the ones you learned about in school plus two that are unfamiliar to may people, namely, the vestibular sense (sense of music) and proprioceptive sense (sense of body awareness). I tried to provide some images of various types of sensory input, and explain a bit about the aspects of our more familiar senses that we don’t think about. For instance, when you think of the tactile sense, or sense of touch, do you think about the texture of gritty versus smooth or slimy? Do you think about how you can discriminate between hot and cold? Or that the skin inside your mouth has tactile sensory receptors, too, so that you can have oral sensitivities, or engage in oral sensory seeking?

 

Enjoy the video!

 

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Filed under auditory processing disorders, proprioceptive input, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder, sensory processing disorder symptoms, sensory processing disorder video, sensory seeking, seven senses, SPD and auditory, tactile sense, vestibular input, visual processing

What’s up with this child? Listen to your instincts!

Please share this promotional video with anyone you think might benefit from it. It was inspired by all those well-meaning comments we parents heard, and by the courage of parents who said, “No, I think there’s something ‘off’ with my child and I’m going to explore that possibility.”

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wG4O2TV2smg

 

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Filed under auditory processing disorders, clothing issues, grooming, haircuts, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder, sensory processing disorder diagnosis, sensory processing disorder symptoms, sensory seeking, SensorySmartParent.com, SPD and auditory

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

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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Auditory Processing Disorder & Rosie O’Donnell’s Son

Tara Pope-Parker in the New York Times has a wonderful piece on Rosie O’Donnell’s son Blake’s struggle with auditory processing disorder. Boy, could I relate to what she was saying, especially his description of the zoo visit (although I have to say, there’s an upside to having a child whose most comfortable form of expression is kinesthetic–it makes for VERY engaging and creative oral presentations and conversations!).

As I said in my comment, there are many different types of auditory processing disorder, some of which have been identified with certain areas of the brain. Terri James Bellis’ book When the Brain Can’t Hear was invaluable in helping me understand the differences and why my one friend’s son found the Fast ForWord sample on the internet challenging while my son didn’t have any trouble with it whatsoever, even though both had auditory processing issues. To make matters more confusing, you can have a word retrieval and auditory memory deficit that causes you to express yourself with the wrong word at times even though you can actually hear the difference between similar sounding words. I remember when my son was 7 and said, “Mom, your blood sound travels through your veins” while running his index finger down his calf. It took me a good 10 minutes to get that he meant “blood STREAM.”

The relationship between language processing issues and auditory processing issues is a complex one. Then too, there’s the curious relationship between vestibular (spinning, swinging, movement) input that travels from receptors in the inner ear to the brain for processing, and speech. Why is it so often easier to elicit speech in kids with autism and/or sensory processing disorder when they’re on a swing? It’s a fascinating topic, perhaps one that the Times will explore at a later date.

How has sensory processing based auditory issues (sensitivities and difficulty blocking background noise) affected your child? Does he or she have other auditory processing issues as well? Language processing issues that seem to be related?

Have you used The Listening Program or Therapeutic Listening or FastForWord? Did it work for your child?

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Filed under auditory processing disorders, FastForWord, language processing disorders, learning differences, sensory integration dysfunction, sensory processing disorder, SPD and auditory, The Listening Program, Therapeutic Listening, Uncategorized