Week of October 19, 2020
This week's newsletter is dedicated to helping you support your child's sensory needs.
There are two types of sensory processing challenges, and many children experience a mix of the two.
- Oversensitivity (hypersensitivity). This leads to sensory avoiding—kids avoid sensory input because it’s too overwhelming.
- Undersensitivity (hyposensitivity). This causes kids to be sensory seeking—they look for more sensory stimulation.
I am hopeful that the explanations, strategies and tips included in this newsletter will be helpful to you. If you have questions or concerns about how we can help you to support your child's sensory needs, please contact their classroom teacher.
This guide can answer basic questions about sensory processing issues.
DEDICATE SPACE AT HOME
Most families don’t have a lot of extra space on hand. The important part is making sure the space—and any tools—are individualized to each child.
Be Mindful of Distractions: When determining a space, it’s important to be mindful of the surroundings. Clutter and patterns or decorations on walls can be distracting, particularly for a child with sensory processing difficulties. Children can also easily be affected by light and noise, so caregivers should make sure the space is free of things like a TV or harsh lighting.
Make It Theirs: Household objects can also be used to make spaces more secluded. Build a homemade tent with two pieces of furniture and a blanket, for example, or cut up a cardboard box to make a “desk shield” to put around a child’s work area. You can even create an under-the-table hammock by tying a sheet’s diagonal corners at the top of a dining room table for a private nook.
Add Comfort and Personal Touches: Adding throw rugs, blankets, yoga mats, lounge pillows, and floor pillows can help designate and personalize a corner or space of a room, while bean bag and portable camp chairs can let kids move their seating based on their mood.
CREATE HOMEMADE SENSORY TOOLS
Make Slime: There are a number of ways to make “slime,” a gooey substance that kids with sensory processing disorders (and really any child) like to play with.
Attention Boosting Sensory Activities
Deep Pressure Touch
Deep pressure touch is one of the most commonly used sensory tools. This touch releases serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Deep pressure touch is one of the fastest ways to regulate a child’s nervous system. Having a happy nervous system is the foundation for attention.
Oxytocin decreases cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Other benefits include a more regular pulse.
Another benefit from deep pressure touch is that it increases body awareness or proprioception. This means that our children’s nervous systems can better relax and attend because the body is more connected to the brain. Increased body awareness in space makes it easier to sit still and perform skilled movements such writing.
The most tolerable kind of touch is self-directed. These activities are a great introduction to deep pressure touch on their terms.
Make a BIG pile of pillows and couch cushions on a couch or if you have couch cushions you can put them on the floor. Put them on a yoga mat if on a hardwood floor to prevent the pillows from sliding away and make the ground softer.
Simply moving the pillows is already giving deep pressure touch input.
- Have a child “crash” or jump on to the pile
- Count the number of times and determine the number target to help with transitioning out of the activity
- Get a big pillow
- Have a child hug – either from above or lying on their back with pillow on their torso
- One game to play is “Don’t let go”. The child lies on their back and grips a big pillow tightly with their arms and legs wrapped around it. Someone else tries (dramatically) to pull it away from them. Try cheering your child on by saying, “Don’t let go!!!”
Notice the Signs: Physical behaviors like rocking, fidgeting, or being clingy might indicate a child is subconsciously trying to calm themself down. Adults should watch for these signs, then encourage their children to use their sensory supports before things get out of hand.
Provide Structure: Timers can help give children structure and motivation. If a child is struggling to pay attention, suggest blocks of time or work (like 3-5 minutes) followed by a sensory activity or use of a sensory tool. It can also be helpful to identify keywords and cues your child can use if they feel overwhelmed.
Offer Breaks: Try to offer sensory breaks before a child is having a meltdown. That way, sensory breaks are not thought of by the child as a punitive measure. By giving a child a sensory tool in advance of the meltdown, the child is more likely to regain focus and regulation more quickly on their own.
NOTES FROM THE PTA
The PTA is happy to see families who are able to enjoy the Montrose Playground during the playdates. In order to assist with continued community building, please review the updated playdate schedule and come join your child's classmates if you are able.