Archive for October, 2013

SPD Month Series, Part 5 of 5: Visual Processing and Olfactory Processing

Red Flags for Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

October is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month. Each Tuesday in October, we will share some of the “red flags” of SPD.

Many parents of children with sensory processing difficulties report feeling that something was “off” with their child, but they were unable to identify the source. The following list includes some of the red flags we as occupational therapists look for when evaluating a child for sensory dysfunction. If you are concerned about your child’s development and ability to process sensory input, speak with your pediatrician, or give us a call at the Center to discuss the potential need for an evaluation.

Signs of Visual Dysfunction

Please note, that as with auditory dysfunction, any issues you observe with your child’s visual functioning should be screened by a pediatrician or eye care professional to rule out visual impairments. A child who is over responsive to visual input may attempt to shield his eyes from lights or become overwhelmed by a visually busy environment. Under responsive children may appear to ignore visual stimuli or have a hard time locating an object in a group of other objects.

 

Does your child:

  • Seem more sensitive to bright or fluorescent lights than other children?
  • Become easily distracted by visual stimuli, such as decorations hanging in a room, movement out a window, etc.?girl with sunglasses
  • Rub his eyes or have watery eyes after reading or watching TV?
  • Have difficulty finding an object in a group, such as finding a particular toy from a toy box?
  • Frequently lose his place when reading or copying written work?
  • Write with inconsistent sizing and placement of letters, more than other children in his grade?

 

 

Signs of Olfactory Dysfunction

The olfactory system is our sense of smell. This system plays an important role in safety, such as the noticing the smell of spoiled food, and can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to focus and participate in a variety of environments.

 

Does your child:

  • React negatively to smells not noticed by other children?
  • Frequently talk about how other people smell?
  • Become bothered by household smells, such as cleaning products or cooking smells?
  • Fail to notice unpleasant odors?
  • Use smell to interact with objects or people?

 

Last Week: The Auditory System

 

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Apps We Love: Monkey Drum

App Name: Monkey Drum

Why We Love It:monkey drum

This is yet another adorable and free app that we love. To play, the child taps on a bongo drum or hits keys on a xylophone to make her own rhythm or song. Then the monkey will imitate the exact song the child played. This can be a great tool for children learning cause and effect. We also use this with older children who are working on motor planning and timing. You can tap out a short rhythm, the monkey will imitate it, and then your child can attempt to recreate the same rhythm.

Why Kids Love It:

As you play your song or rhythm, the monkey will smile, clap and dance which engages the children. After a long song, or several shorter ones, a banana falls from the tree and the child can feed it to the monkey. He might launch it into the air or catch it in his mouth. Feeding the monkey bananas earns points to unlock other characters, instruments or accessories.

Available: iTunes FREE or Monkey Drum Deluxe (instruments and characters unlocked) $3.99

SPD Month Series, Part 4 of 5: Auditory Processing

Red Flags for Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

October is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month. Each Tuesday in October, we will share some of the “red flags” of SPD.

Many parents of children with sensory processing difficulties report feeling that something was “off” with their child, but they were unable to identify the source. The following list includes some of the red flags we as occupational therapists look for when evaluating a child for sensory dysfunction. If you are concerned about your child’s development and ability to process sensory input, speak with your pediatrician, or give us a call at the Center to discuss the potential need for an evaluation.

Signs of Auditory Dysfunction:

Please note that auditory problems should be screened by a pediatrician or hearing specialist, to rule out any hearing impairments. A child who is over responsive to auditory input may find typical household sounds to be overwhelming or painful. Other children are under responsive to this input and may have difficulty filtering out pertinent auditory input from background noises or appear to not hear well even though there is nothing physically impairing their hearing.

Does your child:too loud

  • Become distracted or bothered by background noise other children do not notice?
  • Show fear of typical household and community sounds, such as toilets flushing, an automatic hand dryer, vacuum or hair dryer?
  • Frequently ask people to stop talking or singing because of the noise?
  • Seem oblivious to certain sounds that other children notice?
  • Need directions repeated or frequently ask “What?”

Last Week: The Proprioceptive System

Next Week: The Visual System and Olfactory System

Helpful Hints for Halloween

Halloween is almost here! Are you ready?

  • Have your child try on his costume ahead of time. Layering tight fitting clothing, such as Under Armor, may help decrease the discomfort of novel fabrics. Be willing to adjust your expectations of what constitutes a costume. A simple pair of black sweatpants and a favorite Batman shirt could be a Batman costume.
  • Face paint and masks can be difficult for children with tactile sensitivities. If your child wants to have a mask but cannot wear it, attach a dowel to the side so she can hold the mask up when she wants to.
  • Canvas your neighborhood before Halloween. Avoid houses with motion-sensor decorations or warn your child ahead of time if he has auditory sensitivities.
  • Role-play the social interactions required during trick-or-treating. There are many “hidden curriculum” items involved with Halloween, such as:

– skipping houses that do not have lights on

– taking one piece of candy instead of a handful

– waiting in line behind other children who arrived first

– some adults wear costumes while others do not

– other children may wear the same costume as you

– some people wear scary costumes while others do not

– if it is cold outside, you may have to wear a jacket over your costume

– if you do not like any of the candy that a person is offering to you, you can say “No, thank you” or politely take a piece to share with someone else in your family

  • Children who are sensitive to smells and tactile input may be able to participate in pumpkin decorating by painting, drawing or placing stickers on their pumpkin instead of carving.
  • Know your child’s limits. Some children can only tolerate trick-or-treating at a few homes. Watch for signs your child is becoming overwhelmed or over stimulated and take a break.
  • Have a plan and discuss it with your child ahead of time. When will you go trick-or-treating? How much candy will your child be allowed to eat that night?
  • Use sensory breaks. Bring along a drink in a sports bottle or let your child chew gum for organizing oral motor input. Have your child pull a wagon or do a quick set of wall push-ups against the car or an understanding neighbor’s house.
  • As with any holiday, try to keep a reliable schedule at home during the week of Halloween.
  • Most importantly, have fun! Halloween is not about making it to every house in the neighborhood; it is about the quality time your child can enjoy participating in the festivities in a way that works for them.

SPD Month Series, Part 3 of 5: Proprioceptive Processing

Red Flags for Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

October is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month. Each Tuesday in October, we will share some of the “red flags” of SPD.

Many parents of children with sensory processing difficulties report feeling that something was “off” with their child, but they were unable to identify the source. The following list includes some of the red flags we as occupational therapists look for when evaluating a child for sensory dysfunction. If you are concerned about your child’s development and ability to process sensory input, speak with your pediatrician, or give us a call at the Center to discuss the potential need for an evaluation.

Signs of Proprioceptive Dysfunction

The proprioceptive system uses receptors in the joints and muscles throughout the body to provide information regarding body position without having to actually look at our body parts. This system also helps to grade the amount of force that is needed to pick up an egg vs. pick up a full gallon of milk. Proprioceptive input is gained during activities such as pushing, pulling, dragging, lifting, crashing, jumping, chewing and squeezing.

Does your child:

  • Have a strong internal drive for activities such as pushing, pulling, dragging, crashing, etc.?
  • Kick his feet against the floor or chair legs when seated at a table?
  • Fall to the floor intentionally?wrestle dad
  • Frequently bump into people?
  • Fail to notice when he has fallen?
  • Tend to grasp objects so tightly or loosely that it is difficult to use them?
  • Press extremely hard or very lightly on a pencil when writing?
  • Unintentionally use excessive force when playing with animals or peers, such as petting a cat too hard, or giving a hug that is painful to the other person?
  • Break toys or writing tools by pressing too hard?
  • Have a history of difficulty learning bowel and bladder control?

Last Week: The Vestibular System

Next Week: The Auditory System

SPD Month Series, Part 2 of 5: Vestibular Processing

Red Flags for Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

October is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month. Each Tuesday in October, we will share some of the “red flags” of SPD.

Many parents of children with sensory processing difficulties report feeling that something was “off” with their child, but they were unable to identify the source. The following list includes some of the red flags we as occupational therapists look for when evaluating a child for sensory dysfunction. If you are concerned about your child’s development and ability to process sensory input, speak with your pediatrician, or give us a call at the Center to discuss the potential need for an evaluation.

Signs of Vestibular Dysfunction:

The vestibular system provides us with information regarding our head position in relation to gravity, and gives information about speed and directionality of movement. It also plays a key role in the development of hand dominance, balance, bilateral coordination, and maintaining a steady visual field. Children who are over responsive to vestibular input may be extremely fearful of movement activities and appear overly cautious during play. Children who are under responsive may be in constant movement and take excessive risks during play.

Does your child:

  • Avoid playground equipment or only use swings by lying on his stomach and pushing off the ground with his feet?
  • Dislike elevators or escalators?
  • Avoid walking on uneven surfaces, or need to watch the placement of his feet when walking on uneven ground?
  • Show fear of his head being tipped away from vertical, such as tipping his head back during hair washing?
  • Have difficulty with balance activities such as bike riding or hopping on one foot?swing jump
  • Fail to catch himself when falling?
  • Rock or constantly change position when sitting?
  • Tend to be in constant movement, more than other children his age?
  • Seem to be a “thrill seeker” and take excessive risks during play?
  • Constantly jump from furniture, spin excessively on swings or place his body in inverted positions?

Last Week: The Tactile System

Next Week: The Proprioceptive System

Gallery

Pencil Grips

Many children we see at the clinic have difficulty assuming and maintaining a functional pencil grasp, which impacts their ability to write. What do we mean by “a functional pencil grasp”? Here are a few grasp patterns that we encourage:

Tripod Grasp – this is often seen as the “gold standard” for pencil grasp, however it is not the only tripodfunctional and efficient way to hold a pencil. The pencil is held between the thumb and index finger and rests on the side of the middle finger. The ring and pinkie fingers are tucked into the palm while the shaft of the pencil rests in the open webspace formed by the thumb and index fingers. This pattern requires strong intrinsic hand muscles and good stability at the joints.

Quadrupod Grasp – this pattern is closely related to the tripod grasp, however, the pencil is held by the thumb, quadindex and middle finger and it rests on the side of the ring finger. The pinkie is tucked into the palm and the pencil shaft rests in the open webspace just like a tripod grasp. This pattern provides slightly more stability but does not sacrifice control or joint positions.

Modified Tripod Grasp – Although this pattern looks quite a bit different than a standard mod triptripod grasp pattern, the pencil is held the same way by the tips of the thumb and index finger. The difference is that the shaft of the pencil rests between the index and middle fingers. This pattern may be beneficial for children who lack stability of their webspace and arches of the hand. The movement of the pencil remains unimpeded and the joint positions are ergonomically correct.

Chances are if you are reading this article, your child does not use one of the patterns listed above. Some children tuck their thumbs under their index fingers, which is referred to as a thumb tuck.

thumb tuck

Others place their thumb on top of their index fingers for added stability, which is referred to as a thumb wrap.

thumb wrap

Then there are a wide variety of other dysfunctional grasp patterns like this one:

five finger

Perhaps a teacher or other professional has suggested the use of a pencil grip but with so many different grips available, how do you know which one is right for your child? Speak with your occupational therapist to investigate the need for a grip. Here are some of the common grips available. Click on the pictures below for a larger image.

A Word of Caution Regarding Any Pencil Grips:

  • Whenever exploring the potential use of a pencil grip, the following must be considered:
    • Does the grip support participation in handwriting tasks or does it cause more of a distraction?
    • Can the child consistently place their fingers correctly on the grip or do they need assistance each time they pick up the pencil?
    • Is the child willing to use the grip or will they hide it in their desk or “lose” it?
    • Is the child working to develop the intrinsic musculature of the hand in order to transition away from needing a grip?
    • What are the other factors impacting their writing? How is their trunk control? Are the seat and desk heights appropriately matched for the child? How is their proximal stability at their shoulder? What is their wrist position? Does the child efficiently separate movement between the two sides of the hand? How do their visual perceptual skills impact their writing? How does their regulation impact their attention and ability to sit long enough to master grip and graphomotor skills?
  • Before a child enters Kindergarten, there is little need to use pencils or grips. Encourage the use of short crayons or pieces of chalk instead. A child’s grasp patterns continue to develop into a “mature” pattern around the age of 5-6 years old, so it is not uncommon to see a child alternate between functional and less functional grasp patterns up until this time.