When Sounds Hurt My Body

The other day when we got home from some random outing, we walked in the door and the dog went nuts. He was jumping all over the house like he had just ingested a gallon of coffee, jumping on the couch, running to the other side, jumping down, running to one child, then the next, all while barking. Oliver was screaming from excitement at every time the dog barked, which then made the dog bark again, most likely to the obscene disciples that child can reach when shrieking. Killian was laughing and yelling, “Ah! Kizzy! Kizzy is jumping! He’s jumping,” over and over again. I could feel my anxiety rising and rising as I’m trying to get the dog to hold still, Killian to stop repeating himself, Oliver to stop shrieking, and I am failing at each one.

I was losing my ever-loving mind.

My anxiety gets triggered by lots of sounds happening all at once or having the same sound(s) repeated over and over again. I feel like I am falling and drowning. Everything is caving in on me and there is no escape.

I love music. Classic rock is amazing, however, most songs I have to turn off because the instrumental solos are stuck on repeat of just a few chords and seem to go on with no end in sight and I start feeling suffocated. Guns and Roses is a great band, but I can’t listen to them because this happens in nearly every song they made.

So, when all of this loud chaos was happening and I couldn’t get it to stop, I lost my temper and screamed at my kids to shut up. Shut up is a no-no phrase in our house. Killian looked at me and started crying and ran off, Oliver just stood there and the dog froze. as my husband calls it, I had used my “demon voice” aka the “Mom has finally lost her shit and now everyone is in trouble” voice.

I felt really bad for scarring Killian and I immediately said sorry and that mommy was going to go into a time-out for saying something naughty. Really, I just needed a break from everything. But I knew that if I told him that I was going in time-out, it would show him that even mommies make mistakes and do something naughty at times.

Later, after I had calmed down, I got to thinking about how I react to sensory overload and how Killian is affected by the same thing but on a greater level at times. For instance, his clothes HAVE to be Cat and Jack or he starts to melt down. A friend gave me some cargo pants that her son had outgrown and Killian fought tooth and nail about how it hurt his skin. He said that it was to heavy, the pants felt to big on his legs, the button hurt, and he HAD to take them off NOW! Having tags on clothes makes him itch. If he even gets 1 drop of water on his clothes, he HAS to take them off because he can not stand to have that on him. Cat and Jack are an amazing brand of kid’s clothing that is specifically designed for kids with special needs and sensory issues. Everything is smooth, tagless, have a stretchy band and drawstring option in pants, and adaptive.

Killian has sensory processing disorder which makes some of his senses more sensitive and others lacking. His body craves deep pressure stimulation. He loves big hugs because having his body squeezed tight is calming to him. It will be 90º and he is wrapping himself in a giant comforter so he has that compression around his entire body. He loves to run and crash into people or the couch, pillows, and blankets. But if you were to run your fingertips lightly up and down his arm he will pull away like he just got burned.

Sensory processing refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into responses. For those with Sensory Processing Disorder, sensory information goes into the brain but does not get organized into appropriate responses. Those with SPD perceive and/or respond to sensory information differently than most other people. Unlike people who have impaired sight or hearing, those with Sensory Processing Disorder do detect the sensory information; however, the sensory information gets “mixed up” in their brain and therefore the responses are inappropriate in the context in which they find themselves. SPD is a neurophysiologic condition in which sensory input either from the environment or from one’s body is poorly detected, modulated, or interpreted and/or to which atypical responses are observed.

I recently was introduced to a wonderful YouTube activist who is shedding a much-needed light on Autism and other disabilities from a first person point of view. Her name is Agony Autie and she created a fantastic video about Sensory Processing Disorder . In the video she explains some of her triggers and what it feels like to her. Having your senses overloaded faster and easier than “normal” people can be very traumatic and confusing. I’m sure it can even become embarrassing for some. We don’t live in a sensory friendly world. We are having our sensory systems stimulated at all times of the day. From having the sound of an airplane flying overhead at the same time as the cracking of car tires over gravel, distant laughter, a nearby conversation, music playing on the speakers, the smell of coffee from the cafe’, onions from the restaurant next door, fries from another restaurant across the street, the warm sun mixed with the cool breeze on your skin. All of these things that I am currently being exposed to as I sit outside of Starbuck and write. Things that have no effect on me because I am naturally able to process the sensory input that I am receiving into categories of “important/needed/relative” and “unimportant/background/junk” files. I can have all of these sensory inputs attack my system and they get filtered through without any negative reactionary discord.

Those with SPD are unable to filter those olfactory augmentations. The brain becomes overloaded and everything is too much to handle. Some may cover their ears, close their eyes, or even curl up into a ball in order to block out the world around them that is causing so much harm to them. Agony Autie explains that some of these sensory inputs may have a very physical reaction to the person even if they are not tactile in nature. For instance, hearing specific words or sounds may cause your body to cringe and feel distressed. Or looking at a pattern may cause your eyes to swirl and your head begin to pound.

Something to help those with SPD is to create a sensory backpack that is filled with items to help block out the offensive stimuli and give them something else to replace it with. For instance, if the child (or adult) is easily offset by sounds, include a pair of noise canceling headphones in the backpack for them. If moving colors tend to calm them, include a liquid motion bubbler for them to focus on. Because Killian craves the deep pressure and physical resistance I put a couple of therabands in his backpack. Oliver puts EVERYTHING in his mouth, she he has a chewy necklace that he can chew on instead of licking every possible surface of the grocery store.

Unfortunately, we can not prevent stimuli from occurring, but we can warn the child about what to expect and be prepared for when it becomes too much to bear. Teaching them to recognize when the triggers are beginning to affect them negatively and how to safely and effectively let you or someone else know that they need help becoming regulated again. Once you start seeing the tell-tale signs that your child is becoming agitated, bring out the sensory backpack and ask them what hurts, or select something for them if they are unable to communicate with you.

There are two types of sensory processing challenges, and many kids experience a mix of the two. One is oversensitivity (hypersensitivity). This leads to sensory avoiding—kids avoid sensory input because it’s too overwhelming. The other is undersensitivity (hyposensitivity). This causes kids to be sensory seeking—they look for more sensory stimulation. Often, kids with sensory processing issues are oversensitive. They try to avoid sensations they find intolerable. But some kids seek more sensory input, not less. They may want to touch things and feel physical contact and pressure. They may also be undersensitive to pain and have an unusually high tolerance for it. That’s why they may prefer playing rough and not understand if they’re hurting someone. Some kids may be both sensory avoiding and sensory seeking. They may be oversensitive to some sensations, and undersensitive to others. A child’s reactions can also change from one day to the next, or even throughout the day, depending on the environment or situation.

Kids who are sensory avoiding may react to a wide range of triggers. These can include loud sounds, uncomfortable clothing, crowded spaces, or certain food smells or textures, among others. Whatever the trigger, the reaction can sometimes be extreme. Sensory overload can lead to sensory meltdowns. These are very different from tantrums because they’re out of the child’s control. Kids who are undersensitive to sensory input have the opposite situation. They often have a need for movement. And they may seek out input like spicy or sour tastes and physical contact and pressure.

Sensory processing issues aren’t a diagnosis on their own. But they often co-occur with two conditions: ADHD and Autism. Kids don’t have to have ADHD or Autism to have sensory processing issues, however. Some of the signs of ADHD may look similar to the signs of sensory processing issues. Kids with either of these conditions might need to be in constant motion, for instance. But the reasons would be different. Like kids with ADHD, kids with sensory processing issues may also experience anxiety. And while ADHD and autism often co-occur with sensory issues, they do not cause them.

There are a few tests professionals can use to identify sensory processing issues. These include Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT) and the Sensory Processing Measure (SPM) checklist. In general, though, the behaviors kids show are very visible and evident. It’s important to observe your child and take notes to share with professionals who might identify your child’s challenges. Occupational therapists (OTs) are often qualified to identify and create treatment plans for sensory challenges in kids. Other professionals may be able to identify sensory processing issues, too.

There are no medications for sensory processing issues. But there are professionals that can help your child learn strategies to cope with sensory challenges.

OTs often work with kids with sensory issues. They help kids find ways to be less overwhelmed by sensory input. You may have heard of a treatment known as sensory integration therapy, but more often therapists might create what’s called a sensory diet. This is a tailored plan of physical activities. It helps kids learn to calm themselves and regulate their behavior and emotions. And that makes them more open to learning and socializing. Some of these activities are heavy work, a type of activity that pushes or pulls against the body.

Here are some things that might be included in a sensory diet:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Rolling on a therapy ball
  • Push-ups
  • Hopping up and down
  • Climbing ladders and going down slides

Child psychologists also work with kids who have sensory processing issues. They can use cognitive behavioral therapy to help kids talk through their feelings and frustrations caused by their challenges.

At school, your child might be able to get accommodations through a 504 plan. (If your child has an IEP for another issue, it could include accommodations for sensory issues, too.) The teacher may also give your child informal supports.

Classroom accommodations to help kids with sensory processing issues might include:

  • Allowing your child to use a fidget.
  • Providing a quiet space or earplugs for noise sensitivity.
  • Telling your child ahead of time about a change in routine.
  • Seating your child away from doors, windows or buzzing lights.
  • Allowing your child to take exercise breaks to self-regulate.

Right now, one of our main goals in OT, speech, and behavioral therapy is to get Killian to recognize on his own when his senses are feeling overloaded and how to ask for a break or signal to us that his brain needs a break to decompress if he is unable to verbally communicate those needs. I hope that we are able to come up with a solution before he begins Kindergarten so we can add it to the IEP for all of his instructors to be able to know and use when school begins to tax his little body and brain.

If you are needing help creating a sensory backpack or coming up with sensory friendly games and/or toys, Pintrest and a ton of amazing ideas. It’s where I went when creating Killian’s. Also, speak with your child’s therapist about seeing if their health insurance would cover the cost to provide you and your child with these tools. I recently learned that his does (though it can be a lot of paperwork and wait time).

-The Lazy Mama

But He Doesn’t Have A Job…

When I first told my husband about our 4 year old son going to Occupational Therapy, he looked at me like I had lost my damn mind and said, “Why does he need occuapational therapy? He doesn’t have a job!”

Whenever I talk to people about him being in OT they always want to know what he does there and why he goes.  So this post is all about pediatric occupational therapy and th eimportance of it with special needs children.

So, what exactly is OT?

Occupational therapy helps people live as independently as possible. Occupational therapists work with people of all ages who (because of illness, injury, developmental delays, or psychological problems) need help learning skills that can allow them to live more independent, productive and satisfying lives. Occupational therapists use work, self-care, and recreational activities to increase independent function.

What is a Pediatric Occupational Therapaist and what do they actully do?

Pediatric occupational therapists focus on the “occupations” of childhood which are play, socialization, self-care, and school performance. Pediatric occupational therapists help children develop the skills needed for functional independence in these important developmental areas.

Pediatric OT is aimed at the unique needs of each individual child and is provided through meaningful activity, so as to keep the child motivated and invested in the therapeutic process. Also known as, Play Therapy. While pediatric therapy is designed to feel like play to the child, expertly trained occupational therapists draw from strategies in many specialty areas to build upon the child’s progress.

Pediatric occupational therapy focuses on the progression of developmental skills, the use of compensation techniques and/or adaptive equipment as needed, and adapting to the environment. The goal for the child is to promote the highest level of independence and success during work or play.

OTs place great importance on working closely with parents and other caregivers/teachers for carryover into the home and school.

More important than the things they use during pediatric therapy is the building of a relationship. OTs focus not just on skill development, but also on play, socialization, language, and teamwork. They strive to help the child learn that they are partners in this process and that he/she is able to achieve the extraordinary.

Why is pediatric OT so important?

When children are offered the ‘just-right’ sensory motor and input demands that are based off their own unique needs, they typically will respond at their optimum level. When they are successful in an activity, it helps to motivate them and organize their behavior to participate more in day-to-day activities.

Sensory motor activities that are child-initiated and play-based are therapeutic. Activities that control the intensity, type, and duration of sensory input carefully will either calm the over-responsive child OR alert the under-responsive child. This allows them to participate more fully in self-help tasks and play that is more developmentally appropriate.

The list starts with providing aid to children facing difficulties in daily activities like brushing, dressing, toileting, writing, drawing, etc. The therapy helps develop these self-help skills in the children.

Here is a list of some ares and conditions that pediatric OTs work on:

  • Sensory processing
  • Play and socialization
  • Fine motor and hand skill development
  • Visual perceptual/visual-motor skills
  • Handwriting
  • Self-care
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Environmental modifications
  • Sensory-based feeding problems
  • Autism
  • Developmental delay
  • Down Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • ADHD
  • Behavioral difficulties
  • And more….

What is our role as the parent?

Parents have a huge role in the therapy of their child. It’s important that they understand what the therapist is doing and PARTICIPATE. This will assist them in helping their child at home.

Take sensory integration for an example. An essential way a parent (or teacher) can expedite sensory integration and sensory processing is by realizing that it is real and has an impact on the child’s development. Although teachers and parents offer an enriched environment for the child to promote healthy maturity and growth, they should also consider the unique needs of each child.

By working with a pediatric occupational therapist for early intervention, parents can enhance their child’s physical, social, cognitive, emotional, communicative, and adaptive developments.

Now let’s do a mini delve in to what Pediatric Occupational Therapy looks like in different types of special needs.

Sensory Processing Issues:

It is generally observed that children with sensory processing issues are unable to synthesize information in the basic five senses (sight, smell, touch, hear, and taste). These children may experience over-sensitivity, under-sensitivity, or both at different places like school, home, or anywhere. These kids often feel difficulty in paying attention and get distracted easily by sounds or visual stimulations or other things. They could also try to avoid recess and other group activites.

Occupational therapy can help them regain the skills and address the issue in a proper manner.

Kids with Cerebral Palsy:

Occupational therapy is also beneficial for those suffering from cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and other disorders in which the child needs a wheelchair. The OT teaches the child to use the wheelchair in a proper manner and gain the ability to be independant in their home, make it to class on time, get things out of their locker, and more.

Kids with Autistic Spectrum Disorder:

Autism and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) are somewhat related but are not the same. Children with SPD may not suffer from Autism, but the reverse may be true. The child suffering from SPD has trouble communicating with other people, limited play skills, less interest in activities, and more. The occupational therapist can help gain these skills by observing the child’s behavior and developing a plan for them. The OT uses different sets of methods and plans, and there is no one single ideal program. These may include activities to help with interaction, puzzles to develop coordination and awareness, and more.

Fine and Gross Motor Skills Delay

Gross motor skill involves the movement of muscles needed in whole body movement (arms, legs, core). Fine motor skills (or dexterity) are the coordination of small muscles in movement (forearms and fingers). Children having trouble with these skills may experience difficulty in walking, riding a bike, writing, puzzles, and other activities.

Occupational therapy can be used to deal with the condition and eventually eradicate it. They can adapt and create skills in order to become more self-sufficiant and independant, especially with regards to grooming.

What are some OT activites that can be seen during a therapy session?

There are a number of activities that can be arranged for children with special needs depending on the condition. Therapy can be conducted in several places like a hospital, home, school, a clinic, specialized center, etc. It will be designed differently depending on age and abilities.

For Toddlers and Infants:

Infants generally face trouble sleeping at night. The common exercises that are included are bath time activities, providing gentle massage, sand and water therapy, feeding therapy, activities using specialized toys to make them deal with light and sound, olfactory input activities, and more.

Sensory Integration Activities

These activities help a child respond more actively and accurately to the environment. The activities are designed in such a way that it creates a deep pressure on the child. These can be active or passive. You can create soft corners in the room using soft furnishing like a bean bag which provides a wonderful deep pressure with a calming effect.

Another thing you can do is let him/her lie down on a mat or bed and cover them with blankets and pillows to develop pressure. Other techniques would be to give them a stress ball to squeeze, chew toys, a liquid motion bubbler, and many more sensory items.

Coordination Activities

These are designed for the child’s legs and arms so that they can work in an effective way. These are divided into two broad categories: bilateral and hand-eye coordination skills. For hand-eye coordination, ask your child to hit a ball with a bat, catch a ball, etc. Bilateral activities provide the ability to use both sides of the body in an accurate manner. You can ask your child to roll out pastry sheets from a play dough, ask them to pull a rope hand-over-hand, etc.

Visual Perception Activities

These activities help the child understand the information sent by the eyes to the brain. For form constancy, and to help them understand shapes, put objects on a tray and ask your child to recognize them. You can also use any object at home for this activity. Use books to teach them different fonts and same alphabets of different size to enhance their abilities. Ask your child to draw shapes, lines, alphabets, etc. You can also use a jigsaw puzzle to aid development process.

Activities for Fine and Gross Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are required for those who have trouble using a hand, fingers, and forearm properly. The basic therapy includes simple exercises of arms, wrist, fingers, etc., so that they can perform regular work like holding a pencil with ease. Give them safety scissors and ask them to cut out shapes from the paper.

For gross motor skills, help your child with core and shoulder activities. These activities may include swimming, hopscotch, wheelbarrow walking, walking over an unstable surface, etc.

Miscellaneous Activity

Other activities involved in pediatric occupational therapy that could keep them involved and improve their developmental processes are: painting with pom-pom balls, making a playdough puzzle, smash the dough or cut out shapes from it, place a coin in a container, and more.

 

If it is not obvious by now, please let me be the very blunt, gigiantic billboard in neon lights for you.

EARLY INTERVENTION IS VITAL!!!!!!

If you even THINK that your child is delayed in the slightest, insist that their pediatrician sends out a referral for an OT to evaluate them.  If the pediatrician denies that simple request then you need a new doctor ASAP.

So the next time someone asks why a child needs occuapational therapy, you can educate them on the importance of it and all of the positive benefits that will come from the outisde assistance.

-The Lazy Mama

The Journey Begins

Here is my forum. Nothing is off topic. I will go into the good, the bad, the ugly, and the dirty. I am a mom of 2 boys. Killian (2014) and Oliver (2017). My oldest boy has ADHD, high functioning Autism, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and sensory processing disorder. I am NOT an expert but I will be sharing MY story. I hope to inspire others going through the same journey as me. I hope to help you advocate for your child and give you a place to feel safe in the fact that you are NOT alone. Trust your mama (or daddy) gut and fight for your kiddo. That being said, this is not going to be all about his neurodiversity. This is about everything that I have gone through and am going through in life with these kiddos.

Parenting is hard. No matter what issues your kiddos do or do not have. So sit back, grab a glass of wine, hop into my sarcastic brain child, and enjoy my story!