Neurological differences in children with SPD: study

This study discusses the neurological differences in  children who have been diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder versus children with typical sensory processing skills.

 

https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2016/01/401461/brains-wiring-connected-sensory-processing-disorder

Writing versus keyboarding

Another argument for focusing on learning to write.  I frequently hear arguments for not worrying about handwriting, the main one is that with technology, handwriting will no longer be necessary.  However, handwriting is a kinesthetic approach to learning the alphabet, spelling, and subsequently how to compose sentences and paragraphs.

I agree that for some children, producing an extensive amount of writing may be laborius, painful, and counterproductive to producing academic essays or projects, and in in these cases, learning how to type is extremely valuable.  However, when it comes to learning , you can’t beat learning through the movement of your fingers.  Therefore, the difference between when to write and when to keyboard can be based on whether the task requires learning versus producing.

This is an excellent article that explains the impact of taking notes with a laptop:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-learning-secret-don-t-take-notes-with-a-laptop/

This article explains the benefits of writing when it comes to learning:

http://www.sciencealert.com/news/20141906-25707.html

Visual Perception – what is it?

Visual Perception is our brains ability to process the visual information gathered by our eyes.  I found an excellent blog that explains visual perception, the different types of visual processing skills, and the impact these skills can have a different developmental stages and ages:

http://www.toolstogrowot.com/blog/2016/03/13/visual-perception-possible-impact-on-a-child-s-success-at-school-home

A child’s potential for greatness is not defined by their diagnosis

I will keep this introduction brief because this article  from the Huffington Post, written in part by a teenage with a diagnosis of ASD, says it all:

Autism Doesn’t Have To Disrupt Your Child’s Potential For Greatness

Nature – the ultimate sensory experience

 

This came by my facebook feed via another OT today.  It’s an excellent article (written by another OT nonetheless) explaining the importance of outdoor time as we view it from a sensory lens.  You do NOT need to be an Occupational Therapist to have your child experience the benefits of nature.  A child’s natural curiosity and energy will lead the way.  Let’s minimize screen time and spend more time outdoors – in the snow, shoveling the backyard, or at the park.  Enjoy the link!

nature-is-the-ultimate-sensory-experience-pediatric-occupational-therapist-makes-the-case-for-nature-therapy/

Fidgeting – a possible scientific explanation on why fidgeting helps with focus

As a Occupational Therapists, we frequently recommend fidget toys to support children who like to “move” in the classroom.  Busy hands = still bodies!

This article discusses the neuroscience around the calming effects of knitting.  I don’t think it would be a far stretch to consider that this is the same effect with fidgeting.

NEUROSCIENTIST EXPLAINS WHY CRAFTING IS GREAT FOR MENTAL HEALTH

Behaviour management via sensory strategies

A good friend of mine shared a link with me as I was looking for some parenting strategies with my own children at home.  I was struck by the approach taken, as I viewed it from an Occupational Therapist’s (OT) lens.  The presenter in the video explains how difficult it is for a child to follow instruction when they feel “disorganized”, as they are not able to think clearly.   She explained that when children are feeling “disorganized” they may shut down or lash out.   She offers some playful strategies such as pillow fights “where your children get to pummel you” to help the parent connect to their child and to the task at hand. Sounds like a sensory approach to manage behaviour to me!

A sensory diet is not just about supporting “busy”  or sensory defensive children.  A sensory diet can also support behaviour at home and at school.   Heavy work and resistive activities through play and exercise is organizing for the brain. When the brain is organized, it’s easier to follow instructions, to focus and to be productive. The video does not explain sensory diet per se.  It is focused on parenting tips only but  I just could not help it and thought I would add my OT lens as I was excited to see some of these ideas represented in this video:

https://handinhand.leadpages.co/parent-club-teaching-videos/

 

Lizette Alexander OT Reg. (Ont)

A parent’s perspective

A strong well written article by a father in the Globe & Mail yesterday, explaining his very real perspective of raising a child with sensory processing difficulties and ASD.  Being a parent is the hardest job we can take on as humans. Being a parent requires the ability to understand that many of their child’s behaviours (the output) are related to how they perceive ane experience their world.  It’s so difficult to get into their little brains and sort out the whys of their behaviours and it requires being a detective and picking up on subtle cues.  Occupational Therapists can help with the detective work and offer strategies to support coping with the child’s perspective on the world but I digress…please read the article, it’s very moving:

I need to look through my child’s eyes to understand her Asperger syndrome 

 

5 Tips for Enjoying Halloween with Sensory Challenges!

Halloween is that fun time of the year when we decorate our homes with cute…but scary Halloween decorations in an attempt to scare anyone who dare walk up to your door.  Decorations may include  flashing lights, fake spider webs, ghosts in the dirt, along with lots of loud scary music  in hopes that we terrify all the giggly children dressed up for Hallows Eve. However, to children who possess sensory challenges, this holiday can be something to dread.  All those sounds, sights and textures can be completely overwhelming and make for a very unhappy child.  Here are some recommended activities and environmental modifications that can alter this holiday from a day to dread – to a day of fun!

  1. Prepare for the day: Read Halloween stories to get them through the month of October, to better understand the value of the holiday. Reviewing and rehearsing the activities through stories, songs and pictures will help your child anticipate activities more favorably!  Reenact the “trick-or-treat” routine so your child is not surprised when a stranger at the door is handing them candy.
  1. Make costumes safe, comfortable and imaginative: Give them the option of deciding their costume of the night by going through their favorite books, TV shows and movies. After getting them excited, experiment the costume in advance to test their comfort.  Watch the fabric and watch for tags. Children with sensory processing challenges may appreciate the “less is more approach”.  For a simple costume, a short cap may suffice!
  1. Trick or treating can be pleasant…up to a point: To make for a fun experience, avoid going to houses that have loud noises and flashing light decorations if you feel this may make your child uncomfortable. It may be beneficial to head to family and friends homes; somewhere your child may be more familiar. Try trick or treating before it gets too dark, as well!
  1. During the day activities: Cater to your child’s preference throughout the day. If your child prefers to keep their hands dry, try decorating pumpkins with stickers. If your child is open to different textures, pumpkin carving and/or bobbing for apples is a great activity to try!
  1. There’s no place like home: Look for signs of sensory overload if your child appears fatigued – fatigue may result in excessively hyper, emotional or unruly activity.  There’s nothing wrong with heading home early, and handing out the candy instead of receiving it!halloween blog

By: Melanie Carlin, B.A. Sociology, Hand Skills for Children Volunteer

The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard!

Learning the Lost Art of Cursive Writing

Picture this; you are in first year University about to write your midterm. So far, you’ve spent your entire educational career learning through a keyboard and with the support of auto-correct and have gained average (if that) spelling knowledge.  After waiting anxiously for the professor to enter the examination room, you nervously put away your typed notes. He begins to lecture the exam instruction which is followed by the distribution of the examination booklets.

“Pull out your pens and pencils” directs your professor; “you may begin”.

You do so by reading the first question, collaborating thoughts and projecting them onto your paper.  However your writing is off, you are not only having difficulty with writing your thoughts down at a projected speed but you are having difficulty grasping your pen and configuring the letters properly.  Your brain starts to feel blank as you have difficulty putting hours of studied concepts down on the paper.  Fifty minutes goes by, “pencils down” instructs the professor.  You look at your exam; your writing is in shambles and lacks sophistication and confidence. You realize at that point, maybe typing the notes wasn’t a successful study method after all.

How is this relevant?  The argument is that this skill is a relic and that there are more important skills to teach students in the 21st century.  It is true; there are many things you can achieve with a keyboard these days.  Technology is easy, reliable and universal. However, having the ability to write in cursive is a timeless skill. Writing offers a tactile or kinesthetic approach to learning.  Children learn best when instruction is offered in a variety of mediums (auditory, visual and tactile). I learned quickly throughout my academic career that writing things down while studying helped me recall much more when needed.  Cursive writing my notes helped visually picture word-for-word notes which benefited me greatly when it came down to Midterm/Final Exam season. Not to mention the speed it took to write my thoughts down, I was speedy!

Click the link below to read the article on benefits of hand writing and cursive writing for all ages:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/learning-the-lost-art-of-cursive-writing/article26600999/

 

By: Melanie Carlin, B.A. Sociology, Hand Skills for Children Volunteer