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Best Sports for Kids with SPD

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder often struggle with identifying different sensations that the body comes in contact with. Depending on the type of SPD your child has, different sensors can be affected. For example, if your child’s SPD effects their vision, they may struggle to identify colors, lights, shapes, and sizes. Sensory Processing Disorder can affect all walks of life. It can affect a child’s learning ability, social life, productivity, and daily life in general.

There are multiple therapies that can help a child cope with this diagnosis. One of the more fun options is participating in athletic activities. After doing some research, we were able to compile a list of sports that parents feel helped their child the most.

Swimming

Swimming is great because directly affects all of the child’s senses at once. They can feel the water from their head to their toes. Also, there are tons of visual cues and movements. It’s a fun activity that will also teach them the importance of safety.

Martial Arts

Sometimes, SPD can have an effect on the emotional self-control of a child. This can rear the ugly head of SPD; leading to aggressive outbreaks. Martial arts will help your child learn self-control. The combative sport will teach your child how to control their bodies and mind.

Wrestling

Like martial arts, wrestling is a great way for your child to learn self-control. At the same time, wrestling provides a way for your child to burn physical energy. Wrestling is a great brain exercise as your child will have to come up with a strategy to defeat their opponent.

Gymnastics

As with the other sports we have mentioned, gymnastics is great for any child, not just a child with SPD. Although, your child with SPD may struggle with following instructions. If this is the case, you can ask for open gym time. During this time, the gym will be less crowded and your child can freestyle.

Yoga

Like the other activities we mentioned, Yoga is great because it’s a peaceful and calming environment that teaches focus all while requiring a lot of physical output. Yoga is great for your child’s body. It will build strength, increase flexibility, and straighten posture.

When you are looking for activities for your child, try to find those that affect all of the child’s senses. You want to put your child in a place where they can not only succeed, but learn valuable skills that can be applied to all walks of life.

Helping Your Picky Eater

Have you ever asked your child to try something and without hesitation, your child has determined that he or she hates it despite the fact he or she has never tried it before? The reason that this occurs might be surprising but it’s very common. It has to do with food texture. Even adults find themselves enjoying the flavor or something but also can’t stand the texture of the food.

Where does this aversion to food texture come from and how can we use this knowledge to help your picky eater? Food texture issues stem from a delay or oral motor skills such as movement of the tongue to push the food to the sides of the mouth so one can easily chew. When a child suffers from delayed oral motor skills, it makes some things very difficult to chew. The child remembers this type of food caused distress and if they put something in the mouth that has a similar mouth feel they will automatically spit it out or begin to gag. Over time, they will refuse to eat foods that they think will be difficult to chew and therefore become a “picky eater”.

There are several ways to help encourage your child to try new textures and to eat new foods. The first method is to help them get used to the texture in general. For example, if your child doesn’t like eating mushy foods like mashed potatoes then have them play with mushy textures throughout the day like playdoh. This gets them used to the texture and it won’t seem as off-putting when it comes to mealtime. Another method is sort of like exposure therapy. Have a side of vegetables with every meal will get your child used to them on the plate. Do not force your child to eat them. Sooner or later they are more likely to at least try them. The key is to be patient and let your child discover the flavor on their own. We recommend having at least 2 to 3 different textures on the plate. For example “chewy” meat, “mushy” potatoes and “textured” vegetables.

One other important thing to know is to not reward your kids with food. Even if your kid eats all their vegetables it doesn’t mean that they should get a piece of cake. Conversely, don’t offer them cake if they eat all their vegetables. It’s important for kids to learn to eat without reward.

For more advice we recommend the following article:
https://www.romper.com/p/food-texture-aversion-in-toddlers-7-ways-to-help-your-picky-eater-8249053

Transitioning To Winter

The transition from fall to winter with kids with sensory processing disorder can be extremely overwhelming. It can be overwhelming for anyone regardless if they have a disorder or not. Especially this year with the weather yo-yo-ing from hot to cold throughout the week, being prepared to help your child transition from day to day can make your morning routine go smoother.

The Layered Effect

Heavy coats are usually deemed unwearable by kids with SPD. They are too bulky and can feel uncomfortable. The best course of action is to dress your child in soft layers. On especially cold days start with a thermal, then long sleeved shirt, then a sweatshirt and then a hoodie. The fabric should be something that your child likes to wear such as cotton or flannel. You can even have them pick out clothes that they like to wear from other seasons (such as their favorite hoodie from fall or their favorite long sleeved shirt from spring) and have them create the layered outfit.

Portable Hand Warmers

Some children with SPD will flat out refuse to wear gloves or mittens. By adding portable hand warmers in their pockets, they can keep their hands in their pockets without the sensation that they can’t touch anything or feel stifled by an uncomfortable fabric on their hands.

Practice Makes Perfect

One of the ways to get children with SPD to cooperate it to practice and plan. By having your child sit in a warm coat or by placing his hands in gloves for a few minutes each day can help give them exposure to what is upcoming. This way when the winter does come, it’s not as traumatizing as putting them into a coat for the first time.

Soft Clothing

Before putting the clothing on the child, be sure to give it a wash with fabric softener to help make the clothing feel appealing. Also make sure you remove any hidden tags (especially in gloves) that would feel irritating.

Having a child with SPD can be so overwhelming but these are a few tips and tricks that you can do to help make the transitions from warm weather to cold weather easier.

Sensory Processing Disorder During Christmas

Everyone knows that the holidays can be rather chaotic in and of themselves. The coming and going of relatives, the seemingly eternal bustle of shopping and preparing for Christmas, and the perception that there is never enough time in a day to get everything done. For many people, despite the holidays being a time of good cheer and merriment, they are more often filled with stress and tight schedules to make sure that everything gets done in an orderly fashion – if it gets done in any fashion at all.

For those who have even weightier troubles, such as sensory processing disorder, Christmas time and the holidays in general can be an absolute nightmare. Daily schedules are all but abandoned as people attempt to coordinate plans for getting together, people are in and out with what appears to be no rhyme or reason, and a lot of what makes Christmas so stressful for people is navigating among everyone else in the outside world who are also trying to get their holidays absolutely perfect. For those with SPD, this can be especially hectic. So for those who are trying to coordinate a happy holiday as well as accommodate the needs of someone with SPD (and they are important to accommodate), here are a few holiday tips to consider:

First and foremost, don’t be afraid to acclimate Christmas to your child’s needs. If your child has specific eating habits or may very likely reject Christmas dinner somewhere else, you should feel encouraged to have a meal specifically catered to him or her. It is also a good idea to arrange the personal atmosphere that best suits your child’s needs. Noise canceling headphones are a good idea, or if your child uses an iPad or other electronic device to serve as distraction, it would be in your best interest to have it on hand if you are going out to visit family or friends. Make sure to bring a weighted blanket and sensory tools as well. Should you feel the need to keep Christmas small for your child, do not hesitate. It is okay to limit visitors with time limits so as not to overwhelm your child, or even just to have Christmas with your immediate family to keep things simple. And while on the topic of simple, be mindful of things that impact the senses; try to keep aromas, noises or music, and lights as minimal as possible.

Try to avoid bringing your child to shop whenever possible; crowds of people in stores and malls can be disconcerting. If you are faced with the need to bring your child into public situations where he or she may feel less at ease, it is important to make them aware of these situations in advance. Reading social stories can be a good way to prepare your child for upcoming events so they will not feel as put upon as they might without warning. Visiting Santa can also be prearranged; many malls accommodate children with sensory processing disorders, so scheduling visits in advance could work to everyone’s benefit. Be aware of warning signs should your child start to feel uncomfortable as well, and don’t be ashamed of withdrawing from a situation for the benefit of your child. It may also be beneficial to stretch Christmas over a period of days. Normally, Christmas involves a lot of traveling, a lot of people, a lot of presents, and a lot to take in. Allowing a child to open a few presents a day as opposed to everything at one time could make the holidays pass more easily. So don’t be afraid to stretch the celebration from one or two intense days to several days of calmer festivities.

Finally, it is important to praise your child for good behavior and for coping with what might be stressful situations. Allow for periods of time where they can be expressive: running, jumping, twirling, whatever they may do. And make sure to keep separate space for them to calm down should the need arise. Try as we might, there are almost always pockets of time when Christmas becomes overwhelming for all of us. Accommodating this need beforehand for your child could save them some unwanted reactions. But, most of all, make sure that Christmas suits your family entirely. It doesn’t need to be like everyone’s Christmas as long as you are enjoying yourselves and the time you have together.

Does a Fidget Spinner Actually Help a Student Concentrate and Focus?

Fidget spinners can be found in every store, classroom and trashcan from Long Beach to Long Island. Kids adore them, babies giggle madly and even grownups can be captivated by their curious movements. Some are even capable of lighting up, levitating and driving classroom teachers bonkers. The fidget spinner has joined the ranks of Rubix cubes, slap bracelets and “my pet rock” in being basically useless and cheap to mass produce.

Selling at anywhere from $2.00 to $200.00 it is obvious someone is becoming very wealthy off the fidget spinner. Then there’s the fantasy of making a kid focus on bookwork by putting something bright shiny and engaging in their hands.

Some schools are getting wise to the marketing ploy and Massachusetts, Florida and New York schools have issued many bans against bringing these dervish-machines into a place of learned scholars. So are these fidget spinners actually beneficial or have we all been bamboozled?

The things is there is some truth to the idea that small manual actions can ground the mind, allow the user to exercise control over their breathing patterns and hence their focus as well as aid in mindfulness exercises. There is no “clinical” evidence that supports or refutes the claims from marketers that fidget spinners aid in focus.

Julie Schweitzer is an authority on behavioral science at the University of California. According to Dr. Schweitzer, the fidget spinner is captivating and engaging whereas a stress ball or chewing gum is a subtle action that vanishes into the subconscious. This captivating aspect keeps the fidget spinner from being a benefit to the student trying to complete a task.

One thing for sure a classroom of students sporting their own brand of fidget spinners, an array of tricks they have perfected in the last few classes and a teacher on their last nerve is no recipe for mental stimulation and education.

How Is Sensory Processing Disorder Diagnosed In Children?

Most of us take for granted the simpler things in life: the taste of food, the sound of music, the scent of a flower, or the sight of a beautiful sunset. For some people, even these common experiences can present a gargantuan computational problem for the mind. Sensory processing disorder (or SPD) is a condition that forces the subject to experience life with less structure than most of us are used to. Those who have this disorder have brains that can’t interpret sensory information.

This can mean a variety of things, and it all depends on the person who is diagnosed with the condition. While one person might simply be hypersensitive to a smell, a sound, or a number of visual stimuli, another might have difficulty with coordination while taking an ordinary stroll down the street. One might have trouble avoiding obstacles. Engaging in conversation can cause issues as well. Depth perception can be a great struggle for those with SPD. Imagine not knowing how far away the vehicles are when you’re trying to cross the street. These are the problems some people face every day.

For a parent, SPD can be a terrifying diagnosis. To others, the mere possibility is strange, since diagnosis isn’t always easy. After all, sometimes kids seemingly cause trouble for no reason at all. The reasons behind their actions are difficult to determine, and that’s why we might not immediately jump to conclusions if they aren’t in the mood for a cuddle or a kiss, or just don’t want to talk. Kids often trip over their own feet, so how are we to know if something really is wrong?

It’s important to look for signs of SPD as early as possible. When a child is an infant or toddler and continuously struggles when being clothed, this is an early warning sign. The child might routinely avoid affection or be unable to eat or sleep without a tantrum. When children get older, take note of any sensitivity to common actions. If your child can’t adapt to different situations, has a difficult time when trying to write, or just gets too easily distracted, then there might be a bigger problem.

SPD isn’t as rare as you might think, either. Researchers out of the University of California at San Francisco determined that anywhere from 5 to 16 percent of children experience a form of SPD while growing up. If you suspect your child has a hard time with common activities and is hypersensitive to sights or sounds, then you should find an occupational therapist who can assess the likelihood of SPD.

At first, the child will be given a series of interviews in order to determine typical behaviors and responses to certain stimuli. After that, treatment might be personally tailored depending on your child’s situation. Therapy for one child can be completely different for therapy for another, and this is a direct result of the many different forms that SPD can take. No matter what, it’s important to take these steps as early as possible in order to make life a little easier in the early years of school, and a lot easier down the road.

SubType 3: Sensory Discrimination Disorder

Children that suffer from sensory discrimination disorder often have a hard time perceiving information. Discrimination is the brain’s ability to interpret information and disregards irrelevant information. A disorder of discrimination means the brain sometimes jumbles or confused environmental stimuli.

Each of the 8 senses has their own discrimination disorder and a child with this subtype of SPD can have any combination of all 8 discrimination disorders.

Tactile Discrimination Disorder – a child that suffers from this is not able to process things that they touch, they must be able to see it.

Some common signs of tactile discrimination disorder include:

  • unaware of being touched
  • unable to identify objects through touch
  • unable to describe a texture via touching

Gustatory/Oral Discrimination Disorder – usually happens in conjunction with olfactory discrimination

Common signs of oral discrimination disorder include:

  • unable to distinguish taste and texture while eating
  • unable to distinguish temperature of food

Olfactory Discrimination Disorder – usually happens in conjunction with gustatory/oral discrimination

Common signs of olfactory discrimination disorder include:

  • unable to identify the source of odors
  • unable able to identify smells (like something burning)

Auditory Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this disorder are sometimes misdiagnosed with ADHD or get in trouble for never listening. When a child suffers from this disorder they have a very hard time separating background noise from the noise of a teacher or parent.

Common signs of auditory discrimination disorder include:

  • unable to determine who is speaking
  • frequently mistakes sounds in language for homophones (for example, cars and cards, Arizona or around the corner)
  • difficulty following verbal instructions
  • talking too loud or too quietly
  • appears to ignore others

Visual Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this have a hard time reading emotions and recognizing patterns and letters

Common signs of visual discrimination disorder include:

  • difficulty in distinguishing between colors
  • difficulty in distinguishing between shapes
  • difficulty in identify objects that are slightly hidden
  • poor depth perception
  • difficulty in knowing left from right
  • difficulty distinguishing similar letters like p, q, g, b, and d.
  • lining up numbers in a math problem

Vestibular Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this is unaware of where his body is in the space around him

Common signs of vestibular discrimination disorder include:

  • difficulty determining head or body position
  • poor perception of elevation
  • poor posture
  • clumsiness
  • constant falling and being unable to stop self
  • gets disoriented easily

Proprioceptive Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this are unable to determine how much for is required to interact with an object

Common signs of proprioceptive discrimination disorder include:

  • unaware of how much force needed to pick or hold an object
  • constantly slamming doors or not closing them tight enough
  • breaks utensils
  • roughhousing to the point of someone getting hurt
  • unable to judge how much force to use throwing a ball

Interoceptive Discrimination Disorder

  • unable to tell when hungry, thirsty, full or quenched
  • unable to tell the difference between hunger and nausea
  • unable to determine the necessity of using the bathroom
  • unaware of being out of breath

Unlike over-responsiveness and under-responsiveness, discrimination disorders are harder to pinpoint and are frequently misdiagnosed due to the behavior problems associated with school. However, there are many ways to help your child, such as signging them up for occupational therapy.

SubType 2: Sensory-Based Motor Disorder

Children with Sensory Based Motor Disorder have a hard time coordinating their brains and the bodies. Normally, the brain receives sensory messages (sensory input) and produces an adaptive response (motor output). When a child suffers from Sensory Based Motor Disorder, they respond incorrectly to the surrounding environment whether it’s by not understanding the space around them or inability to move the body in the right way.

There are two different types of Sensory Based Motor Disorder:

  1. Dyspraxia
  2. Postural Disorder

Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia comes from the two Latin words “praxis” to do and “dys” badly. Children that suffer from this condition have a hard time processing environmental stimuli and following through with a motor action. They will usually have poor motor coordination, timing, planning, organizing, and sequencing. Most kids will prefer sedentary activities and be more imaginative to hide their lack of physical skills as compared to their classmates.

Common symptoms of dyspraxia include:

  • difficulty handling scissors, eating utensils and other hand held devices
  • difficulting buttoning, zipping and other fine motor activities
  • difficulty dressing themselves
  • illegible handwriting
  • poor hand eye coordination
  • difficulty navigating through a crowd
  • inability to learn complex sequence of movement
  • anxiety walking up or down stairs
  • visual perception issues including crossing the midline (taking left hand and putting it on the right shoulder or reading from left to right)

Postural Disorder

Postural disorder deals with the child’s ability to operate their muscles and move their own bodies successfully. Children usually have difficulty keeping their body on task while moving or keeping their body still at rest.

Common symptoms of postural disorder include:

  • frequently drooling or inability to keep things in the mouth while eating
  • not chewing food thoroughly
  • poor depth perception
  • difficulty focusing eyes
  • terrible aim when reaching for objects
  • poor sports performance
  • difficulty maintaining balance for long periods of time
  • frequently leaning on furniture or wall
  • very clumsy
  • sits in awkward positions
  • low muscle tone
  • difficulty using the rest room

These issues are important to address at an early age because children who suffer from Sensory Based Motor Disorders often feel isolated. It is common for children to not relate with peers because they cannot perform the same physical tasks as others such as climbing the monkey bars.

Here are some activities that you can do to help with Sensory Based Motor Disorder:

  • improve core muscle strength by bending, flexing, stretching and rotating
  • increase activity endurance by walking to school, walking to local stores, going for a bike ride on the weekends, trampoline time before dinner
  • improving balance by standing on one while brushing teeth or other activities where they would be standing
  • increase access to sports that don’t involve hand eye coordination such as swimming, horse riding, martial arts, pilates or even gymnastics
  • improve social participation by signing them up for classes to help develop self-esteem and reduce isolation
  • improve diet – find textures (soft or crunchy) and colors of foods that your child enjoys so you can make sure they are getting the proper nutrition and a balanced diet

SubType 1: Sensory Modulation Disorder

The definition of sensory modulation is the brain’s capability to respond in the correct fashion to the surrounding environmental stimuli and the ability to remain at the correct level of responsiveness. In the most basic form, sensory modulation is how we make sense of the physical world and how we place ourself within that world. We do this by using our 8 senses previously mentioned in earlier blog articles.

Typically, sensory modulation happens automatically, without thinking and without any effort. Our brains take in stimuli, filters out irrelevant stimuli and our muscles perform the correct actions accordingly. But if your child is suffering from Sensory Modulation Disorder, the process isn’t as automatic and requires effort. The perception of the stimuli gets muddled and the child’s corresponding action seems illogical.

Within Sensory Modulation Disorder there are three main types:

  1. Over-responsiveness
  2. Under-responsiveness
  3. Sensory Seeking

Over-Responsiveness

Over-responsiveness is categorized as an exaggerated response of the nervous system to sensory input. One common type of over-responsivity is motion sickness. People who are over-sensitivity to their vestibular sense may develop motion sickness as a response to fast movement. During an over-responsiveness behavior, the nervous system goes into “fight or flight” mode even when there is no real danger present but the brain perceives it as such. They feel as if they are being constantly bombarded with information.

Common symptoms of over-responsiveness behavior include:

  • as infants: fussy, startles easily, delayed motor skills, doesn’t like to be held
  • picky eating habits
  • in regards to clothing: doesn’t like tags or certain fabrics
  • dislikes washing hair, combing hair, brushing teeth
  • overwhelmed in crowds and noisy environments like New York City

Under-Responsiveness

Under-responsiveness is the opposite of over-responsiveness. This is the lack of response to environmental stimuli. Children might be “checked out” or “day dreaming”. Or they are very unfocused on what is happening around them. They also tend to be uncoordinated and may have difficulty with fine motor skills.

Common symptoms of under-responsiveness behavior include:

  • as infants: delayed motor skills development, drooling, lack of response to sight and sounds
  • love spicy and salty foods
  • unkempt and messy
  • distant, daydreaming, checked out
  • overweight
  • high pain tolerance, doesn’t notice cuts or bruises
  • low muscles tone, bad posture
  • clumsiness

Sensory Seeking

The nervous system of a sensory seeking child needs intense and frequent input in order for the sensation to even be processed by the brain.

Common symptoms for sensory seeking behavior include:

  • as infants: love movement, roughhousing, happiest in stimulating environments
  • crave salty, spicy, sticky or crunchy food
  • always in motion
  • throws self on the ground
  • runs, skips or jumps rather than walks
  • difficulty sitting still
  • touches everything, puts things in mouth
  • poor attention span

If you feel that your child is suffering from Sub Type 1 of Sensory Processing Disorder: Sensory Modulation Disorder, then you should contact an occupational therapist. In a fun and safe atmosphere, you can work on sensory integration therapy to help them with their difficulties. If these issues are not addressed early on adults with Sensory Modulation Disorder can develop depression, anxiety, mood swings and become reclusive.

The Other Senses: Interoception

Senses are the pathways through which the brain processes information from the surrounding environment, a process commonly referred to as “perceiving.” It’s important to know that each sense is a system of sensory cells that corresponds to a particular region of the brain where signals are received and then interpreted. In humans, there is much sensory apparatus beyond the five senses. Today, we are focusing on Interoception, which is the sense of internal processes occurring in the body, such as hunger, thirst, fullness, nausea, heart rate, breathing, body temperature, arousal, and the need to use the bathroom.

Interoception is also connected to awareness of our own emotions because our bodies react physiologically to various emotions. Certain emotions make our heart rate increase (fear, excitement, sexual arousal), our stomach flutter (nervousness or anxiety), our muscles tighten (anger, stress, the need to mobilize) or relax (comfort, calm, relief). When we lack the capacity to interpret sensory feedback, we become confused about which physical sensation or emotion we are experiencing.

How does interoception work?

All throughout our bodies, in our organs, muscles, skin, bones, and elsewhere, there are small receptors that gather information to report information about the inside of our body to our brains. When our interoception is working properly, our brain helps organizes this information so that we can react appropriately to what we are feeling physically or emotionally.

How does interoception affect your child’s behavior?

Interoception is such a basic sense that it is most often taken for granted, but for children with Interoceptive Discrimination Disorder, a form of sensory processing disorder (SPD), it is very difficult to distinguish internal feelings from external ones. These children may believe that something originating in their own bodies is caused by something in the environment. This can result in difficulties in self-regulation and in inappropriate behavior. If your child doesn’t know that she’s hungry, for example, she may simply feel irritable or frustrated. For obvious reasons, children with interoceptive difficulties often have difficulty getting toilet-trained.

Interoception Has a Major Influence on Self-Regulation

Our interoceptive system lets us know when our internal balance is off so that we can restore its balance by, for example, drinking when we’re thirsty, or putting on a sweater when we’re cold. When our internal signals get crossed, we don’t know which actions to take to make ourselves more comfortable so we may keep eating when we’re actually full, or refuse to sleep when we’re actually tired. For those with interoceptive disorders, not only is self-awareness negatively affected, but the ability to understand the feelings and behavior of others may be disrupted.

Types of Interoceptive Disorders

To make the situation even more challenging, different individuals may respond to mixed interoceptive signals in several ways:

Defensiveness
Some children are hypersensitive to interoceptive input and may do whatever they can to subdue these sensations. They may, for example, avoid strenuous exercise because they experience the resulting increased heart rate as painful or frightening.

Under-responsiveness

Conversely, some children are under-responsive to interoception and therefore neglect to eat when they are hungry or go to the bathroom when they feel the urge to urinate or defecate. They may also be unable to sense the urgency of the present need.
Seeking Interoceptive Input

Sometimes children seek an abnormal level of interoceptive input. They may enjoy the feeling of a racing heart brought on by bursts of activity or enjoy the sensation of hunger or of needing to eliminate. This can lead to inappropriate responses to natural sensations and may be irritating and disturbing to their parents.

Ways to Address Interoceptive Disorders

The first thing to do if you suspect your child is dealing with an interoceptive disorder is to consult with a professional psychologist/behavioral therapist. A group of activities known as “a sensory diet” can be very helpful. If integrated in your child’s play on a daily basis, these activities can assist with your child’s attention, arousal and adaptive responses.