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.