Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sensory Ideas for Everyday ~ Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Ideas for Everyday
Handout from Avon and Central Primary Health, Child Development Team, Occupational Therapy Dept.

Most of these are aimed at school kids, but there's no reason why it couldn't be implemented at home with younger kids too.

Quiet Corner:
* Shouldn't be used as punishment
* Talk to the child about having some quiet time to help them settle
* Could be screened off/ a child's tent
* Use big bean bags / rugs / big teddies / door stoppers / big cushions to sit in and cuddle
* Earphones to cut down noise - with or without music / stories
* Treasure bag of quiet visual or tactile toys eg oil paintings, stress ball.

Special Tasks:
* Back pack with something weighty in it, draft resister (in Brendan's words a 'sand snake' :lol: ) around the neck
* Carrying a big box
* Helping - moving wheelbarrows, pulling trolley's
* Dress ups

When Lining Up:
* Some children can't tolerate the proximity of others well - may need individual strategies eg chalk circles to stand in/put at head or end of the line.
* Jumping on spot / marching / stomping

Floor Time:
* Tummy lying to listen / individual mats that they fetch themselves / sit cuddling a heavy toy or bean bag
* Use rhythmic song and movement - slow and calm
* review your expectations - how long do you expect them to sit for? For what part of the day?
* Head squeeze / massage around the circle, given by an OT
* If one child needs extra help to settle - on lap / flexed position eg arms in and legs crossed - give them a bear hug.

Structure of the Day:
* Play doh - standing up, rolling out
* Wiping down chalk board, easels, helping clean tables
* "Painting" the outside walls with water on big paintbrushes
* Exercises - faster and vigorous to energise, to calm do slow, gentle movements - head rolls, toe touches, push-ups (with bent knees or against the wall, trying to lift self off the ground while sitting), be a tree waving slowly in the breeze etc - keep breathing slow, even and gentle - use images like little waves coming in and out at the beach.
* Digging or other heavy work before coming inside
* Carrying, "rearranging" the room
* Blowing games, eg before snack time - might be hard to control in a large group.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Modelling and Repetition ~ Speech Therapy

From a very young age babies learn to listen and 'tune in' to the speech of other people. This is an important skill in developing their speech and language. As you are the one who spends the most time with your child, you are your child's main speech and language model. Every time you speak to your child you are modelling language for them. Modelling can also be used to help teach your child specific target words. However, adopting certain strategies can make your modelling more effective.

Providing a 'good' model of speech for your child involves
* Speaking at an appropriate pace (not hurried)
* Speaking in clear short sentences
* Using mainly key words and appropriate vocabulary
* Using lots of repetition

These strategies help you to gain your child's attention, help them understand you better and encourage them to attempt to copy your language models. You can stimulate them to use language when you consistently repeat the same words over and over again in familiar situations. Modelling is also an effective strategy you can use when your child says a word or sound incorrectly, as you can then model back to them the correct way of saying it.

At first, your child needs time just to take in information and to improve their ability to understand what is being said and what the words really mean. Achieving the goal of clear words takes time. You need to emphasise and repeat on many different occasions before the new information becomes well established as part of your child's vocabulary.

Information in this handout compiled from: Manolson, Ayala (1992). It takes two to talk: a parent’s guide to helping children communicate. Toronto: The Hanen Centre.
Handed out by the Speech Therapy Department at Northam Regional Hospital.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hospital Notes

I finally got around to getting both my boys notes, I have had a read through them and will try to update the boys pregnancy, labour, birth and NICU journeys over the next few weeks. It's nice to finally put in some of the 'missing' information about what happened.

Some things were worse than I remember, or maybe I didn't realise how bad they were at the time? The notes were quite confronting, especially Brendan's.

It was quite easy to get the notes, I rang the hospital and they told me to write a letter and attach some proof of ID with it and they would send them out. It only took about 2-3 weeks to come through too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter 2011

We started Sunday morning with an Easter Egg hunt! Both the boys loved it.







Then we went to Aunty and Uncle's place for lunch, another egg hunt and then dinner.
Was a lovely day =)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Activities that are usually alerting ~ Sensory Processing Disorder

Activities that ar e usually alerting (many of these activities belong under more than 1 sensory system)

Food: May be taste or muscles
Crunchy - popcorn, pretzels, bread sticks, dry biscuits, dry cereal, fruit, nuts, raw vegetables (eg carrot or celery), frozen fruit pieces
Sour food - (alerting and organising!) - lemon balls, sour lollies
Hot, spicy or bitter flavours
Cold drinks
Ice cubes - cold and crunchy!
Chewing on sugar free gum
Sucking - popsicles, frozen grapes
Sucking or blowing through a straw


Strong scents such as vinegar, garlic, parmesan cheese, coffee

Dance or marching music
Musical instruments
Cause and effect sound toys

Bright lighting in work areas
Visual toys

Cold water play
Splashing cold water on face, neck, hands
Sprinkler play

Fast swinging
Spinning eg on chair, sit and spin
Bouncing on lap, ball
Action songs eg "head, shoulders, knees and toes"
Fast rides eg in a wheelbarrow

Running, jumping, hoping, skipping, chasey
Trike/bike riding

Information from Avon and Central Primary Health, Child Development Team, Occupational Therapy Dept.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


The most difficult part of the journey of prematurity is leaving your baby behind at the hospital after you've been discharged, a baby that should be still tucked away inside. That's when a parents, especially the mother's, grieving process begins. You grieve the loss of pregnancy, a pregnancy that has ended too soon. You grieve the loss of feeling tiny kicks and rolls and you grieve for the loss of a normal pregnancy, a normal birth and a normal baby. I really hate the use of 'normal', but having a premmie is far from normal, far from the ultimate goal of a full-term birth.Yes, I am well aware that even full-term babies can have complications, that some mother's have had to fight very hard to get that full-term baby and that their pregnancies may not have been a textbook one. With prematurity you are guaranteed some kind of complication with the pregnancy, birth and/or baby. I mean otherwise the baby wouldn't have been born prematurely right?

On Thursday (21/04/2011) I became an Aunty. My sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, he was born a few days before his due date and everything went fairly smoothly. She had the perfect pregnancy, labour and perfect baby. There was just a minor hiccup with birth, bub required some help to get out and she required some stitches due to tearing. It really hit home just how far from normal my pregnancies, labours and births were. I know you shouldn't compare them, as everyone is different, every pregnancy, every labour, every birth and every baby is different. But it has been a difficult time for me as I try to process what I have lost, what I should have got but didn't. I look at my beautiful boys and I see how far they've come and they make me so damn proud, but then I see them struggle with something. Brendan with his speech/language or Tristan with his lungs (probably asthma) and it just reminds me just how hard we've had to fight to get to where we are.

I am grieving, I am grieving the loss of pregnancy, the loss of birth and the loss of those precious moments after birth. Brendan wasn't placed on my chest, his cord was cut and he was taken away and I watched as a team resuscitated him, I watched them count compressions on his tiny chest, I watched as they shoved needles in his tiny little body, I listened to the room as it felt like there was nothing else going on except the counting. The counting of compressions as they try to keep his little heart going. I watched as they shoved a tube down his little throat and I watched as he struggled to hang on. You see Brendan was born very sick, he had caught an infection from me (chorioamnioitis) which was compromising his little body even more than the fact he was 10 weeks early. His APAGR at 1min was 2 at 5min it was 4 and at 10min is was 5. I know how lucky we are, I know he shouldn't be here and for that I am grateful, but it doesn't help the pain.

Tristan's birth was a little healing for me, but still far from normal. Tristan was placed on my chest, but it wasn't for very long as he struggled to take his first breaths. He was taken away and again I watched as my child had needles and a tube shoved down his throat. Tristan did let out a little cry while they were intubating him, it was the most beautiful moment. Brendan was about 3 weeks old when he first cried. Tristan stayed in the room for about 45mins before they took him down to NICU. He was far more stable than Brendan was, he was taken away after 15min and was very unstable.

They say it takes time to heal, but I'm not sure that there is enough time to ever heal from such traumatic experiences. Maybe with time I won't think about it as much, maybe it won't upset me as much at least I hope so anyway.

Prematurity doesn't stop at the hospital doors.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people tell me that everything must be 'ok' now, because the boys aren't in hospital, and just like their full-term counterparts. I'm not sure why people think this, probably because they don't live it. The affects of prematurity do not end just because you've been discharged. The affects can continue for many years. Yes we have passed the biggest hurdle, we came home with our babies which unfortunately, for many families doesn't always happen =( .Yes I guess my boys are ok, they are doing very well, but it's not because they've been discharged it's from all the long hours and hard work we've put in through numerous therapies and specialists. That's why they are doing well, but they still have their issues.

They say most premmies have caught up (development wise) to their peers by the time they reach two. Brendan is now four and is still developmentally delayed. Tristan is almost two (in two months!) and although he has some mild delays I still consider him to be caught up to his peers, actually we have never corrected his age.

Some might disagree with me, but I fully believe that ALL of Brendan's issues are a direct result from the pregnancy complications, his birth and prematurity combined. I believe the combination of placental problems, PPROM (premature pre-labour rupture of membranes), lack of oxygen, the infections, the brain bleed and the fact he was born 10 weeks early have all contributed to his Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Developmental Delays and his ear health and hearing issues. Of course much more happened, but those are the major ones.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Following Your Child's Lead ~ Speech Therapy

Being willing to allow your child to lead gives them the chance to express their thoughts, desires and interests. Taking the time to discover, wait for and listen to their attempts to communicate allows you to get to know your child better. Your undivided attention and warm responsiveness to your child's attempts to communicate will help them to develop feelings of self-confidence and will encourage them to communicate with you more often.

You make the difference. It's hard to help your child learn to talk when you're busy doing everything for them, rushing from place to place or focussed on teaching. Being a responsive partner will give you limitless opportunities to talk with your child and help them learn. If you let your child take the lead in play they will be more likely to communicate with you because they are more interested in what they are doing and more motivated to share it with you.

Observe: helps you recognise your child's focus of attention, body language and facial expressions.
Wait: gives your child the time ad opportunity to attempt to communicate with you.
Listen: helps you to understand your child better and respond appropriately.

Example: A child and his mum may be playing with farm animals. The child then moves over and starts playing with the tractor so his mum stops playing with the animals and begins making comments about the tractor. Eg. "brrm, brrm,brrm, push tractor" The mother then pauses her speech and waits to give her child a chance to respond.

Things that help you follow your child's lead include:
* Being face-to-face with your child. Sit or lay on the floor with them. When you are face-to-face with your child you will be able to see what really interests them and what they are trying to tell you through body language, facial expressions and words.
* Listening. It is important to listen carefully to your child and then respond to their attempts to communicate with you with interest to let them know that they have got their message across.
* Set aside time to interact with your child without distraction. Turn off the TV or radio. Make sure your child has your full attention.

It is important not to pressure your child to speak. If you follow your child's lead and join in their games then there will be lots of natural talking opportunities.

Information in this handout compiled from: Manolson, Ayala (1992). It takes two to talk: a parent’s guide to helping children communicate. Toronto: The Hanen Centre.
Handed out by the Speech Therapy Department at Northam Regional Hospital.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sensory Processing Disorder

Brendan was diagnosed in March 2009 at 25 months old. The reason it was looked into is because Brendan has difficulty with attention, sitting still, was still mouthing objects, high pain threshold, no perception of objects (would run into things/trip over things that he didn't know was there) and showed very strong seeking behaviours. It was first picked up on at Brendan's 12 months corrected paed appointment at which we were refereed on to the OT. The paediatrician also voiced the possibility of ADHD at which we have not looked back on since having the SPD diagnosis.

He is now 50 months old (4yrs 2m) and has been attending OT for 37 months (3yrs 1m), he has been attending Speech Therapy for about 40 months (3yrs 4m).

Brendan has difficulties with:
* Auditory Processing
* Vestibular Processing
* Touch Processing
* Multisensory Processing
* Modulation of Visual Input Affecting Emotional Responses and Activity Level
* Emotional/Social Responses
* Behavioural Outcomes of Sensory Processing
* Items Indicating Threshold for Response
* Registration
* Seeking
* Avoiding

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
To put it simply SPD is when the Central Nervous System, which receives all the sensory information, does not decipher it correctly.

Another description courtesy of a reader of my blog, Parenting Premmies:
"Sensory Processing Disorder is a neurological disorder that affects how the brain processes information from all seven senses, often causing the child to react inappropriately to their environment."

I've taken the following quote from Lil Aussie Prems - Sensory Processing.
Sensory processing involves the registration, organisation and modulation of different kinds of sensations entering the brain at the same time. It relies on the brain having an intact modulation system to attend to relevant information and inhibit (dampen down) other irrelevant information.

Most people are aware of the main five senses which give us information about what is happening in our environments. They are the senses of:
• Touch
• Taste
• Smell
• Hearing
• Sight
However, there are also two other senses that provide us with information about what our own bodies are doing. These are the senses of
• Movement (vestibular)
• Body position (proprioceptive)

When children have sensory processing difficulties (usually identified by an Occupational Therapist) it can affect things like their attention, fine motor skills, gross motor skills as well as how other children and adults perceive them.

How does sensory processing work???
Each of the sensations mentioned above have receptors within our bodies that register sensory input, for example, our receptors for touch are located within the skin, our receptors for movement are located in our inner ear and our receptors for body position are located in our muscles and joints. Once this sensory input is registered it then travels to the brain to be interpreted. There is never just one form of sensory input being registered, it is usually lots at once e.g. even when we are sitting still there are usually lights on, some sort of background noise and the texture of what we are sitting on etc. Hence the brain needs to sort out what input is appropriate and what is not at any point in time.

For example, if a child is sitting in class and they hear noise in the corridor, they initially attend to it by turning to see what it is, but after a while they will get use to it and are no longer distracted. However, for a child with sensory processing difficulties, if their modulation system is not working properly, the child may continue to attend to this noise even though there are more important things going on in class. This is why children with sensory processing difficulties find it particularly hard to work in a classroom situation as there are lots of sensory distractions.

Problems tend to be at either the registration phase or the modulation phase.

Children with sensory processing difficulties are usually one of 4 types
• Sensory sensitive
• Sensory avoiding
• Poor registration
• Sensory seeking

This type of child often receives too much information for their systems to cope with. The information is not being registered appropriately and hence is being given too much attention. This type of child comes across as:
• Fussy
• A complainer
• Distractible
• Cannot tolerate being too close to others and may push or bite them
• Cannot tolerate a normal amount of background noise

This child also receives too much sensory input to cope with but actively tries to avoid it. A child displaying these types of behaviours will actively try and avoid too much input by doing things like:
• Covering their ears
• Humming to themselves
• Choosing a quieter place to work

This type of child is not receiving enough sensory information (either through the receptors for touch, taste, sound, movement, body position, smell or sight). They need a lot more sensory input than other children in order to concentrate and feel alert. However, they are not the type of children to seek out this input, hence they come across as having/being:
• Poor attention
• Lacking in motivation
• Uninterested
• Withdrawn
• Overly tired
• Apathetic

This type of child is also not receiving enough sensory information (either through the receptors for touch, taste, sound, movement, body position, smell or sight). They also need a lot more input than other children to concentrate and remain alert but they do go about getting this input - hence the term SEEKERS. This type of child comes across as:
• Not being able to sit still in their chair at school
• Active
• Fidgety
• Excitable
• Standing close to or up against people
• Hums to self or talks to self during class time

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Repairing Relationships with a Time-In ~ Sensory Processing Disorder

(This is a guideline. It is of course, harder than this)

I'm Upset and My Child is Upset
When necessary, I start with a "Time-Out" (for me, for my child or for the both of us) until:
* I know that I am bigger, stronger, wiser and kind, and
* I remind myself that no matter how I feel, my child needs me.
(A "Time-Out" can be helpful as a first step, but not as a punishment.)

I'm Calm (enough) and My Child is Upset

We can build a safe "repair routine" together (remember the first 1,000 times are the hardest!).
* I take charge so my child is not too out of control.
* We change location. Go to a neutral place that is our "Time-In" spot, where we can sit together and let the feeling begin to change.
* I maintain a calm tone of voice (firm, reassuring and kind)
* We can do something different (for several minutes): read, look out the window or attend to a chore together.
* I help my child bring words to her/his feelings. ("It looks like this is hard for you" "Are you mad/sad/afraid?")
* I talk about my feelings about what just happened. ("When you did that, I felt ...")
* I stay with my child until s/he is calm enough. (It may take a while for a child to calm down from overwhelming and un-organised feelings. Rule of thumb: Stay in charge and stay sympathetic.)

I'm Calm (enough) and My Child is Calm (enough)
I use the following to support our repair and to make repair easier in the future.
* I help my child use words for the needs and feelings that s/he is struggling with by listening and talking together. (Remember KISS - Keep It Short and Simple)
* I help my child to take responsibility for her/his part and I can take responsibility for my part. (Rule of thumb: No blaming allowed.)
* We talk about new ways of dealing with the problem in the future. (Even for very young children, talking out loud about new options will establish a pattern and a feeling that can be repeated through the years.)

Bottom line: It's the relationship and only the relationship) that will build my child's capacity to organise her/his feelings. My child's problem may look like something that is being done on purpose. But at it's root, it's an issue of needing to reconnect and learning to handle difficult feelings in a safe and secure way. By taking an "I can/we can" perspective ("together, we're going to figure out what you need") my child will realise that I'm in charge as someone who is bigger, stronger, wiser and kind. This will reassure her/him, feelings will settle and organise and the relationship will have been repaired.

Information from Avon and Central Primary Health, Child Development Team, Occupational Therapy Dept.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ENT Appointment!

We finally saw an ENT yesterday! We ended up going private for a consult and he booked us in to PMH so Brendan can have his tonsils and adenoids removed and grommets inserted. It should happen within the next 90 days.

I'm feeling quite relieved that this is finally happening! We still haven't be able to see a PMH ENT, that appointment is in June, hopefully he'll have is surgery by then!

The only downside is that we will have to stay down there for 2 weeks post op as we live too far away from the children's hospital. I'm not looking forward to that and I hope I can find somewhere that won't cost us and arm and a leg.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tristan at 21months

I had Tristan weighed and measured today and I'm very pleased with how he is going =)

He is now 10.7kg, 85cms long and his HC is 47.5cms. His length is just on the 50th %ile, HC is just above the 25th %ile and his weight *drum roll* is just under the 10th %ile - the highest it's been since he was 3 months old! I'm a very pleased mummy, he is doing so well.

He now has about 15 words =D
Mum, Dad, Brendan, tractor, truck, water, rock, dora, spongebob, bye, car, Mort (the work dog), teddy and hot. 
His pronunciation is a little out... but I understand him =D

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fundraising for Autism

Please visit Go Fundraise and help us reach our target! We are fundraising for Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).

Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder. The current prevalence of autism spectrum disorders is 1 in 160 children and an estimated 130,000 Australians of all ages. Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) provides programs, services and support for people with autism and, importantly, their families too. With your help we can provide hope and make a difference to people living with this isolating disability.

On Friday the 1st of April we attended the Light it Up Campaign. Here's the boys wearing blue =D

Brendan in his school uniform. 

Tristan =)

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