Saturday, July 18, 2009


SPD kids love, and hate, water. For instance, the first few years of my son's life, I never understood why he cried when I laid him back in the bathtub to wash his hair. Or when the water trickled over his face, he would throw a fit. Yet, he loved long long showers, and deep, soaky baths. So why all the fuss?

First, sensory kids have problems in space as it relates to gravity. Leaning back is too much, especially in the water, where they believe they will fall. The 'trickly' water running across his forehead and down by his ears feels terrible to him (much like bugs crawling would feel.) Leaning back to wash hair in a shower is a minefield, as in order to do this, many children have to close their eyes. He cannot sense where the water is, where the floor is or where he is, so feels as though he will fall. Remember that SPD causes some senses to fail, particularly when the eyes are closed.

However, water can be a great tool to calm. After all, water provides pressure. And as we have learned, pressure is a very very good thing. Swimming, even just playing, in a pool is a great sensory experience. Deep water pressure. Baths are great as well. Have a jacuzzi bath? All the better. Pressure from every side!

Water is also very important to drink. Sensory kids love soda. They love how it fizzes in their mouth and makes sensory stimulation there. It is not good for them, (or anyone for that matter) and will make the child feel worse later. Soda in moderation. Water water water should be the main drink. Splash it with cranberry juice. Shave some ice chips to 'wake up' the mouth. At least 8 glasses daily and more in the summer.

On another NOT push your child to swim lessons too soon. If he or she is afraid of the water it will increase, not decrease. And the swim teacher is unlikely to have experience with SPD, or even understand the child's fear of the water. You must understand, the child feels as though he is going to die. It is certain mortal terror. Put yourself in the child's place, and try to comprehend their fear. It is real. They will learn to swim if you slowly but surely keep taking him to the pool.

Regular swimming is very difficult for an SPD child. It requires the child to do many things automatically and those things are not always automatic for sensory sensitive children. Breathing, arms moving opposite from one another, kicking, and putting the face in the water all have to happen simultaneously. Don't feel bad if your 8, 9 or 10 year old is still walking around in the shallow end of the pool. Be patient and keep encouraging.

(my 10 year old learned to swim 2 weeks ago. So don't despair!)

The last thing is about Epsom salts. Buy 2 or 3 big bags and keep a stock. Put 1 and 1/2 cups in the bath at night. Magnesium is a muscle 'helper.' It is absorbed by the body and causes deep muscle relaxation. Magnesium in the water will make a SPD kid feel great. Hard day? Too stimulated? Epsom salts. Understimulated, waiting around, shopping day? Epsom salts.

Bath's and showers are more easily navigated by offering alternatives to closing eyes, leaning back or light drips. Have your child lean forward to rinse his hair. Purchase a spray shower head and have them sit to rinse. No more tears shampoo...then they can leave their eyes open. Stop yelling at them to get out of the bath and allow them to take as long of a bath or shower as they like.

Encourage encourage at the swimming pool ANYTHING adventurous she does. Tell your best friend, mom, sister in law and Aunt Edna that she will swim when she is ready. (My mom learned to swim at age 65!) Keep going to pools and keep filling those bathtubs.

By the way, you are doing a good job as a parent. I thought all of you out there might need to hear that. Some days I wonder about it myself, whether I am making right choices. With SPD every child, day and situation is different. Take it one day and one issue at a time. You are also learning and compensating as a parent. Save some Epsom salts for you.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Under Pressure

Pressure, I have said, is your friend. Not pressure put on you by teachers or stress from everyday living, but deep pressure for your sensory-sensitive child.

As each day progresses, your SPD child's status will vary: over-stimulated or under-stimulated. Maybe both? Tell tale signs are a vacant stare, outbursts, being clumsy, suddenly falling asleep, violence, stemming, and tantrums. If that is the case (and in my sons' case it is a daily occurance) the child is unable to get back into balance by himself. He must have help. Self soothing is not in the SPD child's arsenal, and the situation will get worse if nothing is done to help him.

The reason deep pressure works best is the fact that pressure on a childs vestibular system assists the child to become more comfortable in his or her own skin. Understimulated children become focused. Overstimulated children calm. It is like magic. No, really.

Here is a great plan of action. You can try this when you child is calm, or when he needs to calm. Anytime of day or night is right for deep pressure.

1. Have your child lay on his tummy on a couch. Pile loads of pillows on top of his legs and torso. Be sensitive to your child's personal dislikes...i.e. keep his arms free, make sure he can breathe, etc. Tell him you are going to make a sandwich and he is the meat. put a pillow on and push it down. Describe it as the lettuce. Then make a pushing all over the pillow..spreading the mustard. Keep going until there are many heavy pillows on top of him. Push down each time. By the time you get to the top of the sandwich, he will be calm and very very happy.

2. Weighted blankets. You can order them from sensory processing websites. They vary in weight. You can see which your child likes, light or heavy. The blankets normally have weights that can be adjusted. Again, each child is you can experiment.

3. Weighted animals. Again, from sensory websites. They wrap around the neck and push down. Great for younger kids. Not too much weight but enough for concentration purposes.

4. Weighted vests and belts. Order again. The vests and belts have removable weights in them, so adjust as needed.

5. Put a back pack on him with books in it and have him carry it through the store, properly supported...not hanging on the lower back!

6. Pushing is deep pressure. Fill the wheelbarrow and let her help you in the garden. Push the grocery basket when it is full. Load up the wagon with her little sister and have her pull it. All deep pressure activities.

7. In a pinch, have her do 'chair push ups' by pressing down with her hands and arms on the chair, lifting her seat up.

8. Tight hugs also do the trick!

9. Use the pillow idea but lay across the pillows (carefully). Your weight will be distributed across the pillows.

10. Joint compressions are deep pressure. Joint compressions and brushing go together. The brushing and joint compressions take some time to explain, so we will be exploring that in a later blog.

11. Baths. Swimming pools. Water is a great source of deep pressure.

12. Spinning in tire swings, spinning in general causes the g force to press the body down.

13. Pulling a sibling across the floor on a blanket.

Get creative. Lots of opportunities for deep pressure if you look around.

Don't withhold the pressure! It isn't a time out, it isn't a reward, it isn't a punishment. It is what he is not getting from his everyday experiences. The more he gets the better he feels. The better he feels the easier things are for him, and for you, the parent. That is our goal!