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.


  1. I'm on my way to church and then to buy Epson salts!

  2. I wish I had known this 10 years ago! I started my son with swim lessons at age 4-he didn't swim independently until he was 9-the same summer his 5-yr-old brother became independent.

  3. I've never tried Epsom salts. Great great idea. Thanks!


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