Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brushing and Joint Compressions

Here is my long awaited blog on brushing your child to reduce their tactile sensitivity. If your child loves to be touched and hugs too hard, she will crave the brushing...if he is overly sensitive to touch, he will also crave the brushing.

So what is brushing and what does it do?

First: the brush. Specialty SPD stores carry them. They are similar to massage brushes and have soft plastic bristles. Firm but not scratchy. Do not use a baby will cause too much tickling as the brush is too soft. Order one.

Brushing is a way to reduce tactile defensiveness and provide the correct amount of stimulation to rewire the brain. What you are doing is helping to reduce the fight or flight response. When that happens your child will act out less, have fewer tantrums, calm easier and be able to withstand everyday tactile encounters.

Brushing works best when used with joint compressions. More on that in a minute.

To brush your child, have them lay on their back and start with the arms. Brush one direction firmly (have them indicate how firm) 8 times. Cover the front of the arm. Then do the other arm. Move to the legs and avoid the chest area. Same protocol...8 times firmly in one direction (usually down feels best.)

Have him turn over and do the back, neck, head, both arms and both legs. By now your child is probably very relaxed and feeling great. You can follow the brushing by pushing a pillow down on his legs firmly. He will relax further.

Now you can do the joint compressions. turn your child back over. Start with the hands and at each joint, press the joint together firmly with your fingers...Start with the thumb joints, then fingers, wrist, elbow and shoulders. 10 compressions for each joint. move to the legs and do the same..avoid the feet, since they are usually very sensitive.

You have provided the correct amount of stimulation to your child. he or she should be calm and ready for either sleep or play.

Joint compressions also come in handy when sitting for a long time. take your childs' hand and compress each joint 10 times.

Questions? I am ready to answer them...but brushing and joint compressions are a great tool to use as your child learns to compensate with this disorder. Continued consistent brushing and joint compressions can go a long way toward helping him cope.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


If you are the parent of a special needs, sensory sensitive child, perhaps you have forgotten what it is like to get a good night's sleep. Sleep is elusive when your child jumps at every sound, and the slightest temperature change can cause wake-fullness at inopportune times.

When my son was born, I was told "sleep when the baby sleeps." This was hard as he never slept, except on and off through the night. Naps were rare and short, and I lived in a bleary-eyed haze, much like I believe zombies exist. Ryan would not sleep. He was always awake and always clingy.

Ryan also had feeding problems, I tried desperately to nurse and he never did quite get the hang of it. At the time I was thinking we were like many new moms and infants that had trouble nursing. He could not latch on, I tried everything. Lactation consultants, nipple guards, soothing music, wrapping him like a burrito...nothing worked. We would nurse for an hour, half would leak out of his mouth and thirty minutes later, we were back nursing again. He could not get full, and I was a wreck.

So this blog is not about is about sleeping. So let me skip to the point of the feeding part.

I was desperate one day, and opened up a bottle of the formula the hospital gave me. I fed it to Ryan and 10 minutes later, miracle! He was sleeping. Did this solve our sleep problem for good, no...but it led me to a pattern of things that did, eventually, fix the sleeping issues.

If your child is very very young....great. You can start then to teach them how to sleep. A sensory kid will not be able to cry themselves down...they will just stay up. It will be 3 a.m. and they will still be out of control. The cry it out solution does not work. don't listen to grandma or your doctor on this your instincts. Crying it out causes more stress to build up in the fight or flight mechanism and floods your child with cortisol and adrenalin. Not good sleep inducers. They will be out of sorts the entire next day.

So what do you do?

1. Get a black out curtain and remove the outside lights from the room. There should be no street lights coming in or morning sun to wake them. Roman shades are great, or you can duct tape a black trash bag to the window and cover with curtains. SPD kids are very light sensitive and it will cause a waking.

2. Get a sound machine. They are around 16 dollars and you can get them at Bed Bath and Beyond or almost any electronic store. Find a white noise setting that covers up any outside noise.

3. Make sure the room is cool. 69 degrees is the best sleep temperature for anyone. Cold room, warm covers. If the child kicks the covers off..get some footed warm fleece pajamas. Cold child- and they will wake.

4. Fill their tummy with good food before bed. No sugar. Cereal is usually good as well as oatmeal. No cookies. Sugar causes waking. Red dyes cause sensitive bladders. No cranberry juice...sensitive bladder again.

5. Not much liquid right before bed. So they don't have accidents if they are potty trained and they don't have to walk to the bathroom during the night.

6. get a green nightlight. the white ones are too bright.

7. Pajamas need to be loose and breathable. No tags! socks need to be seam free if they wear them to bed. And skip the binds and is uncomfortable and unnecessary under PJ's.

8. routines are great with any child, but especially the SPD kid. Bath with epsom salts, then snack, then story, then brush teeth, then bed. or whatever order you choose. Do it that way every single night.

9. Bedtime needs to be the same every night. No staying up late on weekends. This is hard for some parents, but the childs' system will be more in tune if the bedtime is the same every night.

10. Be patient. it will take your sensory child more time to adjust to going to sleep by themselves. Make sure they have an animal, doll, blanket etc. You can also try a weighted blanket or brushing right before bed to help them calm. Sometimes I mash Ryan under pillows right before bed...he calms down!

11. go outside some every day if you can. The more outside time and the more exercise the child gets, the better and deeper the sleep. Swimming is excellent as it provides that deep pressure as well as cooling the body, which enhances the sleep cycle.

There is not a one size fits everyone sleep system. You will have setbacks and you will feel frustrated. Don't give up! When your child goes calmly to bed and is rested the next day, it will all be worth it!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ch ch ch changes....

To those parents who understand that a sensory kid takes up your time, I hope you will understand my blogging delay. We moved this year and I went back to work, both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer and Ryan went back to public school.

It has been busy. there have been many many changes. Ryan has flourished in our new neighborhood, made friends, adjusted to regular public school after finishing 2 years of homeschool, and become more secure, more coordinated and more content.

This year has brought many many changes to our household, and change for an SPD kid is hard. Change for anyone is hard. But why is it so hard to handle for SPD children?

First an SPD child is always right on the verge of losing control. The more assured they are that routine and structure will be maintained, the more in control they remain. Life simply doesn't work that way, no matter how a parent tries to maintain the status quo...there will be times when things just go crazy, and change happens.

Guiding your child through the maze of change is something I would like to address. As parents there are many things you can do to enable your child to maintain his or her control, even when the things around them are moving fast.

So how did Ryan do it? how to adjust in changing times?

1. I make sure he has plenty of good nutrition and sleep. Sleep, so important for all children, is even more so for SPD kids. Get a good blackout curtain, run a fan in their room, make sure your house is cool and their pajamas are scratchy labels, etc. invest in a sound machine and let them choose their sound they like to sleep to. Bedtime should be around 8 p.m. each night..summertime a bit later IF they can sleep a bit in the a.m.

nutrition also important. No soda. Sugar only at dessert after a meal, then limited. Limit also artificial dyes and nitrites. Both are stimulants and not beneficial. Lots of fruit if they like that, lean meats, veggies if you can and whole grains. Peanut butter is a good thing!

2. Plenty of down time. Time to be a kid. Time to be outside. Time without other children when they do not have to share their toys and time. This is important and hard for families with multiple children...but it is a must for your SPD kid. This will allow them security and harmony.

3. Exercise. Pushing is calming. lifting heavy things is calming. Jumping is stimulating. Swinging promotes language and learning. Hanging from a jungle gym gives stimulation to joints and can make or break an afternoon. Invest in an indoor swing that you can mount in a doorway. Play in the rain.

4. brushing. I will address brushing and joint compressions in the next blog.

5. Time to adjust. if things will be changing, give them a list if they are old enough. Talk many times about what to expect. For instance...we are going to Grandma's on the airplane. The child needs to have a schedule, what he or she might need to take, what to expect in the airport and in security, what he or she will do on the airplane and what food you might be eating. the more he knows the better he will be when the actual event occurs.

6. Give a time frame and don't expect instant obedience to change play or to leave from playing. Time, such as "in 15 minutes you need to have your shoes on and we will be going" gives them a moment to collect themselves instead of an instant "get your shoes we are going.' It can be the difference between a great evening and several hours of temper tantrums.

All of the sensory diet suggestions, such as heavy pressure, water, brushing and of course, therapy, can improve a childs' adaptation to change.