(2016) Five Sensory Tune-Ups

Published in ADDitude: Strategies and Support for ADHD & LD, Winter 2016.

Put sensory problems to rest with these quick “tuneups” that can help kids with ADHD and SPD regroup after becoming overloaded.

Read more

(2016) On the Emotions of the Out-of-Sync Tween and Teen

Published May 31, on Boston Parents’ Paper

At recess, Emma, 9, refuses to participate in jump-rope or four-square games. Emma is over-responsive to movement sensations, which terrify her. She tells her friends, “I’m no good at that.”

At the front door, Aiden, 10, waits for his mother to tie his shoelaces. He has dyspraxia, and sequencing the actions to dress himself is still hard. “Today, you try it!” she says hopefully. He scowls and growls, “No, not today.”

Read more

(2016) The ‘Sensational’ Tot: Recognizing and Dealing with Sensory Processing Disorder

Published May 24, on Mother.ly

Envision two unique babies.  Benjy has been on the go since Day 1. Constantly active, frequently fretful, easily startled, and a fitful sleeper, he sure keeps his parents on their toes. Speaking of toes, he skipped crawling and walked on tiptoes at nine months! Mom and Dad are exhausted—but that’s just how it is with an infant, they guess.

Valerie’s parents appreciate her peaceful nature.  She goes to anyone, naps often, sleeps all night, and is content being moved from car to grocery cart to stroller to house, strapped in her baby seat.  Her parents notice that she’s uninterested in watching it snow or grasping a rattle, but she does seem entranced with the laptop’s screensaver beside her on the kitchen counter.

Two very different tots—one underlying disorder.

Read more

(2016) ‘Out-of-Sync’ Kids May Have Sensory Processing Disorder — by Chelsea Keenan

Published March 31 in The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

During Carol Kranowitz’s 25 years as a preschool teacher, she realized there were certain children in her classes that seemed “out-of-sync.”

“They refused to participate in art projects or music projects,” she said, explaining that these kids often didn’t like touching gooey or sticky things like paint. “I really wanted every child to have fun at school.”

Kranowitz began looking into reasons why these children experienced things differently than others. That’s when she discovered SPD — a disorder where the nervous system receives sensory signals but does not organize them into appropriate responses, often resulting in motor and behavioral problems.

Read more

(2016) What Happens When Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder Grow Up? — by Jamie Pacton

Published June 8 on Parents.com

Kids who are “out-of-sync” with the world due to Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) struggle with a variety of sensory and motor challenges, but we can help them through simple routines and consistent activities. I’ve learned this from everyday experiences with my own autistic son (SPD and autism often go hand-in-hand), as well as through conversations with educator and writer Carol Kranowitz, who has helped parents and professionals better understand SPD for years with her popular books about the disorder, including The Out-of-Sync-Child.

Read more

(2014) Focus on Survival Skills: When the Lights Go Out

Published in Sensory Focus, Summer issue

An advertisement from an electric power company dropped through my mail slot today, shouting, BLACKOUT: Could It Happen Again? It got me thinking about survival skills. When an outage occurs and we can’t switch on the electric power, we must switch to our own power to get from place to place, prepare meals, communicate with others, and entertain ourselves.

Will we be prepared? Especially those among us with SPD and other physical challenges?

Alas, so much is done for us these days that we all are becoming “do-ees” instead of “do-ers.” Learned helplessness is everybody’s problem.

Consider automatic doors, electric can openers, battery-operated pencil sharpeners, Velcro fasteners, electronic keyboards, TV remotes, pre-sliced vegetables, and public restrooms’ sensor faucets. (Who’s the sensor? Not us!) These “smart” things are designed to make life easier and cleaner today — but they deny children opportunities to develop skills they will need tomorrow. Kids need steady practice using their sensory systems and engaging their bodies to push, pull, squeeze, rotate, twist, tie, zip, write, slice, chop, and perform other everyday actions. How smart is a device that renders us senseless?

Let’s not allow devices to extinguish our senses! We need our senses!

We need them, first, for survival. We must be at-the-ready to satisfy physical demands like hunger and to protect ourselves from potential threats. When we feel safe and that we will survive, we can relax and use our senses for a second vital purpose — that of discriminating what is happening around us.

Sensory discrimination helps us do and master important skills. The more important an activity is for survival, the more senses are involved. Because eating and making love are essential for life, they are the two human activities that engage all eight senses simultaneously. (Can you think of a third? Let me know.) In contrast, watching TV while lying on the couch uses only two senses — visual and auditory — and passively, at that.

Effective learning takes attention, time and practice. We learn to write after learning to scribble, to obey traffic rules on the road after riding bikes at the playground, and to pitch a baseball after tossing a beach ball. Many hands-on moments with regular faucets lead the way to turning an unfamiliar faucet handle with appropriate force, in the correct direction, and to the right extent … and then to turning the handle to “off” before walking away. (Can a sensor faucet teach all that?)

To develop and enhance our kids’ survival skills, let’s provide real, three dimensional, fun and functional experiences to get their bodies and brains in sync. Think of heavy work activities that use kid power, not electric or battery power. Think of action verbs, like push, pull, lift, carry, slice, chop, jump, climb, throw, catch, and so forth. The more kids do, the more they can do, and the more likely they will be to survive, superbly, when the lights go out.

 

HEAVY DUTY ACTIVITIES TO DEVELOP KID POWER

  • HEAVE heavy, indestructible grocery items into the cart, such as bags of beans and potatoes, plastic bottles of water, cans of soup and iced tea, and so forth. The heavier, the better.
  • HOIST grocery bags into the car, into the kitchen, onto the counter.
  • LIFT the items out of the bags and stow them in the refrigerator and pantry.
  • SLICE vegetables for a Circle Salad (see Box).
  • CHOP vegetables for a Chopped Salad.
  • TWIST a mill to grind pepper.
  • GRATE a large, firm wedge of cheese using a box grater.
  • PEEL carrots, cucumbers, potatoes.
  • TUG the string, or ROTATE the handle, of a salad spinner to dry lettuce.
  • TEAR lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces.
  • HUSK corn on the cob.
  • VACUUM, SWEEP, SHOVEL, and RAKE.
  • DRAG the hose to water the grass or wash the car.
  • TUG the puppy around the block.
  • CARRY the laundry basket upstairs.
  • STAND UP without using hands.
  • DO PUSH-UPS. • CLIMB STAIRS without leaning on the banister.

 

CIRCLE SALAD

For ages 7 and up (Note: Some children younger than 7 can handle a kitchen knife well, and some children — regardless of age — cannot. You know your child best, so please use your own judgment!)

What You Need
Sharp, round-tip kitchen knife Large cutting board Vegetables: • Yellow squash, zucchini, and peeled cucumbers (easy-to-slice for children with low tone, low stamina, or poor motor coordination) • Carrots, celery, unpeeled cucumbers, onions, scallions, radishes, grape tomatoes, and olives (requiring more motor-planning, strength or dexterity)

What You Do
1. Slice vegetables into circles.
2. Mingle all the pretty circles in a bowl and serve with your favorite dressing.

Helps Your Child Develop and Enhance …

  • Motor planning (for using kitchen tools)
  • Bilateral coordination (for using two hands in different ways to accomplish a task)
  • Social relationships (for being part of a team and helping to feed a group)
  • Can-do spirit (for trying new activities and perhaps new foods)
  • Nutrition (for nourishing the body as well as the central nervous system)
  • All eight sensory systems (even picky eaters who don’t engage their gustatory sense still use seven senses!)
    • Tactile — Hands manipulate the vegetables, developing touch discrimination and fine-motor skills
    • Proprioceptive — Hands, arms and upper body get into correct position to push the knife through the vegetables, developing appropriate force
    • Vestibular — Body is upright and stable, improving balance; muscles needed to handle the food and tool are engaged, improving muscle tone and stamina • Visual — Eyes see the vegetables, hands, and knife, improving visual discrimination and visual-motor coordination • Auditory — Ears hear the knife touching the board, improving auditory discrimination
    • Olfactory — Nose smells the vegetables, improving what the nose knows and stimulating the appetite
    • Gustatory — Mouth tastes the Circle Salad (let’s hope), increasing foods the child will eat
    • Interoceptive — Internal organs digest the food, improving general health

Ways to Make It More Challenging

  • Slant the knife to slice ovals for an Ellipse Salad
  • Cube the vegetables to make a Block Salad
  • Use a melon baller to scoop little orbs of watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew for a Sphere Salad
  • Celebrate holidays with color-coordinated vegetables (green peppers, parsnips and carrots for St. Patrick’s Day; broccoli, mushrooms and tomatoes for Columbus Day)

What to Look for

  • The child holds the vegetables firmly and has good control of the knife
  • The child slices the vegetables in somewhat regular circles
  • The work stays on the cutting board
  • The child is engaged and having fun

 

HARD WORK IS FUN

A preschool student of mine loved playing in the Housekeeping Corner. At home, this privileged boy had a nanny, housekeeper, and cook to serve him. At school, donning an apron, he served others. He swept, ironed, dressed the baby dolls, prepared imaginary meals like “Magic Soup,” and tidied up his own messes. One day, I said, “At our school, you are one of the hardest workers!” Laughing, this resourceful child said, “At my house, people who work hard have all the fun!”

Carol Kranowitz, author of The Out-of-Sync Child and co-author with Joye Newman of Growing an In-Sync Child and In-Sync Activity Cards, is working on a new book, The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up.

(2013) New AAP Statement Calls Recess ‘Crucial’ to Child’s Development, by Mari-Jane Williams

Published January 7 in The Washington Post.

Children have long regarded recess as a highlight of the school day. Last week, unstructured play breaks got an endorsement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“We all feel so much better after we have moved purposefully and vigorously,” said Carol Kranowitz of Bethesda, who co-authored Growing an In-Sync Child with Joye Newman. “Children will have a better appetite for lunch, be more alert throughout the school day and be infinitely more cheerful if they have frequent recesses.”

Read more

(2013) The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up

Published in Sensory Focus magazine, Winter issue

If you are seeking information about SPD’s effect on children, you are in luck. An abundance of books is available to help parents, teachers, and other non-OTs learn to recognize SPD characteristics and support “out-of-sync” kids at home and school.

Alas, should you seek information about SPD’s effect as children mature, you will find fewer choices. Reader-friendly resources that describe “what happens next” are hard to write and hard to find.

Worrying and wondering, parents and teachers have many questions about their kids’ future. As children grow up:

  • Do they grow out of SPD?
  • Are they able to use their beautiful minds to flourish at school?
  • Do they develop close friendships?
  • Are they invited to birthday parties and social gatherings?
  • Can they learn to enjoy games and sports?
  • Can they manage noisy, odorous, madding places, such as the subway, the highway, the cafeteria, the dormitory?
  • Will they ever eat like other people?
  • Do they learn to date, procreate, and parent?
  • Do they find meaningful work?
  • Does it ever become okay to hug them?
  • Will it be possible to take them to new places? Go to the beach, across a bridge, to the amusement park, up an escalator, on an airplane … to the dentist?
  • Does everything turn out all right in the end?

Parents and teachers have asked me these questions since the publication of The Out-of-Sync Child in 1998. They yearn for reassurance that the children they care for will develop the sensory skills necessary to function in daily life.

I have yearned, in turn, to give an answer more satisfying than, “It all depends… I really don’t know.” I don’t know because, as an early childhood educator, my expertise is with young children. Also, I do not know because I do not have SPD. Well, maybe, just a little, when my hands are touching finger paints or bread dough. (Shudder.)

Because I don’t know first hand how SPD affects maturing people, I have sent information seekers to experts who do. Sharon Heller, a psychologist, has sensory over-responsivity and has written books about it for teens and adults. Hartley Steiner, mother of three teenage sons with SPD, has edited a compilation of memoirs from 48 adults.

Scholarly articles and research papers about SPD in adults are also available in journals, in OT Practice, in AOTA’s Sensory Integration Special Interest Section newsletters, and on the Internet. Moya Kinnealey is well known for her research in SPD with adults, and Teresa May-Benson and the late Jane Koomar reported on research studies in this area. Tina Champagne has published research with others and a book on using sensory integration strategies with adolescent, adult and geriatric populations in mental health settings. Paula Aquilla wrote an excellent article for S.I. Focus magazine about SPD in people of different ages.

These books and articles are helpful, and still we need more. Teenagers and adults must know that they are not alone, that they can learn new strategies, that others like them have learned to cope and improve their lives with direct one-to-one occupational therapy, and that the future is full of hope.

Thus, I decided to gather and interweave stories written by individuals who have lived with SPD all their lives and who are glad to tell us about the process. The title of the forthcoming book will be, The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up: Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder in the Adolescent and Young Adult Years.

To whet your appetite, here are some examples of contributors’ thoughts:

I Was Finally Out of Jail
“When I learned about SPD around my 40th birthday I was shocked — so many years, so much suffering for me, and others! I felt like a victim, a person who was confined in jail for all those years without being at fault and suddenly was exonerated because they discovered I was innocent.” — Gina Betech

I Enjoy Helping Younger Kids
“I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that although I am still a teenager, I am having a real positive effect on kids even younger than I am. One of the things I have learned is that although children can learn from the guidance of adults, they will progress even more if someone around their own age assists them. Through my speeches, I have been able to directly speak to children and convince them about the merits of hard work so they can find their own voices. This is a reward unto itself.” — Alexander Fields-Lefkovic, author of books that promote exercise to kids with special needs

I Learned to Attend to Personal Hygiene
“Even after my nervous system became more relaxed to these sensations, my mind was still psychologically hardwired into avoiding them. I had to spend time working on removing my beliefs that these forms of stimuli would still be painful to me. Once I did, however, I was finally able to do the things I once could never bear! “After over three years of OT as an adult, I have finally gotten to a place where I am able to appreciate a daily shower, and brushing my teeth won’t send me over the edge.… and I am now able to begin reversing an awful trend in declining dental hygiene. Even if I never truly enjoy these things, being able to do them without them wreaking havoc on me and sending me into a state of overload has been amazing. “Occupational therapy honestly does have the potential to make dreams come true, and my story has been a living testament to that over the past few years.” — Dan Travis, college student who avoided the tactile sensations of soap and water tasks until OT helped him

I Help Others Understand
“I cried writing the email, unsure how I would come across, how they would react, and how it might change our relationships. Their reactions were heartwarming. When I showed up at my cousin’s celebration (disorders and diagnoses be damned), my uncle enveloped me in his arms. He didn’t need to speak a word; I know he understood. My aunt and cousins followed suit. “Two hours later, when I started feeling sensorily-taxed by the events, no one asked, ‘Why are you going? Why can’t you stay?’ Instead, we all teared up and hugged good-bye. They thanked me for the monstrosity that was my effort to participate that night. And that’s the thing. Most people don’t know how much you go through until you give them permission to understand.” — Rachel Schneider, after being diagnosed with SPD and deciding to inform her relatives prior to a cousin’s wedding

The stories collected so far cover many topics, from feelings to friendships, from strategies for avoiding certain sensations to strategies for adapting to other sensations, from childhood memories to future plans. Several topics reoccur, especially the misery of having an “invisible” and often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed disorder — and the jubilation when an occupational therapist made a correct diagnosis of SPD. The stories are vibrant, poignant, funny, determined, angry, resigned, tender, and grateful — the full gamut. Indeed, the contributors concur that their lifelong work to manage sensations has made their lives and relationships more precious than anyone would have predicted when they were out-of-sync children.

References

BOOKS
Fields-Lefkovic, Alexander. Get Strong! Have Fun! An Exercise Book for Kids (2007) and Get Stronger! Have More Fun! (2011). www.starservices.tv/products.html

Heller, Sharon, PhD (2003). Too Loud, Too Tight, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do if You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World. New York: Harper.

———-—- . Uptight & Off Center: How SPD Creates Anxiety, Confusion & Other Mental Health Issues & What You Can Do about It. http://sharonheller.net/uptight-off-center.php

Steiner, Hartley. Sensational Journeys: 48 Personal Stories of SPD (2011). Arlington, Texas: Sensory World. www.SensoryWorld.com

ARTICLES
Aquilla, Paula, DO, BSc, OT (2007). Sensory processing across the ages. S.I. Focus magazine. www.SIfocus.com

Champagne, Tina, OTD, OTR/L, CCAP. Publications on “The Seclusion and Restraint Reduction Initiative” and using sensory strategies to benefit adolescents and adults in mental health settings. www.ot-innovations.com

Kinnealey, Moya, PhD, OTR/L. Research studies on SPD in adolescents and adults, available at www.SPDfoundation.net and other websites.

May-Benson, Teresa, ScD, OTR/L, and Koomar, Jane, PhD, OTR/L. Research studies in sensory processing in typical adults as well as in adults with SPD. www.thespiralfoundation.org/researchproj.html