Monday, January 31, 2011

"What my son taught me about SPD"

Part three of CMOTC mom Meghan A.'s posts on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

This post was originally posted on my blog - here.

Yesterday was a hard day for Sumner.

We went to a Japanese steakhouse for my little sister's birthday. Sumner started worrying as soon as he heard where we were going, and his big concern was that they were going to "make a fireplace" on the table. (This is part of the cooking/show of the meal.) He kept telling me "Mommy, it is too bright! I am so scared of it! What will I do? Can we go to another restaurant? Please?"

We talked about what we might do ahead of time to plan and prepare: sunglasses, covering his face, wearing a weight belt...

He decided to wear his new Iron Man helmet that Santa brought to help protect him from the "fireplace." He was anxious in the car the whole way there, and he was hesitant to even sit at the table. He started whining/fussing as soon as we sat down. Unfortunately they seated us between two tables, both preparing to start the lunch "show."

In the end, I covered his eyes and face with my hand. After the first fire, he became desperate to cover his face through the second fire. (Delayed by a few minutes.) His senses were clearly heightened and after the meal, he wanted to go around the table to talk to family, but told me he was "afraid of the fans" (vents in the ceiling) and had to hold my hand to go around the table.

Outside in the lobby we had cake. As the singing began, Sumner refused to sing, and when it concluded, the meltdown began. Both David and I took turns taking him outside, and I even tried jumping with him and letting him push the wall. He was too far gone for it to help.

I took him in the bathroom, and he looked up at me with huge sad eyes and said "Mama, this place scares me. I am so scared."

My heart broke into a million pieces right there. I cannot fathom how the entire meal felt to him: how overwhelmed he was, how his body went on hyper alert, and how his SPD felt. We left, and he struggled the remainder of the day, and most of today too, but for one minute I saw in his eyes everything: that he was completely overwhelmed and didn't know what to do to make it stop.

The story is awful, and just a snapshot at what both of the boys must deal with every day. There were bright spots here too that I can't ignore: we planned ahead. He was able to tell me what he was afraid of. He really did well considering. But for a moment I wished I could scoop him up and put him in a cave where there was no sensory input and let him hide. The thing is, I know that won't do him any good. This day is just the tip of the iceberg as to what he'll face every day, and running away from sensory things won't help.

Sumner's sensory over-responsiveness is not always a bad thing. He is an amazing singer and always sings on pitch. He notices things that no one else would. The world is very beautiful through his eyes, and he frequently says things that make me stop and see things in a different way. I just have to keep thinking of ways to give him every tool in my arsenal to help him prepare for things that will overwhelm him, and deal with the unexpected.

~ Meghan

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sensory Therapy

Part two of CMOTC mom Meghan A.'s posts on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).


What does sensory therapy look like? Well, the sensory gym looks a lot like a play area. Swings, slides, ball pits. zip lines, all of these are very much the norm. The idea is to re-train the brain and create new neurological pathways. In essence, to teach the brain to take in sensory information and handle it correctly. Most research shows that the brain is most elastic in the youngest of children so the sooner this work can begin, the better.

Sensory therapy is often led by an OT. Some OTs are SIPT certified, but most important is finding one who has experience with SPD.

Some images of sensory equipment:

Some activites your child might participate in:
  • deep pressure
  • pressure vests
  • weighted belts
  • "squishes" or hugs
  • swinging
  • sliding
  • ziplines
  • ball pits
  • spinning
  • messy art
  • shaving cream play
  • food/textures
  • climbing
  • motor planning
  • listening therapy
  • sensory tubs

All of these activities are a fun way of re-teaching the brain the correct way to respond to sensory stimulation. By creating new neural pathways, therapy helps the child with SPD respond in the right way to the things going on in their environment around them.

Specific tools your child can use and you can use as a parent will be taught as well. Accommodations, preparing for sensory events...this is not just education for your child but for you as well! It's important as a parent to be equally involved in your child's therapy. Many of the activities down in sensory therapy can be re-created or carried over to the home environment.

Look forward to more posts about SPD, and how to recognize it. For more information, feel free to stop by my blog:


Sunday, January 23, 2011

What is SPD?

CMOTC mom Meghan A. has graciously offered to write a series of blog posts on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), with which her twins have been diagnosed. Her posts will explain SPD and some possible signs, as well as provide resources and a look into the therapy. She will also give you a glimpse into life with SPD, as she has learned from her sons. Thank you Meghan for your resources and insights!


As the first part of a series on SPD, or sensory processing disorder, I'd like to answer some questions about SPD itself. I am the mom of twin boys, both of whom were diagnosed with SPD at 2 1/2, about a year and a half ago.

What is SPD?

Sensory processing disorder, or SPD, is a neurological condition. While not "officially" a diagnosis of its own, it is on the final review list to be included in the 2012 DSM V, the manual doctors use to make diagnoses. It used to be called sensory integration dysfunction.

Sensory processing disorder causes the brain to misread information you take into your body through your five senses. Some people can over-respond, some under-respond or sensory-seek. Still others have issues with vestibular (balance) proprioception (body awareness) senses.


"Sensory processing (sometimes called "sensory integration" or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or "sensory integration."

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.

One study (Ahn, Miller, Milberger, McIntosh, 2004) shows that at least 1 in 20 children’s daily lives is affected by SPD. Another research study by the Sensory Processing Disorder Scientific Work Group (Ben-Sasson, Carter, Briggs-Gowen, 2009) suggests that 1 in every 6 children experiences sensory symptoms that may be significant enough to affect aspects of everyday life functions. Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder, like those of most disorders, occur within a broad spectrum of severity. While most of us have occasional difficulties processing sensory information, for children and adults with SPD, these difficulties are chronic, and they disrupt everyday life."

For a long time, many people thought that sensory issues ONLY related to autism. Many children, but not all, who have autism also have sensory issues. However, new research is showing that sensory processing disorder should be its own diagnosis.

How will I know?

There are many checklists available on the internet, but here's some signs:
-covers ears/cried at loud noises
-afraid to get hands messy (paint, etc.)
-food texture issues, spits out and refuses foods, limited diet
-becomes overwhelmed/shuts down in busy, noisy places
-complains things are too bright, loud, fast

-crashes into things, people
-seems to "need" to spin, move
-puts things in mouth constantly
-touches things, can't keep hands to self
(this can commonly lead to a mis-diagnosis of ADHD)

-trips over own feet
-balance issues
-seems to run into the only person in an empty room
-falls a lot
-always injured

What do I do?

Talk first to your doctor. Many doctors know little about SPD, so be prepared to have a formal evaluation done by an OT who specializes in sensory issues, more specifically one who is SIPT certified. See this link for a searchable database of these OTs. You will fill out a questionnaire, as well as go in for an OT session where the therapist works one on one with your child.

How is it treated?

Sensory based OT therapy looks a lot like play. In a sensory gym, you'll see ball pits, swings, slides, and a host of sensory activities that help create new neurological pathways in the brain and "retrain" more appropriate responses for kids with SPD. Sessions will be tailored to meet the needs of your child and their diagnosis.


Some of my favorite resources, besides those above:
-Sensational Kids, by Lucy Jane Miller, the foremost researcher in SPD.
-The Out of Sync Child
-The Elephant in the Playroom (a great book for kids with ANY type of special need)
-Autistic-like Graham's Story

Look forward to more posts about SPD, and how to recognize it. For more information, feel free to stop by my blog:

~ Meghan

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Help Me Grow's Developmental Milestone Guideline

CMOTC mom Kathleen P. found this great resource to share with everyone. It is a general developmental milestone guideline for children from birth to two years of age. This particular list came from the Help Me Grow website and is what they use as their guideline for early intervention as well. What a great resource for any mom to have; thank you Kathleen!

To add my two cents, speaking as a mom of twins who have developmental delays and one with Apraxia of speech, one of the best things I ever did was contact the Help Me Grow when I suspected delays at three months of age based on this guideline. The program is wonderful and the team of therapists that we worked with from four months to three years (when the program ends) were just fabulous and very caring with my children (and us). Our Early Intervention Specialist was a great resource and also so supportive. I highly recommend that you contact your county's Help Me Grow program if you suspect any issues or developmental delays. They will come out and assess your child and determine if there is indeed a delay or issue. If there is, your child(ren) will qualify for the program which is free (funded by our tax dollars) and offers so many valuable resources, support and help for your child. This program isn't just for children with simple developmental delays, it is for any child in need such as a known like Down's Syndrome or a medical condition that delays your child (like cancer or heart conditions). All children who need therapy and services qualify. To find your county's Help Me Grow Program click here. Early intervention is key.

We also have a great post on the blog, "When twins need "intervention" developmentally", written by CMOTC mom Meghan A. that outlines some resources available to you, which includes the Help Me Grow program. ~ Wendy


Birth to Two Years - Guideline for Developmental Milestones published from the Help Me Grow website.

Age one month

  • Raises head slightly off floor or bed when lying on stomach
  • Holds head up momentarily when supported
  • Briefly watches and follows object with eyes
  • Avoids mildly annoying sensations (placement of cloth on face)
  • Some "Noise in Throat" sounds

Age two months

  • Hold head erect, bobbing, when supported in sitting position
  • Follows moving person with eyes
  • Imitates or responds to smiling person with occasional smile
  • Vocalizes

Age three months

  • Lifts head and chest when lying on stomach
  • Vigorous body movement
  • Head control is improving
  • Recognizes breast or bottle
  • Coos
  • Chuckles

Social and emotional development between zero to four months:

  • communicate by crying
  • enjoy being cuddled
  • smile spontaneously

Age four months:

  • Good head control
  • Rolls from side to side
  • Takes object, such as a rattle, held near hand
  • May begin reaching
  • Follows moving object when held in sitting position
  • Laughs aloud
  • Enjoys play

Social and emotional development between four to nine months:

  • cry, smile, kick, coo, laugh to attract attention
  • respond differently to strangers (stranger anxiety, 8 months)

Age six months:

  • Sits with minimal support
  • Rolls from back to stomach
  • Transfers object from hand to hand and from hand to mouth
  • Babbles-more than two sounds
Overall during birth to six months, baby will:
  • I smile
  • I look at faces
  • I listen to voices or noises
  • I lift my head when I’m on my tummy
  • I follow moving objects with my eyes
  • I hold a rattle or toy
  • I babble or coo
  • I roll over
  • I pull to sitting holding someone’s fingers
  • I recognize and reach for Mommy
Age nine months:
  • Sits alone
  • Changes position without falling
  • Plays with 2 objects at the same time
  • Unwraps block
  • Says Mama and Baba
Social and emotional development, ten to twelve months:

  • Pay attention to his or her name
  • Tease and test parent's limits
  • Learn to cooperate
  • Display separation anxiety and stranger anxiety
  • Be curious

Overall during six months to one year, baby will:

  • I sit alone
  • I say "Mama" or "Dada"
  • I crawl
  • I clap my hands
  • I recognize familiar words
  • I copy speech sounds
  • I pull myself to stand
  • I use my fingers to eat some foods
  • I understand "No"
  • I take steps with help
  • I say "peek-a-boo"
One year to eighteen months:

  • I walk alone
  • I say several words
  • I try to feed myself with a spoon
  • I stack 2 or more blocks
  • I follow simple directions such as "bring your shoes"
  • I scribble on paper
  • I run and jump
  • I turn pages in a book
  • I point to 3-5 pictures in a book

Eighteen months to two years:

  • I put 2-3 words together
  • I pedal my tricycle
  • I balance on one foot
  • I begin to use the toilet or potty
  • I like to be "the boss"
  • I ask a lot of questions
  • I jump with both feet
  • I tell you how I feel (sad, mad)
  • I climb the stairs
  • I copy circles or lines
  • I understand "In", "On", "Out"

Social and emotional development

One to two years:

  • Begin to become independent
  • May become angry if activities are interrupted
  • Respond to simple commands by adult
  • Show anger through aggressive behavior
  • Have temper tantrums

Two to three years:

  • Defend possessions, but is beginning to share
  • Participate in simple group activity
  • Be loving, engaging, enthusiastic and appreciative
  • AND explosive, tense, rigid, insecure, and easily frustrated

Seek help for your child if:
  • Your baby is not sleeping or eating well on a continuous basis
  • You think your young child may hurt self or others (is angry or excessively destructive)
  • Your young child is very sad, depressed or nervous most of the time
  • Your child's play is always aggressive
  • Your child's behavior suddenly changes (begins to act very differently)
  • You have a concern about your child's development (such as walking, talking)
  • Your child regresses (goes back) to an earlier behavior
  • Your child is unusually advanced in sexual behavior
  • Your young child has a medical condition that could affect emotional or physical growth
  • Your child has lead poisoning

These are only guidelines. You are the best judge of when you or your child needs help. Your doctor and other professionals can help with any concerns you may have.

The Help Me Grow program is in each county and provides developmental screenings and evaluations (including emotional development evaluations) for children birth to three. Help Me Grow can connect you to community resources that will meet your child's needs. Ongoing home visiting services are also offered that help to address your needs.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Cleaning For A Reason

Many of us, unfortunately, have had a friend or family member (or maybe even ourselves) with cancer. Recently I saw an advertisement for an organization called Cleaning For A Reason. They partner with local cleaning companies to offer free house cleaning for women who are currently under cancer treatments. What a great help this would be in a time when cleaning your house is the last thing on your mind!

This is what they offer:

"We partner with professional residential maid services who are insured and bonded to participate in our foundation. The companies have agreed to take 2 patients at a time and offer four free general cleanings – one a month for four months as a way to give back to their community."

They currently have 817 partners in 50 states and Canada, which includes a few right here in Columbus. Applications are posted on their website starting at 12 noon CST, Monday through Friday, and they do limit it to 50 applications a day.

This sounds like a great organization with a great cause, and one that is worth sharing with all you as a resource, if the need ever presents itself.

For more information, go to the Cleaning For A Reason website.
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