What we can do
- Identifying SPD: The next steps
- Sensory Integration Therapy
- Strategies for Home and School
- Tips for extra sensory input
- Links and resources
Identifying SPD: The next steps
PARENTS: remember, you are the experts on your children and you notice when there is something ‘different’ about your child. Through learning about our sensory processing and SPD you can start to understand your children’s difficulties from their perspective.
If your child exhibits the behaviours described (see Signs of SPD) but they have not received an official diagnosis, then the next step is to seek an evaluation.
When deciding if you or someone you know has SPD a clear picture needs to be formed about how they respond to sensory information. To do this their behaviour has to be careful analysed and it is the unusual and persistent reactions to touch or movement which can make life challenging that you should be looking out for.
It is crucial that families have the involvement of a qualified professional, such as an occupational therapist or speech and language therapist, who has received training in Sensory Integration therapy and interventions.
Getting help from a professional will give you access to assessment and evaluation which involves using observations of behaviours and skills. Using interviews and sensory questionnaires information is collected from parents and the school which all help to determine how an individual processes sensory information.
Arranging an assessment can be done through your local GP and in some cases through your schools SENCO (Special Education Needs Coordinator). There are many independent and private organizations that are set up to help families access services and navigate what can be an overwhelming system.
It is important to remember that if you do have an official diagnosis you will be more likely to be able to access services to support your children in school and at home.
Sensory Integration Therapy
Sensory Integration therapy is practiced by Occupational Therapists. The aim of Occupational Therapists is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Sensory Integration therapy is designed to help people cope with sensory difficulties.
Sensory Integration therapy uses play as way of helping children and adults to improve their sensory processing by using activities that are designed to change how the brain reacts to touch, sound, sight and movement.
Sensory Integration therapy works with all of the senses. Our balance (vestibular), movement (proprioceptive) and touch (tactile) systems are of particular importance as it is these senses that give us the greatest sources of our sensory input. This does not give the others any less importance because all of the senses connect and work together.
Some of the ways Sensory Integration therapy programs can be delivered include:
- Individual one-to-one sessions
- Home-based activities
- Developing a ‘sensory diet’ plan – very structured set of sensory activities repeated on a regular planned basis. Designed to ‘feed’ the senses to help our system become more organised through the day
- Modifications to the environment – simple changes in surroundings, reducing visual busyness of a room, changing the seating plan, smaller groups, wider range of tactile textured objects to hand
- Educating children, their family and school about Sensory Integration
The success of Sensory Integration therapy is highly dependent on the skills and experience of the therapist. Before Sensory Integration therapy can be started, it is essential that an assessment and evaluation is carried out by a professional who has trained to the minimum standards as recommended by the International Coalition for Excellence in Sensory Integration. See more at: https://www.sensorywise.co.uk/what-we-can-do.html#tab2
Strategies for Home and School
Here you will find possible tools and strategies to implement for your child and also that they themselves can use to develop their own coping strategies.
It is common for a child with SPD to experience low self-esteem and confidence. Life can be more of a struggle and it is important they can feel comfortable in their own skin. Whether parent or teacher you have a huge impact on how your child feels, so help them be proud and confident.
CONTROL THE ENVIRONMENT
From the moment we wake we are bombarded with sensory information. Simple changes at home and school can make a massive difference:
Reducing visual busyness of a room ● Changing the seating layout Working in smaller groups ● Making a wider range of tactile textured objects available to hand Using alternative low-glare paper ● Pencil grips
Provide a calming space for a child to take a break when they feel over-stimulated. Allowing for frequent breaks and working in smaller groups can help a child to feel calm and focus.
Play is an essential tool to promote learning and encourage children to learn new skills. Play is a great way to positively interact with children and adults alike. It is a great way to build and strengthen relationships.
EXTRA SENSORY INPUT
A person who craving or seeking sensory input could benefit from simply getting extra sensory input. This will help them stay alert and organise sensory information.
Allowing for sensory motor activities and exercises you are creating the opportunity for their sensory systems to catch up on foundation motor skills. It’s a great way to get fit and stay healthy too!
SHARE WHAT YOU KNOW
Join local or online support groups, get out there and meet with new people and importantly keep talking!
There are lots of good reasons to share our experiences and communicate with other parents, carers and professionals involved in our childrens lives. It can not only benefit children but also their families and professionals.
These benefits can be long lasting and can contribute to our own general health and wellbeing.
Parents and carers can learn new ways of helping their family to reduce stress levels and some of the frustration life with SPD can sometimes bring. Information that parents and carers share with teachers can help them to plan and support children better and promote inclusive practice.
Families can benefit from the knowledge, guidance and resources that professionals can offer. By learning from others we can find our own way to live more freely. We can all achieve more together than if we are alone.
Tips for extra sensory input
It is crucial that families have the involvement of a qualified physiotherapist, occupational therapist or speech and language therapist who has received training in Sensory Integration therapy and interventions. These vital professionals are able to carry out assessment and evaluation of an individual’s needs.
Balance = Vestibular system
- Sitting on an exercise ball
- Using scooters and scooter boards
- Allowing for movement
- Wearing a weighted vest or weighted lap blanket while working to achieve focus and calm
- Climbing and balancing
Body Awareness = Proprioceptive system
- Heavy work – pushing and pulling, carrying something heavy – can help our nervous system to reduce hyperactivity
- Seating and chairs that can give touch sensation, like bean bags and giant pillows
- Massage and vibrating toys and furniture
- Water beds
Touch = Tactile system
- Allowing tactile objects to be kept at hand to let them self-soothe when they feel the need to
- Provide different textures
- Provide different pressures on their skin
- Getting messy with mud, paint or shaving foam
- For smaller children, you can hide toys and objects in sand, rice or mud to hunt
Hearing = Auditory system
- Lower your voice
- Allow them to be in charge of sounds during play
- Give them advance notice of sounds
- Enjoy music together
- Create a quiet space for them to work in
- Many of us work well with music playing – find something soft and rhythmic
- Visual clues and written reminders
- Allow them to wear headphones in noisy areas to help them concentrate
Sight = Visual system
- Reduce busyness in the visual field – minimise clutter
- Use mirrors and lighting, including sensory toys that light up
- Play ball-catching games
- Teachers – make sure the board behind you is clear when instructing the class
- Use curtains to help conceal busy-looking shelves
- Maintain lighting regularly – old lights can flicker. Children are particularly sensitive to this and can mean they can feel sleepy, have headaches, nausea and can be incredibly distracting from listening and learning
- Filters or covers for fluorescent lighting to reduce the effects of flickering
- Changing the contrast and brightness on televisions and computer screens
Smell = Olfactory system
- Aroma therapy diffusers
- Scented gifts and toys
- Food can be a source of olfactory input
- For children who have an aversion to smells, you could consider which washing powders, softeners, perfumes or body lotions you are using
- Switch to scent-free or a softer scent that is less alarming
Taste = Gustatory system
- Items to chew to help them achieve calm and focus
- Chewy necklaces or bracelets made from durable, food-grade rubber. Many different designs, some more discreet for older children
- Crunchy foods like carrots as a snack