Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tips to Avoid Fight or Flight on Halloween Night!

Costumes such as these are likely to be a nightmare for our kids with sensory sensitivities.  While Halloween is loads of fun for many children, it can be quite daunting for our children with sensitivities to touch, sound and sight.  This can lead to behaviors where they may literally fight or flight.

Choosing a costume is the first battle. Most of our sensory kids are not going to tolerate make-up, the itchy fabrics or the hats and masks involved.  Consider using clothing they already have and think about accessories they can hold to complete the outfit.  Soft sweatpants come in all kinds of colors, add a tail and some ears to red pants and a sweatshirt to make Clifford. If the outfit needs a hat, try attaching it to a belt loop or use it to hold the treats.

Your child may be tolerate his costume, but add sights and sounds and it may be just too much.  Avoid the houses that look like they belong to the Adams family. The eerie music and sounds along with children screaming can easily set our children into overload. Blinking strobe lights certainly add a scary feel, and may be too over-stimulating for our sensory kids,too.

Many candy givers expect a "Trick or Treat" from your child.  If your child has difficulty with expressive language or has apraxia, practice the steps including ringing the door bell and saying "Trick or Treat".  If he suffers from "stage fright", consider accessorizing with a sign.  For instance, a railroad conductor could hold a sign that reads "Trick or Treat".   For our children who are non-verbal, use a BIG Mack switch with a pre-recorded message that she can hit at each door.

Try these tips to avoid a scary sight on Halloween night:

  • Never force a child to dress up or participate in Trick or Treating
  • Practice at Grandma's house
  • Set out early before it gets too dark and to avoid the crowds
  • Choose quiet neighborhood streets
  • Go to familiar houses
  • Read your child's signs and be prepared to come home early
  • Identify a safe spot if you're at a party or if he gets separated from you on the street- consider an identification tag of some sort
  • Make sure your child is visible, whether it's through the use of glow sticks or a flashlight
  • Allow your child to pass out the candy at your house, rather than go Trick-or-Treating
  • If you're hosting or at a Halloween party, have your child lead the Bobbing for Apples or Pumpkin Painting Contest, rather than participating. Or, allow her to be on the judges' panel and hand out the prize for the best costume!

Enjoy the festivities this week and share any tips that you have to make Trick-or-Treating fun for all!

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sensory Bins: Fall Favorites!

As I sit down to write this, the autumn leaves are falling down and floating past my window!  Happy Fall!  This first sensory bin is "A Pantry Potluck of Fall Colors"!  This sensory bin has a variety of sizes and textures that I pulled right from my pantry!  From corn to quinoa, lima beans to black beans, you can make it with what you have right at home!  I hunted for various sizes and colors to make it interesting, both for our sense of sight and touch! Throughout the mixture, I hid similarly colored leaves and then added some bright spiky balls for greater intensity. The kids loved scooping and pouring with the little bowls. Be sure to have a broom nearby, we've had beans all over the clinic!

Who doesn't love a trip to the pumpkin patch? Personally, I like to find the nice, plump, round pumpkins.  The children showed preference with the pumpkins in our patch, too.  Within this sensory bin, we've hidden pumpkins of various sizes, shapes and colors.  Some are big and brightly colored, while others are small and shiny. While some children searched for all of the big ones, some preferred the ones that looked like jewels. We have used this bin both as a sorting activity, as well as to work on counting.  There are over 30 pumpkins hidden in our pumpkin patch!

As you begin to carve your pumpkins, be sure to provide your children with opportunities to touch and smell the ooey-gooey mixture inside!  We'll be sure to share our spider web sensory bin that we have planned for next week! Do you have any spectacular sensory bins to share?


Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Sensory Bin Like No Other!

When I show up to the Speech Garden Sensory Preschool with my water marbles, the kids squeal with delight.  This is truly a favorite sensory bin.  (The kids call them water marbles, but they are those water beads that are intended for plants.) Some children are not fond of the wet feel right away, but the brilliant colors end up drawing them in!  I love using the science tongs with the water marbles as they open and close just like scissors and provide another means for practicing the motions for cutting.  While some children enjoy filling bowls or pouring a cup of water marbles onto their hands, others find it fun to “feed” the fish and frog (bath tub grippers) by placing the marbles into the little “divots”.   Sensory bins are a great way to promote language as the kids describe what they see, feel and smell.  We talk about the colors of the marbles, how some are bigger than others and the kids get excited when the find anomalies. They also work together sharing the space around the bin, as well as the tools and supplies within the bin.  Not only do we see bursts of language, but improved arousal levels as they explore this favorite tactile bin!

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A fine motor favorite that goes for miles!

I can’t take credit for this activity as I got the idea while visiting Forest Hill Playschool.  The teacher in the class used Cheerios to place on the skewers, which is an excellent activity for working on pincer skills, as well as eye-hand coordination.  I always worry about allergies and wanted to be able to use it with a number of children, so I substituted the cereal pieces for plastic rings.  To make it more difficult, we added paperclips. The paperclips worked nicely, because my wooden sticks weren’t exactly skewers, but were more like tall, skinny Popsicle sticks.  Therefore, the children had to turn the paperclips just so, to get them to fit the end of the stick. The funniest thing was how long the children attended to this activity.  Once they finished a stick with one color of clay on the bottom, they wanted to try another one with a different colored ball of clay at the bottom. 

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Marshmallows aren't just for S'Mores! Create a sensory bin right from your pantry!

Marshmallows, flour, coconut shreds and plastic non-frozen ice cubes provided several different “feels”.  At first, the marshmallows were dry and spongy.  After some poking and squeezing, they got sort of sticky.  They loved poking their fingers through the ends of the marshmallows! 

Exploration of the marshmallows provided nice hand strength, too, as they kids squished them into balls.  Sifting the flour between their fingers was calming, and promoted quiet time. 

The children enjoyed searching for the colored cubes among the marshmallows as they sort of felt the same, being somewhat squishy and the same shape. Some of the children enjoyed sorting the cubes by color, while others were challenged to build structures from the model.  

The coconut shreds sort of got lost in the mix, but did provide a nice olfactory component, as they provided a pleasant smell.  Some of the children said it smelled like “sun lotion”.  I took the bin home after school and my seven year old had just as much fun!