Here’s What Sensory Processing Disorder is NOT

Last post, I shared some information about what SPD is. This time I want to talk about what it is NOT. I am a big advocate for understanding sensory processing and helping families navigate the difficulties that come with the various sub-types, affecting a child’s development and participation in daily life. As part of that advocacy, I often find myself responding to mistaken ideas that people have about SPD.

While October is SPD Awareness Month, it seems that in some circles SPD is a trending topic year-round. And there is misinformation that comes with that sort of fame. So, just to set the record straight and improve our understanding of sensory processing disorder, here are a few points of clarification:

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is NOT a medical diagnosis.

The STAR Institute worked for more than a decade to have SPD added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – 5th Edition (DSM-5). These listings include clear diagnostic criteria and guide a physician in making medical diagnoses for mental and neurological disorders. When the DSM-5 was published in 2015, the editing board ultimately determined that there was not enough evidence to support the addition of SPD as a separate diagnostic category. They did, however, add sensory processing issues (sensory hyper- or hypo-sensitivity) as an additional criteria of Autism Spectrum Disorders. The STAR Institute continues to support research in this area to help identify SPD as a unique diagnosis.

SPD is not what everyone with “quirks” has.

We all have sensory differences, and some of us have specific preferences or needs when it comes to sensory input. If you don’t like scratchy sweaters or need to have silence to get work done, you don’t have SPD. Individuals with SPD experience the world very differently and struggle to participate fully in it due to their difficulty interpreting and responding to sensory input. The hallmark of SPD, as described by Dr. Lucy Miller (STAR Institute founder), is that the condition is chronic and disruptive to daily life. 

SPD is not something that can be “fixed” or “cured” by treatment.

BUT, the symptoms can often be reduced in intensity, with a resulting decrease in the impact of SPD on a person’s daily life. A comprehensive therapy approach includes direct treatment to help with learning skills and potentially altering how sensory information is received and processed. It would also include education regarding how to manage daily tasks and accommodate the individual’s unique sensory needs. Skilled therapists help individuals to advocate for themselves and better understand how to cope with SPD, while educating families (and others) to facilitate an understanding of the condition that changes relationships and supports participation in daily life.

Sensory-sensory based treatment is not the answer to every problem.

Issues with learning, behavior, social interactions, or daily task participation may not all be solved with therapy. There is a growing trend toward using sensory based strategies to support all children who exhibit difficulty with self-regulation, attention, learning, behaviors, and social interaction, but using a “sensory lens” to address these issues may be only one piece of a complex puzzle that needs to be solved in order to best support a child’s development and success in daily life. Understanding SPD can be helpful in solving problems for children who exhibit symptoms of the disorder, but it is most powerful when you combine it with a full understanding of the child and the specific challenges they experience.

Our blog series for SPD Awareness Month continues soon, with more information on the sub-types and resources to help children with them.

And don’t forget: if you’re local, join us at our Introduction to SPD with Q&A events on October 26 and 30. Learn more here, and contact us for more information about SPD or to discuss your child’s needs.

Building Relationships and Cooperation in the Classroom

One of the biggest concerns I hear from parents and teachers alike is non-compliance in the classroom. Children can get angry and frustrated, avoiding specific tasks or all tasks as a result. Teachers are understandably confused and overwhelmed, unsure of how to motivate a child to learn or gain their participation in the classroom.

Over the years, I’ve helped problem-solve more of these types of situations than I can count, and I’ve found that much can be improved with some approachable and thoughtful changes.  When teacher make an effort to modify their interactions to be more empathic while adopting the perspective of “children do well if they can” (Ross Greene, PhD), the situation typically begins to resolve itself.

To focus on teaching skills while making children feel accepted, try some of these easy-to-implement strategies in your classroom:

  1. Establish your classroom as a safe and welcoming space. Greet students when they enter, thank them for coming to school and for learning with you, wish them well when they leave for the day. Make every student feel like they are wanted and belong in your classroom.
  2. Create a community in your classroom. Have the students be part of identifying the rules and expectations for behaviors. Post “class values” where all can see and remind students regularly of those values. Point out when students behave in ways that demonstrate those positive values. Encourage students to support fellow students, support the classroom as a whole, and support you as a teacher.
  3. Remember that children do well if they can, not if they want to. Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child, emphasizes that children who are not successful fail because of a “lagging skill,” and it is up to us to determine what skill needs to be taught in order to right the ship. Simply changing your mindset to start asking “what skill does this child need to succeed?” will help you interact in a more empathic way.
  4. Focus on teaching a skill when you respond to a child. The child in your classroom who is always interrupting needs to learn the skill of waiting. Responding to an interruption with a punishment or “you need to wait your turn” in a frustrated tone does nothing to teach the skill. Responding with “I see you have something important to say but it is Sarah’s turn right now. When Sarah is done, you can raise your hand for your turn” is more likely to help the child understand waiting and turn taking.
  5. Seek to soothe a child and help with self-regulation BEFORE you address the non-compliance with a task. Failure to shift direction and address an emotional outburst will only lead to a power struggle and increased emotional reactivity. For more emotionally intense children, have a plan in place to respond to outbursts. Better still, learn how to read the child’s signals that an escalation is likely and respond proactively by adjusting the task or offering calming activities.

As an OT, my role is to support students and teachers so that they can fulfill their occupational roles, having success in their activities in the school environment. Helping teachers to understand the individual needs of each student is a vital part of that role.

It’s always a challenge to find ways to implement changes that support every student while not overwhelming the teacher with demands. I hope that these tips inspire you to think about your daily interactions with all your students. If you are interested in learning more, I suggest these resources:

  • Lives in The Balance  – Ross Greene, PhD’s website full of resources and readings.
  • Bloom Your Room – a site from Lynne Kenney, PsyD specifically focused on classroom success.
  • How To Talk So Kids Can Learn at Home and in School by Faber and Mazlish – a must-read for every teacher and parent struggling with children who want to succeed if they can.
  • And of course, STEPS for Kids offers workshops and consultation services to support students. Contact us today for more information.

School Or Clinic Therapy: What’s the Difference?

Many children with special needs qualify for therapy services in the school. Parents sometimes think that these services are enough to meet their child’s needs and do not pursue options for clinic based therapies which might greatly enhance their children’s development. Some children are struggling at home but don’t qualify for therapy services in the school. Parents may assume that their child wouldn’t benefit from therapy in a clinic setting or don’t know that this option is available. It’s important to know the difference between therapy services provided in different settings.

School Based Therapy:

  • Is provided as a related service to support the child’s participation in and ability to benefit from educational programs.
  • Is required by law to be a part of the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) when deemed appropriate by the educational team.
  • Is limited to the needs identified by the educational team and only addresses needs that impact educational performance or participation.
  • Is not provided if the child is not demonstrating a need in the school setting that requires specific therapy interventions.
  • Is subject to the limitations of service identified by the IEP and requires a team meeting to make changes, such as increasing therapy time.
  • Only occurs during school hours; often limited by school calendar and staff shortages.

Clinic Based Therapy:

  • Can be provided for any child who has demonstrated need for therapy support services.
  • Is provided in the clinic with options for home and community based services
  • Addresses the needs of the child in the context of the family, identifying strengths and supporting access to community resources.
  • Is usually covered under medical insurance plans or can be paid for privately without limitations placed by insurance providers.
  • Can be scheduled with frequency and duration most appropriate for the child’s needs with flexibility for modifying the plan as needed.
  • Clinic therapists collaborate with the schools when child is receiving both types of services, thus enhancing treatment outcomes in all settings.

Whether a child is currently receiving school based therapies or has been found not eligible for services in the school setting, clinic based therapy may be a good choice for supporting development.  If you have questions about the difference between therapy services please contact our office for more information or to discuss your child’s therapy needs.

Tips for IEP Review Time

It’s that time of year when we look forward to the coming of warmer weather and signs of spring.  For some, it’s that time of year for the annual IEP review,  which you may not be looking forward to.  Meeting with school staff, hearing updates on progress and reviewing the written plan can be a daunting process for parents. Here are a few tips to help you navigate through it and be sure your child’s needs are being met.

 Mother and child drawing together1.  Prior to the meeting, review your child’s progress over the last 6 months to a year.  Make notes about skills he’s improved in and what skills need to be addressed.  Not sure about skills? Just look at performance and behaviors.  Is homework easier to complete, with less crying or frustration? Is her handwriting more legible? Does he seem happier heading off to school or are mornings difficult at home because he doesn’t want to go?  Write these things down and bring the list, good and bad, to the meeting.

2.  If you notice positive changes and improvements, tell the staff!  Parents often head into a school meeting armed and ready to fight for their child’s needs and rightly so. You are going to spend a lot of time at this meeting working on problems.  Try to identify an area where your child is doing well and has shown improvements. Educational staff want to hear about your child’s strengths, too. They also want to know when their efforts are working.  Notice that a teacher has spent extra time with him to advance reading skills? Tell them you appreciate that effort.

3.   If there are many issues on your mind, choose one or two to focus on for this meeting.   Sometimes a child’s needs are many. Where to start is overwhelming and it’s difficult to address all the needs at once. It can be more productive to focus on the most crucial need first which can then indirectly address other needs.  Look at your list (see #1) and decide which area is of most concern to you. This allows the team to focus on solutions for the problem that will have the greatest impact on you, your child and your family.  Issues not addressed at this meeting can be tackled at another time.

4.  Take notes or bring a scribe along with you.   It’s always important that you write down your understanding of what is agreed on at the meeting.  Listen to the reports being presented and make notes of your questions for later.  Ask for clarification of actions to be taken or follow up needed and write down the responses.  If it is too much for you to take notes while listening and talking, bring along someone who will be able to do that for you.   There is always a lot of information offered up at an IEP review, especially if it happens to be a three year re-evaluation.  Taking notes means you don’t have to try to remember all that is said and will help you organize your thoughts later.

5.  Ask questions, share your ideas.  You are a part of your child’s educational team. While it often seems like a room full of people telling you all about your child, the IEP process is a team event and that team includes you, the parent.  Your role is not just to receive the information from the staff but to give them information that will help them help your child.  By sharing your concerns and helping them understand your child you help the teachers and support staff better meed your child’s needs.  By asking questions about school performance you may find a way to do things better at home.

6.  Make a connection with one or two members of your child’s team.  Sometimes a child’s team may include just a few people but sometimes there are as many as 10 professionals and paraprofessionals supporting your child’s needs.  While it is hard to be in regular contact with everyone, you can reach out to one or two people who may have the best connection with your child or who are in a position to help the most.  This may be the classroom teacher but may also include the special education case coordinator, the speech therapist, OT or social worker (or other staff member) depending on your child’s needs. As a parent you will have a sense of who connects with your child, that staff person who really understands.  Reach out to this person and stay in contact with them after the meeting.  They can help you advocate for your child to the whole team.

 

 

Winter/Spring Social Skills Groups now open!

Enrollment is now open for  social skills groups! For children from 5-10 years old, Social STEPS for Kids will meet for 4 weeks, February 21 through March 14th followed by a 6 week session from April 4 through May 9th.   Led by a speech-language pathologist, this group is a great way to help your child build confidence and skills for social interactions. Check out the details then contact us to enroll your child today!

Social STEPS for Kids Group A: For ages 5-7years

Session 1A: Saturdays, 10:00-11:00 am; February 21 through March 14, 2015

Session 2A: Saturdays, 10:00-1100 am; April 4 through May 9, 2015

Group B: For ages 8-10 years

Session 1B: Saturdays, 11:00-12:00 am; February 21 through March 14, 2015

Session 2B: Saturdays, 11:00-12:00 am; April 4 through May 9, 2015

Cost per 4 week session 1A or 1B :  $120

Cost per 6 week session 2A or 2B: $180

Please note: Social Skills groups are not billable to insurance. Payment is due in full prior to the first session. No refunds on individual missed sessions or after the date of first session. STEPS for Kids reserves the right to reschedule sessions missed due to therapists’ absence or other extenuating circumstances.  

Groups will be led by Amy McDowell, MS, CCC-SLP/L. Amy has experience in clinic, home and school settings, providing both individual and group therapy to children from infants to adolescents. Amy uses play based therapy to facilitate speech and language skills development. She recognizes the individual differences of each child and tailors her approach to best meet each child’s needs within the group setting.

To register for a social skills group, please contact our office at 630-552-9890 or email us at info@rightstepsforkids.com with the subject line “social skills”.

Catch the last Sensory Friendly Films for 2014!

STEPS for Kids and the NCG Cinema Yorkville are pleased to present the last of our Sensory Friendly Films for this year. Take a break from your holiday rush to enjoy a movie that the whole family can enjoy!  Catch Big Hero 6 on Saturday November 29 and Penguins of Madagascar on December 13.

Sensory Friendly Films are shown in a regular movie theater with the sound turned down and lights turned up so no one is bothered by the sensory experience. Everyone is welcome to wiggle around, dance or sing along.  It’s like being in your own living room with the excitement of the big screen!

Saturday November 29th come out to NCG Cinema Yorkville to see Disney’s latest animated feature, Big Hero 6. This movie explores the special bond that forms between Baymax, an oversized inflatable robot, and prodigy Hiro Hamada as they join forces with a group of friends to form a band of high tech heroes called Big Hero 6.

Saturday December 13th you can enjoy the new Penguins of Madagascar. Discover the secrets of the greatest and most hilarious birds in global espionage as they join forces with an undercover agency to help save the world from destruction!

You can join us for these great movies shown Sensory Friendly style at:

NCG Cinema Yorkville, 1505 N. Bridge St. Yorkville, IL 60560

Movies start at 10:00 am.  Cost is $6 per person and concessions are available at special group discount prices with free refills on drinks and popcorn!

Enjoy the show!

 

Sensory Awareness Month: Resources and Support

October is Sensory Awareness Month! A great time to share information and advocate for those with sensory differences and sensory processing disorders which complicate participation in daily activities.  If you are looking for information on sensory processing you can follow our blog right here and follow us on Pinterest.  Here are five other places on the internet to find helpful information:

1) Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation:  This is the premier research and treatment center founded and directed by Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR.   The SPD Foundation and the STAR Center offer cutting edge information and support for parents and children coping with SPD.  Explore the latest research, take a webinar or learn more about signs and symptoms of SPD.

2) The Spiral Foundation:  Another great research and learning center with a focus on educating the community and advocating for people coping with SPD and its impact on daily life.

3) Raising A Sensory Smart Child:  The book authored by Lindsey Biel, OTR/L provides comprehensive information on what SPD is and ways to manage SPD in a variety of settings.

4) Angie Voss, OTR, author of Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signalsprovides resources, tips and information to help with better meeting your child’s needs from a sensory perspective.

5)  Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support website offers a parent’s perspective and lots of tips, strategies and equipment suggestions to guide you through the journey of parenting a child with SPD.

While virtual sites and support are wonderful, sometimes we all need a little more face to face support.  In response to our community, STEPS for Kids is pleased to announce our new SPD Parent & Caregiver Support Group that will be meeting at our Yorkville clinic on Tuesday October 28, 2014 from 7:30 pm until 9:00 pm.   The meeting will be facilitated by STEPS for Kids owner/director, Debra Johnson, MS, OTR/L.  The first meeting will be organized around establishing the needs of our community and setting up regular monthly meetings for supporting parents, caregivers,  children and families affected by SPD and related conditions.

No registration is required for this event but seats are limited.                                          Please call us at 630-552-9890 to reserve your seat today!   You can contact our office with questions or sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about events.

We hope you can join us for our first Parent & Caregiver Support Group and look forward to seeing both new and familiar faces!

NEW: SPD Parent & Caregiver Support Group

STEPS for Kids will be hosting the first Parent & Caregiver Support Group on Tuesday October 28, 2014, from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm.  The group will meet at our clinic in Yorkville and will be a source of support and education for parents and caregivers who are interested in knowing more about SPD and related conditions.

Our first meeting will include an overview of SPD and behavioral issues related to sensory disorders.  We will take time to get to know one another and gather information to help shape the focus of the group so that it meets the needs of those attending.  Facilitated by Debra Johnson, MS, OTR/L, the group will offer an opportunity to connect with others who face similar challenges everyday while learning new skills and strategies to make everyday life easier.

This support group is designed for parents, grandparents, extended family members, foster parents/guardians, teachers and daycare providers.  All who are interested and invested in the care of a child coping with the impact of sensory processing disorder are invited to attend.  The group will be meeting the last Tuesday of each month.  We look forward to providing on-going support for our community members.

There is no registration required to attend but seats are limited. Please contact the office by phone (630-552-9890) or email to let us know if you are planning on attending so we can reserve a seat for you.

SPD Parent & Caregiver Support Group

Tuesday October 28, 2014           7:30 pm until 9:00 pm

STEPS for Kids, Inc  1555 Sycamore Rd. Yorkville, IL  60560  P: 630-552-9890

 

Sensory Friendly Film Event: Saturday October 18, 2014

It’s time for another great movie in a sensory friendly environment!  Join us this Saturday October 18th for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day at NCG Cinema in Yorkville.  Film will start at 10:00 am at NCG Cinema Yorkville, 1505 N. Bridge St. Yorkville.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day follows Alexander, who wonders if bad days only happen to him until the day that his whole family experiences a day just like his.  In a modern version of the children’s story, Alexander and his family learn lessons about sticking together and making the best of things.

This film is rated PG and has a run time of 1 hour 20 minutes.

Can’t make it this Saturday? Our next film is scheduled for Saturday November 29 and will be a screening of Home , the latest animated adventure from Dreamworks.

Our sensory friendly films are shown in a comfortable setting with the lights turned up a bit, the sound turned down and the freedom to wiggle around when you need to!  It’s a great way for the whole family to enjoy the movie on the big screen.  Admission is always $6 per person and group rate concessions are available (with free refills on fountain drinks and popcorn!).

Know someone who would enjoy this type of event? Please spread the word! These showings are open to the general public to benefit all.

Please let us know if you have enjoyed these movies and would like them to continue through 2015.

Contact us at 630-552-9890 with questions.

 

 

 

NEW! Story Time Language Group

Our newest group is now enrolling!

Designed for children who are in Pre-K or Kindergarten, the Story Time Language Group meets one time a month to help children develop language skills through reading and themed activities. Each month will include reading a story together and then completing social and craft activities related to the theme that help develop language skills such as phonological awareness (rhyming and sounds), sequencing, categorization, vocabulary,  following directions and more.

Story Time Language Group is led by Amy McDowell, MS, CCC-SLP/L, speech language pathologist. Amy has over three years experience working with children in clinic, home and school settings.  She has special interest in literacy and language skills as well augmentative communication. Amy provides speech therapy services at STEPS for Kids and also runs our social skills groups.

This group meets on Saturday mornings from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm (see full schedule below) and enrollment is available on a monthly basis. Sign up for one, two, four or all nine group meetings!

2014 Dates/Themes

September 20:  Fall Fun

October 25:  Halloween

November 22:  Thanksgiving

December 13: Christmas

2015 Dates/Themes

January 17:  Winter Fun

February 14: Valentine’s Day

March 14: St. Patrick’s Day

April 18:  Springtime Fun

May 16:  School’s Out for Summer

NOTE:  Children must be able to communicate their needs independently (with assistive device if needed) and must be able to attend to group activities without one-on-one supervision (unless parent stays for duration of the group meeting).  Group enrollment is 3 minimum (for each session to run) and 6 maximum.  No refunds are provided for missed sessions.  STEPS for Kids reserves the right to reschedule meeting dates/times due to therapist absence or extenuating circumstances such as inclement weather. 

Group Cost:  $20 per group meeting;  $160 for all nine sessions

Payment is due in full at time of registration.

Call the office at 630-552-9890 or email info@rightstepsforkids.com with the subject line “Story Time” to register for Story Time Language Group today!