Posted on Leave a comment

Practical strategies for parents and teachers when supporting a child who is struggling to eat

Once we understand the many reasons a child in our care may struggle to eat, and we understand that selective eating may be a red flag for an underlying neurodevelopmental or sensory integration difference. Then as caregivers, we ask what can I do next? Which practical strategies can I use at home or in school to support a child who is struggling with eating?

The first and most important step is to have a child evaluated by a trained and registered medical professional, it is important to rule out medical conditions. A specialist speech and language therapist will be able to check that a child can swallow safely.

An occupational therapist can assist with feeding and eating difficulties because both feeding and eating are occupations, and so this is their area of expertise. The therapist might look at how eating can be broken down into smaller easier steps that a child can manage, or suggest that you change something in the environment such as finding more suitable seating, reducing noise, smells or distractions. An occupational therapist with post-graduate training in Ayers’ Sensory Integration will be able to both assess and treat any underlying sensory integration and processing difficulty which can be interfering with eating. In this post-Kath Smith (OT) talks about how a child’s gross motor movements, seating and posture can interfere with eating, and how these can be addressed by an occupational therapist.

But what next? what can we do at home and in school to support therapy? How can we transfer the things we have learned from the therapist to our own environments and to the (at least) 6 opportunities a day we get to interact with our kids to support them to become confident, adventurous eaters.

Here are some of the strategies we have tried, every child is an individual and so some ideas will work and some won’t. I also say, its best to take baby steps in the right direction, big changes that happen quickly are not helpful for anxious children. Just make one small change, as they say, Rome was not built in a day!

  1. Keep an open mind, Listen to what the occupational therapist is saying, you are the expert in your child, but she is the expert in supporting our kids to overcome the difficulties they face. It is very likely that your therapist has seen and treated other children with similar issues before. This works best when we collaborate.
  2. Ditch the rewards, punishments and star charts.
  3. Think about seating
  4. Reduce sensory overload from the environment
  5. Reduce stress and pressure
  6. Pick your battles
  7. Use a visual support
  8. Try to understand how your child views food
  9. Make it fun
  10. Serve a buffet
  11. Model Model Model…

For more ideas have a look at these blogs and websites

From the Empowered Educator – 15 Strategies to encourage SPD toddlers to eat!

From Ellyn Satter Institute – The Division of Responsibility in Feeding 

Posted on

The Shops are Full of Simple Christmas Crafts

The Christmas season is a fantastic opportunity to get our little ones involved in some Christmas craft activities at home. For those of us short on time or ideas the shops are full of templates and packs that you can put together at home… here are some lovely craft ideas that have been sent to us by some of our families this year, paper chains, both shop bought and homemade, and a beautiful Christmas llama.

Don’t forget there is still time for you to win a copy of Love Jean by entering our Christmas time book give away. Share your Christmas themed sensory ideas with our community… by leaving a comment on one of our Christmas themed blog posts or on our facebook page … before the 15th December 2018

love jean book

Posted on Leave a comment

Sensory Ladders

The first Sensory Ladders were made in 2001 for adults with sensory integration difficulties receiving help with mental health difficulties in Cornwall. Influenced by the paediatric Alert Program, they offered therapists a way to combine Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and Ayres’ Sensory Integration, addressing the development of the person’s self-awareness in collaboration with ward staff on an acute psychiatric inpatient unit.

The need to start with the person where they are at, before introducing learning about new ways of being, including the development of new skills, made it necessary for the Sensory Ladder to remain a very individualised and personalised journey within a close safe therapeutic relationship.

Both Ayres’ Sensory Integration(ASI) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy(DBT) share a common understanding that development and change can only occur within a safe environment. The DBT idea of balancing safety and challenge reverberates strongly with Ayres’ concept of the ‘just right challenge’.

Creating a Sensory Ladder is about creating opportunities for an adult or child to learn to become aware of themselves in a new way – to explore and discover new things about mind, body and brain. It allows the therapist and person to do “curious wondering” together, and for the person to try new things – creating and promoting active but informed risk-taking; testing how we might feel and experience something when we do it differently; new ways of being – new ways of responding.

Making and using a Sensory Ladder is about the journey together within a safe therapeutic relationship. It’s about getting to see and know someone in a very different way, getting underneath the skin of behaviours that are perhaps being described by others as tricky or challenging.

The Sensory Ladder facilitates the reframing of behaviour that are a result of sensory integration challenges, providing the first step of acceptance of the behaviour necessary before strategies and therapy support development and change to happen.

To see more Sensory Ladders, visit our Sensory Ladder FB Page

 

https://.www.sensoryladders.org.

Pokemon Sensory Ladder copy

Posted on Leave a comment

DIY Sensory Ideas: Make-Your-Own Buckle Manipulation Toys

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Weighted Snakes

 

Snakes

This post is about a sensory project I found, making weighed snakes from recycled tights.  I first discovered this project on Pinterest, and while most of the ideas I find there remain pinned to virtual idea boards, I couldn’t stop sharing this one, until someone challenged me to make it happen.  This post is all about that process.

 

First though, a little about me.  As a Children’s Occupational Therapist and mother of four children aged 12 to 6 years, there are many of times when 2 worlds collide.  I often resist the urge to over-examine my own kids and develop hacks to make them more independent.  And it’s hard to escape my husband’s protests that if the kids are struggling with anything, I must have “brought it in from work” and should fix it.  This is especially true of the sensory issues… especially my daughter who hates certain clothes and hair brushing and who has literally turned her need to spin into gymnastic prowess.

This takes me back to Pinterest and the weighted tight snake, whose sheer genius seemed undeniable.  I had assessed children for years and at times had recommended weighed products for those children.  The extra deep pressure provided by weight isn’t for everyone but the kids I met who liked to sleep under all the stuffed toys on their bed or who would climb into the dog’s bed with the family dog for cuddles had already discovered for themselves that it made them feel better: more calm, more alert.  Some teen girls who struggled with the unbearable feeling of tights had told me that when they used something weighed as well as other strategies, they could wear certain tights that they usually couldn’t tolerate.  At our house, my daughter’s main struggle with dressing was how to get dressed for school when the weather grew cold and it was time for tights.  So I collected my daughter’s rejected tights and ordered some weighed beads and planned my project, which I will share with you so that you might have a go at creating some of your own.

You need / I used:

Maggie

  • A pair of rejected tights
  • Something to fill them with (weighed beads, rice, lentils etc)*
  • Needle
  • Pins (not 100% crucial but they will help to hold things in place, especially if you don’t sew often)
  • Thread
  • Matching buttons 2 or 4 (if you want eyes)
  • Felt/fabric (if you want a tongue)
  • Velcro (one leg will be the inner layer, the second will protect it and can be sealed with Velcro)

*a note on filling- if you choose dried food, like uncooked rice or lentils, they might sprout or worse if the snake gets wet UNLESS you commit to a strategy like using the bags banks give you to sort coins into to place the filling in (you will definitely need a strategy like this if you have a kid who likes to chew things, like my son)

Here we go!

  • Cut the legs off the tights as high as you can for a long snake
  • Decide if you want your snake to be
    • straight (you will need to then cut off the feet at the heel and sew the ends together)
    • or if you don’t mind a slightly foot shaped snake, you are ready to fill!
  • Fill the snake with the material of your choice (see * above if you need help to decide)
    • How much to fill
    • Remember to leave space to bring the ends together (preferably
    • To add channels or no (stripes)
  • Use the other leg to pull over the first as a protective layer
    • Fold and pin a small hem and then stitch one end shut
      • If you want a tongue, remember to stitch it in now
    • Add button eyes (if wanted) -I am partial to using 2 buttons each eye so that you have a white part with a black center
    • At the other end, you will create a small hem and sew down and then attach Velcro to.
      • I learned the hard way that using one long Velcro strip makes it harder to get the weighed snake inside its cover, use two or more smaller Velcro pieces
  • Pull your cover over your snake / weighted tight leg.

Your weighted snake is now ready to regulate- enjoy!