When it comes to older children parents can help them learn to manage their own sensory needs. The most important thing to realise, is that it is the children themselves who know best. They are the ones experiencing things and can tell what works and what doesn’t.
Here are some suggestions for parents helping their older children to learn to manage their own sensory needs. Special thanks to some local parents for their help some neurodivergent themselves.
How Parents Can Help Older Children
First parents need to accept that their child is making those choices because they need to, rather than the fact they are trying to get out of something. But, on the other hand not all of them really will be to do with the sensory needs, but that they are becoming more autonomous, just like their peers.
As they mature it could be that the child can hold a full and frank conversation on the issue, and less likely that parents will need to rely on making conclusions based on their behaviour alone.
Parents should let children express their views and respect their decisions. Parents should listen to what they are told – believing it and acting accordingly. Parents should assume competence in their child, including when judging when the child can or cannot handle something, and what supports that young person needs in place.
Give Older Children More Choices
Parents/carers have to show them that they have choices; which will also help them to feel in control of their decisions. This will also hopefully promote independence. Allowing self-management where possible. However, try not to limit the choices, giving as many as possible.
Allow them to select things when shopping for clothes, or deciding what to wear (I know how I like to wear the same clothes – for me it is the feel and the practicality); by having lots of breakfast options available for them to select from; and so on. See Sensory Processing Issues with Clothing.
Alter Your Boundaries Accordingly
Question why we want things a certain way. Is it really important (eg their teeth will become bad, risk of skin cancer for not wearing sun cream) or is it something we would like them to do? Personally I get hot super easily and people always want me to wear more clothes when they feel it is colder – how many parents feel that their child NEEDS a coat in winter, when they’re honestly not cold!
This may mean altering your own boundaries of what you feel is acceptable. In the breakfast example our son will eat plain pancakes but cannot make them himself. He has recently started learning to cook himself toast but will only eat it smeared in jam. As parents we do not feel that jam every day is good for his health, but actually his independence is more important. We keep having discussions about why we do not feel jam every day is good and suggest alternatives but ultimately it is him who needs to decide to change this.
Give Older Children Explanations
This will involve having plenty of discussions about things. This will also help them to consider and extend their understanding of their own needs.
Like it is no good just telling them that they have to brush their teeth but what could happen as a consequence if they chose not to do so. That the choice is actually theirs. Get them to consider what it is about brushing their teeth that makes them not want to do it. Help them think about the choices they have in regards to when, where and how they brush (what type of brush and paste) their teeth.
Help them to Understand their Sensory Needs
It may be that the child does not understand and needs more support. Sometimes the child will have put in their own strategies but without even realising it. Parents could talk to their child and help them better understand what tools and strategies they are using. For example, I know that The Sensory Seeker calms down when he gets into his Art or Music.
This may include acting out scenarios – even things that have happened before or what may happen so that they know what to do in that situation. Help them devise a sensory diet and incorporate feedback into daily activities.
The chronological age may not match development, so make sure that everything is appropriate for where they are at. Develop the language around sensory awareness and model it. Also be aware that some of the ways they may self soothe may need monitoring too – especially for things like online gaming.
I hope this has been useful; is there anything else you can think of please?
AD Wicked Uncle have asked me to write this post so that you are aware that they have great Sensory Gift Ideas. Catering for those with additional sensory needs. I have been financially compensated however all opinions are honest and my own.
The Sensory Seeker is a Teenager!
Can you believe that The Sensory Seeker himself is now a teenager! For his 13th birthday he actually opted for a night away at Thorpe Park with his dad. This was perfect for him as he got to go on all the big roller-coasters. With his oldest brother being 25, you could say we have had a lot of birthdays to cover for boys. Therefore, we know what makes great sensory gift ideas. I truly believe that Wicked Uncle is a great place to look.
What to Buy a Teenager with Sensory Processing Disorder
Now you may Google “what to buy an autistic?” or “sensory gift ideas” and come up with a whole load of websites showing some fantastic sensory products but honestly children with sensory processing disorder are still just children.
We have found that generally they like what other children do. Sometimes they want what their peers have in an attempt to try to fit in more. Our boys have been like any other when it comes to birthdays – wanting the latest computer games, or in-thing, even trying to like football when really it hasn’t been their thing.
You need to think outside the box about whether it is something that is helping their sensory needs too. For example The Sensory Seeker loves his Oculus Quest 2, a virtual reality headset. This helps him with his visual and movement needs. But of course this is a hugely popular product in his peer group!
Why Shop with Wicked Uncle
Wicked Uncle is a great website for discovering some great gift ideas for all children, whether they have additional sensory needs or not. But additionally Wicked Uncle have a section of sensory products! Also, it can be easier to find your child the ideal gift if they have a special interest – and Wicked Uncle cater for some of those too!
Wicked Uncle Sensory Products
The Wicked Uncle Sensory Toys and Presents section covers a multitude of different colour-changing, noisy or tactile gifts. For teenagers like the Sensory Seeker there are products such as the mini erupting volcano mood light; the Disco 360 Ice – LED lightshow and luxury bath sets for example.
As with all of the sections on the Wicked Uncle website, you can sort the sensory gift ideas by ages (not just the whole website) – 0-3, 4-7, 8-11 and 12+ but not, unfortunately, by sensory need (ie the vision, tactile, smell, etc). Hopefully they may look into this in the future. You can also look high to low, and low to high on price – great if you are looking for an idea if you are invited to a party where the birthday person has sensory needs.
Sensory Popular Products at Wicked Uncle
As I say, however, our boys have been just like any other and would have wanted gift ideas that are popular. Wicked Uncle have many gift ideas in the popular filter which would be perfect for addressing sensory needs.
They aren’t actually in the sensory section as if you aren’t a parent of a child with sensory processing difficulties you may not think about senses other than sight, sounds and touch. For example, good movement birthday ideas on Wicked Uncle include the top seller Upside Down Challenge, Flying Bee, Smart ball and a Giant Piano dance mat.
Special Interest Gift Ideas from Wicked Uncle
Wicked Uncle also sort their gift by product type – which means there is a small number of special interests covered. These include those who are into football, dinosaurs, engineering, unicorns, food, fashion and spooks and spells.
Other Related Posts you may be interested in:
You may also recall that I have previously written about what best to buy women with Asperger’s Syndrome for Christmas and I think you will find it helpful as a starting base when you consider what they really might like. It was put together from the opinions of many women who are Autistic.
Getting your period for the first time can be confusing for any girl never mind one who is Autistic or has Sensory Processing Disorder. With sensory integration problems it may take longer to absorb the physical and emotional changes in the body, which can usually happen anywhere between the ages of 9 and 16 years old, so it is best to start the discussion early – possibly with the use of social stories and visual aids. You could also use PEC’s on a keyring as a visual reminder.
with Periods for Autistic Females or those who have Sensory Processing Disorder
Communication and Emotions
As well as difficulties processing all the changes those who are Autistic or have Sensory Issue many struggle with communicating. This can be a difficult time especially if she finds it hard to regulate her hormones. A good way to help with this is to discuss what a period is and why we have them – this may start with an introduction in a physical way of this extra hole that they may not have noticed before, as it hasn’t been relevant.
Talk about the menstrual cycle, explaining that it happens to all women. Plot on a calendar the different stages (menstruating/ovulation) this will help her to keep track of when her period is due. Make sure you include the fact that they may have increased discharge on the lead up to their periods, and then on days in-between periods. Not only talk about how long the average length of a period will last each month, how much blood may be lost, and also how long she is likely to have periods in her life. It may seem strange to introduce the menopause before the first period but it might help them to have an idea of the time frame that this will happen over.
Talk about the different types of sanitary products and demonstrate how to use those them (like where to put the towel in a pair of knickers). Talk about how many of each type they might need (like only one cup or x amount of pads a day). Some disposable pads have arrows on them so this may help you decide on a preferable brand. You may or may not want to show her what used sanitary protection looks like – as not to shock her (but explain that people do not usually go around showing this!). Alternatively you could use food colouring. Either way explain that there may be blood clots – or that the blood can be either red or brown. They also need to be aware that blood slows down in water (so it is okay to get into the bath) but that when they get out it may come back suddenly so they may need a sanitary product straight away. Also that tampons can be worn in water (if they want to go swimming for example) but may change how they feel (heavy) and need changing when they get out too. Explain that the flow of blood changes too so there might be more or less at different times – throughout the cycle and throughout the day/night – with more coming at night so extra protection may be required.
Once she has had her first period you could get her to write a diary to help identify how she feels at various parts of each month – warning her previously what this may look or feel like. It may be that the days leading up to her period she feels more angry/upset/sad/frustrated but that this stops when her period starts. This will help her understand how things are for her because not everyone is the same – and that’s okay too.
It may be that she has trouble concentrating, feels depressed or sleepy; has sore breasts, stomach or lower back, she may be more hungry, feel bloated, need to go to the toilet more, and does not know how to express this – or realise why it is happening. If it is explained what this may be like for her, including how this may look and feel, and that these things are normal it will be less frightening for her. Such as that cramping may feel like an uncomfortable or sick tummy; there may be some tightness around the abdomen, or mild pain like a headache feels (I was told by a doctor that this was just migraine of the stomach for years on the build up to my periods). Others may describe cramping like bubble or gas. Offer her ways to deal with them – such as hot water bottles, paracetamol and even chocolate!
Throughout everything you discuss make sure she knows it is normal and just a part of growing up. You may want to explain periods as a rite of passage into adulthood – and even allow her to do something a little more grown up to compensate for them (such as having extra chocolate, having a later bedtime and so on).
Sensory Difficulties and Periods
Of course there may be new sensory difficulties which arise due to her periods. It may be that she cannot cope with the feel of discharge or blood, or the sensation of a pad in her knickers/tampon inside her. This could lead on to poor hygiene, especially if this is already a problem. You need to explore all the many types of products available (towels/tampons/menstrual cups/reusable pads/reusable knickers) to discover if there’s a particular one they are more comfortable with (you could donate surplus products that did not work out for her to a homeless charity perhaps). It may be that the different products have varying smells – therefore it may be a case that reusable pads would be the best option as you could wash them with the regular laundry detergent that they are used to. They may want to use toilet wipes or a flannel for cleaning themselves after they have been to the toilet if they cannot deal with the blood.
Explain that without using them that the blood could leak through their clothes and make them uncomfortable. That if they suffer with heavy blood loss that this could still happen and it may be an idea to carry around spare knickers and sanitary products with them. But also make them aware of how and where to buy products themselves. It may be that it is the visual sight of blood and so dark sanitary pants may be the only solution.
Together you could make a “monthlies” box for the bathroom with all the things she needs. Or order a subscription box for her.
general is a time when personal hygiene needs addressing and it may be that
they struggle with the odours that come with periods. Again which type of
sanitary products they use may help with this, as well as the right kind of
spray to mask the smell.
It may seem obvious but she needs to be made aware of the importance of washing her hands after changing her sanitary wear and of course they also need to know when and how to change and the correct method of disposing (including how to wrap up disposable pads and place them in the bins provided and what they can do if there aren’t any available) or cleaning their sanitary products – and that they are not flushed down the toilet. Talk about the frequency because this could be the fullness or the time – even if a pad has not got a lot of blood on it it needs changing frequently, or it will start to smell.
If reusable products are being used that they know where to put them when they have finished with them (maybe have a wet bag that they can carry around and a wet bucket in the bathroom). But be prepared that they still will hide them – you just need to make sure this situation is as least embarrassing as possible. Or maybe even teach her how to do her own washing, with her own wash hamper (obviously depending on her age) so that she does not worry what others think (and depending on her capabilities). Plus advice on rinsing them or how to treat stains.
Obviously talking about how we take care of sanitary products after they are used are part of the social rules of our society – so you may want to explain this as a reason why as well as for hygiene reasons. But also mention about the vocabulary we use when talking about periods – plus how there is a time and place to talk about menstruation but that there are boundaries and appropriate social etiquette.
That all females have most likely had periods at some point in their lives and it is nothing to be ashamed about. A lot of us have been caught short with unexpectedly “coming on” and not had the right products to deal with it. In this case for a short while some tissue paper may help, or some toilets sell products in machines – or another female can be asked if she has anything that could be “borrowed” (this is the term used but they do not actually want it back!)
This will also include getting the
attention of a member of staff if at school or college to help deal with any
issues. If this may be the case it may be worth speaking to the school and see
if they will help support them.
Of course if you have any further issues then do visit the GP, especially if her periods are very long in duration or heavy, or painful.
Social Story Images from Lil-Barb’s Delights used with permission. They were designed for a particular person with their own criteria. Some girls will be offended/upset by some of the content – or you may wish to use different products.
Thank you for everyone who helped contribute to this article, including the above recommendations.
The above is just my opinions and is not meant to substitute medical advice
Alton Towers Waterpark is situated inside the Splash Landings Hotel and is lots of fun for all the family. We received a discount on entry using our Merlin Annual Passes (for which we are brand ambassadors).
Things to Know About Alton Towers Waterpark
Access to Alton Towers Waterpark
Alton Towers Waterpark is easy to find (with clear sign posts) and is located in the Splash Landings Hotel. The normal way to access the Alton Towers Waterpark is down some stairs. I assume there is lift access but it wasn’t obvious to me, but then again I wasn’t looking.
Parking at Alton Towers Waterpark
Personally I would have found it really difficult to park the car at Alton Towers Waterpark as the car park was very full. We went when it was out of season and the main park only open to special guests. I am not sure if this made for the waterpark and hotel being busier but I am just glad it was my husband driving.
Disabilities and Entrance to Alton Towers Waterpark
There’s lots of fun water decorations as soon as you step inside the building and throughout the journey to the Waterpark, making it a great sensory experience from the off (for sensory seekers).It did turn out that we could have also had free entry into Alton Tower’s Waterpark for a carer with proof of disability/DWP letter or Blue Badge – this was not clear on the website and so I paid for all of us in case the Waterpark was full to capacity.
Disabled customers who can walk unaided but receive the higher rate DWP or have a blue badge are able to receive a Wristband which allows 4 rides on the Masterblaster slide without queuing. This did not apply to us so I am unsure at this point how this works. This can be for either single or double rings.
Parking is free. Again I am sure there is parking for those with a blue badge closer to the entrance of Alton Towers Waterpark which may be easier to park but this did not apply to us and I am afraid I did not notice.
Entrance Requirements for Alton Towers Waterpark
Under 10s must be accompanied by an adult; Children ages 5-9 years old have a 2:1 adult ration; and each under 5 needs their own adult.
Alton Towers Waterpark is open 10am-6pm – you may be asked to attend a certain time slot at busy times.
Only swimwear can be worn in the Cariba Creek.
You can go in and out of the Waterpark multiple times by having a hand stamp on exit.
The Facilities at Alton Towers Waterpark
Alton Towers Waterpark has three slides which require the use of a ring – The Masterblaster (riders over 1.2m can ride on their own and those between 1.1 and 1.2m can ride on a double) – this is fast and goes dark in sections; Rush (which is meant to have a choice of lights and sounds but was just dark when we went) and Rampage – both of which are high speed slides and has an age restriction of 3 years old, with riders under 1.1m requiring an adult). Riders are not allowed to bring their own rings and Masterblaster has a different coloured ring to Rush and Rampage. You must queue for a ring and then queue again to use the slides.
Flash Floods is the outdoor flume adventures at Alton Towers Waterpark. Two slides end up in a pool in the middle and then a choice of a further 3 slides taking you into another outdoor pool.
Also available are Lagoona Bay with a waterfall and a place for a gentle swim; the Bubbly Wubbly Pool and Volcano Springs to soothe you; Wacky Waterworks with over 70 interactive water features – with water cannons, buckets, pull ropes and water wheels.
The Changing Rooms atAlton Towers Waterpark
Changing rooms are unisex with various size cubicles to meet the needs of different sized families. Hair dryers are free of charge – and there is even lower down ones for children. Both adult and children’s hair dryers face a mirror. There are toilets located both outside of the entrance gate and within the changing rooms. Lockers take a refundable 20p piece – we managed to fit our belongings for 5 of us in 2 lockers including our towels. There are plenty of places to hang towels on hooks around the waterpark however.
There are disabled changing and shower facilities, with assistance available if required.
EatingatAlton Towers Waterpark
Inside of Alton Towers Waterpark is a café where you can buy food/drink in your swimwear. This included hot and cold food ideas, with meal deal options. You can eat around the waterpark and there are benches provided, as well as seating being provided in the café itself. You can also leave the Waterpark and return later. This allows you the option to go completely off-site from Alton Towers Resort or eat at Flambo’s Exotic Feast (all you can eat Pizza and Pasta restaurant) near the entrance to the Waterpark itself. You cannot bring and eat your own food however.
Other Things to Know about Alton Towers Waterpark
Other things you may wish to know about the Alton Towers Waterpark are:
That you can take photos inside the waterpark, but are asked to only do so for members of your own family/party.
Buoyancy jackets are available from the help desk.
There is also an arcade which you pass on the way in and out.
There are CCTV cameras in operation.
Baby feeding and changing facilities are available.
There is no running, diving or shoes are allowed inside Alton Towers Waterpark.
Thoughts on Alton Towers Waterpark
Alton Towers Waterpark is great for a family of a variety of ages (as long as you have the correct ratios). There is plenty to do so you do not have to just be queuing for the slides – again suitable for all different ages. There is a lot of sensory stimulation including lights, colours and sounds. This is great for a sensory seeker but there doesn’t seem very much for a sensory avoider, and this would be less so if the Flash Floods were closed. At least there is the option of going out and back in to the Waterpark – but the immediate area is also quite a sensory experience, especially as you have to pass the arcade.
I personally felt really overwhelmed (I am self-diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome) on entering Alton Towers Waterpark and couldn’t clearly see what I was meant to do. For me it wasn’t clear which slides did what (ie were they tight, dark, fast etc) or where to go to collect the rings for the right slides. There are some sort of signs but it just felt a little confusing (I actually ended up on my own crying). However, there are plenty of members of staff around to ask for advice – and one even asked me if I were okay and if I knew where I was going. I am expecting that Alton Towers will be providing their staff with training on this following the launch of the new guide for welcoming disabled customers.
Value for Money at Alton Towers Waterpark
I think that with our Merlin Annual Pass Discount, and a family rate, then Alton Towers Waterpark is reasonably priced and in-line with other Waterparks we have visited. There is also good value for money on the amount of entertainment. However, for our family of thrill-seekers (who are now all over 1.4m) there weren’t that many thrills in terms of exciting slides (with only 3 to really talk about at all). It is good that there was no rush for us to leave – as we were able to use the facilities between 10am-6pm coming and going as we pleased. We also found that the queues weren’t too unmanageable, even for The Sensory Seeker.
We spent a total of 150 minutes in total at Alton Towers Waterpark, including getting dressed and undressed. Then we spent further time at Flambo’s Exotic Feast – where we were thrilled to discover there is ice-cream!
Those with Sensory difference can have problems when it comes to touch, this can be really uncomfortable and sometimes very painful causing the individual to have a “meltdown.” In some situations this really cannot be avoided completely especially when it comes to taking care of their hygiene including their hair. Washing, brushing and cutting the hair can be a traumatic experience for the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder – so what can be done to help?
Consider how Washing, Brushing and Cutting Affects them as an Individual
It is important to remember that with Sensory Processing Disorder (or Sensory difficulties for a person who has Autism) that everyone is an individual and will be affected differently – there’s not a one size fits all. You need to think about what it is that is causing them not to want their hair washed, cut or brushed – what is it about it making them feel distressed? If you can talk to them try to find out but if not you will just have to try different methods to eliminate the possible causes. For example, I know my oldest son with Asperger’s syndrome dislikes his hair being cut so much that he lets it grow for example, whereas I feel like pulling my hair out of the socket (and do often cut quite a bit off myself – this is called trichtomania and can be a sign of anxiety) because it just hurts so much. Remember that problems could be due to any of the senses so think about the situation in terms of them all:
The Environment where having their hair Washed, Brushed or Cut
Like most things when it comes to Sensory Processing the environment the individual is in can make such a difference. Consider the effect of noise, visuals, smells etc on them as well as what the textures are around them and how they are placed (for consideration on proprioception and vestibular senses). Make sure they are familiar with where they are having their hair done and are happy with it before attempting doing anything to the hair. Are they happier standing, sitting – or possibly even lying!? What have they got to look at? Are they content with just what is in the environment or would they benefit from being distracted by a television, games console, iPad, etc? Or maybe it is too much and they need sunglasses or to relax with an eye patch to lessen the visual overload. Is the lighting right? Would they benefit from coloured lights – or more or less lighting? Is there too much noise? Can they wear noise-reducing headphones to cancel it out? Or not enough noise? Could they have a radio on, or listen to music through some headphones? Is it the smell – is there a certain air freshener or products being used that they do not like?You may need to slowly build up their compliance with going into this room (for example in a hairdressers); start by letting them go in and leave straight away, building up their tolerance for staying there. Take a look at different places and see which is the most suitable – some have cars children can sit in, or you may find a hairdresser who is very patient. When our oldest son with Asperger’s syndrome was small we found a hairdressers who would let him come back over a number of visits because he got so distressed trying to do it in one sitting. Also try to take with you things that will help them feel relaxed. Alternatively see if someone will come out to your home.
Things to consider to help the Individual with Sensory Processing when having their hair Brushed, Washed, or Cut
Wherever it is that the individual with Sensory Processing has their hair done there are some things that may be worth trying to think about whether they will make it easier for them:
Can they have advance warnings – with visual aids, social stories, videos, or watching others first? Do they know how long it will take? Have they a visual timer to help with this? As above can they have it done over several sittings?
Can they be distracted whilst someone is doing their hair (with a fidget toy, stress ball, iPad, etc)? Do they prefer to be in control and do it themselves (washing and brushing) – and would they benefit from a mirror (this may also be helpful if someone else is doing it too)? Or is it impossible and therefore would trying to do it whilst they sleep be a last resort option?
Are they comfortable with the feel of a towel/shawl around their shoulders whilst having their hair done? Or would they benefit from a weighted lap-pad or a kick-band around the bottom of the chair whilst they have to sit?
Is the temperature of the water right? Are you trying to wash their hair forwards or backwards over a sink? Using a shower head or lying in a bath? Is a water spray bottle an option – or is the feel on their face unpleasant?
Obviously ideally when trying to brush the hair then clean hair is going to be easier, but this is not always possible. Is using dry shampoo possible? Consider the smells of the products and whether to use shampoo, conditioner or both. It may be a good idea to use leave in conditioner, Aragon oil, coconut oil, or detangler spray to make the hair easier to brush, and comb from the bottom in small sections, slowly going up to the roots. Afterwards consider tying the hair back and if possible plaiting it to avoid any further knots.
Different people will touch the hair/have a different pressure than others, as will different brushes and combs – can this be adjusted to try to find the right force for them? I know my teenager likes the feel of the nitty gritty comb and will only use that – so really experiment! Of course there’s a range of soft and hard brushes, combs with different spaces between the teeth and detangler brushes.
Do they dislike noises – so would prefer scissors over clippers? Or are they worried that their ears may be nipped? Do they need a warning when it will be noisy? And is it better to towel dry or use a hairdryer?
When cutting their hair consider swaddling. Our son was physically sick when the lose hair touched his skin and so a change of clothes may be a good idea.
Do you have any other problems or solutions when it comes to sensory issues and washing, cutting and brushing hair – please add them in the comments below. I would also love to hear if any of this has been beneficial to you.
I am not sure at what point, if there is a point, our son The Sensory Seeker started to have Sensory Processing Disorder. I am not sure if anything caused or triggered it or if it is something that has just always been there. But I thought I would try to share some of his early experiences to see if anyone can identify with it – and just so you can get to know him better.
The Birth of The Sensory Seeker
The Sensory Seeker was born at 35 weeks Gestation with just gas and air using Wrigley’s forceps and a whooping 7lb 1 oz. He was also rather long and I believe that the hospital just thought that the dates were wrong. I had had contractions from around 31 weeks but told to get bed rest. I have a needle phobia so at no point did I have the steroid injections. I was also breast feeding my toddler and once this happened I had to try to really limit his feeds. In fact it was the middle of the night when he came in for a feed that my waters started to break. First a trickle but then there was no doubt as they poured out. We went to the hospital and The Sensory Seeker was born a few short hours later. Born at five thirty in the evening we were both discharged from the hospital the next morning.
The Sensory Seeker’s Weight Loss
At home The Sensory Seeker was feeding fine, but was very sleepy. I had been given no information on him coming before the 37 week full-time dates and felt that something was not right. By day 3 when the midwife came to check that he hadn’t lost more than 10% of his birth 3 he’d actually lost 13% (down to 6lb 3ozs) and we had to go straight back to the hospital. Despite constant badgering to formula feed my son I expressed my milk and fed him by first syringe and then cup – which meant I had very little sleep. We did get sent home at one point but it wasn’t long before the weight gain wasn’t satisfactory enough we were sent back in. He was put on the Billy bed (UV light) and was treated for jaundice. His blood sugar levels weren’t right either but they were the opposite way they were checking for so apparently it was ok, I later learnt that his blood sugar levels were an indication of an infection but everyone was too hung up on the fact that I was tandem feeding.
His weight continued to stay low and his jaundice worsened so they added a top to the billy bed which meant that he had to have his eyes covered. It was really hard not to just be able to cuddle my sick baby too, with the only time I was able to touch him was when he was feeding – this was every 3 hours by cup. He made a tiny bit of progress and was able to move to first a normal cot, and then a side-cot attached to my bed. The whole time I was still expressing, cup feeding and feeding my other son when he came to visit. His bilirubin levels then reached an acceptable level and we were able to go back home.
The Sensory Seeker’s Infection
And then it happened. One day when he was 3 weeks old and I went to change his nappy there was just this awful puss oozing out of his belly!! Luckily there was a clinic running across the road and the midwife saw us straight away who said to take him straight to the hospital. No-one really said anything to me but a cannula was put into my tiny baby’s arm immediately – and he was pumped up with 3 different types of antibiotics. We were sent to another hospital and there he continued the IV antibiotics and returned back to his birth weight at last. His weight has been fine ever since.
I am not sure if these early experiences have been the cause of his sensory issues or whether he would have had them anyway. But I do think it shows that from the off he has always been a fighter. A strong little man.
Inclusion what do schools think that means? I recently went to The Sensory Seeker’s annual review of his EHCP to find out that his school means that they don’t want him to be different. I guess it is a feeling of once again coming back to rubbish parenting really, as it sounded like that the only thing causing any problems is him being treated in a way not like the others! They said that even with a one-to-one teacher he hasn’t made “extra” progress (just in-line with his peers) and that actually he needs to be encouraged to be more “independent.”
They did not seem to even understand Sensory Processing Disorder (which unfortunately is not a diagnosed condition in the UK) so it is no wonder that they don’t “get” that his one-to-one helps The Sensory Seeker deal with sensory input that may distract him and need his focus brought back. In fact the SENCO and his teaching assistant didn’t seem to think he had ANY sensory needs at school – which I found really surprising. They were thinking about just taking that section out of his EHCP all together. I thought that there was no point in arguing with them after I tried to explain some of his difficulties, because they just said it did not happen. Or well, that time he was hugging someone else all the time was okay because that person wanted him to do it. Of course the good old social stories came up – as obviously if he understood that he couldn’t just go around touching people then that tactile need will just disappear!
His EHCP actually has good guidance in it about his Sensory Issues from the Occupational Therapist, but because they discharged us they no longer come to the meetings. I can’t even really get her involved whilst the school are saying there aren’t any issues either! Luckily his class teacher was able to quickly pop in to the meeting at the time we were just about to move on to the next bit of the EHCP. She was then asked about The Sensory Seeker’s sensory issues (in a tone that he did not have any). But, thankfully, straight away she said that yes he clearly did and came up with an example straight away. In fact, ironically, it was to do with their sensory time where a few children go off to practice writing. She said that music was played to help them feel calm – but actually it stopped The Sensory Seeker from concentrating. That he was able to let her know it was a problem. The SENCO again was immediately in the frame of mind of not wanting him to be “different” so asked what the teacher did to resolve it. The teacher explained that they just turned the music off! That they didn’t *need* it. It is a shame that next year not only isn’t she his class teacher but she is leaving to go on to another school.
We will have to see how things go in year 4 because I am concerned that they are just knocking his confidence by ignoring his sensory needs and treating him no differently – such as setting him the same homework as the others for example. And then when it is not complete (because he has struggled with it so much, or not in the right sensory frame when he has come home) he is then punished (like the other children) by missing break times. I fear that this will then further impact his social skills and relations with his peers -especially as he becomes more aware of things such as being the only child not invited to parties. They have also mixed up the children in his year group and this change has already upset him. Unfortunately he was sick and missed move up day too – so we shall have to see how it goes. It isn’t all bad however, and I am not blaming the school it is because the knowledge just isn’t there. Things I mentioned (such as his inability to use a dictionary as he does not know the alphabet) they tried to help straight away. He seems to have a good relationship with his TA and in our opinion has helped him come on leaps and bounds.
When we redesigned our bathroom we had to really stop and think about our youngest son’s disability. We took him along to make sure he approved of the colour scheme and had some real issues adjusting him to a square toilet. Our son’s needs are sensory as he has sensory processing disorder and rather individual to him. More physical needs can affect not just the disabled but the elderly too so it is useful to find solutions for their bathroom.
Sensory Help in the Bathroom
I felt mindfulness really helped me understand what the Sensory Seeker needed in the bathroom. I found that even the slightest tilt of my head under the shower can make the noises sound very different. This gave me an insight into the fact that even small changes can make a big sensory difference. Sensory Processing Disorder is different for each individual and it can be every time they enter the bathroom, depending on their sensory diet that day. Knowing if The Sensory Seeker would be effected by colours, smells, touch or temperature etc are very important factors in encouraging him into the bathroom, and then using the products he needs when in there (see also my posts about brushing his teeth and washing his hair).
I previously wrote about Sensory Processing and Bathtime problems – but have since discovered additional solutions you can have added into a bath that may help with sensory issues such as Chromotherapy and Echo. Chromotherapy is based on light therapy and uses a visible spectrum of colours which help the body harmonise the emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. The colours can be fixed or run through a cycle of seven. Not only is this useful is you have a visually sensory seeker but it also encourages the mind and body to relax. Whilst Echo is a sound therapy which utilises sounds and music to create a relaxing environment. It works wirelessly from a music player using Bluetooth technology, with simple volume controls at the fingertips of the user. Again great for the auditory sensory seeker but also relaxing for mind and body.
Do you have any other helpful hints when it comes to the bathroom?
When it comes to Christmas and the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder it is all about making sure they still manage to get the right Sensory Diet. Trouble is with all the additional Sensory input (especially in terms of vision, sounds and smells) then this is going to knock their normal routine right out. I have already talked about how to tackle things such as Visiting friends and Family at Christmas . This post is particular about Sensory Craving at Christmas. The way I have found is best to deal with Sensory Craving is to ensure that there is a regular and often stimulation given. In a way I have provided a Sensory Advent Calendar this year to help calm the excitement a little.
It is key to consider what it is that has changed and is affecting them, and what can be done to get the balance right once more. This can be really difficult to understand because it may be that there is more visual stimulation than normal so you try to limit it (keeping decorations to a minimum for example): On the other hand it may be that you need to give them more opportunities to touch as they NEED to explore the world around them. Christmas for us is one of the most difficult times of the year as The Sensory Seeker gets so excited but often struggles to control his emotions and reactions. As well as trying to keep him at the right balance we ensure that he is supervised more than usual and remember that once things are back to how they were then things will be easier.
The Benefits of a Sensory Advent Calendar
The benefits of a Sensory Advent Calendar for our Sensory Seeker has meant that The Sensory Seeker is not just waiting until Christmas to get all his much needed Sensory Stimulation. Sensory Craving at Christmas can be a nightmare as our Sensory Seeker just cannot get enough input to the senses (mostly auditory, movement and touch; but he is also more sensitive to smell – but seems to want to avoid those). He gets really excited about actual Christmas day and I have found that giving him something to do each day has helped his Sensory diet. This in turn has meant it has been much easier with his hygiene issues (Sensory Craving is not pleasant where the toilet is involved!), especially cleaning his teeth – and sleep (ie he is managing to pretty much stick to his routine and get sleep!). It has also made the build up to Christmas a pleasant one for the whole family – doing nice things together, as opposed to feeling like we are just trying to contain the Sensory Seeker’s excitement a little! An added bonus of this has also been that he has been encouraged to at least try more foods – he even licked a lettuce leaf!
About the Sensory Advent Calendar
The Sensory Advent Calendar is simply having twenty-four things to do with The Sensory Seeker, one each day in December until Christmas Day. ? I wanted to get a real mix when deciding what to include in the Sensory Advent Calendar. I told the children that we would be doing a different thing each day but did not tell them what basing which activity we did being dependent of The Sensory Seeker’s needs and the needs of the whole family. Let’s face it just because he may have limitless energy at this time of year does not necessarily mean that I do too!! Your family may need something more structured and, depending on what works best for you and your family, maybe you could map something out, even produce a visual aid showing the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder what they are doing each day.
Activities to include in a Sensory Advent Calendar
There are obviously a great many things you can do with your child over Christmas, with a wealth of ideas online: Things I considered when creating The Sensory Advent Calendar consisted of activities to get really messy and creative; others were simple, clean and easy to organise and tidy away: Some that he could do independently, and others that involved us all coming together.
Does he require noise? Ideas include singing Christmas Carols, Playing with noisy Christmas novelties or playing Christmas songs (and maybe even having a dance too). Or simply getting outside and letting him be as vocal as he likes! Or if he wants to be settled and quiet some Christmas colouring or other quiet calm activity.
Does he require movement? Again dancing (or playing Just Dance on the computer) is a great way to get movement, as well as our 14ft trampoline, ice-skating and walking around to see Christmas lights. We are regularly doing Parkrun and are carrying this into December – but wearing festive clothes! I have previously written about the benefits of the Forest and Sensory Processing Disorder – and at this time of year you can catch falling leaves – or collect things to craft with at home. When he does not need movement and needs to settle and relax I have bought him some films to watch (linked in with the Christmas presents he has asked for this year), planned trips to the cinema, have Christmas story books to read (The Night Before Christmas Olaf style is The Sensory Seeker’s favourite), make Christmas shapes in our LEGO (also good for fine motor) or play a board game.Does he require touch? I had some really messy activities where he could get covered in paint and glitter. But also some edible ones where it didn’t matter if he tried to eat what he was touching! This could even be tied in with making gifts – such as our Christmas Tree Biscuits.
Which kind of activity used also was determined by time – such as was he able to easily have bath to get clean afterwards. I considered which kind of materials to use – does he need the same as he did last time or would he benefit from a different ones? (see my previous Sensory Snowman post). We made Reindeer food so that he could put it out on Christmas Eve so that he can visually associate it with being the night that Father Christmas comes out.
Does he require smell? The Sensory Seeker has been more sensitive to smell and taken a dislike to some. The ideas I have when he needs smell are – a big bowl of freshly cooked popcorn; creating ornaments (such as Wonderbaby’s Apple & Cinnamon Ornaments); a scented candle (supervised); bubble bath/bath bomb or even a real Christmas tree.
I hope this post has been useful for you – and this blog has lots of ideas on it of things to do with the Individual with Sensory Processing Disorder. If you are having Bad days – then please read my previous post and hopefully things will be easier in the New Year.
Thank you to the Forestry Commission for sending us craft materials and a free parking pass.
Do you have trouble when it comes to keeping your child with Sensory Processing Disorder clean? This may be because they are sensory avoiders and do not like touch, or they may be sensory seekers and always touching things (for more information see my previous post on Sensory Processing Disorder: The Tactile Sense). Either way Kids Stuff ® Crazy Soap might just be the answer you have been looking for.
Kids Stuff ® Crazy Soap Range
They have a range of bath paints, bubble baths (colour changing/glitter), goo, bath crayons, soaps (that you can mould to make shapes out of!), body paints (let that Sensory seeker go wild whilst actually getting clean!).
With smells to tingle the senses and fun characters to really appeal to their visual nature – what’s not to love?
And of course it is all soap in one form or another so it is getting them clean at the same time. But the real beauty of it is that it is cleaning itself up!
I think they’d make an ideal present for their stockings, or to help fulfill the additional sensory needs triggered by the festive season. They also have little characters on the tops of the bottles for an additional tactile feel – and they are designed to be played with in the water.
I also liked how this developed my Sensory Seeker’s hands as he played with the products – from undoing bottles, to developing his pouring technique (hand-eye co-ordination, estimation of how fast the liquid would pour out, tilting his hand back; then squeezing on the flannels and sponges, to helping his fine motor development with the crayons.
Of course soap products are not just suitable for those with Sensory Processing disorder, and are just as much fun for all children, covering such a huge variety of ages.
This can really help other children (friends and family perhaps) get a better understanding of say a sensory seeker – as they join in the fun of covering themselves in soap.
I was invited to Hamley’s in London with my youngest 3 children (including my Sensory Seeker) to have a messy play date with Kids Stuff ® Crazy Soap and see their new designs.
I thought that it was great to see the products being demonstrated without the bath – as this is just perfect for me as he often wants to touch things (or again if you have a sensory avoider who does not like the bath, this could be a small step in).
This was achieved by giving the children aprons and goggles for protection. Then there were a number of stations set up – with bowls, flannels, water, the products, and others had white boards to draw on, special bath colouring in books and crayons, flannels, sponges – and all manner of sensory experiences.
I could see this as a great idea for a Sensory soap party.
Our travel expenses were paid to attend the event at Hamley’s but I was under no obligation to write this post. I think they are an absolutely marvelous product and they really helped my Sensory Seeker as he was struggling with all the changes (it was Half Term Holidays). I thoroughly recommend them to other parents – both those who are and aren’t having difficulties with Sensory Processing Disorder.