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Trying to support a child with sensory processing disorder


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I have a little one, he has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. Usually this means that he does not like to get wet outside and will want to instantly change his clothing. Yesterday it was off the chart, saying everything was wet ( when it clearly was not) that everything was dirty ( again it was not) he cried and then said help my eyes are wet! I have never had to support a child with such compulsive obsessions before! when he wants to change his clothes constantly, how do I support this? any advice would be much appreciated. Luckily yesterday there were plenty of distractions for him so he did not get too upset.  Hopefully yesterday was just a bad day and he will be back to his old self today. Mum is struggling at home and has her own issues so it is quite hard to support her too.

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who gave him his diagnosis? have you seen the reports and the recommendations so that you can create a plan?

I would suggest you work with mum to come up with a plan forward. You will probably be able to challenge him more successfully than she will . We never talk about things being 'dirty' they are messy, sticky etc and i think with your chap i would also avoid the word wet...how about not dry instead!? How is he with other sensory things? brushing teeth/messy play/food/cooking/ will he engage in these if given tools to do so rather than using his hands. Will he play with things he has experience of like paint and sand? if the sand is dry /damp/soggy will this be an issue ? Is there anything that he has an obsession with that you can use to encourage engagement???

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HI, he was diagnosed at the local child development centre, I spoke to a clinician who gave me information on messy play ( as if I did not know what it was!) and was not overly helpful! he does have an aversion to wet textures but will explore damp sand, playdough, glue ( using a brush)  paint ect as long as its not on his fingers. He has a very restricted diet at home but manages a good variety of foods in his lunch box including cucumber and water melon but not keen if the juice trickles onto his hands. I always adapt our activities with tools so he can engage in them and this works well.  It is the clothes changing that is the challenge at the moment, he has two pairs of spares, he went outside and within 2 mins found me and demanded to get changed as there was " dirt" on his trousers and shoes. Luckily he got distracted but this sort of thing went on all morning. I will ask mum how she wants me to manage this, she is very concerned that if he carries on he will really struggle at school,  she talks about not giving in to him, I also get that from colleagues. I got him to choose what he wanted to do, ie put things on the heater....he seemed to accept this as a solution as he quite liked putting the warm clothes on. He will not dress himself either so I want to try to encourage that. He also has issues with toileting, won't use the toilet at preschool or out in public or at Grannies house! he holds on until he gets home despite us trying really hard to support this. He does ask to go but will sit there for a long time, not actually going and he hates washing his hands.  I have done a bit of research but wondered if anyone had hands on experience and how they managed their support. Thanks for your reply, I greatly appreciate it x :) 

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we have had these sort of issues with our children with ASD issues ..i have also had children with OCD (not diagnosed!!) Is he going to have further follow up with the paediatrician BTW? (i only ask because we are having huge issues in our area with this!)

I'll go and have a think about this and get back to you later (sorry running late...as usual!!)

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Only just read this but it’s what we have been dealing with, (no diagnosis) I have some info at school and will search it out for you.  Have you spoken to your senior area SENCO, maybe they cou,d come and do a visit and offer support.  I will get back to you later after work.  

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Foreveryoung.....never tried him in our spares but I have a feeling this would not go well! I had a conversation with the health visitor yesterday and she will chase up the clinician to let her know the sudden escalation of his struggles. They were adamant he was not on the spectrum , mum was desperate for a diagnosis and terribly upset when the said he was not! his social skills and communication is excellent so he scored very low on their tests ( sorry not entirely sure how they do it.) I will meet with mum today to make sure we are both using the same ways of dealing with this . Health visitor said she can get mum some home support so that is good. He is back in setting today so hoping for a better morning with him.

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3 hours ago, twinthinguk said:

Foreveryoung.....never tried him in our spares but I have a feeling this would not go well! I had a conversation with the health visitor yesterday and she will chase up the clinician to let her know the sudden escalation of his struggles. They were adamant he was not on the spectrum , mum was desperate for a diagnosis and terribly upset when the said he was not! his social skills and communication is excellent so he scored very low on their tests ( sorry not entirely sure how they do it.) I will meet with mum today to make sure we are both using the same ways of dealing with this . Health visitor said she can get mum some home support so that is good. He is back in setting today so hoping for a better morning with him.

That's the answer I was hoping for, I would try a stepped approach, so for instance you can do a visual chart say 3 images of clothes, when he gets wet one image is removed and one set is used out of his bag, and so on when he's used them all that's it no more changing hence why I was hoping he didn't like your clothes as this then if the wetness was a detriment to his health is the only way he could get changed. Go for an easy target first so if mum is on board say 5 changes max all day then praise him for not needing all five,  keep this going till he shows a positive reaction to his accomplishment, then you drop it down by one (only one) and so on. Smart targets for him that are achievable but then he will on the opposite side of things have to battle against himself and his feelings. If it's anxiety related the only way to overcome the feelings he has is for his mind to realise nothing bad will happen if he is wet or mucky, if changing him as he requests happens at home or nursery then this reinforces the feelings that his mind is right and he should be scared of the unknown. As someone above has said really try where possible to increase his messy play, the above strategy is linked to the ladders of success. Anxiety and ASD lie very very close together, with the SPD id do very similar in expanding his sensory play. 

Good luck x 

Edited by Foreveryoung
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  • FSFRebecca changed the title to Trying to support a child with sensory processing disorder

Brilliant thank you for your advice. Today he was quiet but a little happier so I am celebrating that! had a good long chat to mum, she is asking to be refereed back to the center for another assessment, not sure that will happen though. Mum says he has been obsessed with having spots over the last couple of days, rubbing at imaginary spots on his hand and face ( one of this friends sister had chicken pox) but did not see any of this at pre-school. He did not ask to get changed today, but wanted to take off his top and "dry" it on the heater, he left it there for 20 mins or so and then happily put it back on. Mum says he does this at home and sees the heater and something that will get the dirt off! Bless him.

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4 hours ago, Foreveryoung said:

That's the answer I was hoping for, I would try a stepped approach, so for instance you can do a visual chart say 3 images of clothes, when he gets wet one image is removed and one set is used out of his bag, and so on when he's used them all that's it no more changing hence why I was hoping he didn't like your clothes as this then if the wetness was a detriment to his health is the only way he could get changed. Go for an easy target first so if mum is on board say 5 changes max all day then praise him for not needing all five,  keep this going till he shows a positive reaction to his accomplishment, then you drop it down by one (only one) and so on. Smart targets for him that are achievable but then he will on the opposite side of things have to battle against himself and his feelings. If it's anxiety related the only way to overcome the feelings he has is for his mind to realise nothing bad will happen if he is wet or mucky, if changing him as he requests happens at home or nursery then this reinforces the feelings that his mind is right and he should be scared of the unknown. As someone above has said really try where possible to increase his messy play, the above strategy is linked to the ladders of success. Anxiety and ASD lie very very close together, with the SPD id do very similar in expanding his sensory play. 

Good luck x 

thank  you for the advice x Mum says he will only wear matching tops and bottoms at home so that is something to consider. I love the idea of the visual chart .

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I would see the escalation in his sensory differences and his concerns about germs as a natural response to an increase in his anxiety. 

It is well recognised that sensory sensitivities increase with anxiety and many parents of children with ASD back this view.

Bearing that in mind, I would be cautious about offering a reward to modify the behaviour that's causing you a problem and, instead, try to find ways to reduce his anxiety so that he naturally becomes more tolerant of sensory stimuli. This will support his well-being and ability to engage in his learning, while also reducing a behaviour that adults find problematic.

Bearing in mind the strong links between autism and SPD, do you use strategies like preparation for and minimising change, breaks from social interaction, a place to withdraw to, etc? 

You might also want to try a weighted lap or shoulder pad for him to see if it gives him the sensory input he is seeking from changing and warming his clothes.

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I’m a member of Playgroup staff and a parent of a child with sensory processing difficulties. If you are going to increase access to activities that challenge the sensory aversion I would just be careful that you have activities on hand that you know are calming for the child - dark den, deep pressure, chewy toys whichever have been advised by the OT. Tactile defensiveness can hugely increase anxiety so if you’re going encourage getting messy or wet you may see an increase in the anxiety driven behaviour as a result. It’s worth considering how what’s happening in the setting might be making the little one feel overwhelmed too, needing to change clothes may be seeking an element of control? My son struggles with noisy, busy environments for example.

 

i really recommend a book called the Out of Sync Child by Stanley Greenbank about SPD. Also Living Sensationally by Winnie Dunn is a great book which makes you realise every one of us has our own sensory issues , it’s a enjoyable easy read too.

Just a final point SPD can link to many neurological conditions, my son has a brain injury that wasn’t identified by MRI until he was four and a half, he’s not on the autistic spectrum. 

Good luck, I find the sensory processing difficulties harder to manage than both the physical and communication disabilities my son has.

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  • 3 weeks later...
1 hour ago, cleverclowns said:

Although this may not help in this particular case we use a Sensory Checklist with an Action Plan and a Sensory Processing Resource Pack.  I will attach a copy :-) It's always good to share resources !!

 

Sensory_Checklist_and_Action_Plan.docx

Sensory Processing Resource Pack.pdf

Great, thank you! Are you happy for me to put these into our resources area?

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