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Archive for October, 2012

Prevention is Key

“In the old days the sages treated disease by preventing illness before it began, just as a good government or emperor was able to take the necessary steps to avert war. Treating an illness after it has begun is like suppressing revolt after it has broken out. If someone digs a well only when thirsty, or forges weapons only after becoming engaged in battle, one cannot help but ask: Aren’t these actions too late?” – The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (the Neijing Suwen)

Successful interventions are almost always preventative ones. We have all tried implementing the great idea we read in a book or off a blog 🙂 when a child is at the very apex of their tantrum. What we can universally agree on is that in the heat of the moment these ideas rarely work. When thinking about taking preventative steps, like adding a regular exercise program to your child’s daily schedule or making visual schedules in the morning to prepare your child for the day ahead, remember that you are taking a preventative step. In preventative health-care models the patient is encouraged to begin new habits of health before symptoms (like heart disease) arise. The funny thing about this preventative prescription is that it can rarely be scientifically proven as the effective agent in fending off unwanted symptoms/behaviors. As an example, if the person does not develop heart disease, whats to say he ever would have?

When working with our children, we learn some basic truths. We know that children on the spectrum are easily overstimulated by their environment. We know that they often struggle with social settings where they misread or don’t read at all important social cues (think recess). We know that they often struggle with executive functioning tasks, like planning ahead for what might come. When I speak about prevention, I speak about taking these TRUTHS and coming up with some basic measures. I think that it is valuable for parents to sit down and think about the basic truths regarding their child, and then move forward in a more preventative and planfull way. If you need tips, I have plenty on this blog. All I ask is that you refrain from cursing me when my regulation exercise is not calming Suzy down from her 2 am tantrum :).

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This link takes you to a very nice PowerPoint presentation that defines the frequently used terms “under-responsive” and “over-responsive” while also giving some helpful hints to address behaviors that result from these two distinct sensory presentations.

When reading through this presentation, I suggest making a checklist of the behaviors/symptoms you see in your child and then attempt some of the suggested techniques and exercises (ex: increasing heavy work and deep pressure experiences for a child who seeks more tactile stimulation).

You may not be able to view this on an iPad.

http://www.autismspeaks.org/docs/family_services_docs/tips.pdf

Great For the Car (all found at dollar tree and/or Walmart):
sensory tool kit

Includes:
Bubbles – for distraction and deep-breath blowing.
Vibrating Toothbrush, Squeezy Ball, and Playdo – for tactile stimulation.
Gum – chewing can often provide calming stimulation for jaw muscles.
Pad and Mechanical Pencil- for writing or drawing (mechanical pencils don’t need sharpening).
Beads – to play/count/fidget with.
Timer – read my transition timer post.
Tally counter – “count all the red cars…telephone poles…blue houses you see (help child focus/stay distracted on one task).”

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This FREE website provides side by side videos of typically-developing children and children exhibiting “red flag” behaviors commonly seen in ASD. This site is a true gift because it actually allows us to see, not just conceptualize, what ASD symptoms look like in children.

The videos include the following topics as they relate to ASD: social interaction, regulatory and sensory systems, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors, Communication, treatment, outcomes.

PLEASE visit this site, register for the VIDEO GLOSSARY (It’s free), and watch what you have been reading about all of these years in action. It’s a powerful learning tool.

https://www.firstsigns.org/asd_video_glossary/asdvg_about.htm

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ASD can often be defined more by anxiety than other more recognized symptoms, like social learning deficits, repetetive behaviors, and rigidity. Anxiety plays a part in all of our lives, causing us to over think decisions, other’s intentions, our own abilities, and what we might face in the days ahead. I have found one mindfulness exercise particularly grounding for both adults and children. I call this “Doing the S’s”. This exercise was originally taught to me for the purpose of helping individuals with Postraumatic Stress Disorder come back to the present moment when experiencing vivid flashbacks. The purpose of “the S’s” or “doing your S’s” is to help ground the child back in the present using simple observation skills. In this exercise, we are asking the child to notice their sensory environment (Sights, Sounds, body Sensations) in a very intentional way. Our sensory experience is what grounds us in the present moment.
I have found this exercise to be highly effective with clients who struggle with fearful and anxious thoughts before bed, clients who have a hard time calming their bodies before a big test in school, or scenarios where clients find themselves walking into an overstimulating environment. In many ways, this is an exercise to help one CHECK OUT from what is happening internally and CHECK INTO the external environment in a mindful and intentional way. Parent, Caregiver, Teacher, or Therapist will be the guide initially with the hope that the child will learn to self-administer this exercise when needed.

The guided exercise goes as follows ():
SSS 54321

1) Begin by asking the child to take a deep breath in and out. Ask the child to use their eyes as a camera, taking pictures of everything they see in front of them. Then ask the child to close their eyes (children who are uncomfortable closing their eyes may keep them open).

2) Hold up five fingers and say, “I want you to name 5 things you see in the room”. Allow the child to list off five things on their own.
3) Again holding up five fingers, “I want you to name 5 things you hear in the room”. This is often the most challenging for children. Encourage them to really quiet their voice and their bodies so they can hear the sounds around them (the trucks driving by, a plane above, the sound of foot steps, etc).
4) Again holding up five fingers, “I want you to name 5 things you feel in or on your body”. This often requires some examples. I’ll share with the children that I feel myself swallowing, or my pulse beating on my wrist, or the fabric of my jeans resting on my knee.

5) Now, repeat the exercise above 4 times, 3 times, 2 time, 1 time. Each time, the child must name new sights, new sounds, and new sensations.

When the exercise is over, ask the child to notice their bodies. Do they feel more calm? Less jumpy? Were they thinking about other things during the exercise? It is also important for you to notice the shift in their bodies. Statements like, “I’m noticing that your legs aren’t bouncing around as much…that your able to sit on the chair without getting up…that your eyes aren’t darting from one thing to the next quite as much…etc”. What you will notice is a temporary vacation from the stressors.
It is important to note that when it comes to anxiety, stressors stack like bricks – one on top of the other. If we can pause this stacking, and even bring it down just a bit, we can be a part of reducing overall stress and anxiety in the child.

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The “Fitness & Exercise” tab is dedicated to sharing ideas and information on how fitness and exercise impact our physical and emotional health.

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I have recently recieved some amazing examples of morning schedules and weekly schedules from a few of my hard working parents. Everytime I recieve one, I try and post it with the recognition that new things are hard and we all could use some help getting started.

We can read that something works a thousand times but to actually do it takes a great deal of time and effort. I have noticed that when I have an example to work off of, I am much more likely to follow through. This usually involves me “adapting”/stealing someone else’s idea and putting my own bend on it. With that said, I hope that you out there will use these wonderful examples as a jumping off point. In doing so, you will bring your child the structure and organization that he/she needs. I like to think of these visual, numbered schedules as step-by-step checklists that bring some easy to follow and concrete order to an otherwise chaotic and confusing world.

Check this simple morning schedule out. This parent placed it on the inside of her son’s bedroom door. He reviews it when he gets up each morning, completing the routine by getting on the bus.

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