Parents of children with sensory issues offer practical tips for getting children through the day.
Max, who was adopted as a baby from Russia, has worked through many attention and sensory obstacles thanks to his mom's diligence, a homemade picture board and a cheap alarm clock.
Mornings used to full of screaming and hurt feelings, shares the mother, a contributor to the Sensory Processing Disorder Network.
For weekdays, the mother suggests: Set expectations. Keep it simple. Be consistent. Buy an alarm clock. Also, make a morning "to-do" list out of fiberboard, laminated clip art and Velcro. Pictures can help your child understand the transitions he will make during the day, including his after-school routine.
Max, now 6, wakes up every school morning at 6:30, gets dressed, brushes his teeth and makes his bed. This takes 20 to 25 minutes. His mom lays his clothes out the night before. Max meets his mom downstairs for breakfast about 7 a.m. The school bus comes at 7:30.
Here is a list from the Sensory Processing Disorder Network of "red flag" behaviors or symptoms of the problem. If you think that your child may have SPD, consult a trained occupational therapist for diagnosis and treatment.
--Infants and toddlers: Problems eating or sleeping; refuses to go to anyone but the parent; irritable when being dressed; uncomfortable in clothes; rarely plays with toys; resists cuddling, arches away when held; cannot calm self; floppy or stiff body; or motor delays.
--Preschoolers: Oversensitive to touch, noises, smells and other people; difficulty making friends; difficulty dressing, eating, sleeping and/or toilet training; clumsy; poor motor skills; weak; in constant motion; in everyone else's face and space; frequent or long temper tantrums.
--Grade-schoolers: Over-sensitive to touch, noise, smells and other people; easily distracted, fidgety, craves movement; aggressive; easily overwhelmed; difficulty with handwriting or motor activities; difficulty making friends; unaware of pain and/or other people.
Other common behaviors:
--Spinning and climbing at every chance.
--Crashing into things, such as people, furniture and walls.
--Mouthing or licking inedible things, such as furniture, toys and their body.
--Constantly wrestling with siblings.
--Playing with food; a messy eater; eating spicy foods.
--Underresponsive to pain, shaking it off quickly.
--Excessive sensory play such as mud, water and soap.
--Loves loud noises, can't monitor their own volume.
Some children who have difficulties take steps to avoid certain sensory experiences. Their habits include:
--Covering ears at noise.
--Hates tags/seams in clothes.
--Won't wear shoes or prefers only one shoe type.
--Avoids messy activities.
--Avoids art activities.
--Refuses to take a bath.
--Refuses to brush their teeth.
A resource is www.sensory-processing-disorder.com.
Betsy Flagler, a journalist based in Davidson, N.C., is a mother and teaches preschool. If you have tips or questions, please e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Parent to Parent at 704-236-9510.