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Sunday, July 26, 2015

smart & savvy kids - book - The Out of Sync Child

What a fantastic resource this book is for parents, teachers, etc. who have children in their lives who struggle with sensory concerns. I learned so much reading this book! It's like a text book - filled with real, concrete, super helpful information, and yet written in a way that is easy to understand and with great suggestions to utilize with children. I highly recommend this book!

The Out-of-Sync Child - Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder 
by Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A.

book picture from

The author started the book by explaining a lot about the nervous system, which is directly related to all sensory processes. 

"SPD can cause a bewildering variety of symptoms. When their central nervous systems are ineffective in processing sensory information, children have a hard time functioning in daily life. They may look fine and have superior intelligence, but may be awkward and clumsy, fearful and withdrawn, or hostile and aggressive. SPD can affect not only how they move and learn, but also how they behave, how they play and make friends, and how especially how they feel about themselves." (page xxiv)

Most typically people hear about kids with sensory issues being very sensitive to touch (not liking the tag in their shirts, hating the feel of grass on their feet, etc.) or screeching at loud noises, being startled, etc. That is one part of sensory issues. There are various descriptions of the disorder. 

Kids with SPD are typically very intelligent, healthy and great kids. They struggle though with everyday tasks. "Yet they struggle with the basic skills of managing their responses to ordinary sensations, of planning and organizing their actions, and of regulating their attention and activity levels." (page 9) 

On page 9, the author explains what SPD is. She refers to it as "the inability to use information received through the senses in order to function smoothly in daily life." 

A lot of the sensory issues interact with the brain. "Because the child with SPD has a disorganized brain, many aspects of his behavior are disorganized. His overall development is disorderly and his participation in childhood experiences is spotty, reluctant or inept. For the out-of-sync child, performing ordinary tasks and responding to everyday events can be enormously challenging." (page 12)

"The inability to function smoothly is not because the child won't, but because he can't." (page 13)

Sensory concerns are difficult because they are based on senses that we need to function in our everyday life. "Sensory processing is the neurological procedure of organizing the information we take in from our bodies and the world around us for use in daily life. Sensory processing is dynamic, ceaseless, and cyclical." All of this happens in the body in the nervous system, which has 100 billion neurons, the spinal cord and the brain working together. (page 55)

While sensory processing issues encompass many difficult experiences for kids, it's important to realize what it's not.

"Having SPD does not imply brain damage or disease, but rather what Dr. Ayres called 'indigestion of the brain' or a 'traffic jam in the brain.'" (page 69)

There are three types of sensory difficulty topics - Sensory Avoiding, Sensory Seeking and Sensory Underresponsivity. The sensory avoider doesn't like touch or being overstimulated. The sensory under responsive child is ho hum and doesn't seem to notice too much or too little. The sensory seeker likes to be busy, wants to touch and move all the time.

For the sensory seeker, he "craves more stimulation than other children and never seems to get enough." He needs more, touches and bumps into others. He talks a lot, burps or makes noises. "This child is often a risk taker and a daredevil and may also have poor impulse control. No wonder others frequently look upon him as a troublemaker." (page 73) Kids who are sensory seeking may stomp their feet, talk loudly, bang a stick onto something else, etc.

The next several chapters in the book were fantastically outlined with all the information one would ever need to understand more about sensory concerns. It is a lot more than just moving too much or not wanting to be touched for others. These chapters go into detail explaining fine and gross motor concerns kids could have, as well as visual perception and other difficulties.

Working with the child with sensory concerns
A child with sensory needs does best with a sensory diet that is carried out at home and throughout the day, along with working with an Occupational Therapist, according to Kranowitz. The diet's purpose is to "help the child become better regulated and more focused, adaptable and skillful." (page 228) It should involve activities that help to alert, organize, and calm the child through various activities.

Alerting activities include crunching on food like cereal, popcorn, pretzels, carrots, etc. or jumping or bouncing.
Organizing activities include chewing granola bars, bagels, gum, etc. as well as pushing or pulling heavy objects.
Calming activities include sucking, pushing against walls or some other object, rocking, swinging, cuddling, taking a bath.
(page 229)

In the end of the book many activities are suggested for helping children develop various sensory skills. A few great activities include:

  • letting the child pour beans or rice from one container to another
  • bear hugs
  • building blocks
  • puzzles
  • rocking chairs
  • finger drawing, using finger to draw with paint or shaving cream
  • blowing bubbles
  • drinking through straws 
  • making shapes
  • following mazes or tracing items, letters, etc. 
  • picking up small items with tweezers 
  • tossing a ball back and forth
The author encourages parents to see the strengths of their child, while helping them through the difficult moments. 

"Recognizing that he is struggling to master the simplest tasks of everyday life is the first step toward helping him while he is still young… your child is unable, not unwilling, to perform routine tasks." (page 274)

Many kids with sensory issues are stubborn or have a need to be in control. The author suggests this is not about unruly kids, but rather kids who are doing what they can to survive, doing what they know. "Sameness and rituals are tools that help him accomplish basic jobs, like getting dressed or preparing for bed. His apparent stubbornness is rooted in his need to survive. He isn't willfully stubborn; he is stubborn because he has trouble adapting his behavior to meet changing demands, so he sticks to what he knows will work." (page 278)

The author encourages parents to "redirect" their thinking. Not focus on the negatives, but rather reframe those into positives and understanding their child more and the experience she is going through. 

"SPD is like indigestion of the brain. Just as antacid can soothe upset stomachs, so can occupational therapy and a sensory diet smooth neural pathways. Most of all, your everyday love and empathy will boost your child's emotional security. We all need to know that someone is there for us, especially when times are rough. We all need to know that someone applauds our strengths, understands our weaknesses, and honors our individuality. With your help, your son or daughter can become in sync with the world." (page 279)

Overall, this was the best book I've read in a long time about a disorder or difficulty children face. It included so many real examples of children and families going through sensory issues, as well as the author offered real resources to support those challenging times. It's a great read, one that I find I'll need to read again to fully appreciate all the information in it.

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