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Friday, July 31, 2015

smart & savvy - book - Sensational Kids

I am so glad I was able to read this book. What a great resource for parents and professionals working with sensational kids - those experiencing sensory processing concerns. I learned so much from this book and know it will be a helpful resource to any parents who have children with sensory issues.

Very easy to read, FULL of information that is understandable and applicable to your daily lives, as well as real life stories of kids who go through these concerns, this is a must-read in the discussion of sensory processing disorder.

Book image from

Sensational Kids - Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder
by Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR

  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is "the way the nervous system receives sensory messages and turns them into responses." (page 6)
  • SPD can cause problems with: behavioral, emotional or attention activities, as well as poor social participation, self-regulation, and self-esteem (Page 6).
  • We have 5 senses, and then other senses not typically talked about but that impact our daily activities.
    • proprioceptive and vestibular senses "give us our awareness of speed, movement, pressure on our joints and muscles, and the position of our bodies."
    • interoception - sensations you feel from your internal organs. This tells you when to go to the bathroom, stomachache, etc. 
  • "The hallmark feature of children with SPD is that their sensory difficulties are chronic and disrupt their everyday life. Children with SPD get stuck because of their unusual responses to sensory input." (page 17)
"SPD is neurological; it is not parental, it is not behavioral." 
(page 17)
  • "No matter what strategies a determined parent uses - stickers on a chart, praise, discipline, or some technique another parent said worked magic for them - kids with SPD stay stuck. Parents of sensational kids often say it seems as if their children have no control over their bodies. Well... guess what? They don't. Children with SPD behave differently from typically developing children because their brains are different." (page 17)
  • On page 20, the author explains that it is important for parents to consider their children in "context," that is the environment or setting their child is in and how they behave and seem in those settings. This was a great point that I had not read about in other books related to sensory issues. The author was suggesting that perhaps in one setting your child can behave and feel great, calm, have enough sensory input, but in other settings they are all over the place. This is normal for kids with SPD. 
There are various types of kids with SPD and subtypes of issues they face. One subtype is sensory seeking or craving. These kids:
  • clown around at school, falling, bumping into walls
  • seek movement and sensations, over and over
  • if they cannot get the sensation they want they may become demanding, explosive or aggressive. "Labels such as troublemaker, bad, and even dangerous are commonly applied to them." (page 35)
  • poor impulse control
  • symptoms are oftentimes confused with better known ADHD
  • talk at a loud level, like loud noise and music
  • "Their social interactions tend to be invasive; they crowd people and touch them, knock other kids over, or go down the slide too fast and overtake the child in front of them because they're so excited or over-aroused." (page 35)
  • All of this nonstop movement is exhausting so they may sleep really well during the day and then have trouble sleeping at night. 
  • intense, hard to calm, demanding
  • excessively affectionate
  • makes strange sounds
  • the need to move is so strong that it's difficult to organize behaviors and do things step by step, forgetting or not wanting to do things in order. It helps to teach them to sequence behaviors (page 197)
The author encourages parents to develop the mantra "There is hope and help." 

For kids to know, "You are a gift. Enjoy today." 
For therapists working with sensational kids, the author encourages them to remember "Be humble. Be a change agent." (page 109)

My favorite part of this book is where Miller describes in great detail a day in the life of a child with sensory concerns, based on different subtypes. In describing a sensory-seeking child named Ben, the author explained that when the child took another child's toy and was seeming like he was mean, it really was some sensory concerns at play. 

"Ben is not a mean or bad boy, but people sometimes apply those labels because such children behave in ways that distress those around them. In reality, just as Ben is brimming with action, he is brimming with affection, sympathy and support. All his emotions are close to the surface and his remorse about throwing Bea's doll is as strong and genuine as was his impulse to throw the doll. At school, Ben is usually the first child to race to the rescue when a classmate falls down and cries." (page 198)

The author explained that children like Ben create conflict in those around him because he shows both sides of himself - aggressive and upsetting sensory craving with energetic and endearing affection. (page 198)

"Sensory cravers are often responsive, creative, and fun to be around. They can be immensely enjoyable. But when their drive for sensory stimulation is running their lives and running the lives of those around them, they can be overwhelming, too." (page 198)

Miller referred to how difficult it can be for kids with sensory seeking needs to attend school and follow rules. "... the sensory craver's extreme need for sensation is on a constant collision course with behavioral expectations." (page 202) 

Providing kids like Ben with a half hour in the morning and later in the day of physical activity is helpful in regulating these sensory cravings. 

The key for sensory cravers is "self-regulation so that they can be organized." (page 267) There is a great chart in the book explaining specific tips for how to support sensational kids with sensory-seeking needs. 

Miller expressed understanding and empathy for parents struggling to manage their children's behaviors and sensory needs. "Attending large family gatherings, going shopping for new clothes, planning a trip to the dentist, where sensory overload is inevitable, may seem almost impossible to some parents." (page 291)

Many kids with sensory issues are not "acting their age," due to developmental delays, they can appear like their behaviors are those of 4, 6, 8 year olds or appear like 2 year olds. (page 331)

These kids need support. They cannot do it on their own.

"Think of a child first learning to ride a bicycle. Left to figure it out for himself, he may crash repeatedly, get frustrated, feel like a failure, and simply give up. With the support of training wheels or a parent running behind him to hold on to the back of the bike, the child is encouraged, keeps trying, and is eventually able to find his own balance. Sensational kids learning to find balance in their emotional responses need parents or other adults to run alongside them, providing support (co-regulation) until they are able to regulate themselves." (page 331)

Some resources:

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