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Speaking Sensory-Ease - Part 1 of 2 - featured Febuary 24, 2011

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Speaking Sensory-Ease (Part 1 of 2)

By: Jackie Linder Olson

Dear Therapists,

My child has received mountains of OT, a valley of SLP, fair amounts of ABA and behavioral therapy, is on the gluten free/casein free diet, and I measure a number of liquid vitamins and supplements a day into the recommended dosages. I’ve read every book I can get my hands on (Thank goodness for “The Out-of-Sync Child” and “How to Raise a Sensory Smart Child”), but I am not a therapist. I’m a parent and I’m looking to you to help my child. Often, I haven’t slept, I’m worried about paying my bills, and I always feel like I’m not doing enough.

First, I want to thank you for what you do. From the depths of my soul, I am grateful for your wisdom and invaluable experience and the way you can get my child to do things that I cannot. They must sprinkle you with pixie dust at graduation because you truly are magical.

Secondly, please remember, I don’t speak your language. Sometimes when you tell me what’s wrong with my child or what you’re working on, I can’t understand you. I nod my head and try to grasp it, but it’s not registering. Vestibular what? Proprioception? What is dyspraxia and how did my child catch this?

How you can help us as parents help you:
  • Tell me books to read, videos to watch, or internet sites that will help me understand what you’re doing. If I can’t afford them, I will go to my local library or borrow from a friend.
  • Give me homework. If there is something that I can do with my child till you see them again next week, please tell me. You want me to jump rope with my child? Great! How long and how often? You want me to brush my child? Wonderful, just leave me instructions to reference and I’ll even do joint compressions. You want me to throw a ball with my child while they swing? I’ll do it. Anything.
  • Why? If you tell me why you’re doing something, I’m more likely to do it. You want me to have my child roll Play-doh to work on strengthening the entire arm up to the shoulder. Okay, I’ll do that. You want me to do finger paints, go the park and slide 50 times, or drink from a straw – sure, I’ll do it, but please tell me why.

Time. Who has time for all of that on top of therapy?
  • Parents will ask as many questions as they can if you let them. The best way to be efficient is to save the last ten minutes of your session for questions and giving homework. If a parent knows they have this allotted time, they will use it. Ask them to write down their questions and be ready for their time. Be polite, but firm to your schedule if you have a parent who keeps bombarding you with questions throughout your session or those middle of the night email type of parents.
  • In these ten minutes, you’re not going to be able to turn your parent into an OT. Giving homework can be simple assignments to the new parents. Send them to the park to play in sandbox or have them play with shaving cream with their child. Give them an undertaking that they may do anyways and will be beneficial to the tasks that you’re working on with your child.
  • This will save time over the course of your relationship with the client and also allows the parents to aide in their child’s therapy. They have all this valuable time to be doing beneficial and fun things with their children. Take advantage.

Next, I’d like to talk about realistic and unrealistic expectations.

There are parents who think that therapists are supposed to “fix” their kids in the 50 minutes or less when they see them on a weekly basis. And then there are those parents that feel the therapist is basically a babysitter once a week with no results. Both are wrong.

When giving homework to the parents or explaining what you’re working on with the child, make sure to add in realistic expectations. Is this task going to take six weeks or longer to master or is it something the child might not ever completely accomplish? What types of clues should the parent be looking for, or if you prefer, what do you want the parents to not pay attention to? With realistic boundaries, you set up both the child and parent for success.

If the parent wants their child to be able to scale Mount Everest after one week of OT, then they need a reality check. This doesn’t mean disappointment and that their child won’t ever be a mountain climber, but it does take the extreme pressure off the child so that they can master their task without unnecessary stress.

On the other side of the spectrum, some parents may need to raise their expectations. I have found that therapists are remarkable at raising the bar and finding those things that kids can do to their parent’s disbelief. So, a child can’t talk, but maybe he can read and learn to type. Or perhaps their child is unable to jump with both feet off the ground, but the therapist is able to get them to hop. Since they’re not the parents, therapists can often gage what is something a child cannot do versus what a child will not do.

Speaking Sensory-ease Part 2 next week! Arming your parents with affordable or FREE items to incorporate a sensory diet in the home and getting your parents to include OT in their IEP.

Featured Author: Jackie Linder Olson

Having a son with sensory processing dysfunction and a high-functioning autism diagnosis sparked Jackie’s interest in Occupational Therapy, thanks to her son’s OT, Britt Collins. After witnessing the spectacular results of sensory integration, Jackie combined her career as a filmmaker and her passion for sensory integration by creating and producing OT dvds for parents, teachers, and therapist with Britt Collins, M.S., OTR/L, winning an Outstanding Product Award 2008 from iParenting, a division of Disney. Jackie and Britt then wrote SENSORY PARENTING: FROM NEWBORNS TO TODDLERS, the first book in their series for Sensory World (Future Horizons Publishing), with a forward by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller. This duo also founded non-profit organization, Special Needs United, in order to provide OT therapy and equipment for families in need. Jackie resides in Los Angeles with her hypo-sensitive husband and hyper-sensitive son.

Tags: Newsletter 25 February 2011 Sensory Processing Disorder Article