Monday, October 20, 2014

Autism vs Asperger's Syndrome

image credit: envato 
Dear Melissa,
I thought my 11-year-old nephew had Asperger’s Syndrome, but now my sister keeps referring to him as “Autistic.” When he was younger, he had frequent tantrums. But now he is a really great “quirky kiddo” who loves to tell his younger cousins all about bugs. Did he get worse, and I just don’t see it?  Did something change?  What is the difference between Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome? 

You have every right to be confused!  The medical/psychological community has been confused about this for decades!  So let's start at the beginning of the Autism/Asperger's story…

Autism was first described by an American child psychiatrist named Leo Kanner in 1943. He used this term to describe 11 children who were highly intelligent, extremely withdrawn and showed an inclination towards “an obsessive insistence on persistent sameness.” In 1944, an Austrian man named Dr. Hans Asperger also was noticing a pattern of social differences in several boys who were highly intelligent, struggled with social interaction and had specific obsessive interests. At first Autism was commonly described as “childhood schizophrenia,” but then “Autism” began to be diagnosed more and more in the 1950s and 1960s in the US.  In 1980, “infantile autism” was listed in the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM is the “recipe book” for the field of psychology. Psychiatrists take the deficits/symptoms and then match these up to the deficits/symptoms associated with various diagnoses in the DSM. The goal here is to provide a patient with the most accurate diagnosis. At first “Autism” was the more common diagnosis in the US, because Kanner wrote his papers describing this disorder in English, and Asperger published in German. (In these pre-internet days, it could take a long while for things to get translated and widely distributed!). In 1994, Asperger’s Syndrome was added to the DSM and was then officially recognized as a diagnosis.  

Over the past 20 years, language delay has emerged as the key differentiator between Autism and Asperger’s Syndromes. Autism was often characterized by a language delay before the age of 3 years, and Asperger’s syndrome was often used to describe children who were hyper-verbal. These children with Asperger’s Syndrome were often referred to as “little professors” or “walking encyclopedias” due to their high language skills but lack of social skills. However, once young children grew into their teen and older adult years, the differences between Asperger’s Syndrome and Higher Functioning Autism were very hard to determine unless you carefully examined the individual’s medical history. Then there were MANY arguments and debates between various practitioners and between the practitioners and parents.  Does this child have Asperger’s? Does he really have Autism? If my child gets therapy and progresses, will his Autism switch to Asperger’s? Confused yet? So were we!

Just five months ago, in May 2014, the DSM came out with their 5th edition, the DSM-V. In this updated manual, the psychological community determined that Autism, Asperger’s, pervasive developmental disorder and childhood disintegrative disorder should be seen as existing on a spectrum rather than understood as separate diagnoses. Therefore, they placed all of these disorders under the umbrella term “Autism Spectrum Disorder” (or ASD).  You will still hear the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” commonly used for/among individuals with high-functioning Autism. However, the medical community is now using the term ASD to describe all individuals on this spectrum rather than distinguishing between Autism or Asperger’s. 

Does this clear up things a little bit? Is it still “as clear as mud”? I welcome any further questions/comments. I also recommend the resources below for further info. 

Also, if you have a question you would like me to address in my Weekly Blog,

History of Autism,

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sensory Friendly Halloween

credit: Envato Images
Dear Melissa,
I have a 6-year-old son with Autism. He LOVES the idea of Halloween, but it often ends in a disaster!  He doesn’t like knocking on doors, he won’t say “thank you” after he gets candy, and the costume is always a complete disaster. He likes to pick out a big, expensive outfit at the store, but then he refuses to wear it for more than 5 minutes on Halloween, and we end the evening in a complete meltdown! How do we make Halloween a more enjoyable experience?

Halloween can be a fantastic evening of craziness and fun for most children. However, kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders can have particular trouble enjoying Halloween. With the changes of routine, sensory processing demands and social demands, it can easily cause more trickiness than treats. Here are a few tips to help your child with ASD enjoy a fun evening on Halloween

Skip the Store-bought Costume 
They are usually very expensive and can be made of cheap, ill-fitting, scratchy material. Just about any costume, from a princess, to a dinosaur, to a super hero can be created with a little hand stitching and some fabric paint. Simply start with the comfy base of a sweat suit, t-shirt, or leggings and let your imagination run wild! I like this Pinterest site  which offers ideas for sensory friendly Halloween costumes.  

Accessories are Optional  
Most children with ASD or sensory processing disorder have tactile defensiveness towards masks and face paint. If you really want a head accessory, try a bow for girls or a decorated baseball hat for boys. But even these may not be tolerated. 

The Dress Rehearsal
You may want to have your child practice wearing the costume around the house before the big day. Once the costume is more familiar, it won’t be such a change when the big day arrives. For safety, make sure to incorporate glow sticks, lights, or reflective tape in the costume if your child will be trick-or-treating door to door. 
Meeting Social Demands 
There are a lot of social demands associated with trick-or-treating. Allow the child to “practice” with family members, going from bedroom to bedroom, knocking on the door, and saying “trick-or-treat” and “thank you." For children who are nonverbal or especially shy, you can also make a special Halloween sign that says “trick or treat” on the front and “thank you” on the back. Also, consider going to a limited number of friendly, well-known neighbors and repeating these houses over and over. This will help decrease social anxiety. As always, social stories and reading various books on trick-or-treating can decrease social anxiety and help children to understand expectations.
Discuss “Tricks” 
Many children on the Autism Spectrum are very discrete, black-and-white thinkers, and Halloween is a day for fantasy and imagination. It helps to prepare your child ahead of time for the scary masks and haunted houses with books and movies about Halloween. It may also help to take them to the costume aisle at your local store several times before the big day. This way, they can see that it is just a plastic mask or a dress-up costume, and REAL monsters will not be knocking on their door!  
Discuss “The Rules” 
Again, children with ASD tend to be very black-and-white thinkers, and we suddenly change the rules on Halloween. My own son kept saying “Wait, we don’t know those people! We can’t just go knock on their door!” Determine the "special Halloween rules" ahead of time. Discuss them head of time with your child and make sure that he knows that “The rule is…these new rules ONLY apply to Halloween!”
Prepare for dietary issues  
If your child is on a special diet, consider providing stickers or pencils to the houses where you know you will be trick-or-treating so that your child will have an appropriate treat. If you don’t want the candy in the house, some dentist offices will buy the candy back and send it to our troops serving overseas (you can locate these programs online). If your child is allowed to eat candy, only allow 1-2 pieces on Halloween night. In addition, make sure to have a healthy meal before you head out for the door-to-door candy gorge. This will help ensure that their tummies are full of good food, and your kids will be less likely to nibble on mass quantities of candy along the way. 
Keep it short  
Trick-or-treating occurs at the end of the day, around bedtime for most children.  Understand that your child may be too tired at the end of the day and unable to endure a trick-or-treating marathon.This, combined with a sugar rush, is a certain recipe for a meltdown! As much as possible, try to keep a normal bedtime routine on Halloween night, and don’t delay bedtime by more than 30-60 minutes. This will make everyone’s life more enjoyable on Halloween night...and the next day as well!
What tips does your family have to create a fun and safe Halloween?  
Please share your ideas! 

Also, if you have a question you would like me to address in my Weekly Blog,
Halloween Tips for Sensory KidsAmerican Occupational Therapy Association:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Brushing Debunked

Dear Melissa,
My 4 year old son is having frequent tantrums at preschool. I was browsing a  sensory processing parent support group webpage when I saw several parents discussing “brushing” and how it helps with calming their children. What exactly is it, and would it be appropriate for my child? 

Ahhh…The illusive “brushing” technique. I think I was asked this question in half a dozen different ways over the past month. It seems as if every parent with a child with sensory processing disorder has heard of this technique, but no one is really sure what it is. In addition, many preschool teachers are mentioning it to parents as well. Even after 9 years as an OT, I was not really sure of the true protocol. I tried researching “brushing” in the literature, asking colleagues, browsing then internet, even YouTube, but found few answers. As a last-ditch effort, I searched the term on Wikipedia and found an article riddled with red flags stating that the information provided still needed to be verified. No wonder everyone is confused by “brushing”!

Getting to the Source
I try my very best to be a research-based occupational therapist. I try to focus on those techniques that have been proven both safe and effective. I knew that “brushing” was a technique created by Patricia Wilbarger, M.Ed, OTR, FAOTA.  She has been a leader in the field of occupational therapy for decades and presents training courses along with her daughter Julia Wilbarger PhD, OTR, who is a leader in the field in her own right. So when another OT TEAM member (Katie Gehrki) and I found a 2-day course taught by the Wilbargers themselves, we jumped at the chance to receive training directly from the source.  

The Wilbargers' "Brushing" Program
In the course handout, the Wilbargers described their program as “an advanced treatment program used to specifically treat Sensory Defensiveness. The program uses the consistent and frequent application of Deep Touch Pressure and Proprioception without noxious input such as scratching or tickling. Although research on this technique is limited, clinical experience over many years with a wide range of clinical populations and ages indicates that the it can be very beneficial in reducing or eliminating sensory defensiveness when applied consistently and used within the context of a comprehensive treatment program.” 

Yes, but what is it??? 
In functional practice, the brushing program involves taking a specific brush, very similar to a surgeon’s nail scrubbing brush, and rubbing it firmly on the child’s skin in a particular manner. This is followed by deep pressure to the joints every 2 hours while the child is awake. According to the Wilbarger Protocol this is ideally done 8 to 10 times per day for several weeks. Brushing has been renamed by the Wilbargers as the “Therapressure Program.” However, I have also seen it documented in the past as “The Wilbarger Deep Pressure and Proprioceptive Technique” and “Wilbarger Brushing.” I will continue to use the term “brushing” for this blog for the sake of simplicity.

Is it "All or Nothing"? 
You are probably asking, "What? Do this every 2 hours? That is a HUGE time commitment!  I can barely get my child’s socks on in the morning. I don’t think I can add something to our routine every 2 hours!”  You are absolutely right. Though this technique is very inexpensive, it does take a lot of time. So I asked Patricia Wilbarger herself:  Is it OK to complete the technique less often? Her reply: If you aren’t going to complete the program exactly, don’t do it at all. Simply focus on the sensory input and forget about the brushing.  

The Wilbargers list many do’s and don'ts:
 DO only use the brushing program if you have been directly trained in the Wilbarger Therapressure Program or very closely trained and monitored by an OT who has received this training. 
DO only use the specific brushes designed for the protocol.
DO follow the “every 90-120 minute” protocol strictly.
DO report any adverse reactions to your supervising OT. 
DO NOT brush the stomach or groin area.
DO NOT complete brushing or joint compressions on areas with any injuries such as cuts, scrapes, swelling, bruises, etc.
DO NOT complete with infants under 2 months of age.

My own do's and don'ts: 
I will add a few of my own precautions, as I have seen many parents completing brushing incorrectly and actually causing much more harm than good.
DO only use the brushing technique once properly trained by someone who has been to the course. I have seen many parents brush in the wrong direction, brush the wrong areas of the body, use too light of pressure, lift up and replace the brush with every stroke, etc. All are wrong! Again, completing this technique incorrectly can most definitely exacerbate the situation rather than help it. 
DO NOT apply brushing once a “meltdown” has occurred. Brushing should only be used on the scheduled timeline. Providing brushing when a child is already in "flight-or-fight" mode can just cause the situation to escalate even more.

Does it work?
So, cut to the chase, does it work?  Hmm…maybe?  In reality, I see very few families that are able to make the commitment to brushing every 2 hours, utilizing the correct technique every time. In my own life, this would be impossible, so why would I ask this of another parent? In addition, the Wilbargers themselves report that there is limited research affirming the efficacy of this technique. Therefore, in my own practice I do exactly what Patricia Wilbarger recommends: I focus on providing the other sensory input that is needed by the child to calm his sensory system. But wait! Are you still itching to try it? Come on over. I will be more than happy to teach you! Give my clinic a callWe have several TEAM OTs trained by the Wilbargers in the Therapressure Program.

Have you used brushing in the past with your kiddo? What did you think? I would love to hear feedback from parents who have been in the trenches with the brushing technique! 

Also, if you have a question you would like me to address in my Weekly Blog,
Therapressure Program (Trademarked) for Treating Sensory Defensiveness – Training Course
What is Sensory Processing Disorder? Monday's with Melissa Blog

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fine Motor & Pre-Writing Skills

Dear Melissa,
My son will be starting kindergarten next fall. Do you have any suggestions on getting his fine motor skills ready for this transition?

Good for you for thinking about this a year ahead of time! There are many, many areas that need to be addressed before the big day: social skills, emotional skills, self-care skills, gross motor skills, etc. As an occupational therapist, it is my job to assess and address ALL of these areas to prepare a little guy to enter kindergarten. For the simplicity of this blog, I will focus on the fine motor and pre-writing skills needed for kindergarten. There are ways to improve fine motor skills in fun and creative ways which will help ensure that you get little hands ready for all of the writing tasks that school will demand. 

Fine Motor Fun
There are so many fun ways to improve fine motor skills at home. The key is to make them a part of fun games rather than a chore of sitting down and “exercising.” Some of my favorites include water guns/water squirters, using tongs as “chopsticks”, Playdoh, clay, Legos, blocks, marble games, coloring, puzzles, stringing beads, lacing boards, tearing/crumpling paper, and helping in the kitchen...the list goes on and on!

Write, Write, Write  
Again, try as much as possible to make this fun rather than a “chore.” If a child loves using a pencil and paper, that’s great! But that is not the only way to work on fine motor skills. Try to have many different mediums available to help develop pre-writing patterns: sidewalk chalk, chalkboards, crayons, markers, dry erase boards, paint brushes, bath crayons, etc. This is the perfect time to go to the art or office supply section of your favorite store and just explore!

Don’t Forget Cutting  
Kiddos need to be able to use scissors well in kindergarten. They need to be able to position them correctly in their dominant hand and cut away from their helper hand. Not ready for this yet? Start with play-doh scissors and play-doh, then move to safety scissors and paper. Thicker construction paper is easier than standard typing paper. Start simply by snipping paper. Then move to cutting on thicker lines and finally to thinner and thinner lines.

The Diagonal Line Milestone  
How do you know if your child is ready to write? See what shapes he can copy. First, start with horizontal and vertical lines, then a circle, then a plus, then an X. Here’s a little-known fact in child development: children don’t develop the ability to replicate diagonal lines until they are approximately 4 to 4 ½ years old. Making a child write before they meet this developmental milestone can be quite frustrating for the caregiver, teacher and the child.  How do you know if your child has reached this milestone? Use the quick test below.

Quick Test for Writing Readiness
Draw an X and have the child copy it. If the child draws a +, then the child isn't ready yet. You can help your child develop this skill by using various writing tools to trace diagonal lines and Xs, both large and small. You can also start having your child trace upper-case letters (these are generally easier to form than lower-case letters). Is Kindergarten a few months away, and your child still hasn't developed the diagonal lines yet? Don’t panic! For most names, it tends to be easiest to learn to write the letters in upper-case letters, but don’t forget to consult your OT or preschool teacher for advice on this. 

Forming Letters
Most importantly, DO NOT let your child make up his own methods of letter formation! As a rule, every letter starts at the top. Give him starting dots with tracing to facilitate proper letter formation. If the child starts the bad habit of random letter formations in the beginning, it will create much more work to relearn letter formations in the future. Proper letter formation is crucial to developing quick, legible writing in the long run. Here is a helpful Handwriting Without Tears Letter Formation Chart.  

What are your favorite tips for improving fine motor skills for preschoolers?  
How did you help your child learn to write? 

Also, if you have a question you would like me to address in my Weekly Blog,


Monday, September 22, 2014

Weighted Vests & Proprioceptive Input

Dear Melissa, 
My 5-year-old just started kindergarten, and she is having a hard time sitting still during rug time. The teacher suggested that my daughter get a “weighted vest.”  What is it; how do I get it; and how will it help? 

I hate to burst the bubble of every educator or parent who has ever been to a basic sensory course, but multiple research studies have shown that weighted vests do not work. Now, are they bad? No. Every child is different. I still continue to use the weighted vest as a part of my sensory tool chest, and I have used it both in the clinic and in my own house. Unfortunately, I have to agree with the literature. I have never seen it be the “magic fairy dust cure” that we all wish for. On the flip side, does it hurt? NO! The literature also shows that children and parents alike generally enjoy this type of intervention and often continue to use the weighted vest. So it MUST have some benefit. I personally place the weighted vest in the column of “it can’t hurt!” So, what is the concept of the weighted vest all about? 

The use of weighted or compression clothing is a form of sensory integration therapy. It is meant to provide deep pressure in order to calm the central nervous system. This type of sensory input is referred to as “proprioceptive input.” Think about when you have a new baby.  You swaddle her tightly in blankets and snuggle her firmly to your body in order to calm her down when she is upset. It also helps her to relax and fall asleep. This form of proprioceptive input is working off of this same concept. Some people prefer to use weight such as weighted vests or weighted blankets. Others prefer to use compression garments such as UnderArmour or special medical compression garments. 

Many people use these forms of proprioceptive input to help children with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or Sensory Processing Disorders. Specifically, such devices can reduce anxiety, reduce fidgeting, reduce repetitive behaviors, improve attention to tasks, and help calm the body. Again, although the research does not conclusively demonstrate that a weighted vest will work, I am a firm believer that every child and every family is different. If a child wants to try a weighted vest, I say go for it!  If you DO decide to give it a try, here are a few tips:

1. Don’t spend an arm and a leg! If possible, borrow a weighted vest or have your child use the vest during her occupational therapy sessions to see if it will even be tolerated. If you do decide to buy one, they can be found for around $130 on Amazon. That’s not cheap! I personally do NOT sew, but I have made my own vest easily by purchasing a jean jacket from a thrift store and cutting off the sleeves to make a vest. Then I simply used BB shot and fabric to hand stitch heavy (washable) bean bags. I put the bean bags into the pockets of the vest, and I stitched additional beanbags to the inside of the vest. Ideally, the vest should be 5-10% of the child’s body weight (based on backpack guidelines). You can also check out various designs on Pinterest. This is a much cheaper alternative to the commercial vest. 

2. There are no standard guidelines for the actual usage for a weighted vest.  Many people try to use them all day. However, you will get more “bang for your buck” if the child wears it no more than an hour or two at a time (such as during rug time or during quiet work time). The child should then remove it when she will gain sensory input through other means (such as during lunch, recess, and P.E.). If the child wears the vest all day, she will simply integrate it, and the potential effectiveness will wear off after the 1-2 hour period.

3.  If you do decide to use a weighted vest, please make it look as “normal” as possible. Most of the children I know who have weighted vests have a variety of jean jacket vests which look super cute. Avoid the vests with big trains or teddy bears on them. These stand out as a “special intervention.” It seems to be easier on the kiddos if the vests help them blend in rather than stand out even more. 

Has a weighted vest or weighted blanket worked for your child? Did you find it to be a waste of money? Let's make our own case studies!  I would love to hear your feedback!

Also, if you have a question you would like me to address in my Weekly Blog,

Monday, September 15, 2014

Oral Sensory Seeking Help

Credit: Envato
Dear Melissa,
My 4 1/2 year old grandson is a “chewer”. He has no developmental delays, but he seems to chew on EVERYTHING! He chews on his shirt collar, he chews on sticks, he chews on straws, he chews on toys…I tried to give him a chew necklace, which he seems to think is cool, but he still chews on everything. When I pick him up from daycare, his teacher says that she notices him inappropriately chewing in the classroom too. However, she also claims that this happens more during inside “work” time and less during outside play time. Shouldn't he have grown out of this by now?

Thumb sucking, chewing on toys, chewing clothes, biting fingernails…it seems like most kiddos go through a chewing phase. Babies tend to use their mouths to explore their environment. Older children (and adults) tend to chew for calming oral input. Trying to completely eliminate oral sensory-seeking activity is challenging because the behavior provides calming sensory input. Sometimes when children are repeatedly told "no," the child switches to alternative sensory calming activities. Unfortunately, the child's alternative can be even more socially unacceptable than the initial behavior. 

It can be effective to find a more acceptable replacement for oral self-stimming behaviors. The following are more appropriate ways to provide oral or other calming input: 
  • Chew items: These could include various chew necklaces (, rubber bracelets, paracord/titanium necklaces (Academy Sports), bubble gum, taffy, or licorice. 
  • Strong flavors: Add spice to your child’s life with strong flavored snacks,candy, or gum. Think strong mint, cinnamon, spice, & sour. Examples include salsa, Altoids, Hot Tamales, and fresh lemon to water. 
  • Temperature: Warm tends to be cold tends to pack more of a punch! Consider using frozen teethers, ice cubes, snow cones, or popsicles. 
  • Texture: Play around with various textures that may be similar to the behavior you are trying to correct. This may be in the form of manual toothbrushes, electric toothbrushes, and vibrating back massagers placed on the cheeks. You can also use crunchy snacks such as chips and raw fruits/vegetables. 
  • Sucking/blowing: These also provide lots of calming oral input. Again, it was one of the first survival skills that we learned in infancy. Try using various crazy straws, sport bottles, & juice boxes. One of my ultimate favorites is drinking a pudding cup through a standard straw that is cut into thirds. Chocolate AND calming sucking…win win! You can also use various whistles, harmonicas, kazoos, and blowing noise makers if your ears can handle it!
  • Proprioceptive input: This is generally provided in the form of deep pressure to calm a child. Think about the squishy/snuggly input you provide when you swaddle a baby, or how your joints get squeezed together when you run or jump. This is proprioceptive input. Some good ideas for proprioceptive input include weighted vests or blankets, big bear hugs, wrapping the child up in a blanket like a burrito, lying under bean bags, running, jumping, climbing, and helping with heavy work.  
Unfortunately, none of the above is magic fairy dust!  It takes trial and error to find out what will work and what will not. If your child is able, share these ideas with him and see what appeals to him the most. For a more complete reference list, you can refer to my Oral Input Guide which contains over 100 ideas for appropriate oral input. 

Do you have ideas for providing appropriate oral input that have worked for your child? I would love to hear them! Or, if you have a question you would like me to address in my Weekly Blog, send it to  


Monday, September 8, 2014

Football Games and SPD

credit: envato images
Dear Melissa,
My 4-year-old son has sensory processing disorder and is the type to be more sensitive than most kiddos. He seems to enjoy watching the Razorbacks with me on TV, and I really think it is time for our first father/son football game. Any tips on making this “Boys’ Day” a success?

Woooooo….Pig Sooie! Razorback football season is upon us! Here in Arkansas, it seems like going to your first Razorback football game is a rite of passage. And, if you believe the rumors that this season might be a little rough, this could be the perfect time to score some cheap tickets! Unfortunately, a college football game can be total sensory overload for anyone. The roar of the crowd, the booming loudspeakers, the rumbling vibration in the bleachers as the fans stomp their feet, fireworks at touchdowns (we hope!), the hot/cold weather, being shoulder to shoulder with strangers, new/unfamiliar clothing...the list goes on. It is enough to make even the most enthusiastic little fan want to run away!

I have helped coach many families through this Arkansan rite of passage and have taken my own little fans to cheer on the Hogs in person. While these ideas mainly apply to larger college games, they also apply to smaller arenas such as high school or even big brother’s little league games.

1.  Consider a practice run. You might want to try just going to a tailgate party rather than attend the game. Or you might want to take your youngster to a high school game in the area.  These mini-experiences will help you determine if your little guy is ready for the real deal before you waste your money in order to create a total sensory shutdown.

2.  Study your own playbook. Know the rules/regulations for your venue -- there is a link to the Arkansas Razorback Game Day rules below. Know where you will park and if you will walk or take the shuttle. (If you decide to walk, know that you will likely be carrying your little guy most of the way!) Know your child’s dietary needs...and if there are acceptable options available in the stadium. Know what you can/can’t bring. The website says that backpacks are not allowed except for childcare/medical reasons. When I have taken my preschooler to a game, I have never had a problem bringing a backpack that is filled with kids' clothes, snacks, & juice boxes. They will just double-check it and put a tag on it. In addition, in researching this article, I noticed that the Razorback website offers locations in the stadium to obtain a child ID bracelet with your info on it. This is a particularly good idea if your youngster is the type to wander off. 

3. Prepare for the weather. Take layers AND sunblock! This is Arkansas!  It can be 40 degrees in the morning when you arrive, and 80 degrees by halftime. Make sure to pack/wear several layers to help maintain a comfortable temperature. It is also a good idea to have your child practice wearing these layers so you will know ahead of time if the warmer layers are too scratchy and need to be traded out for a soft fleecy blanket. A word of caution: you might want to make sure that ALL of the layers are in your team color or a neutral black. You don’t want to make the mistake of having your son wear a Tennessee orange jacket over his Razorback red t-shirt, subjecting you and your child to frowning looks & negative comments! (No, I don’t know this one from personal experience. Nope. Not at all!)

4.  Teach the cheers/chants ahead of time. The game will be much more fun if these cheers are a predictable distraction rather than a novelty to be feared. YouTube and iTunes can help with this. Go ahead...teach the arm motions to all the songs as well! Just watch the band, and they will show you all you need to know. These rhythmical calisthenics can be quite calming!

5.  Prepare for sensory defensiveness. For auditory defensiveness, you can bring headphones, ear buds, earplugs, or have your little guy wear his hoodie over his ears.  For tactile defensiveness, he can wrap up in the blanket like a burrito so that he doesn’t feel the other fans touching him – this will also provide calming deep pressure input. If your son will tolerate it, have him wear sunglasses to help block out the bright sun or the bright stadium lights. It is also a good idea to occasionally get up, walk around, and hang out in a quieter spot for a few minutes before returning to the game.

6.  Have a plan B. As with all things involving kiddos, ALWAYS have a plan B. Know which friends/relatives are also at the game that your son can go and “visit” when he needs a change of scenery for a moment. Bring along another adult who is not as invested in the game (often a wife or grandma) who would be willing to leave the game early with your youngster if the game gets to be too much. Finally, be prepared to have your own exit strategy if things get hairy.  Again, consider things such as parking, walking, and traffic in your exit plan. 

The Out-of-sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder, by Carol Stock Kranowitz

If you have a question you would like me to address in my Weekly Blog,