About ME

Welcome to the Potter's Wheel! We are so glad to have you stop by! Although one may be tempted to think you are on a blog about pottery, don't let the title fool you! This is a collection, a chronicle so to speak, of my world as a piece of lumpy clay on the crazy spinning wheel of The Potter. It is my view, as I see it, while spinning wildly in what sometimes feels like an out of control ride at the county fair. Although it appears that way to me and to the casual observer, the wheel is under the full control and guidance of the One. The One who can take a lumpy piece of clay and eventually turn it in to something beautiful in His eyes. My stories will cover so many topics that I have tried to break them down in an easy manner with the tabs below. Look down now!!!! You will find tabs that cover FAITH, FAMILY, CANCER, HOMESCHOOLING, KIDS ACTIVITIES, AND ADVENTURES ON THE ROAD. The posts are best read under the guise of each tab instead of in chronological order. It is part of my LUMPY ADHD, so you will have to deal with it! I hope that something I write will provide you with a "golden nugget" to put in your pocket for your own journey. Get out your motion sickness pills...It is going to be a crazy ride.
Love ya, Lumpy

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Homeschooling a child with Sensory Processing Disorder

As mentioned in my previous post, I am also a home school mom. I didn't mention that my child is amazingly brilliant :) (smile...smile), but she also has some sensory integration issues. When I keep these issues in mind during our learning time, the difference in her ability to learn and focus on the given task is utterly amazing!

It has been really great to see what has been happening in the home school community when it comes to teaching our "unique" children. However, I unfortunately still find that there are many families that home school their children have been so "burnt out" by the public school system, professionals and for fear of labeling their child, they do not look at outside therapists as a beneficial part of the home school environment. (okay, that was a major run on sentence...sorry:))) I don't mean this as an offense at all to anyone, as I see how it is easy to close the doors on the public school system and any services that they may offer. However, there are so many relatively easy techniques, environmental adaptations and tools that can assist your child within their home school environment. By utilizing this information, your child's home school education and the level of your teaching can be greatly improved. In this post, I would like to "define"/explain the terms Sensory Integration Dysfunction or Sensory Processing issues. I will also be adding some links for several AWESOME books and resources that further defines the dysfunction and provides a wide array of activities that can assist children with these issues.

Do you see any of these signs of Sensory Integrative Issues in your child?

Overly sensitive to touch, movement, sights, or sounds
Under reactive to touch, movement, sights, or sounds
Easily distracted
Social and/or emotional problems
Activity level that is unusually high or unusually low
Physical clumsiness or apparent carelessness
Impulsive, lacking in self control
Difficulty making transitions from one situation to another
Inability to unwind or calm self
Poor self concept
Delays in speech, language, or motor skills
Delays in academic achievement

What is sensory integration?

The senses work together. Each sense works with the others to form a composite picture of who we are physically, where we are, and what is going on around us. Sensory integration is the critical function of the brain that is responsible for producing this picture. It is the organization of sensory information for on-going use in almost all tasks in our lives.

For most of us, effective sensory integration occurs automatically, without effort. For some of us, the process is inefficient, demanding effort and attention. When this occurs, the goals we strive for are not easily attained. Sensory experiences include touch, movement, body awareness, sight, sound, and the pull of gravity. The process of the brain organizing and interpreting this information is called sensory integration. Sensory integration provides a basic and necessary foundation for more complex learning and behavior.

For most children, sensory integration develops in the course of ordinary childhood activities. Motor planning ability is a natural outcome of the process, as is the ability to adapt our responses to incoming sensations. But for some children, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. When the process is disordered, a number of problems in learning, development, or behavior may become evident.

You may know a child who, although bright, has difficulty using a pencil, playing with toys, or doing self-care tasks, like dressing. Maybe you have seen a child who is fearful of movement; that ordinary swings, slides, or jungle gyms will generate extreme fear and insecurity. Maybe you have observed a child whose problems lie at the opposite extreme; uninhibited and overly active, who often falls or runs headlong into dangerous situations and has tremendous difficulty sitting still or focusing on a task. In each of these cases, a sensory integrative problem may be the root cause or at least an underlying factor.

Here is a very, very un-scientific explanation of how I see Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Please don't judge my un-scientific terms or descriptions, as this is the best way I have found to describe this disorder to parents. Imagine for a minute that our brains are filled with parking spaces, in which cars (sensory input and movement output) must move freely around the brain highway and park where ever is appropriate. Then imagine that a person that has a typical system, there is a very mature & experience traffic cop directing all the "cars" to the right spots. For example: The vision cars goes to the vision parking lot, the touch cars goes to the touch parking lot, the movement cars goes to the movement parking lots. All is well and good. Sensory Integration and Motor output occurs correctly.

Now imagine that in a child, they may get a Rookie Traffic Cop, who has no clue what they are doing. This Rookie has no idea at all which way to direct the traffic or when to know when a parking lot is either to full or completely empty. Complete havoc is wrought in the brain highway and parking lots. So as an example, I will use the touch parking lot. Tactile input is coming into the body constantly throughout the day, and the Rookie keeps sending the "cars" to the touch parking lots. However, imagine that the parking lot gets full, and instead of putting up a sign that says "LOT IS FULL", he keeps directing traffic there. Eventually, the parking lot is in complete chaos and can't fit even one more sensation in there. Then you as a parent, try to brush your child's teeth or put on a shirt with an itchy tag, and they go WILD with a full "flight or fight" reaction. As the "parking lot" can't handle even one more sensation, the brain sends a signal to react by crying, screaming, biting, hitting or running from the input. This un-scientific explanation would be called tactile defensiveness. The same idea would hold true for kids who are postural insecurity or can't handle movement at all. The parking lot is so full from the normal daily movements, it can't handle any more, so it sends out the message to react in flight or fight when the child is on a swing or slide.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, are the parking lots that the Rookie Cop forgets to drive cars too. So the input cars come in to the brain but are sent around to different areas and never park in the right place. This leads to the "non-registration" of sensory input. The brain is expecting a certain amount of input should be taking place for normal daily activities, but it isn't finding it in the parking lots. So the brain sends a signal out to get as much sensory input as humanly possible. This may look like: a child who can't sit sit, fidgets all the time, rocks or spins self frequently, hangs upside, one who puts non-food objects in mouth or chews on things, a child who has to touch everything and everyone in their space. This child may appear not to be paying attention to anything going on in the environment around them. However, the child may actually be paying attention but can only do so with the "EXTREME" amount of input going in the body.

To further visualize a child craving to fill these empty parking lot, try to remember the last time you were at a really long boring meeting or class. Do you move around in your seat, switch the legs that are crossed, twirl your hair, chew your nails or on a pencil? These are all natural un-conscious strategies that we use to help us maintain our attention and focus. Children with "empty sensory parking lots" need to do what we do naturally and then 10 times more.

Obviously, I have used extreme examples here and again I say: UN-SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION!!! Please don't quote me to the medical profession :)

So the far reaching effects of a sensory processing disorder can interfere with academic learning, social skills, even self esteem. Research clearly identifies sensory integrative problems in children with developmental or learning difficulties. Independent studies show that a sensory integrative dysfunction can be found in up to 70% of children who are considered learning disabled by schools.

Early intervention can improve sensory integration in these children, minimizing the possibility of failure before it occurs. By interrupting the vicious cycle of failure, intervention to help children with sensory integration and learning problems may also prevent serious social problems later in life.

I am certainly NOT saying that all schools will be able to assist a parent in identifying an underlying sensory processing issue. The only benefit I could say would be that most schools staff an OT, PT or special education teachers who would pick up on some of the sensory signals demonstrated in a classroom. However, for the home school family, they may never be exposed to a professional who may recognize a child's "behavior" as being a sensory integration issue. The child may be falsely thought of as having ADD, ADHD or a learning disability. A home school mom may become extremely frustrated because her child will not sit for even brief lessons, has to move themselves and touch everything while doing lessons. Thus, is the reason for this blog. Sensory integration is a pretty key phrase out in the world today and most people may have heard of it. However, if there is one home school mom out there that reads this and sees her child in the description, and can be directed down a path for more information, my purpose is achieved.

There are many awesome support groups on line now covering sensory integration and a wide array of special needs. I will be recommending several excellent books that are parent friendly, that will help a parent to better identify sensory issues in their own child. I hope this post helped someone out there in "blog world:)!!!" Tune in next blog for "What you can do for your child if you suspect a sensory processing issue". Until then!!

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