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Thursday, July 5, 2018

How to Throw a Birthday Party for Your Sensory Sensitive Child

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Birthdays. They come once a year and are usually met with much anticipation and excitement by the celebrated boy or girl. When you think birthdays, you think balloons, cake, ice cream, friends and presents, right? Those are all wonderful traditions but what happens when you have a child who actually acts out (in a defiant) way, when all of these good things are going on around them? Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) want to be celebrated like any other child but for the parents who have to watch the tailspin of emotions that come from what was supposed to be a great day to what has now become a dreaded occasion – can be very tough. Let these 6 tips help you celebrate and enjoy your child on their birthday because when it really comes down to it, they want to be loved on just like everyone else.

1. Bigger isn’t always better. I used to tell myself that I had to invite every single one of my son’s friends to his birthday party in order for it to be a success. Wrong. The more kids I invited, the more hyper he got because there was just too much going on for him to focus on what the occasion was really about; him. Now we let him invite one friend to do one special thing and the focus becomes about the experience and not the behavior.

2. No hype. Remind your child that her birthday is coming up and that you are so excited to be celebrating her special day. Talk to her about her very first birthday and share photos with her from years past. Instill the idea that the day she was born was one of the best days of your life and that you are so thankful to have her has as your daughter. This special moment will prioritize what is really important about her upcoming day; that she is happy, healthy and loved. Sometimes when parents build up the big day, it can become too overwhelming for their child to understand. No need to down play the big day but do not build so much anticipation that your child is unrealistic about what to expect.
3. Kids who are sensory seeking (like loud noises, have a hard time understanding personal space, are loud, and in general, pretty hyper) are easily swept up in the chaos that can come with a birthday party. Think outside the box and invite one or two friends to keep the noise level to a minimum to help your child function on his special day.

4. Kids who are sensory avoiding (get stressed out by loud noises, do not like to be touched, get overwhelmed when there are multiple things going on) will most likely act out if they cannot process what is going on around them. Remove the obstacles before the party even begins and set your child up for success. Instead of latex balloons that pop easily and make loud noises that can scare children, opt for Mylar balloons. They last longer and are less likely to pop. Instead of buying your child 10 gifts that she will likely forget about once she has opened them, buy her two or three gifts that you know she will get lots of play out of and that are equally beneficial to her (necklace-making kit, dinosaur excavation kit or water beads). It is simply too much for a child with sensory issues to be expected to sit still in front of 20 people, opening gifts, saying thank you, and remaining calm. Know your child’s limits and work around them.

5. Pick the right time of day. If you know your son is usually grumpy in the morning but acts pretty happy in the afternoon, then plan a get together in the afternoon. If you have a big family and you know your child does not do well with lots of people around, turn his birthday into a birthweek and space out when he sees people. This will be more fun for everyone involved. Family gets a chance to celebrate and notice the birthday boy and you get to be around an equally happy child who is more likely to act appropriately when the attention is directed at him.

6. Don’t expect too much. If you notice that everything going on around her is overwhelming your child, then take a time out. Let your child have a few minutes to herself to collect her thoughts and take things down a notch. Maybe instead of playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey, you opt for a coloring contest where each person gets a prize for participating. Children with SPD have a hard time understanding social situations that other people just simply know how to handle. Take the drama out of a birthday meltdown and create an environment where everyone wins.
Celebrating a birthday can be bittersweet for the parents of children with SPD. Most likely, we have thought of every way possible to make the day a great one for our child, only to be disappointed when they act out from not being able to process all that is going on around them. This heavy weight of guilt washes over us as if we cannot breathe and we start to question whether or not we are good parents for only allowing our child to invite one friend to his party. Let go of the guilt and accept the reality for what it is. Your child functions better when things are simple. Celebrate that and while you are at it, celebrate the fact that you and your child have made it one more year growing in this SPD world together.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Great Gift for Dad this Father's Day

Father’s Day is right around the corner, and the time has come once again to begin searching for a gift for dear old dad. Father’s Day gift shoppers have long since abandoned the notion that a new necktie is what dad really wants, but finding a gift that expresses your love and appreciation for the old man can still prove somewhat challenging.

Oftentimes, the best gifts are the ones that fulfill a need or want, and Father’s Day gifts are no exception. The following are a handful of Father’s Day gift ideas for dads whose hobbies run the gamut.

The Sports Nut
Dads who can’t get enough of their favorite teams would no doubt appreciate some new gear or even tickets to see their favorite teams play. Since 1999, Staten Island has been home to the minor league team, the Staten Island Yankees. If you opt to buy tickets to a ballgame, make it a family affair, as dad would no doubt appreciate an afternoon at the ballpark with his kids and/or grandkids. For a father who no longer lives in the market where his teams play, consider purchasing a streaming service or television package that allows him to see his favorite team no matter where he’s living.

The Movie Mogul
Some dads simply can’t get enough of the silver screen, and a streaming service that allows dad to watch many of his favorite movies on demand from the comforts of home might make the perfect gifts for film-loving fathers. Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime offer hundreds of titles, and monthly or yearly subscriptions cost relatively little money. If Dad is the type who prefers seeing movies on the big screen, gift certificates redeemable at a local movie theater is a welcomed treat.

The Outdoorsman
Fathers who love the great outdoors might appreciate some new camping gear, a new fishing pole or even some comfortable hiking boots. When shopping for the outdoorsman in your life, consider which outdoor activity is his favorite (i.e., boating, fishing, kayaking, etc.) and try to find the latest useful gadget or newest product made for such enthusiasts. If you don’t share the same passion for the great outdoors and are hesitant to buy something you’re unsure about, a gift certificate to an outdoorsman or sporting goods store will suffice.

The Doting Grandfather
Some men simply want to spend more time with family, especially grandfathers who never tire of afternoons with their grandchildren. If dad has retired and moved away, a trip to see his grandkids might make the ideal gift this Father’s Day. Arrange the dates with mom so you are not surprising dad with a trip at a time when he already has plans, and make sure to schedule some fun activities for those days when dad is in town.

Father’s Day is a time each year when dads are told how much they are loved and appreciated. This year, a gift that implies both those sentiments is sure to make dad smile.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

School's out, unstructured time is here!

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Does Summer Cause You Stress as a Parent?
The reality is that most families don’t see summer as a wide open free time, but rather as something that has to be carefully arranged and choreographed. So, as summer looms, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about how to handle the time kids have off, but parents don’t.
Here is some timely advice and ideas for parents and children from clinical psychologist Loretta L. C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP, Professor of Psychology at Saint Anselm College:

Check in with teachers: If you want to know how best to support your child over the summer or in a particular goal area, it’s helpful to connect with the school before the last 6 weeks. Things will be hectic for the school – and you – at that stage so think ahead for that summer support conversation.

Relieve Your Child’s Stress with Action: Transitions deserve to be honored and kids handle them differently. If your child is feeling sad about leaving a favorite teacher, have them write a thank you letter to the teacher for the work they did. Some teachers get a “lunch bunch,” kids from past years that they occasionally have lunch with the next academic year.
Friends can be missed too. If you can look ahead to your schedule and see some openings, planning a mini-class or friend play date part way through the summer can be fun. Such invitations often result in return invites so your child may get to stay connected even with the school break.

Try New Things: Take stock of what interests your children that they haven’t had a chance to explore. Search for  a summer camp or program that might introduce an instrument, horseback riding, robotics, even musical theater. Many programs have scholarships for those who can’t afford full tuition, and those usually go to first come, first serve. Always ask, and look early.

Don’t sweat the downtime. Yes, reading and math are all-year skills, and it’s fine to have your children work on these during breaks, but it doesn’t have to be like school. Boredom leaves space for creative ideas so unstructured and unscheduled time can actually lead your child to locating interests that they do have. Offer times of the day when electronics are off and there is nothing planned. Maybe a clean closet will appear, or maybe that book that keeps getting ignored might actually get picked up.

Take a trip, even if it’s just your back porch. Summer vacation is often a great time for exploring, and you don’t have to go on an overseas journey for memories to be made. Any spot in your community that you have always wondered about? Tried camping in your living room or yard. Take things that normally happen in summer (ice cream trucks, popsicles, bike rides) and ask your kids to build their summer “bucket list.” They will look forward to the simple pleasures of summer no matter how busy regular life might be. And, if you are lucky enough to have a major trip or other experience on the list they will see how big and little pleasures can add up to a lot of warm memories.