Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) refers to the body’s difficulty in interpreting stimuli with any one (or more) of the senses.  For example, a child may have difficulty concentrating when there is a lot of background noise or might struggle to play on outdoor equipment that other children love.

Sometimes the SPD is minor and is nothing to be worried about, but other times it can cause difficulty at school or in social settings.

We receive information from the world through all of our senses – touch, sound, sight, taste and smell.  The information is taken in and processed by our nervous systems which make sense of it for us.  We all have different preferences for the way we accept information.  I prefer visual information over sound, for example.

SPD becomes a problem when the child cannot process the information properly and it interferes with normal development or behaviour.

Some examples of potential SPD indicators are:

·         Inability to focus on an activity if there is background noise

·         Jumping from one activity to another, never fully being able to complete a task

·         Responding negatively to loud noises, or often covering ears

·         Seeking high movement activities, but often appearing clumsy

·         Showing a strong preference for certain foods or smells

·         Irritation from shoes, socks, tags, or different textures

·         Difficulties learning new activities

·         Under or over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds
There are more indicators listed on the North Shore Pediatric Therapy website.

If you know your child has a sensitivity to something, you can plan around it.  For example, if your child hates lumpy food, don’t buy yogurt with fruit pieces in it.  If they hate the feel of woollen jumpers, avoid blankets and toys made of woollen fabric.

Sensory toys and games can make “therapy” fun and be done at home.  The idea is to expose your child to a range of different stimuli in a safe and fun way so that gradually the fear goes and the child learns how to respond more appropriately.

Specialist Occupational Therapists can make a big difference in the way your child copes with his or her sensory issue so if it is causing real problems at home or school, that would be your best starting point.

SPD can be managed so that your child can have a normal, happy life.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Autism Oz Magazine

Autism Oz is a monthly iPad based magazine with a focus on autism health and lifestyle issues.  This magazine provides up to date and current information relating to autism as well as resources that will inspire and support you and your family.  Even if you don’t have an iPad it can be downloaded in PDF.

The magazine utilises a great team of writers who have experience across a whole range of autism issues so they can bring you relevant information and advice.  A great feature of Autism Oz magazine is that it is interactive through the sharing of videos, letters, stories and links to other resources.  It features real life stories from people who share their experiences including their struggles, challenges and successes.  By sharing these experiences it is intended to provide readers with a valuable insight that may assist them on a practical level.

Follow the link to download the free application from iTunes and then subscribe within the application to view the magazine.

In addition, Autism Oz has a great Facebook page that provides a range of additional resources and information as well as the comments, feedback and support from other people.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What’s New for 2013

Now that we are in 2013 I thought it would be a good opportunity to mention some of our products in our What’s New section.

The Jumping Frog Game is a fun and exciting game that is ideal for fine motor skills and hand eye coordination.  The game includes 20 frogs, a lily pad cup, a score pad and a large play mat.  The winner of the game is the one who shoots the most frogs into the bucket.
The Space Hopper will naturally entice a smile as your child bounces around the room plus it provides some good exercise.  Holding onto the sturdy horns as you bounce will help the kids develop core stability and balance skills. 

A great game to help with recognising and understanding the senses is called Our Five Senses.  Through observing, matching and talking about the different cards, the game will allow your child to understand how the five senses function and interact with each other.  Our Five Senses comes with 5 self-correcting puzzle play boards that are cut into 7 pieces, 1 dice and an activity book.  In addition to learning about the sense, this is also ideal for developing hand eye coordination, concentration and reasoning skills.

The Catch & Stick Monster Mitts are great fun and help with the development of hand eye coordination and throwing skills.  As the oversized mitts and the tennis ball both have velcro, it makes it easier to catch the ball.  With adjustable straps on the mitts they can be used by pre-schoolers and up.

As new items continuously arrive in store, I recommend you visit our What’s New section  regularly to see what else may be suitable for you and your child to explore together.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Theory Of Mind And Autism

Theory of mind relates to the ability of a person to see aspects of the mind such as beliefs, perceptions, emotions and desires from not only their own perspective but from that of others.  By being able to apply and understand these in oneself, it can allow the person to be able to better understand and predict how another person will behave.

Children start to develop Theory of Mind, or an understanding of other people’s feelings and motivations, at around four years of age.  That does not seem to happen for children with autism.

People on the autism spectrum seem to have less ability to empathise or predict how another person may behave which is why others comment that they have poor communication and social skills.

Here is a simple example of how Theory of Mind and autism interact.

A child with autism was instructed by his teacher, ‘Go and ask Mr Smith [another teacher] if he would like a cup of coffee’. The child went and found Mr Smith and delivered the question, but then came straight back without waiting for the reply: he did not realize that the intention of these communications was to find out whether Mr Smith wanted a drink.
Children with autism struggle with day to day conversation because they don’t pick up on the cues implied in the sentences nor can they read body language or facial expressions.  All they hear are the specific words you have used.

To gain a better understanding of theory of mind there is an excellent example from an article titled “Theory of Mind in Autism: Development, Implications, and Intervention”.  
A woman is presenting the status of a project she has been working on at the end of a long staff meeting.  Toward the middle of her presentation she notices a colleague looks at her watch and sighs.  A man at the meeting starts to nod off while others become fidgety.  Her boss asks her to “wrap it up” and even though she is not finished, she decides to end her presentation.  As people begin to exit the room, her colleague who was on the verge of falling asleep while she was talking tells her that her project sounds very interesting.
Typical people often take for granted how much we use our understanding of other people’s thoughts and feelings to guide our social interactions.  In the example above, the speaker was able to read the nonverbal cues of others indicating that they were bored and tired; consequently, she decided to end her presentation.  The presenter did not take the phrase “wrap it up” literally, and she knew that the boss intended “it” to mean the presentation, even though this had to be implied from the context.  Finally, the speaker probably realized that her sleepy colleague’s comment about her project is probably a “white lie”, and that his comment did not match his belief or behavior, but instead reflected his desire to please her.  Now imagine being a person with an autism spectrum disorder faced with a situation similar to the scenario presented above.  An individual within the autism spectrum most likely would have behaved differently as a result of not being privy to the mental states of others.
The challenge faced by parents, friends, professionals and carers of people with autism spectrum disorder is to help them to become better at understanding empathy and the views from another person’s perspective.

That’s where stories can be very useful.  They lead children through the social situations they are likely to encounter and can help them learn to interpret what they see and hear.

I would love to hear your views and comments on this issue as well as what techniques you have used to help your children cope with social situations.  Your comments, thoughts and experiences could make a valuable resource for others.
Welcome to The Toy Bug Blog!

Here you will find all sorts of useful information about The Toy Bug including sneak peeks at new products coming into the store, profiles on toys and information and stories about our Autism Journey.

We hope you'll check back often to see whats new :-)
Cheers Jo xo