*This picture was taken on a recent trip to the Central Park Zoo in the Tisch Children’s Zoo.
*Be aware, this is another longish post, sorry, feel free to skip sections*
Its been a few weeks since i’ve done an update on Violet and she has made some major strides and i’m so proud of her! While we were at the Zoo recently, she was playing in one of the giant turtle egg shells and peaked her head out, looking around for her friends. It reminds me of the journey she has been through recently with her SPD and really symbolizes her “coming out of her shell” and really being able to fully enjoy life.
Her OT(Occupational Therapist) Loren Shlaes, has played a key role in helping us to better understand and help Violet work through the neurological issues that drive her over-responding and anxious behavior using sensory integration therapy techniques. Loren recently published an article that explains what can cause a child to be anxious and what she looks for during her evaluation. Click here for the full article. These are a few of the issues Violet specifically struggles with as described by Loren:
-”A poorly integrated Moro, or startle response: The Moro reflex is what propels the baby to extend its limbs and take its first big inhalation of air when it emerges from the birth canal. It is present and active in the nervous system for the first few months of life, and then it integrates, meaning it is still present, but does not respond to normal sensory experiences. If it is still active in the child’s nervous system, however, the child’s body will respond to most daily events by startling and flooding him with stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. This tends to keep the child in a chronic fight or flight state.”
-”Inefficient, shallow, rapid respiration: Many children with postural challenges tend to hold themselves upright by fixing their ribcages, which locks up their respiratory mechanisms. Even if you’re not anxious, you can breathe yourself right into a fight or flight state with rapid, shallow breathing.”
-”An active spinal Galant reflex: The spinal Galant reflex causes the hips to wiggle involuntarily when there is any pressure or sensation to the low back. It causes the low back area to be highly sensitive. Children who can’t sit still, who are constantly wriggling or running around in circles, and who complain bitterly about wearing underwear or pants with labels or tight waist bands, may be struggling with a poorly integrated spinal Galant.”
-”Tactile defensiveness: Their skin is continually misinforming them about what is going on around him, putting him on high alert, and telling him that his clothing is too scratchy, classroom materials are disgusting, and other people are threatening his personal safety. I imagine the child feels a little extra crazy since no one else seems to share his perceptions. Oral motor defensiveness, which can be caused by weakness and incoordination in the child’s oral musculature as well as overly sensitive lips, cheeks, and tongue, prevents the child from taking pleasure in his food and makes meal times a trial.”
-”Auditory defensiveness: A child who continually responds to most ambient sound with, “What’s that?” or who can’t function in a noisy environment, is reacting to sounds that our nervous systems would not even register by flooding the child with stress hormones and alerting him out of his focus. An auditory defensive system often can’t properly filter or discriminate relevant auditory information, which means that the child can’t pick out the teacher’s voice from among the others in the classroom. He have to continually look at the other children to get visual cues to see what he should be doing.”
-”Poor core stability, caused by delayed postural reflex development: Children who don’t have a strong, sturdy, reliable, stable relationship with gravity are understandably anxious. Fear of falling is hardwired into the human nervous system.”
If you have known Violet for a while, the descriptions of these neurological issues may sound familiar in observing her behavior, i.e. her rocking when she’s anxious or nervous, inability to handle noisy environments, epic melt downs, disinterest in playing at the playground, and poor appetite to name a few. I’m so pleased to say that all of these underlying issues have been addressed in therapy and many of them have been resolved! Her spinal galant reflex is gone, her moro reflex has been integrated and her tactile defensiveness has drastically improved due to the deep pressure protocol brushing technique that we have been using. We are currently focusing on improving her auditory defensiveness, core stability, postural reflex and her shallow breathing.
Since we started with OT in March, Violet has come a long way! It’s really amazing to me how resilient and receptive she is to learning and playing these days now that we have these sensory defensive issues under control. Loren has introduced her to therapeutic listening and she has been doing the program for almost two weeks.
Here she is in the middle of a listening session. The headband is her favorite part It’s only to keep the headphones from slipping though, ha!
She listens to specially enhanced music on an MP3 player with headphones for 30 minutes, twice a day, with at least 3 hours in between each session. She listens while she’s playing, coloring, or eating a meal. But not while watching a show or sleeping. In order for the therapy to be most effective, the listener should be engaged in an activity. Results from Therapeutic Listening have shown improvement in the following areas(this is not a comprehensive list):
-Enhanced ability to focus
-Ability to make transitions or changes in routine easier
-Regulation of mood and energy level (overall a happier child, less irritable)
-Increased participation in and exploration of playground equipment (swings, slides, climbing structures)
-Praxis and motor planning (coming up with an idea, planning and then completing the task)
-Decreased fear of movement and fear of heights
-Improvement in fine motor skills including handwriting
-Reduction in sensory defensive behaviors (abnormal responses to sensory stimuli like sounds, touch, taste, pain)
If you’re interested in learning more about Therapeutic Listening, click here. One of the most interesting things about the listening therapy, is that Violet’s rocking has dramatically decreased. It’s pretty incredible. But I think the best part of participating with Violet in her therapy is watching her change and improve daily. She is truly happier! She is not a walking ball of stress anymore which is huge. 3 year olds should be happy, playful, joyful and full of life, not anxious and withdrawn. We are so proud of her and are anticipating all the great things she has to look forward to.