Simple & Fun Sensory Activities for Occupational Therapy

Simple & Fun Sensory Activities for Occupational TherapyChildren with Autism Spectrum Disorder exhibit different patterns of sensory processing when compared to their peer. A big percentage of children with ASD exhibit sensory modulation or sensory processing disorder. Occupational therapy goes a long way to promote, maintain, and develop the skills needed by children to adjust to the regular requirements of a normal life. As a part of occupational therapy some sensory activities go a great way in helping the children gain an understanding of different materials and in developing motor skills.

Some interesting examples of simple sensory activities for occupational therapy are listed here under:

  1. Sensory Salad

Make-believe kitchen activities and hosting parties with imaginary tea and sandwiches is a favourite among children. Encouraging kids to make their own “Sensory salad” is fun way for them to explore different colours, textures and process them. Materials like green construction paper for lettuce, black button for olives, red pompoms for cherry tomatoes give them a sensory experience and might even encourage them to explore more culinary palates. After tearing the “lettuce” and adding the ingredients, help them “toss the salad” with some tongs and then “serve” it. This entire exercise helps them not only with the motor and physical skills, but social skills too.

  1. Bottled Nebula

It is enthralling for a child to hold a sparkling piece of the mystical universe in a jar. Nebula is a colourful dust cloud where stars are born and an amazing classroom project for elementary school kids. Let the child tear up cotton and swirl them in water, as they experience the varied temperatures and textures. On further dipping the cotton in food colouring or non-toxic paints, the child will see how the cotton and the colours interact with each other. Help them create a nebula in the jar with these brightly coloured pieces of cotton and add beans, sequins etc and shaking them well for a number of auditory and tactile experiences.

  1. Creative Gardening

Quite a few children with ASD may have sensory processing issues and disorganization which can really weigh down on them. Let the children engage in some creative gardening and build their own rock gardens. This activity can help the child with tactile processing and visual perceptual skills. Mix up all the rocks, stones, pebbles, rice and coin. Let the child sift through this mixture and separate the coins first, then gather the largest of the rocks and place them in a fishbowl. Encourage the child to arrange the rocks by size and un-bend some pipe cleaners. Now use rice as “mulch” to fill up the fish bowl and “plant” the pipe cleaners. This fun activity addresses special needs related to sensory modulation, sensory discrimination and related sensory processing disorders.

  1. Shake & Make Music – Maracas

Some children with ASD are hypersensitive to noise stimuli and this particular activity can be of great help in these cases. Active participation in making and then using a noisy instrument can effectively reduce their sensitivity to the noise stimulus. Get the child some coffee beans and pennies & encourage them to pick the coffee bean up and smell it before adding them to a bottle one by one. Once the bottle is filled to an apt level, ask them to do the same with pennies. Now close the bottle with the cap and repeat the whole process with another bottle. Now you have two DIY maracas to play with. Encourage the child to shake & make music of their own. This 5 minute craft provides the child with auditory, tactile and aromatic sensory experiences.

Advertisements

How Can You As A Parent Help Your Children With Dyslexia?

How Can You As A Parent Help Your Children With Dyslexia?Dyslexia is a reading disorder which is caused by both genetic and environmental factors. It is characterized by an inability or difficulty in reading in spite of normal intelligence.

Difference between a child who is a slow reader and a child with dyslexia

The skill to read is an acquired skill. Children are exposed to this skill when they interact with baby books. In a formalised structure the learning process is focused on the alphabet, recognising the letters and putting them together to form words first, and then sentences.

Certain children, due to lack of opportunities may be a little slow to read. However, children with dyslexia have a problem in reading due to structural differences in the way their brain processes the written language or symbols.

The symptoms associated with dyslexia may be listed as under:

  • Trouble in reading single words e.g. word on a flash card
  • Trouble connecting letters with their sounds
  • Trouble in differentiating small words e.g. ‘at’ and ‘to’
  • Mirroring the letters especially ‘b’ and ‘d’
  • Mirroring whole words e.g. ‘pit’ and ‘tip’

Managing dyslexia involves intervention through teaching instead of medication. Dyslexia is easily and most commonly diagnosed at school. The treatment involves adjusting the teaching methodology to cater to the special needs of the child. Through appropriate treatment, the underlying problem may not be cured, but the degree of the symptoms would definitely decrease. Parental support and motivation are key to the success of this treatment.

Some of the ways in which the parents can help children with dyslexia improve are:

  • Identify the problem areas in reading and learning at an early stage and intervene on their own while seeking help from professionals
  • Help the child discover and develop their love for reading by reading to them regularly
  • Motivate the child to discover other interests and talents
  • Help the child understand that dyslexia is a learning disability and not related to IQ or intelligence
  • Create an environment of encouragement and of safety to keep the child happy and motivated

Tips To Help Your Child With Autism Thrive

tips for the parents of children with autismOnce you know that your child has or may have Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is of absolute importance to begin the treatment right away. Research in the field have stated that the treatment for autism is most effective when started at the earliest stage.

Here are some tips for the parents of children with autism, that’ll help the children thrive.

  1. Structure & Safety

It is advisable for a parent to learn all they can about autism & get involved in the treatment. Create an environment of consistency between various spaces like the school, the therapist’s office and home, which would help the child apply the skills learned in one place to the other. Design a structured schedule with a time for everything; it helps the children meet the need for consistency. Apply positive reinforcement with rewards for positive behaviour while clearly mentioning the exact behaviour they’re being rewarded for. The reward may be a verbal praise, a gesture, a sticker or their favourite toy. Create a zone within the home for the child to relax in and feel safe.

  1. Connect Non-Verbally

It may be tough to connect with a child with ASD, but by being observant and picking up on non-verbal indications, you can progress a lot faster. Pay attention to their reactions or gestures when they are happy, hungry, tired, or want something. Try and figure out the reason behind their tantrums, it is often when they do not get the attention they want, or when their needs are not met. They are children, and you are human too, chalk in some fun time with them which is not therapy and is completely unpressured. Understand what your child is hypersensitive to; what aggravates them, what calms them down, what disturbs them and what is it that they enjoy.

  1. Personalised Autism Treatment Plan

While there may be a lot of different, often conflicting advise coming from well wishers, remember that there is no set treatment plan to suit every child with ASD. All the children on Autism Spectrum are different in their abilities and limitations. You know them best, so make sure that with the current plan is designed keeping in mind your child’s strengths & weaknesses, the problematic behavioural traits & problem skill areas, the best suited mode of learning for your child and the activities your child enjoys that may be incorporated into the treatment plan. Finally, it is your involvement that is instrumental for any treatment plan to succeed.

  1. Seek Help

Taking care of a child with ASd can be demanding and stressful. It is impossible to do everything on your own. Try and look for help. Help for your daily tasks, help for your mental and emotional well being. The whole stress can take a toll on your personal relationships or your own psyche. Approach a good counsellor to address your personal and interpersonal issues too.

5 Outdoor Movement Activities For Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

5 Outdoor Movement Activities For Children With Autism Spectrum DisorderFresh air does a lot of good for everyone, especially children. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who are undergoing therapy can benefit greatly from some fun activities out of doors under supervision. Movement is a crucial tool used in special education to help children with ASD. Moving outdoors gives the therapists and the children a bigger space for bigger movements and elevated energy levels.

  1. Obstacle Course

The difficulty level of the obstacle course can be decided based upon the challenges and abilities of the child. Slides, stairs, play tunnels, pool noodles or even side walk chalk can be used to create some fun obstacles for the course. Adding activities like crawling, jumping, or dribbling a ball are highly recommended for this.

  1. Marching Band

When working with a small group of children, this is an apt activity and if the children enjoy being loud, it’s even better! Scour up some play instruments or help the children make their own from readily available materials. Create your own marching band routine and line the children up with their instruments encouraging them to be as loud as they’d like to be.

  1. Hide & Go Seek

This is a great game indoors and out of doors. The game helps children to stay calm even when they are alone, help them understand and follow the rules of the game while interacting with the other children. These are some of the skills that need special attention when it comes to children with ASD.

  1. Follow The Leader

Get the children to line up behind a chosen leader. The leader would act out some actions and others would follow his/her actions. The child who doesn’t follow would sit out and the game can continue with a different leader. This game is great for improving social skills and motor skills in the children with ASD.

  1. Bubbles

Blowing up bubbles is fun and not just for children. Add some aroma to the solution and experiment with different hoop sizes. Blowing, chasing, and popping bubbles are a beneficial set of activities for children with ASD as it helps improve sensory and joint attention abilities. Adding aroma to the bubble solution adds another sensation to the lot making it even more interesting.

5 Nature Inspired Activities for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have a set of challenges unique to them. They might be self involved and fail to notice or understand the wonders of the nature or environment that surrounds us.  The following activities would help them explore the natural world and have some fun outdoors while gaining some valuable skills: 1.	Cloud Gazing Take the child outdoors and engage in some sky gazing. While sky gazing encourage the child to look at and talk about the clouds and the shapes they see in them. It is a great activity to facilitate speech therapy in children with ASD. Once the child starts looking at the clouds, nudge them to describe the clouds and the feelings they invoke. 2.	Gardening Help the child start their own garden. Gardening as an activity involves myriad sensory activities like digging, touching dirt, getting messy, planting saplings, watering them etc. Encourage the child to use gardening tools for weeding, watering and harvesting. These activities would not only offer a great range of sensory experiences but also help them with their motor skills. 3.	Make Your Own Bird Feeder This is a great activity that gives you long term enjoyment and engagement. The children would not only enjoy creating the cookie cutter bird feeder but experience various tactile sensations, experience varying temperatures and follow processes to attain a desirable end. After you have hung up the bird feeder up, take some time out every day with the child to sit and enjoy watching the birds eat their snack. 4.	Nature Inspired Scavenger Hunt Create a list of objects that can be easily found in the park, lawn or your own garden and give it to the child. Encourage the child to go out and collect the objects on the list and create a collection. Objects like leaves, grass, twigs, pebbles, and flowers offer a variety of tactile sensory experiences and even smell different. In case the child cannot read yet, prepare a picture list or flash cards for them to enjoy this fun scavenger hunt. 5.	Sorting Through Sorting activities are great and instrumental in occupational therapy for children with ASD. This activity can be easily taken out of doors where you can gather different leaves, sticks, rocks, flowers and more to create a pool of objects readily available in nature. The children can also get the objects from scavenger hunt and then sort them into various categories. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have a set of challenges unique to them. They might be self involved and fail to notice or understand the wonders of the nature or environment that surrounds us.

The following activities would help them explore the natural world and have some fun outdoors while gaining some valuable skills:

  1. Cloud Gazing

Take the child outdoors and engage in some sky gazing. While sky gazing encourage the child to look at and talk about the clouds and the shapes they see in them. It is a great activity to facilitate speech therapy in children with ASD. Once the child starts looking at the clouds, nudge them to describe the clouds and the feelings they invoke.

  1. Gardening

Help the child start their own garden. Gardening as an activity involves myriad sensory activities like digging, touching dirt, getting messy, planting saplings, watering them etc. Encourage the child to use gardening tools for weeding, watering and harvesting. These activities would not only offer a great range of sensory experiences but also help them with their motor skills.

  1. Make Your Own Bird Feeder

This is a great activity that gives you long term enjoyment and engagement. The children would not only enjoy creating the cookie cutter bird feeder but experience various tactile sensations, experience varying temperatures and follow processes to attain a desirable end. After you have hung up the bird feeder up, take some time out every day with the child to sit and enjoy watching the birds eat their snack.

  1. Nature Inspired Scavenger Hunt

Create a list of objects that can be easily found in the park, lawn or your own garden and give it to the child. Encourage the child to go out and collect the objects on the list and create a collection. Objects like leaves, grass, twigs, pebbles, and flowers offer a variety of tactile sensory experiences and even smell different. In case the child cannot read yet, prepare a picture list or flash cards for them to enjoy this fun scavenger hunt.

  1. Sorting Through

Sorting activities are great and instrumental in occupational therapy for children with ASD. This activity can be easily taken out of doors where you can gather different leaves, sticks, rocks, flowers and more to create a pool of objects readily available in nature. The children can also get the objects from scavenger hunt and then sort them into various categories.

Proposed Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder DelhiAutism Spectrum Disorder does not have a standard treatment or a fixed treatment plan. There, however are a number of guidelines or ways in which the symptoms can be minimized and the abilities and capabilities can be maximised. The most effective therapy or intervention differs from person to person. But highly structured and specialised programs have the best response for people suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder. There have been cases where apt treatment has helped people with autism attain a near normal level of functioning.

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder may often be mistaken for those of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. Hence, it is important to focus on the symptoms and not on labels. By focusing on symptoms and working on minimizing them, there is a better chance of addressing the child’s special needs.

There are numerous therapies on offer for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some are listed hereunder:

  • Behavioral Management Therapy – through this therapy there is an effort to reduce the unwanted behavioural traits and emphasize on the desirable behavioural traits.
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – this therapy emphasizes to help develop a connection between feelings & behaviour.
  • Early Intervention – it has been observed that through an early intervention at pre-school age or before, the results are more positive.
  • Joint Attention Therapy – the focus of this therapy is on improving specific skills related to joint attention like pointing, showing, and coordinating looks between a person and an object.
  • Medication Treatment – though there is no medication to treat Autism Spectrum Disorder, but some medicines are known to help treat some of the symptoms. Medication used with behavioural therapy is known to bring in quite a change.
  • Nutritional Therapy – the children with ASD might be picky about what they eat or resist eating altogether. It is important to collaborate with a good dietician to ensure nourishment and good health.
  • Occupational Therapy – this helps the children with ASD to complete their everyday tasks by making the most of their abilities, needs, and interests.
  • Parent-mediated Therapy – parents of the children with ASD learns therapy techniques from the professionals and provides these specific therapies to their children.
  • Physical Therapy – this includes activities and therapy that focuses on building motor skills & strength and improve posture & balance.
  • Social Skills Training – this is a training to help children with ASD interact socially with peer especially.
  • Speech-language Therapy – this therapy focuses on helping the children with ASD improve their ability to communicate.

It is important to discuss all possible treatments and therapy with your doctor and come up with a personalised plan best suited to cater to the needs of your child with a focus on addressing the symptoms of the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Understanding Autism And Its Symptoms In Children

Understanding Autism And Its Symptoms In ChildrenAutism has been classified as a spectrum disorder, which essentially means that there is great disparity in the manner it affects the various people it affects. Each child diagnosed with autism has unique sets of abilities and limitations.

To understand your child’s autism, it is important to understand that it is not a single disorder, but an entire spectrum of similar or related disorders. The common symptoms may include problems with social interactions, social empathy, communication, and flexibility in behaviour. However, the extent or severity of the problem varies greatly.

As a parent dealing with a child who is afflicted with autism, you may have faced the terms like high-functioning autism, atypical autism, autism spectrum disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder and been confused about them. No matter how the doctors use these terms and how they label your child, you must focus on the individual needs of the child instead of the label.

Some of the symptoms exhibited in autistic children may be listed as under:

Social Behavior & Social Understanding

  • Strange or inappropriate body language
  • Disinterest in the people around or in participating in activities that involve other people
  • Lack of interest in approaching others or in continuing social interactions, preferring to be left alone
  • Inability or difficulty in understanding other people’s feelings, reactions or any other non-verbal indications
  • Strong resistance to touch
  • Inability to make friends with children of the same age

Speech & Language

  • Impediment or inability in learning to speak
  • Adopting an abnormal tone, pitch or rhythm of speech
  • Repeating the same phrase or string of words again and again, without an intent of communication
  • Struggling while trying to start or continue a conversation
  • Inability to communicate needs
  • Inability to understand simple statements or questions
  • Taking the things literally, not getting humour, irony, or sarcasm

Restricted Behaviour and Play

  • Repetitive body gestures and continuous motion
  • Getting an obsessive attachment to mundane objects
  • Fixating on an extremely narrow subject of interest, maybe things involving numbers or symbols
  • Inability to accept any change and an obsessive need for routine or order
  • Odd body movements, clumsiness, or unusual body posture
  • An unusual fascination for moving objects, spinning objects or movable parts of toys
  • Extreme or no reaction to sensory inputs

While keeping these symptoms in mind, you also must understand that just because your child exhibits some of these does not necessarily mean that he has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorder is diagnosed by able professionals on the basis of multiple symptoms that might disrupt the afflicted person’s ability to express, form relationships, learn, play or explore the world around them

Top Things You Should Know about Autism and Special Education

sparsh for childrenAutism, also known as, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), denotes to a variety of conditions categorized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and non-verbal communication as well as by distinctive strengths & differences.

The following are the top things that you should know about autism and the special education required to handle it –

Difficulty in Social Interaction

Most children with autism do very less social interactions. Besides the recognized symptoms such as dearth of language skills, failing to make eye contact, and lack of reaction to their name, there are numbers of symptoms that may point toward having ASD as a child gets elder –

  • The lack of ability to make friends
  • Lack of normal conversational skills
  • Repeating phrases or things from memory rather than coming up with original speeches

Teachers with advanced degrees focused on autism can help such children to overcome their social interaction problem.

Children with Autism are typically the Visual Learners

These children are habitually the visual learners, using robust visual tools and actions can help to get through to these children. For example, a visual schedule helps them to know what to expect from their day.

Children with Autism Can Easily be Over Stimulated

One more mutual attribute with kids having autism is that they can easily be overwhelmed by sensory stimuli that they cannot process in comparison to other children. The best way to cope with this is to keep track of causes and adapt strategies that reduce incidents.

Early Diagnose Benefits the Treatment

It is extremely important to lookout for signs of autism in children at early stage. Once a child is diagnosed, the quicker they start getting speech therapy, social training, and medications (if needed), the more effective their treatment will be.

Teens with autism frequently come across depression or behavioral complications as they go through puberty, so giving close care to the autistic children for signs that their treatment might need to be attuned, help get them through this challenging time.

Autism Does Not Mean That a Child Cannot Do Great Things

Scientists now have confidence that some of the ultimate minds like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Mozart may have had a type of autism in their childhood.

Care about your children, give them the best possible chance to live an exceptional life. And, the best way to do this is to know as much as possible about common conditions such as autism and other special needs.

Originated in 2005, Sparsh has grown into a multi-disciplinary organization that caters to diverse requirements of Children with Autism, Dyslexia, and Attention Difficulties & Intellectual Disability. It is one of a very small number of centers in Delhi NCR that provide all services ranging from Special Education, Occupational Therapy, Play School, Study Groups, Psychological Counselling and Speech & Language Therapy together under one roof.

Sparsh for Children: giving sparks of understanding into autistic children’s eyes

sparsh1Do you know what Albert Einstein, Amadeus Mozart, Isaac Newton and Michelangelo have in common, besides been considered as genius? They are all said to have had autism and displayed classic symptoms of the autistic spectrum disorder. Autism affects the way an individual communicates and interacts socially and is believed by the United Nations to reach 70 million people throughout the world. This makes autism the third most common developmental disorder, affecting upwards of 10 million of people in India – 6,00,000 autistic kids await proper response from the government and the majority of them have not received a diagnosis or any kind of intervention.

Driven by a strong desire to change this scenario and create a centre which could cater to all the issues concerning a child with difficulties, Surabhi Verma founded Sparsh for Children in 2005. The organization specializes in Autism and Dyslexia and also works with attention, speech & language difficulties, aiming to show a way and touch the heart of millions of intellectually challenged children, integrating them and their families into the society. Surabhi was still attending her masters at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda when she realized the amount of limited information on autism available at college. It aroused her curiosity to learn more about this disability and to work with children with autism.

Sparsh for Children is committed to act as a catalyst that helps special kids to successfully cross over the real world. With a mission to provide the highest value-added hands on and therapeutic services to various children, families and schools, they developed and introduced innovative structured training courses to nurture the abilities of special needs children, carrying out interventions ranging from Special Education, Occupational Therapy, Play & Study Groups, Early Intervention Center, Speech & Language Therapy and Psychological and Family Counseling, designed individually for each child keeping in mind their needs, strengths and baselines. “It is important to remember the fact that autism is a spectrum disorder: no two or ten children with autism will be completely alike. Every child will be at a different point on the spectrum”, says Surabhi.

Surabhi Verma leads Sparsh for Children, aiming to change the life of intellectually challenged children in India

This is what makes autism often hard to understand. One child with autism may not speak at all, while another might speak using complete sentences and may even have a flair for languages. One child may not play with toys, another might play with blocks and puzzles, and yet another may appear somewhat typical in play activities; all three children can have autism. Just as the definition of autism has ‘evolved’ over the past thirty years, researchers are continually examining different subtypes and groups of children in the hope of earlier diagnosis.

Breaking down myths and prejudice

Though India is one of the first signatories to the United Nation’s Convention on Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities, the ignorance level about autism is very high, and also treated as a social stigma. It is often difficult for parents to take their child to public places as they have to face stares and insensitive comments. There are laws in the country which try to provide benefits to people and children with disabilities but unfortunately there is still lack of infrastructure even at public places for them.

According to Surabhi, the most challenging task for a child with disabilities is to get social acceptance within the society. “Children with autism are treated with despair that they will not be able to lead a normal life and are a liability to the parents for their whole life. Also, our social structure has a demerit in which children are always compared with their peers, which puts an additional burden on the parents”.

Srabhi-Verma1“It is imperative to create social awareness about autism to increase acceptance in the society, as people often mistake this development disability as a mental disorder: autistic children are wrongly branded as ‘abnormal’ or mentally retarded or unsound and end up becoming the laughing stock of the society and are often discriminated. People having autism may be different learners but, as Albert Einstein has proven, they do have brilliant minds”, opines Surabhi.

Although autism is not curable, its symptoms can be addressed with appropriate interventions and many children can be educated and integrated into community life. Without accurate early diagnosis, children with autistic spectrum disorders can be condemned to a life of inadequate provision, their special needs not tackled and their future lives devalued. That is the foremost challenge faced by Surabhi and her team at Sparsh. “Not many parents are willing to accept that there is any difficulty with their child. We sometimes waste crucial time which would have been fruitful if the interventions could have been started at an early age, for which we start therapies from the age of 1.5 years; that can take the child a long way ahead. When they come to us and start receiving therapies early, many are able to pursue their life’s routine without our help, just like other ‘regular’ children”.

At Sparsh for Children there are various ranges of professionals involved, ranging from special educator, psychologist, speech/ language therapist, occupational therapist and a child psychiatrist. “Helping children is a team work, thus finding likeminded people to maintain the quality of interventions is imperative”, complains Surabhi. Another major challenge is to find regular schools willing to include children with different abilities with regular students, and work with them.

A shine of hope into an obscure condition

A true testimony of the hard work being put into by the Sparsh team may demonstrate the triumph of an autistic child’s development and evolution. R* first came to Sparsh when he was 3 years old, diagnosed with Mild Autism Spectrum disorder. Now, studying in a reputed south Delhi school, he stands in top 10 of his class, which has 40 children. R is participating in Math Olympiads and football tournaments. “It was an achievement when the school principal asked the parents ‘Are you sure he has Autism?’”, celebrates Saurabhi.

A second case study is about A*, who is now 17 years old and studying in 11th standard. He scored highest in English and Business studies through open school in his 10 board exam and continues to be at the top of his class. “A could not go to school until he was 6, but with continuous help and therapies he has managed to come this far”.

The only way to measure the impact is by observing the child showing improvements in his level of functioning. The more children they are able to successfully integrate into mainstream schools and continue further studies, the more they feel that they are on the right track. Future plans for Sparsh include expansion by tying with different organizations to enhance the learning process and also looking at avenues to create employment opportunities for these children. Surabhi shares, “In the lines of inclusive schools available outside India, we also plan to build an integrated setup in which the differently abled children are also provided equal opportunities.”

Visit Sparsh for Children here