The JumpTherapy Blog:
Sensory Processing, Motor and Social Skills Resources
for Parents of Special Needs Children

Your Son Is Not a Gingerbread Boy

Why we don’t take a “cookie cutter” approach to SPD therapy:

every child is unique and needs a unique strategy

Part 2 of 3: Your Process

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Your goal (a short review)
In the previous post we discussed why we need so many different approaches to SPD therapy, and its ultimate goal: getting your unique child to his or her “ideally balanced” emotional state in order to thrive every day. 

Your process
The first thing to do when your child is in distress is to think more about the immediate situation and the underlying potential contributors to your child’s behavior, and try to fix them.

Some issues, in no particular order, that can cause meltdowns are: transitioning, eating, dressing, loud noises, bright lights, crowds, and many more. Sometimes the trigger is something that you didn’t even notice — a truck outside backing up and beeping loudly, a phone ringing, the hum of fluorescent lights.

How do you help your child regulate after a trigger? Sometimes you have to try a lot of techniques and tools from your backpack to find what works — and even then, the same strategy may not work for every occasion, so you have to be prepared with multiple approaches.

Helpful activities come in two types: up-regulating and down-regulating. Up-regulating activities help stimulate under-reactive senses. Down-regulating activities help calm over-reactive senses.

That sounds straightforward, right? But sometimes an activity that is up-regulating for one person or in one situation can be down-regulating for another person or even for the same person in a different situation. For example, bouncing on a trampoline can stimulate an under-responsive child, and it can also help calm a child who is overloaded by allowing him or her to release excess energy.

And sometimes an activity can even be both, simultaneously. Exercising, swinging, jumping, etc. can be down-regulating because it helps the body release tension and anxiety in order to function smoothly. The same kinds of exercise are also up-regulating because they help the body wake up and focus.

Trial and error is part of the process
Try to stay calm and not get frustrated if you can’t find the perfect regulating activities right away. The beginning is going to be trial and error, and trial and error, and trial and — success. At least, for now! Remember, the same strategy may not work in every situation or even in the same situation at another time. Soon you and your child will find what works, one situation at a time.

Pay careful attention to how your child reacts to activities. Don’t force a child to participate if s/he is afraid or distressed. S/he can’t control the fear or discomfort; it’s simply the way his or her nervous system is reacting to the situation.

So you, and/or your OT, need to try different tactics and experiment to see what works best for your unique child in each situation.

Looking ahead:
In the next post, we will look at an overview of the different categories of strategies.

Are you exploring strategies on your own or with the help of an OT or other professional? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, let me know there or via email what topics you would like to discuss or hear more about.

Feel free to share or quote from this blog (with attribution, please, and if possible, a link), and to repost on social media.

I look forward to hearing from you!


All the best,

About Miriam:
Miriam Skydell MS, OTR/L is a pediatric OT with 30 years experience and a strong commitment to empowering every child and every family with the skills, confidence and emotional stability necessary for a meaningful, independent life. In addition to her Masters degree from NYU (1986) and membership in the AOTA (American Occupational Therapy Association), Miriam is a licensed Interactive Metronome®,  HWT (Handwriting Without Tears®), and TLP (The Listening Program®) provider.

Miriam performs preschool screenings, contracts experienced OTs, PTs and STs to schools, helped implement the HWT curriculum, and lectures extensively for parent and support groups and at teacher conferences for public and private schools throughout New Jersey. Through her private practice in Fair Lawn, Miriam Skydell and Associates, established in 1995, Miriam has helped countless children with a wide range of diagnoses improve functional living skills, manage the impact of sensory processing dysfunction, and meet their individual potentials.