Southpaw Enterprises
Pawprint June 2010
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Deanna MacioleCreating Summer Memories with All Children
Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L
The smell of sunscreen, the feel of running through the grass barefoot, enjoying some fresh squeezed lemonade at the town festival, watching fireworks; ahh...signs that it must be summertime!  These are just a few examples of things that signify this time of year.  Although it is great to expose children to many of these summer experiences, we need to remember that all children perceive things differently. These events offer a variety of sensory inputs, from the increase in sights and sounds to the proprioceptive input experienced when walking through a crowd of people.  Many of our children with SPD may over-respond to one or more of the inputs these events offer. Last month we highlighted suggestions to assist you with traveling this summer. This month we are going to take some time to provide ideas that may help out with trying to maintain calmness and self-regulation during those over-stimulating summer events without experiencing major meltdowns or completely avoiding them. 
First, make sure you prepare your child as best as you can at home.  Despite the change in routine throughout these months, continually performing the tasks of your sensory diet will help your child maintain calmness and self-regulation on a daily basis. Also, take the time to explain where you will be going, how large the crowd will be and give your child the ability to choose how much he or she may want to participate in the event.
Proprioception or heavy work activities are great for maintaining calmness.  Use animal walks or wheelbarrow walking as a way to travel throughout the house prior to leaving.  Allow your child to help pack the car and even give him or her an appropriate sized cooler to fill and carry to your outdoor event.  Also, if you have found that wearing weighted items benefit your child, choose a weighted hat to wear or fill a back pack with an appropriate amount of weight to be worn as you walk through the crowds of a fair.
For auditory sensitivities, provide you child with ear plugs when needed.  In addition, you could use a MP3 player with headphones to block out noise and play calming music at the same time.  If you are heading out to watch fireworks, try to choose a remote location that still offers a great view, but will not be too close or loud for your child.
If oral input has been found to regulate your child, make sure you are stocked with chewy or crunchy snacks, such as gum, Starbursts, Tootsie Rolls or pretzel rods.  Provide drinks from a water bottle with a straw to increase oral proprioceptive input.  In addition, it is a great idea to keep a small bottle of bubbles in the car since bubble blowing is a great outdoor activity for self-regulation, as well as entertaining while waiting in lines.
If your child enjoys using a hand fidget, continue to allow him or her to use it. In addition, pack a bag of dry tactile play items for the car, such as pasta, beans, or rice.  It is best to choose a fidget that is small enough to fit into a pocket or attach with a clasp to a belt loop to avoid losing it.
If attending an event such as a family reunion, do not feel obligated to allow guests to hug your child if this is uncomfortable for him or her.  Simply ask them to greet your child with a handshake or verbal greeting only.  This will make your child less anxious while avoiding your child making someone feel bad for the reaction they may receive from your child.
Although it may take some preparation, there are many ways for your child to still participate and enjoy your typical summer events. We have only highlighted a few suggestions here, but parents and therapists need to work together to make these events lasting memories for all children.

Sens-Aura from Southpaw 

Sens-Aura Catalog CoverSouthpaw is proud to introduce Sens-Aura, a line of products for multi-sensory environments (MSE's).  Besides providing even more quality Southpaw products that you've come to know and rely on, we are offering MSE room design and installation, on-site training, and custom design & manufacturing.
Be sure to go to our new Sens-Aura website at, where you can browse and order products, request a new catalog, or learn more about MSE's.