Special education PTO presents seminar on Sensory Processing Disorder

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Willington - posted Thu., Jan. 23, 2014
(L-r) Melissa Broxton and Marie Mancini-Oliveira, occupational therapists with  Advanced Therapy Solutions, were the guest speakers at the Jan. 15 Success SEPTO meeting. They are joined by Brenda Stenglein, vice president, and Cathy Britschock, president of Success SEPTO. Photo by Annie Gentile.
(L-r) Melissa Broxton and Marie Mancini-Oliveira, occupational therapists with Advanced Therapy Solutions, were the guest speakers at the Jan. 15 Success SEPTO meeting. They are joined by Brenda Stenglein, vice president, and Cathy Britschock, president of Success SEPTO. Photo by Annie Gentile.

Have you ever been trying to study or read, but the constant ticking of a clock or humming of a fan hampers your concentration? Have you ever worn a shirt with a tag that constantly irritates the back of your neck, to the point of distraction? We all experience situations where our senses feel overloaded, but fortunately, for most of us, we are able to deal effectively with those undesirable sensory stimulations. We turn off the fan. We put on soothing music to drown out the ticking clock. We tear off the offensive shirt tag. Thus, the clock, the fan, and tag become simply minor annoyances.

For people with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), however, over- or under-stimulation of the senses can result in a “neurological traffic jam,” in which the person can become anxious or depressed. He or she may act out or shut down completely. Seemingly minor annoyances can render them unable to function normally.

On Wednesday, Jan. 15, the Success Special Education Parent Teacher Organization welcomed licensed occupational therapists Marie Mancini-Oliveira and Melissa Broxton, of Advanced Therapy Solutions in Wethersfield, to the group’s monthly meeting at the Willington Public Library to talk about SPD and the therapies used in both home and school settings to treat the disorder.

“We all have peaks and valleys, but tend to recover from ordinary sensory events,” said Broxton. “Kids with SPD, however, don’t recover well and can move quickly into an overload zone. Our job is to help these kids recover more quickly and on their own by teaching them strategies to help them become calm and regulate themselves,” she said.

Treating children with SPDs can be both complicated and confusing, as the disorder impacts children in a multitude of different ways, Mancini-Oliveira said. “There is no cookie-cutter approach,” she said.

Mancini-Oliveira said therapies involve addressing the impact on the senses. This includes not only sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, but also an additional three senses that relate to pressure in the muscles and joints, movement of the head in relation to gravity, and our internal senses that tell our brain such things as that we are hungry, thirsty, or have a full bladder. Mancini-Oliveira said children who have sensory challenges seek out “heavy work” and can be “rough and tumble types.” Effective classroom therapies can involve having them help with putting the chairs up on the desks or clearing off the white board at the end of the school day.

Deep-breathing exercises can also be helpful when someone with a SPD starts to become anxious, but such tactics can be boring for children. In response, Broxton and Mancini-Oliveira recommend more entertaining and effective “resistive blowing” techniques, such as requiring them to blow up animal balloons, or making “bubble mountains” with a straw and bowl of soap-filled water. “After doing this for a while, you can hear the pitch of the child’s voice drop and you actually seem them start to become calm,” said Broxton.

Broxton and Mancini-Oliveira also recommend visual schedules with pictures or words placed throughout the home or environment to help children self-regulate as they help to reinforce the predictability of their day. “When you have unpredictability, that’s when you get the anxiety and the ‘fight or flight’ types of behaviors,” said Broxton.

To learn more about the evaluation, intervention, or consultation services offered by Advanced Therapy Solutions, visit www.advancedtherapysolutionsct.com or call 860-721-9999.

Success SEPTO brings together professionals, families and all those interested in helping children with special needs. The organization presents free seminars and workshops on a variety of topics. All are held at the Willington Public Library and are open to the public. On Feb. 19, Success SEPTO welcomes Dr. Mark Palmieri and Marina Azimova from the Center for Children with Special Needs in Glastonbury, who will present on “Navigating Inclusion.” To learn more about the organization, visit www.successsepto.org.


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