Sensory Activities for Your Child with Autism
This past week, I made my first video “Language in Boxes” and I encourage you to view it. It is posted at www.betterspeech.com and relates to how we can incorporate language learning into routine activities . They help your children learn language and don’t involve anything beyond just “living”. A part of the video relates to cooking and how it can be used in this way. In mine when we were kids, as I am sure others in homes, meals were an intrinsic part of daily life. As my older brother says – cooking is chemistry. We did a lot of that and really started from scratch,
The video below, talks about making rainbow popsicles (below) starts with a catchy tune and is a great illustration of how you can step by step make popsicles. Perhaps without intentional purpose, the song and visual images illustrates how much fun this can be and some children relate to it because they may have learned to enjoy cooking and have built memories that you can talk about, or even write about when you are done.
THE BRAIN AND COOKING
See that lit up area of the brain below? Cooking helps to develop that lit up area called the frontal lobe. That is the area that involves reasoning (i.e. “what do i need to make i.e. apple pie?” problem solving (“how much should I make?”) attention and drawing inferences.
A SEQUENCE IN PREPARING TO WORK:
Growing up there was a garden in my backyard, every summer. It would start with trips to the farm where dad bought milk for us at home and also manure. Awful combination! However, we learned that manure was good for growing the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, carrots and string beans. Sometimes lettuce was mixed in. My job was to weed the garden as dad fertilized the plants in the hot summer months. At summer’s end, all of the vegetable garden would wind up in a pile to be transformed into fertilizer for the following year when we would start again.
Dad taught me the language of gardening and perhaps you can as well.
Nouns: Plants, manure, soil, the names of the vegetables, slugs, beer, fertilizer and weeds
Verbs: weeding, fertilizing, growing, pulling (out carrots when you could see the orange part of the carrot popping up), digging, burying
Animals that Can Be Harmful to Plants: Then we learned all about how slugs were not good for plants..or flowers in the plot of earth that was doled out to me in the backyard. I learned how to bury cat food containers (we had two) and pour beer in them. Voila – the next morning after these were buried were a handful of slugs in each container.
Descriptive terms: colors of vegetables, ripe vegetables vs those that needed to do so.
Sequencing the Steps for Preparing to Cook: My job was to go outside and pick the ripened vegetables and I learned how to distinguish those that were or were not. Mom would give me a bag and tell me “go get some string beans and carrots for dinner!”.
Pride: Even if it was next to the garbage pail in the backyard, my marigolds were my own contribution every summer!
Cooking Helps Those With Sensory Aversions
I will talk more to you about SOS Therapy in another post; but to share with you briefly, there is a sequential hierarchy in which we learn to eat and breaking the steps up helps children learn to participate in meals. It is a sensory approach, especially helpful for those on the autism spectrum and or those with sensory challenges.
I mention it, because the feeling of the textures of ingredients for “Grandma Rose’s Oatmeal Cookies” are a very salient memory and I can still smell them.
Tasting: Go to a garden stand or farm this fall. It’s a great time of year to learn more about the appearance of fresh vegetables and fruits. There is nothing like them! You can’t forget licking the spoon after stirring the batter when a cake is made!
Tactile: Experience washing, slicing, putting food into a pan, oven or baking
Seeing: Cook with foods and enjoy the visual component of seeing them.
Smelling: After everything is in the oven or on the stove and it is cooking!
Picture from: http://wisdomthroughmindfulness.blogspot.com/2010/03/
Continuing from the theme of earlier this week in terms of preparing for the holidays, part of doing so is to think about meals and what will be served, how many people are coming, what ingredients you will need and then cooking. If you have a child who can’t tolerate eating different foods then YOU have an additional layer that is so emotionally ridden. If you have a child who cannot tolerate the smell of foods cooking or the site of those which you have on the counter how will you prepare them? Food is such a basic thing that we need for every day. Working with parents each week with children who have feeding challenges reminds me of the emotional influence that problems in this area pose to families. Having taken Dr. Toomey’s training this past fall, I became aware of information that might be able to help you and I have already found its benefit during my daily practice. It is known as a sensory-based feeding therapy approach, building on each of them. http://autism.sesamestreet.org/daily-routine-cards/?fbclid=IwAR0VKcWb_ZAHzheWdgT7ekqhwG_NuW8JLOMtCHZyT4PnolRXeyq6oeXxLSw
“The SOS Approach to Feeding program was developed by and copyrighted by Dr. Kay Toomey. Please note, all materials, documents and forms taken from the SOS Approach to Feeding program are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in any form without the written permission of Dr. Kay Toomey. For more information on the SOS Approach to Feeding program, please visit http://www.sosapproach.com.”
This article can describe what can be done When-Children-Wont-Eat-Understanding-the-Whys-and-How-to-Help.pdf
and in her blog post, a parent relates how her child benefitted from its use https://singingthroughtherain.net/2013/03/tips-for-children-with-feeding-disorders.html
The SOS Feeding approach is appropriate for children that are “problem feeders” and not “picky eaters”, which can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between. Picky eaters are those that have a limited variety of foods and will not easily eat, but they often will reluctantly touch or taste new food. Picky eaters do not need SOS feeding therapy. A problem feeder, however, has an even more restricted variety of foods with more severe reactions to interacting with non-preferred foods and is a candidate for SOS feeding therapy. Here are some questions to consider if you are concerned about your child’s eating:
- Does your child have a decreased range or variety of foods (less than 20)?
- If your child gets “burned out” on food and takes a break from it, will they refuse that food still, after the break?
- Does your child refuse entire categories of food groups (proteins, vegetables, etc.) or texture groups (hard foods, soft cubes, puree textures)?
- Does your child almost always eat different foods at a meal than the rest of the family?
- Have you reported concerns about your child’s feeding across multiple well-child check-ups?
- If you answered “yes” to several of the above questions, talk to your child’s pediatrician about a referral for an evaluation to determine if feeding therapy would be warranted for your child.
Please note, the term “problem feeder” is used by the SOS Feeding approach program to delineate children who are outside the normal range of age-appropriate feeding behaviors, i.e. only being a “picky eater”.
Is your child a red flag for a referral? Know that in this season of giving that you can be given the hope of improved ability to help your child enjoy eating!