The Holidays Are Here!

Image result for snowman clipartThe holidays are here and with this very special time of year comes holiday parties, music, dressing up, lots of food, visitors and traveling!  While these can be very exciting things to some people, to a child with sensory processing issues the holidays can feel more like loud noises, uncomfortable clothing, sitting for long periods of time at dinner, unfamiliar foods, unexpected hugs and a change in routine.  For those of us who are challenged adjusting to daylight savings time when that alarm clock goes off 1 hour earlier, imagine the challenges of the holidays when a typical day suddenly doesn’t feel quite so typical.  Thankfully, there are ways to prepare and navigate these changes so that everyone can participate in the holiday cheer.

In order to prepare for travel:

  • Discuss the specifics of traveling before the trip.  This will help your child prepare for what to expect on a plane, train or car including when to sit with a seat belt on, when they can get up and walk around, and when they have to stand in a line, etc.  See your occupational or speech therapist for additional ideas on stories that may help guide your travels.
  • If possible, visit the airport or train station in advance.  Visit the ticket counter and watch the planes take off and land.Image result for airplane clipart
  • Make a scrap book with your child that includes one page per day of your travels.  Each page should include the people that you may meet (use real photos if you can) and places that you may go.  Review the book before your trip and then take it with you.  While you are on your trip, take some time at the end of the day to reflect and have your child draw a picture of their favorite thing they did or saw!  This may help motivate them to continue to use it throughout their trip.
  • If your child has difficulties with dressing or wearing certain clothing, have them help pack their clothes.  Trial the clothes at home so that they know what they have packed and also that the clothing items are tolerable.  If the weather will be different than home, show them a visual of the weather at your vacation spot.  This may help guide your packing and help them understand why shorts may be necessary over snow boots.
  • If your child has sensitivities to clothing and you purchase new clothes for your trip be sure to wash the clothes several times before trialing and wearing them.
  • Prepare with reading materials, fidgets and comfort items such as blankets during the flight or drive.
  • Make a calendar countdown to your trip.  Take a calendar with you to help them visualize how long the trip will be and to assist in transitioning back home.

In order to prepare for the return home:Image result for calendar clipart

  • Use the calendar to prepare for which day you are leaving to head back home.  Discuss how many days before you get home, return to school and back to your regular schedule.
  • Gather souvenirs during your trip to add to the scrapbook.  Discuss bringing it in to show friends, other family members or bringing the book into show-and-tell at school.

In order to prepare for religious services:Image result for music clipart

  • If your family is planning on attending services in a temple, church, mosque, etc., prior exposure to the religious environment can be helpful for your child. Every location has its own practices and rules.
  • Rehearsing routines that your family may encounter, including singing songs and prayers, sitting on tight benches, etc. will create an opportunity for your family to participate in the religious community and feel pride.

 In order to prepare for mealtime and family gatherings:Image result for family dinner clipart

  • Provide movement breaks as often as possible, especially before mealtime and traveling which should include 5-10 minutes of heavy work.  Finding a quiet space for a break may be beneficial as well. *See list of heavy work ideas below.
  • Allow your child to assist with setting the table (plates, soda bottles), cooking (stirring, kneading dough), and moving chairs to the correct placements (or pushing them in/out).  Set up a designated space for the children to help that includes extra dough, cookie decorating and/or different textured items to provide tactile experiences for them.
  • Determine a signal (secret code) between you and your child that will indicate that they need a break when they are in an environment that is challenging for them.
  • Prepare other family members of your child’s needs by explaining the implications of loud voices and unexpected touch.
  • Bring preferred food items to family gatherings to ensure your child has an option to eat. Try to encourage healthier options as this time of year can be filled with an abundance of sugary treats.
  • Inquire about interests of other children attending the gatherings to see if they share common interests with your child – you may also find new activities that might be intriguing to your child!

Heavy work ideas:Image result for child wheelbarrow walking clipart

  • Any activity that involves pushing, pulling, dragging, lifting or jumping- carrying laundry, boxes with books, grocery bags, pushing a vacuum, etc.
  • Pull or push boxes (more resistance on a carpeted floor)
  • Carry boxes of items to donate
  • Play “magic carpet” and have a sibling or family member pull the child on a sheet, mat or small rug
  • Play Twister!
  • Have a dance party to holiday music
  • Practice cooking with your child – have them stir the pot or knead thick dough
  • Make holiday-themed play dough, such as gingerbread or pumpkin spice.
  • Have the child pull pillows or couch cushions into a “mountain” pile in a safe place for them to jump in and climb through and under.
  • Roll your child up in a blanket or yoga mat like a burrito or hot dog
  • “Make a pizza” by rolling a large yoga/therapy ball over your child while they lay flat
  • Pull weighted items in a wagon or cart
  • Make a “sandwich” with them in between two pillows while pressure is provided
  • Give big hugs and squeezes
  • Wheelbarrow walking or animal walks- bear walk, frog jump, commando crawl, or log roll
  • Engage in exercises such as wall push-ups, sit ups, planks, or jumping-jacks – incorporate exercises into a game of “Santa Says!”

Keep in mind what your child might need in order to be comfortable.  Be prepared to review your plans with your child several times as they might need the repetition in order to feel comfortable with the change of routine.  Children need structure and routine and benefit tremendously from maintaining eating and sleeping schedules.  We hope that these suggestions will help support your child and your family throughout the holiday season.  We wish you all safe travels, happy holidays and a healthy, joyful new year!

From your BAC Family!

Evidence Based Treatment at the Boston Ability Center: Torticollis and Plagiocephaly

I recently traveled to Connecticut to attend the “Torticollis & Plagiocephaly: Assessment & Treatment of Infants & Children, Pulling It Together” course by Cindy Miles. Congenital Muscular Torticollis is characterized by side bending of the head to one side and rotation of the head to the opposite side due to a tight sternocleidomastoid muscle.  You may see your child preferring to tilt to one side and/or preferring to turn their head to one side.  Plagiocephaly is flattening of the head on one side.   

The incidence of Torticollis and Plagiocephaly has increased since the rise of the Back to Sleep campaign.  There are estimates that 1/6 infants have Torticollis.  Torticollis affects the entire child including visual tracking, sensory awareness, gross motor skills, head shape, feeding, and the vestibular system.  To decrease an infant’s risk for Torticollis and Plagiocephaly, parents should place their infant on their tummy to play starting on day one of their life.  Additionally, an infant should receive at least 60 minutes of supervised tummy time per day.  This position increases the baby’s strength and control of their muscles as well as provides sensory input to the face and oral motor area. 

During this course, I learned additional examination techniques as well as interventions including stretching, positioning, and strengthening to help infants with these diagnoses.  Receiving physical therapy early leads to good outcomes.  If you suspect your child has Torticollis and/or Plagiocephaly, come see us at the Boston Ability Center to schedule an initial physical therapy evaluation.

Jenna Szilagyi, PT, DPT

Check it Out!

Boston Ability Center’s OT Janine Savage showed off her awesome rock climbing skills at Waypoint Adventure Annual Climb A Thon on Saturday. Janine’s participation helped Waypoint raise money to make adventure sports accessible for people of ALL abilities. Way to go Janine! Thank you Waypoint!

[Pictured: Occupational therapist, Janine Savage, rock climbing at Waypoint]


October One Night Out

Check out all of the fun we had together at October’s One Night Out (ONO). Some activities included: pumpkin play-doh, mix & match jack-o-lanterns and fall “stained glass” sugar cookies (melted crushed lifesavers as stained glass windows- Very creative and delicious!)

The next ONO on 11/3 is FULL! The one after will be 12/1 and registration will open on 11/4 so mark your calendars!



Why I Love Paddy’s Day Road Race

Seven years ago when the Boston Ability Center first sponsored the Paddy’s Road Race, I challenged my friend Katie to do the race with me. By that time, Katie and I already knew each other quite well. Katie, 22, and I met in the Wellesley public preschool program well before it had its current name PAWS. Katie was 3, and I was – well, let’s just say it was 20 years ago. Since then we have woven in and out of each other’s lives. She cradled my daughter Grace in her arms not long after Grace was born and participated in the first ever Boston Ability Center photo shoot as we prepared to open our doors. We shared new classrooms, birthdays, graduations and other milestones such as learning to hop, skip and walk safely across a balance beam.

Last year I was honored to attend Katie’s transition planning meeting at Wellesley High School. As I looked around the room I saw the faces of the many people Katie had befriended along the way, each of them in awe of her comfort with public speaking, each of them in awe of what she had accomplished thus far. Today Katie is the hardest working 22 year old I know. She holds three jobs; as a teacher’s aide at The Bates School, a member of the waitstaff at Dunn Guerins and an aide at the Boston Ability Center. She is also working on growing her company “Colors of Katie” which features her own artwork. More importantly she has become this beautiful, strong young woman and a loyal friend. It’s possible that Katie and I have both been described by our family and friends as being stubborn. I sometimes wonder if that’s the reason we have been able to encourage and lean on each other along the way. That first year we ran Paddy’s together, we started out strong but panicked as we realized that 3 miles was quite a distance in the unexpected October heat. It took all of our combined determination and a lot of encouragement from our fans to cross the finish line. But when we did, it felt great.

This year, I’m proud to say we are a little more fit, thanks to Katie’s focus in the gym. Despite her busy schedule Katie has doubled down on her desire to be healthy. She easily meets her 10,000 steps per day goal, has boldly tried a variety of new, nutritious foods, and consistently exercises at Zumba and the BAC gym. I challenge any one of you to do more sit ups than Katie. Trust me, she will win. Better yet, I challenge you to set a goal and go after it with the same unwavering determination that Katie shows in everything she does. She sets a fantastic example for those of us lucky enough to call her friend.

Please be sure to look for us at Paddy’s on Sunday. We’d love your support! All proceeds from the race go to Athletes Unlimited, a truly remarkable organization.

Training for Paddy’s Day Road Race!

Many of our BAC friends are hard at work during physical therapy training for Paddy’s Day Road Race on Sunday, October 14th.

See pictures of Sophia (6 years old) and Stephen (13 years old): Sophia said she said she is excited “to run with her friend!” Another BAC Road Race participant, Stephen, had a foot surgery almost a year ago and has been working extra hard in physical therapy to improve his gait, endurance, and strength. He is looking forward to participating again this year with his family!

There is still time to register for FREE with the BAC team. Contact BAC front desk for more information on how to sign up!

Proceeds go to Newton Athletes Unlimited and supports year-round recreation programs to over 300 athletes with disabilities.