By: Crystal McNaughton
Does your child turn off the screen/IPad/tablet when you ask? How many times do you have to remind your child to turn it off? Maybe I’ll rephrase the question….how many times do you have to nag/yell at your child to turn off their tablet? (or does this just happen at my house?) Does your child kindly turn their screen off and easily move on to another activity? Oops, rephrase again…What does your child’s “tablet tantrum” look like?
If your child does easily turn off their screen and calmly refocus themselves on something else, can you please call me? Because I need to know your secret!
I have had many, many parents tell me about how hard it is to get their child to ‘transition from the tablet’ and explain how challenging their behaviors are after the tablet is gone. I’ve witnessed it myself when I tell (okay nag) my kids to turn off their tablets, sometimes ending up grabbing it from them. What usually happens is they scream, yell, or break down in tears. Next, they start fighting. The older one sits on the younger one. The younger one bites the older one. I’m left feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, as well as that good ol’ parent guilt for letting them watch their tablets too much. If this sounds familiar to you, please know, it’s not just you. It’s not just your child.
There’s a reason behind the ‘tablet tantrum.”
When kids are on a screen or tablet, it looks as if they are quiet, sitting, focused, and calm. Actually, what is happening in their brains at this time is the opposite. A number of neurochemicals are required to be in balance in our kid’s brains, and tablets and screen time can disrupt this balance. Video games or other gaming can create a release of dopamine, which feels good for kids, thus they always want MORE. There is never enough.
Next comes an adrenaline response, which is the ‘fright/flight/fight’ response. The brain releases adrenaline which prepares the body’s stress response. Psychological stress can also trigger an increase in cortisol; the stress hormone. Take away the ‘feel good’ dopamine and we see a ‘withdrawal’ effect.
So, we ask a child to turn off their tablet, and what we see is an angry person pumped full of ‘fight or flight’ energy. A tablet tantrum.
There are recommendations for screen time. I know things in this world are so stressful as it is, and I’ve definitely given my kids more screen time than I’d like to admit. But I’m trying. We’re all trying.
If you want to check-in and see what is a recommended amount of screen time for your kid, take a look here: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-And-Watching-TV-054.aspx
Taking away the tablet from your child will usually be hard. But setting limits is important, as there will never be enough screen time if it were up to our kids. Take a deep breath, and remind yourself, that you’re setting limits, you’re doing what’s best for your child by enforcing those limits and encouraging breaks from the screen. If you want to make some changes, your Connecting Dots therapists are there to help you along the way. Remember, we’re all here with you during those tablet tantrums.
By Christine Marchant
There many ways a child will show you that he or she doesn’t want to cooperate. There are many reasons the child isn’t cooperating. Although it may be difficult to figure out why a child is behaving a certain way, it may be counterproductive to make assumptions regarding the motives of his or her behaviour. In the previous post I described how I responded to the volatile child that verbally attacked a CDF (child development facilitator) with everything he had in his skill box. These are the children that are the hardest to love and accept. They tend to push away everyone, which is sad because they really are in need of the love, smiles, hugs, acceptance, and guidance from an adult. In this post, I will describe how I respond to the child that runs away, or darts and hides. These children are difficult to communicate with because they resist by removing themselves from what they see as a threat. These children will refuse to participate in activities and often will climb railings, shelves, counters, tables, etc. Taking these children outside is a HUGE danger!
Communicating with these types of children takes a lot of quiet body and patience. It looks like you are doing what the child wants, but that’s because you are! You need to guide the child to do what you want him to do, and you do this by guiding him towards what he is interested in. If you only provide the activities that you want the child to do, and it’s something that the child loves, you will be able to engage him.
Bringing activities that the child loves isn’t going to be enough for these children because this can lead to them becoming rigid and manipulating you into doing what he wants to do, the way he wants to do it. The point of being a CDF is to be the one in charge of bringing the child along and developing a relationship and maturity. I am always talking about meeting the child on his level. This means going to where the child is always running to. If it’s in his bed, have the session on his bed. If he’s running to the top floor landing overlooking the family living area, you go there. If it’s under the table, you go under the table. I once spent half a preschool morning under a table, lying on my belly, watching the class mates and the child I was with help my hand the entire time. I didn’t make any demands, or have any expectations of him. We laid there watching the other children playing. When you go to their safe place, you will see why he choses it and you will get a better feeling for the ‘why’ he’s doing what he’s doing.
If you are working with children, this is where you start the session. As a parent, you are always keeping this goal in mind. The goal is to keep the child regulated and engaged. You want to continue building a relationship with the child and slowly move him from his safe place to a more functional area. This is the fastest way with the least amount of stress and fuss. This can take thirty minutes up to a month. When I have this type of child, I bring my picnic blanket. I place it in the child’s safe place. This is a bridge between the safe place and the place you are going to be. Change only 1 thing at a time. Change is a stressor for these children. Keep the location and the activity, and change the bridge.
Once the child is comfortable and eager to sit and stay on the blanket doing the activities he enjoys, you start to drag the blanket towards the new spot. Some will drag the blanket back to the original spot. You just calmly say, “It’s ok. It’s only a couple of inches, leave it here.” The child will usually accept it. Once the child is comfortable here, you drag it a couple of inches towards the new spot, and you just calmly reassure him that it’s only a couple of inches and it’s ok. Just keep repeating this. Always keep the activities fun and do what the child is engaged in. Keep the blanket, but the only change is the dragging of the blanket to the new place.
When you are doing this, you must remember that the goal is not the activities. The goal is to keep the child calm, engaged, regulated, and moving to the targeted area. When you finally get to the target area, you change the goal. Now the goal is to move the child up to the next level of play, or maybe speech, or social thinking. At this point, the child is now calm, trusting, and has a relationship with you. Keep the blanket and change the activity. You can do occupational therapy, speech, or just play or read on the blanket. The blanket has now become their safe place.
When the child is now engaged in the targeted goals, you will be leaving the blanket more often for longer periods. Eventually, you will remove the blanket. Sometimes the child notices it, but if you time it correctly, he won’t even notice and eventually, you just stop bringing it. This can be the tricky part. With the blanket gone, you must keep the activities fun and the child engaged. Don’t introduce an undesired activity while the child is transitioning to the new place. Make sure that the child remains calm, which may mean that you drop your expectations or demands on the child. If the child does start to get escalated, it is a good idea to keep his favourite toy or book nearby. It’s also ok to be goofy and make silly faces or engage in a lighthearted way that makes the child feel more comfortable. Regardless of the behaviour, every child is still just a child.
By Alyssa Neudorf
The first question most people ask is, what is sensory processing disorder (SPD)? I would describe it simply as processing the entire world differently. A person who is partially sighted or hearing impaired will process the information coming to those senses in a different way from someone with typical vision or hearing.
What does this mean for me? As a person with SPD, it means that I process all the information coming to ALL of my senses differently, more intensely and all at the same time. Most people have the luxury of blocking out repetitive stimuli like the clock ticking, the clothes you are wearing, the smells in the air and, the chair you are sitting on while reading – this is not something I get to do. I am aware of everything all the time.
When all this intense and repetitive information becomes too much something called sensory overload is reached. Sensory overload can look and feel different for each individual person. For me, it is something that happens suddenly. I am fine until I am not. I begin to feel very warm, shaky, things start to dim around the outside of my eyes. My brain starts to try and leave my body making it very, very hard to speak or move without help. It feels like there is a tonne of bricks stacked on my vocal cords and the signals to legs are slow or blocked. Mentally I know I can speak and I can move but making that happen is very hard. It is at this point that a simple question, touch or surprise will trigger a meltdown. People will often ask “what do you need?”, or “what can I do?” The problem is at this point I don’t know and if I do I can’t always tell you. I can’t think and I feel frozen and stuck with everything spinning, flashing and pounding away around me all while becoming more intense. Then hyperventilation kicks in.
Sound exhausting and painful yet?
Having a schedule and routine helps me to plan out my sensory energy for the day. There is only such much I can do with 20 tokens and everything in your days takes different amounts. Getting dressed, eating, school, being social, going outside, tying your shoes, and taking the bus just to name a few. As a result, I can’t drive yet even though I would like to, don’t go shopping much, I wear certain clothing, most of my shoes don’t have laces (those that still do will be replaced with elastics), and I only wear specific socks. Clothes shopping is a big challenge and thus is avoided and is only done on a day when I don’t have to do anything else that day.
That is just a small window into the life of one person with SPD. It is different from person to person. Hopefully this article has helped you gain some understanding of what it is like to have SPD.
By: Stephanie Magnussen
Although it may seem apparent that a child needs specific help, there usually are many layers to an individual’s needs. For example, if a child has a speech delay, the parent may request that he sees a speech pathologist. But why does this child have a speech delay? Is there is a sensory need that is not being met, or are there developmental delays or behavioral issues at work? Kids are complicated little people, and it’s important to remember that what we see is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s really beneficial for a group of therapists to explore what lies beneath the surface to give the child the most effective strategies to thrive academically, socially, and mentally.
Perhaps the short term goals for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder are maintaining eye contact and increased vocabulary, and the long term goals are independence and integration into a typical classroom. The speech pathologist will develop activities that increase vocabulary, while the occupational therapist creates drills for promoting eye contact, and the psychologist may make social stories that build confidence and promote more appropriate social behavior. Just having one therapist would not be the most advantageous for the child and family in this case. The parents are also part of the multidisciplinary team. They must be on board with practicing what the therapists are working on and provide a supportive environment for the child to thrive under this team approach.
At Connecting Dots, all of the therapists are registered health care professionals with Master’s level education. They all work together and share ideas on how to set a child up for success by using each of their expertise. If a child is exhibiting disfluent speech or a stutter, and therefore struggling socially at school, of course we want to promote smooth speech, but there may be other issues to address. The child may have motor planning deficits which result in disfluent speech. The speech pathologist can work on an action plan for smooth speech, while the occupational therapist develops a plan to promote increased ability for the muscles to make the correct movements for speech. Psychologists are also a key part of this multidisciplinary approach. Communication is not just the words that we speak, but also our ability to interact with those around us. Any disability can be stressful for a child, and may result in anxiety and social isolation. A psychologist can identify activities and games that will help a child excel socially.
As an aide at Connecting Dots, I have been fortunate to work with speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and psychologists and have seen the gains my clients are making by working on each piece of their puzzle. Every child’s background and needs are so diverse, and an individualized plan with input from different types of therapists allows the team to work on gains for the child in a holistic manner. It is truly a team approach between the therapists, aides, and family members.