1. Know the Signs of Anxiety in young children:
Rigidity in routines
Slow to warm to new people or activities
Fears and Phobias
*Sensitivity to noise, clothing, textures, etc.
Learn to recognize possible signs of anxiety in your toddler. When dealing with young children, it might be a new idea that they could be stressed or anxious. “What in the world do they have to worry about,” some might think; butc hildren can suffer from anxiety just like anyone. This may be a result of the child’s special needs or just something your child is prone to with his personality/temperament. If you think your child might be anxious, talk with them about how they might feel – label the feelings so that they are easier for your child to talk about.
*Some of the signs listed above are also symptoms of sensory processing disorder. Please be sure to talk to your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned about SPD. Your EI or your child’s OT can also help with this.
2. Show empathy:
Anxious feelings are no fun, and being told to “just hurry up, there’s nothing wrong” rarely makes us feel better.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings, label the feelings, and talk about ways to help your child feel better. You may need to model deep breathing, watch a short video about the new activity you are about to try, or simply wait a moment or two before making the transition to the next activity. Reassure your child that you know what it feels like to be anxious, but that you are there for them and you can do the next activity together. If you can, give your child a choice about how he does the next activity. Sometimes allowing the child some control can alleviate anxious feelings – and increase cooperation!
3. Maintain Predictability:
I use a calendar and schedule every day. If I lose my calendar, I will not know where I am supposed to be, and likely might not get there! As you can imagine, this situation would make me feel very anxious! Our children are the same way sometimes. There are children who are just happy to go along, but there are many who need to know what is coming
next! Having a predictable routine and talking about what is coming up next can be a big help. For some children, using a visual schedule can be an even bigger help. Very young children are not reading yet, and even school age children may have a difficult time reading if they become upset. To make a visual schedule, search for and print pictures to represent the major portions of a typical day. You may post these to the refrigerator, so that you can move them around if needed. Put this at your child’s level, so she can refer to it easily. Point to the pictures when you are preparing to transition to the next activity. Your child will feel more secure if he can see what is happening next. Your EI will be happy to help you make a visual schedule and show you how to use it, if you think this would help your child.
Children throw tantrums. Although undesirable, this is very normal. Tantrums usually occur when a child doesn’t get their own way – they are testing the boundaries of their independence.
Sometimes, these tantrums can be especially intense…and for children with special needs it can be hard to tell if the kicking and screaming is something more than just a tantrum.
Children throw tantrums due to behavior when they don’t get their own way – this may be made worse if the child is tired or hungry. These tantrums can often be quelled by simply ignoring the behavior, or removing a child to change their environment for a few minutes.
– Child has a goal
– Watches for reactions
– Will avoid getting hurt
– Ends quickly/fast recovery
Our bodies take in all kinds of sensory information all throughout the day, every day. Sights, sounds, tactile sensations, tastes, smells, movement. Sometimes, for some children, the brain interprets this information in a different way. Busy environments may be overwhelming, or some sounds or touches may be actually painful.
For a child who has a sensory processing disorder, what looks like a tantrum may actually be much more. When the brain takes in and misinterprets or becomes overwhelmed by sensory information, the child’s ‘fight or flight’ can actually be activated. When a child is screaming because of sensory they actually feel high levels of anxiety or panic. This is not behavior related and “discipline” is not appropriate. A child in this situation needs help to calm down. If you think your child is experiencing ‘meltdowns’ due to sensory problems, talk with your EI or occupational therapist about ways to help your child calm down.
– No identifiable goal
– May hurt themselves
– Not concerned with reactions of others
– Slow to recover
This is a complex topic – sometimes sensory meltdowns can turn into behavioral episodes, and sometimes behavioral tantrums can become overwhelming and cause a sensory incident.
It can get complicated – which makes dealing with the tantrum or meltdown difficult. This is just the beginning and a quick guide to get you thinking about whether your child’s tantrums are just behavior, or if sensory may play a factor. Your EI is happy to help with behavior issues and can set you up with an Occupational Therapist if needed.
This month, our blog entry comes from Natalie Dunn, an early interventionist in our upstate office!
Natalie shares about her personal experience with dyslexia and how it helps her relate to families she serves here, at Bright Start.
My dad’s a chemist. My mom’s an engineer. My older brother’s an engineer. My little sister’s a theater student in NYC. And I’m an early interventionist – with dyslexia. Well….all the indicators from my childhood on into adulthood combine to show a strong likelihood that I do have some form of dyslexia. My very smart and concerned parents noticed that I was struggling much more than my older brother in spelling and reading around the second and third grade. I had a hard time sounding out words, therefore I couldn’t figure out how to read them-much less know how to spell them. I consistently felt dumb and inferior to my siblings and my classmates. Not by their doing, but just because I couldn’t seem to measure up no matter how hard I tried. My mom took me one day to get evaluated, to get a second opinion, and she was blown off by the doctor. He told my mom she was a bad mom for trying to push me too hard. (That wasn’t easy for me or my mom to hear, but she was determined). So, my parents decided to take matters into their own hands. They got me into tutoring and we put in more time for me to learn how to read at my pace. Later on, math also became difficult and I had to work to understand the symbols. But the thing is, is that dyslexia doesn’t determine my intelligence, just how I process what I see. I still graduated high school, got my bachelor’s degree, and I have a job working for this phenomenal company side by side wonderful people who all see the intelligence and light kids have.
By working for Bright Start I got the opportunity to exercise my mind at a conference. In January, I attended the Family Connections conference, where one of the speakers was from Decoding Dyslexia. She spoke about dyslexia, and the more I sat there and looked at the parents around the room I realized that they are all in the position that my parents were in years ago. Everything she said was ‘to the T’ of the issues and struggles I experienced. She described everything I said above. Then she went into talking about how as adults, people with dyslexia are unorganized (ME), they have a hard time managing time (ME), concentrating (ME), and still have difficulty with spelling (still-ME).
Decoding Dyslexia is a nationwide organization that helps parents, guardians, and those who want to help educate children across the board learn about dyslexia. They help people understand it and see the potential that could grow if you let it. Dyslexia is the most under- or mis-diagnosed learning disability. It often coincides with ADD or ADHD, but they don’t always go hand-in-hand. Dyslexia is genetic and it can be passed down. There is a screening to test children for it, so if you have concerns, ask your doctor. And, like you always do, have faith in your child. My parents did and I made it.
You can find “Decoding Dyslexia” as a nationwide page on Facebook, and they also have a “Decoding Dyslexia” chapter in almost every state. I’m a part of the one for South Carolina, check it out and educate yourself for more information!
The upstate office finally expanded earlier this month! We have been steadily growing and the previous space was seeming smaller and smaller! This has been a dream/process long in the making! We are so excited to be able to expand to occupy the other side of our previous building! We have been able to spread out into new office spaces and we even have our own conference room! Our first staff meeting in the new space was so wonderful!
There was a celebration at the ‘grand opening’ and cake was served! Also new: a Coke machine, a craft room, small meeting room, offices for Case Management, and a space to keep archived records on site! We are still settling everything into place but there is a fresh and energizing spirit around the office these days! We love our new space!