Yes it is true! Many children with Down syndrome suffer from some sort of Sensory Processing Disorder ( SPD). Lately all we here about the Children with Autism and SPD, but we must not forget about this special group of people who also suffer from SPD.
Children with Down Syndrome often suffer from sensory processing disorder as well. Because their muscle tone is poor, they do not ‘feel’ their body properly. They do not stand firmly on the ground, they are clumsy sometimes and may dislike being touched. Being moved, for example on a swing, scares them easily.
Now I can’t deny, and you know this as well as I do that they love to touch things anyways, and sometimes too frequently. Playing games with them is a good way to enable them to react to being touched and being moved. As a result they become more conscious of their body and their movements. Thus they pay more attention to what they are doing and are better able to react to their environment.
What makes it even harder for most of the families who have Down syndrome is that they are unable to receive the therapy support that children with Autism receive. I am one of those families and it can be challenging. So when we have to take matters into our own hands we need to become creative.
It’s fairly simple to find products to turn one of your spare rooms, or your childs bedroom into a sensory room for a child. Many items can be found at garage sales and dollar stores.
First let me explain a little about SPD and it’s therapies.
“Sensory integration Therapy is used as a treatment of developmental disorders in patients with established dysfunction of sensory processing, e.g., children with Down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Autism. Sensory integration therapy may be offered by occupational and physical therapists who are certified in sensory integration therapy.” https://www.bcbsmt.com/medicalpolicies/NewPolicies/Sensory%20Integration%20Therapy.aspx
So you are probably asking yourself as I did many times early on “What defines sensory integration dysfunction or a sensory processing disorder?”
How do I know if my child has SPD?
First sensory integration dysfunction by itself is not a clinical diagnosis, according to the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association 2000). Which, translated, means that there are no specific medical test, blood work to check for it, so basically it requires a health professional (usually an occupational therapist or a physical therapist) working from an observational checklist marking off specific indicators under specific categories.
Second, the term “sensory integration dysfunction” is often used interchangeably with “sensory dysfunction” and sensory processing disorder,” making things confusing at times. I was very confused at first as I know many parents are. Most times sensory integrations dysfunction is not a stand alone diagnosis. It usually is pared up with other diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, ADHD, learning disabilities, etc. It is possible for a child to only have SPD, but it is very rare from what I have been told. Only rarely have we encountered a child with a straight diagnosis of only sensory integration dysfunction. http://www.comeunity.com/disability/sensory_integration/sensoryintegrationdysfunction.html
The first thing you need to do to provide Sensory therapy is to look at your environment. With today’s economy most families do not have the funds to go out and buy every sensory item they see. So I thought I would share with you a few of the things that we did for my son.
We started in his bedroom first because to him that is a safe haven. So I wanted it to be as sensory friendly as possible. Paint the room with pastel colors. Soft yellows, blues and greens are ideal. My son’s is a sea-foam green. It used to be my daughters room, and when she moved out we moved my son in there because it is a bigger room. His old room was dark blue, and that was not good for him.
Wall mirrors can be turned vertically or horizontally and placed at different lengths on the walls of the room. These are usually available at department stores for about $5 each. My son has a vertical one just next to his bed.
We have a Lava Lamp and an Optic Lamp in his room. I am also looking at adding some additional lights and just found these tear drop lights that are wonderful http://www.coolstuffcheap.com/rainbow-raindrop.html
We also have a tent over his bed along with weighted stuffed animals and blankets.
As for the other parts of the house we have been bag chair, therapy ball, and a vibrating mat that goes on the rocking chair. All of these things can be purchased cheaply at yard sales, or dollar stores. You may even already have these items in your home and just did not think that they were providing sensory therapy to your child!!
Some other things that we have done at home are therapy in a Jar. Take an old mason jar, fill it with water, add some glitter and some food coloring and presto!!! You have a sensory jar!
Beans, Beans, and More Beans!!
My little guys loves to play with these beans. The provide not only a sensory input for him, but also help with his fine motor!
And since weighted vests cost a fortune and are not really kid friendly, we thought we would try making our own. This works great as long as there are items in the pockets. It does not work the same a weighted vest, but it does help. There is also a place to clip on his communication book. You can read more about the vest here http://www.voicesfordownsyndrome.com/dyiweightedvest/
I will post more in the future as we are always doing things around the house to provide sensory therapy for my son.