Our Experiences of Therapy

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In the ‘Calm Area.’

Play Therapy.

This time last year my daughter, Amber was still without an official diagnosis, we knew that she was a huge ‘Sensory Seeker,’ and I had noticed from an early age that she struggled with ‘purposeful play,’ even to this day, (at almost 5 years old,) and even though we provide her with a variety of toys and resources, she has difficulty in using them for story enacting, for example, she prefers to line her dolls up, rather than to come up with a situation or characters for them.

In April 2016, Amber was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD,) around the same time I was introduced to a local therapy centre where hourly sessions of ‘Play Therapy’ were offered on a 1:1 basis with a SEN teacher, these sessions also welcomed parents to get involved with the activities on offer. The staff at the centre collected information about Amber’s current interests and ask for any problem area that we were experiencing at home, after each session the staff asked Amber what activities she would like to do in the next session and I really liked how child-centred this was. Amber also had her own visual choice board, where she could see the activities on offer and chose which activity she’d like to do 1st, 2nd and so forth. I explained that one of the areas that we were working on at home was eating, as Amber was only eating the same foods every day, such as breadsticks and toast, she tended to stick to the beige and dry foods. I also explained about what I had observed in terms of purposeful play at home and I shared Amber’s love of any messy/sensory activities as she was a huge sensory seeker and thrived on these type of activities.

I read that:

“Play therapy is generally employed with children aged 3 through 11 and provides a way for them to express their experiences and feelings through a natural, self-guided, self-healing process. As children’s experiences and knowledge are often communicated through play, it becomes an important vehicle for them to know and accept themselves and others. This approach is common to young children.”

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Play_therapy

Over the 15 sessions that Amber had we, as parents, saw a great deal of progress in Amber’s confidence to select new resources, at first she wanted to try out every single activity in the sensory room, and would often flit between activities and rooms. The therapy centre has 2 main cabins that house a sensory room and music therapy room, there is also a sensory garden that houses a chicken coup and their very own named pet chickens! The staff also have access to rooms for occupational therapy and a purpose-built room for cooking. We also noticed an improvement in Amber’s concentration and purposeful play, especially with small-world play and she developed an interest in playing ‘shops,’ which she has carried on to the present day.

Amber experienced a wealth of activities during her time at the centre, these included:

  • Messy Play – shaving foam in the water tray and hand and feet painting.
  • Moveable and mouldable sand.
  • Sensory room exploration – bubbles tubes, light changing wall, fibre optics and the ‘snug’ enclosed area.
  • ‘Magic Carpet,’ where images such as an interactive fish pond are projected onto the mat on the floor and moves when the children touch it.
  • ‘Small World’ play – with a large dolls house, farm buildings.
  • Use of the music room – exploring multicultural instruments such as African Drums.
  • Physical outdoor activities – such as balls and hoops, to help support perseverance.
  • Feeding chickens and interacting with them in their enclosure.
  • Creative story telling – using story sacks, e.g. retelling the story ‘Room on the Broom.’
  • Cooking sessions – making cookies, and staff even found a specific dairy free recipe in light of Amber’s dairy allergy.
  • Making sensory playdough.

 

We hope to continue to take Amber to the ‘Play Centre,’ (as she has named it,) as they also provide clubs in the school holidays, such as messy play club, dance club and gardening club.

I previously wrote a post dedicated to the specific centre that Amber attends, please find this in the link below:

smile-centre-malvern

 

Relaxation Therapy. 

Amber started an intervention at school in September 2016, when an outside agency comes to deliver relaxation sessions.

These “strategies mimic clinically-proven anger management and mitigation treatments such as therapeutic exercise and yoga, breathing exercises, and mindfulness exercises. These can be used as anger management tools, ways to help at moments of meltdown, or methods to make time-outs constructive rather than punitive.”

Source:www.relaxkids.com

 

Amber’s sensory processing difficulties and anxiety can manifest themselves though her displaying frustration, at home especially, (where she feels most comfortable to release the tensions and frustrations,) we experience a great deal of aggression in the form of hitting, throwing objects, shouting, climbing on furniture and rough-housing behaviours with her younger sister. If it gets to the point where Amber experiences a meltdown or sensory overload, (as I like to call them,) we use the techniques that Amber has been taught in her relation sessions at school.

This may be to ask Amber to lie flat onto the floor with a teddy on her tummy and count to 10, whilst breathing slowly in an out. We have also taught Amber to “smell the flower, and blow out the candle,” for a technique to help calm her. The most recent one she has learnt is to “Breathe in and imagine smelling the sweet hot chocolate. Breathe out to cool it down.” Which I quite like and will practice this at home.

 

Thanks for reading 🙂

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Week 6 of our holidays ~ the final week! 

We made it!!! I can’t believe the end of the summer holidays is here! We have managed a lot of sensory and craft activities and it’s kept Lou going, along with some play dates, trips out, parties and weekly sessions at the SMILE therapy centre in Malvern. As with any plans, we didn’t achieve everything and had to alter things here and there depending on the weather and availability of materials. But I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. 

This week: 

1. Family time.

On bank holiday Monday we had a family barbecue and Lou received a watch ready for starting school. Lou has been fascinated with time for a while now and she’s picking it up really well. It helps her to understand things like “when the hand gets to the 6 it’s time to…” 

The girls also received a play kitchen as a gift. Playing ‘shops’ has been a favourite for a while now, this kept them occupied for hours! 

2. Last play therapy session of these holidays.

On Tuesday Lou had her weekly session at the SMILE Centre in Malvern. We were lucky that it was a beautiful day and we were able to visit the park opposite the centre. The girls were so happy to see that there were baby ducklings! We absolutely love Malvern, it’s one of my all time favourite places, I hope to take the girls up the Malvern Hills when they are a bit older. 

This week’s SMILE session was for Lou to make her own scones. I was amazed that the recipe that the staff had found used lemonade and double cream with self-raising flour to create the scones, which I’d never heard of before! Lou was able to feel the textures of all the ingredients and absolutely loved mixing it all together with her hands, the mixture foamed up once the lemonade was added! Lou got the chance to try Lemonade for the first time but she wasn’t keen as she said: “the bubbles are getting in my face!” 

The scones were baked and we got to taste them and took loads home! It’s amazing how we couldn’t tell the difference with using these ingredients to the usual way we’ve made scones with butter! 

They were delicious served with butter and jam! 

Here’s the recipe for these type of scones: 

3 ingredient scones
3. Flour paint.

We decided to experiment with textured paint by adding flour to the paint. This was popular with Lou who immediately wanted to explore the texture on her hands! She enjoyed creating handprints. 

We also used bottles to create flower prints. 

I’ve defintely found that it’s been beneficial to plan activity ideas for school holidays and I’ll do the same for October half term. 

Thanks for reading 🙂 

Eeek it’s the summer holidays soon! 

I’ve written a lot of research posts recently, sometimes this blows my mind, but it’s so helpful in my quest to try and understand my child’s behaviour more and why she does what she does! This post is more of a ‘what’s on my mind’ post, and there’s always a lot on my mind! 

The summer holidays will soon be upon us, it feels like I’ve blinked and missed the past few months, When i was working in education I remember that feeling of elation that the end if term was nearing, knowing that you’d given your absolute all during the term and this was rewarded often with a meal, several drinks and socialising with chilled out colleagues! When I returned to work after having Lou we explored everywhere possible during the holidays, we went to parks, visiting friends and relatives and walked for miles with Lou enjoying the scenery of the countryside from the comfort of her pushchair. The last summer holidays in 2015 was the first time that Lou had experienced ending Pre School and not returning for 6 weeks. We lived in an upper floor flat on a new build estate with a park that wasn’t completed. We had to walk for about 30 mins until we reached a park or a shop, with Lou saying “my legs hurt” which since I recently found out she has hypermobile joints, does make me feel very guilty. The times we were inside the flat Lou would get frustrated and would throw any item she could get her hands on, which she is currently repeating at the moment. Even though she now has full access to a garden! I remember that feeling of absolute desperation, of trying to interact with Lou, setting up activities but she wasn’t interested in spending time with me, she wanted other children and was craving the routine that pre school provided. 

Around June time in the back if my mind I started to get anxious about the impending holidays as I’ll do anything I can to avoid a repeat performance of last year’s holidays.I often feel guilty about the fact that I don’t drive, I wonder if I took the children out further afield if this would reduce some of the stresses, I’ve tried lessons a few times since having an accident at 17, but it just petrifies me, I just don’t feel safe as I go into a trance like state when panic takes over behind the wheel,  I don’t feel that it’s me controlling the car, and it’s very scary. I would also worry about distractions if Lou wasnt coping in the car. I’d love to be able to take my girls here there and anywhere but I also have to keep in mind that as I’m not currently working and we’re a one income family for the time being, and we’re busy saving for certain equipment for our home in order to help to keep Lou safe. I am also at the point where I cannot take both children out without the help of someone else there, as Lou has had a meltdown everytime we’re in public and I’m often having to abandon Moo, like the time Lou ran upstairs in our local library and I had to leave Moo downstairs to quickly retrieve Lou as she was also screaming loudly and running around! I’ve had to accept that for the time being my child sees the world differently and therefore I can’t be getting jealous about what other people are doing with their children, as we have to take small steps with everything. We are lucky that we live only a few minutes walk from a train station and this allows myself and my partner to take both girls on days out, as Lou gets older she may cope better with train journeys so that we can visit places in the holidays,  but as with everything, we’ve just got to wait and see.

My key is to plan, plan, plan. Here’s a few ways I think I’ll try and survive the weeks: 

1. Make a sensory diet plan – As I discussed in my previous ‘sensory diet’ post I will set out specific activities to allow Lou to thrive in her ‘sensory seeking’ this will have a big emphasis on messy play. If there’s a time when we are at home and Lou is getting a bit frustrated or is running around I will get out the plan and offer her an experience that will hopefully keep her focused and absorbed. See: http://wp.me/p7BVlE-6S

2. Use Pinterest ! I get a great deal if my ideas and activities from here. I found a picture of a fairy jar recently and this was a huge successful activity for engagging Lou. Lou loves craft, getting the glue and the glitter out. See: http://wp.me/p7BVlE-4l

3. Outings with friends and play dates – we are extremely lucky to have made a wonderful and supportive network of friends in the past 12 months of living here, they understand Lou has certain difficulties and are so accommodating. Lou thrives when in the company of others, she responds better when it’s not just myself and Moo in the picture. Some days out are trips to a park or play dates around at each other’s houses which doesn’t cost anything. 

4. Visiting grandparent’s – Lou and Moo are very lucky to have their grandparents (my parents) only a 6 minute drive away! Lou absolutely loves my parent’s garden it’s far bigger than ours and she has a slide, swing and climbing frame that we can’t fit in our garden, Lou has named their garden ‘The Park.’ Lou also enjoys a visit to the park in the village, and there are some lovely parks to visit in the surrounding villages. 

Sibling bonding on the tractor at a local park

5. If in doubt… get outside! Fresh air does wonders, we have noticed after time outdoors, the public access walks through fields and countryside, that our children sleep better. Lou is a born explorer, she will collect stones,  flowers etc, and is more chilled in an outdoor environment.  

6. Accessing the SMILE centre in Malvern, Worcestershire. I’ve written a post regarding the benefits of Lou attending the SMILE therapy centre. She has requested sand messy play for her first session of the holidays. We hope to see the benefits of these sessions such as a calmer approach to situations, as these sessions allow Lou to be in full ‘seeker’ mode – she will attend for 1 hour per week of the holidays. For more information please see: http://wp.me/p7BVlE-Y

Helping water the flowers in Nanna ‘s garden

Exploring the flowers growing in a field near our house, she also found a ladybird!
Exploring park equipment

I hope to report back on how our holidays are going, I look forward to taking lots more photos to share the experiences we have. 

SMILE Centre Malvern

A review of our experiences with SMILE at ARCOS, Malvern, Worcestershire.

The SMILE (Sensation Movement Interaction in Life Experiences) Project is based at the ARCOS (Association for the Rehabilitation of Communication and Oral Skills.)
We were first introduced to SMILE via one of my daughter’s Pre School teachers who had visited the centre previously. After reading the information leaflets I was given, I thought that SMILE would be somewhere that would really benefit my child, Amber (4) who has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) with traits of ASD and ADHD. I contacted Sam the project leader who encouraged me to visit the centre to have a look at the facilities. I first visited with my youngest daughter Maisie (15 months) she thoroughly enjoyed exploring the equipment such as bubble tubes, the snug area and had some time in the music, dance and drama room exploring the instruments, which is really her thing! This visited enabled me to ask questions and throughly get a feel for the surroundings. I talked with Sam about Amber’s current needs and problems she faces.
SMILE is great as it offers both group or individual session in both term time and school holidays.

I was given a leaflet about Family Fund – a charity that provides grants for disabled or seriously ill children. I’d not heard of Family Fund before but after an assessment they provided Amber with a grant to attend 8 sessions at SMILE to which I am eternally greatful.

The first time Amber attended SMILE we met Sam again and Charlotte who were fantastic at allowing Amber to freely explore the sensory room. They had set out a shop role play activity as this was one of Amber’s current interests. It was great to see Amber’s interaction and join in with the imaginative play. We were at complete ease during the 1 hour session I almost forgot where we were! It was truly amazing to have such positive interactions without the pressures and constraints if being at home and having to do everyday tasks, such as housework. These sessions will also benefit Amber’s father greatly to join in with creative or sensory play which offer such great interactive experiences, Amber’s father works full-time and has moderate learning difficulties, to interact in such a calm and relaxing environment will be of great benefit to us as a family.

In the second session Amber attended, she experienced one of her favourite activities which allows for her ‘Sensory Seeking’ this was baking some cookies. Charlotte, who led the activity had thought the activity out so well that she’d included a recipe without egg, being mindful that Amber is allergic to egg. She also included a ‘Social Story’ which Amber responded well to and I now use these at home. What I really liked about this session was that Amber could explore the baking materials, for example feeling the flour in her hands and it didn’t matter if she made a mess, which was like therapy for me to just allow myself to enjoy Amber exploring the activity. Whilst the cookies were baking Charlotte introduced Amber to the project’s new additions – chickens and cockerel! Amber throughly enjoyed meeting them and learning all their names, she has since told me that ‘Billy the Bantam’ is her favourite!

Amber is very much looking forward to visiting SMILE in the summer holidays. She requested a sand activity next!

I would recommend SMILE to any parents, it is a wonderful and supportive place. I just wish I took some pictures but we were both so absorbed in the activity!

You can find more information about SMILE here:
http://arcos.org.uk/smile/
And more information on Family Fund here:
http://www.familyfund.org.uk

A lifeline for Lou

 

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Here is the copy of the post I wrote to thank the charity Family Fund:
This is my daughter Amber (4) she has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) with traits of ASD and ADHD. I hadn’t heard of the Family Fund until I took Amber to a play therapy centre and the Specialist teacher at the SMILE centre at ARCOS in Malvern, Worcestershire suggested I should try and apply to Family Fund. I was desperate to provide Amber with equipment to help keep her calm, but as we’re a low income family I was finding this difficult. My daughter was given a grant for sensory equipment and toys from the Learning SPACE and further sessions at the SMILE centre where my daughter can explore bubble tubes, role play, snugs, musical instruments, etc. My partner Paul and I were delighted that our daughter would benefit so much from this. Already we’ve noticed that Amber is calmer when she’s accessing the toys and equipment. She explores the scented doughs, squeezes and pulls stretchy men and butterflies. She goes to sleep with stars on her ceiling and a rainbow on her wall! She is fascinated by squeezing the Gelli Baff and Magic Snow, and is calmer from watching the gel droppers in her ‘calm’ tent. I’m currently logging the success of this equipment via my personal Blog and will also do so when she attends the play therapy centre – I’d love to give you feedback on that too 🙂
I’ve never been so grateful for anything in my whole life, it makes such a difference to a little girl who finds it difficult to control her emotions and frustration. Thank you so much for making a difference in my child’s life Family Fund 🙂

 

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Above picture shows Lavender scented Modoh which I’d never heard of, when squeezing it gives off a calming lavender scent it even worked on me!

The yellow dough is scented with banana and I’d never come across Gelli Baff before but It suggests putting it into the bath but we used a washing up bowl. The crystals expand and Lou enjoyed squeezing the gel it made when mixed with water.
I’ll be updating more successes in the near future, especially with the musical instruments as Lou has already shown great interest in these!

I’ve also been asked to join the Family Fund’s monthly blog where for June I’ll be writing a post about taking a child with additional needs on holiday.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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