Activities For Kids With A Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing takes place in the brain when it receives information from the body’s senses, processes that information, and decides how the body should respond. A child may have a sensory processing disorder if he or she does not process this information adequately, which can manifest in many ways, including a frustration or other stress response. All children can benefit from appropriate sensory experiences. Weighted items–including blankets, vests or weights like MightyTykes–can help kid with sensory processing disorder feel more comfortable and function better while doing everyday tasks. While sensory processing disorder can present some challenges, with sensitivity and some adaptations, we can still help kids be part of the action.

Children with a sensory processing disorder can help with preparing meals

There are numerous ways that children with a sensory processing disorder can be involved in meal preparation. Look for opportunities for your child to work his or her muscles such as rolling dough, carrying pots and pans, and stirring thick soups and stews. Seek out tasks that your kid will enjoy that are appropriate for his or her skill set and age level. For example, measuring dry ingredients for a cake or mixing is a perfect task for a preschool age child and can be done wearing MightyTykes.

Spending time in the water and going through an obstacle course provide ample sensory input.

Going to the pool on a regular basis can also be a positive experience for children with sensory processing disorders. Seek out activities for pool time that offer further benefits.  Since MightyTykes are waterproof, your child can wear them in the pool for gentle resistance and sensory comfort.

Obstacle courses provide ample sensory input while allowing kids with a sensory processing disorder to have a lot of fun. You can set up an obstacle course in your home or backyard or at a playground. If you have an obstacle course at a playground, consider incorporating swings, monkey bars, and tunnels. The motions required for these types of tasks will give the child feedback from the environment while improving hand-eye coordination.

Running errands and going to appointments can stress out children with a sensory processing disorder.

It is not uncommon for kids with sensory processing disorders to get stressed out about running errands in crowded stores or having appointments. These appointments can include getting a haircut or having a dental cleaning. Allow your child to wear a weighted item, such as a vest, hat, or heavy backpack to reduce stress level. Whenever possible, stick to a predictable weekly routine with minimal surprises. Again, experiment with different weighted items to help minimize sensory discomfort.

Keep in mind that not all sensory activities are appropriate for all children with a sensory processing disorder. Forcing a child who is extremely fearful or stressed out about a certain task may do more harm than good. Pay attention to your child’s reaction to different stimulation and seek out activities that meet his or her needs and preferences.

A special needs mom worked with physical and occupational therapists to develop Mighty Tykes. Our infant and child weights are intended to promote physical strength and stability for optimal development. Mighty Tykes address a range of common issues including one-sided weakness, overall weakness, toe-walking, low muscle tone or hypotonia, tremors, visual field cut, and sensory processing disorders. Our products are lead free, latex free, and made in the USA. To learn more, give us a call at (877) 456-2822 or contact  us via email at info@mightytykes.com.

Dealing with a Special Needs Diagnosis

Those of you who read my essay Embracing Life or the recent Guideposts article know that I struggled mightily before and after Isaac arrived with a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Today, like so many parents, I can say that both Pierce and Isaac are the loves of my life, and bring both my husband Ray and I unique joy and satisfaction.

photo 1If you’re grappling with a diagnosis, here are a few lessons I’m learning and affirming every day, most of which I find handy with any kid. I hope these tips will comfort and encourage you, knowing that they come from a mom who was at first really crushed and smushed by the news.

  1. No matter what you’re feeling right this minute, know that you will love this child with every fiber of your being and you can have great joy and deep satisfaction, as with any child.
  2. And whatever you feel right now will pass. It will. No matter how overwhelmed, angry, sad, terrified, ugly, hopeless, confused and desperate you feel right this minute, it will pass.
  3. Network on Facebook if not face to face. There are groups for every diagnosis and you can watch from the sidelines until you’re ready to engage.
  4. Don’t read about potential issues or anticipate problems, which fuels fear and overwhelm. You’ll find the internal and external resources to deal with whatever when the time comes.
  5. Guard against “catastrophizing” by staying in the moment and sticking to the facts.
  6. Whatever your child’s limitations, you’ll be able to know and value their essence as an individual.
  7. What as first may seem a curse can be the greatest blessing of your life. (And BTW, the opposite  is true, too).
  8. You, your other kids and your whole family can be the (far) better for this.
  9. Though there are admittedly some challenges to raising a child with special needs, it can be a uniquely gratifying and validating privilege to help meet them.
  10. Your child will routinely surprise you. Sometimes when you’ve given up hope.
  11. Don’t compare yourself or your parenting to anyone else. Ever.
  12. Don’t let experts pressure you into pressuring your child.
  13. Life can be extraordinarily “ordinary” and joyful again.
  14. Don’t sweat milestones. Embrace your child’s pace.
  15. Don’t compare your kid to any other kid. Ever.
  16. You can have a very normal and fulfilling life.
  17. Everyone and every kid is different by design.
  18. Even the best doctors don’t know everything.
  19. Not every comment requires a response.
  20. People won’t understand and that’s OK.

Of course, these are all a matter of opinion, but thankfully, we get to have opinions.

I’m on a journey collecting lessons and would love to hear yours.

God loves you and so do I,



Helping To Stabilize Tremors In Children

By Dr. Dr. BaniakMary Jane Baniak, DPT

There are millions of people that suffer from tremors. In the United States, there are approximately one million people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease and as many as 10 million people who suffer from essential tremor (ET). These conditions compromise the ability to complete basic tasks. These tasks can include basic tasks such as eating soup and getting dressed, as well as more complex tasks, such as writing and playing a musical instrument. It is important to treat the underlying condition when tremor stabilization is the goal. You can also help stabilize tremors in children by using physical therapy and modalities. Surgical intervention may be necessary for severe cases. Tremors may become worse or more severe with the use of caffeine, stimulants, stress, and other “triggers”.


Treating the underlying condition can be effective

Unfortunately, there is no cure for most tremors. The cause of the tremors dictates the most appropriate form of treawriting 2tment. In some instances, it is most effective to treat the underlying condition. For example, children who suffer from psychogenic tremors may benefit from treating the psychological problem.

Drug treatment or symptomatic drug therapy is available for several forms of tremors. Parkinson’s drug treatment includes dopamine-like drugs, such as ropinirole or pramipexole, or levodopa. Other drugs commonly used to minimize Parkinson’s essential tremors include anticholinergic and hydrochloride drugs. Propranolol and other beta blockers (i.e. nadolol) as well as primidone, which is an anticonvulsant drug, may prove effective.

A physician may recommend anticholinergic drugs, clonazepam, and intramuscular botulinum toxin injections to minimize dystonic tremor. For children who have head and voice tremors and certain types of movement disorders, a doctor may prescribe botulinum toxin. Primidone and clonazepam are also good options for children suffering from primary orthostatic tremor.

Improving muscle control and enabling basic functioning using physical therapy as well as assistive devices

For certain children, physical therapy and/or occupational therapy can play a role in reducing tremors as well as improving muscle control and general coordination. A physical or occupational therapist must assess an individual’s muscle control and strength, tremor positioning, and functional skills before developing a treatment plan. Some children learn to gain control by bracing or holding an affected limb during a tremor period. For other children, balancing and coordination exercises are most effective.

Assistive devices don’t eliminate the problem, but they can enhance basic functioning. There are assistive devices available for eating (i.e. utensils, plates), dressing, writing skills, and keyboard skills. Talk to your physical or occupational therapist about which devices will be most useful for your child’s specific condition. He or she may also be able to recommend weights and splits that will assist your child with basic functioning.

Eliminating tremors using surgical intervention such as DBS or thalamotomy

In the event of severe tremors that don’t respond to drugs, a physician may suggest surgical intervention such as deep brain stimulation or thalamotomy.

Deep brain stimulation or DBS is the most common type of surgical treatment for tremors. DBS is used for treating essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease, and dystonia. This treatment involves the use of electrodes that are implanted to send high frequency electrical signals to the thalamus.

Thalamotomy involves creating lesions in the thalamus. This treatment is most effective for Parkinson’s disease, essential, intention, or cerebellar tremors. A thalamotomy is an inpatient procedure that is performed under local anesthesia.

Avoiding caffeine, stimulants, stress, and other “triggers” that can increase tremors in children

Regardless of the type of or cause of the tremor, there are certain “triggers” that can worsen the condition. These triggers include caffeine, other stimulants, stress, and strong emotions. Avoiding these triggers will benefit your child’s function.

Mighty Tykes Infant & Child Weights are intended to promote physical strength and stability for optimal development. Whether your child is having difficulty meeting key milestones or has been diagnosed with a specific issue, such as essential tremors, Mighty Tykes offer significant benefits. Our weights are approved by licensed physical and occupational therapists, are latex and lead free, and are made in America. To learn more about our product and how it can help your child, give us a call at (877) 456-2822 or Contact Us via email.


Cup of tears: One simple milestone leads to tears of joy.

Lesson #328 on letting go. water glass

I was cooking dinner. Isaac was putzing about, pulling assorted cups out of the cupboard, walking them one by one to the family room coffee table to create a colorful, sculptural tableau in sight of the stove.

Suddenly, he nonchalantly grabbed the step stool, pulled it up to the kitchen sink, yet another small cup in hand, and filled it with water. I braced myself, a warning forming on my lips, prepared to see him pour the cup all over the floor or play fireman with the nozzle, but he didn’t. Placidly, as though he’s done it 100o times before, he took a sip. Then another. Then another. Not a single drop dribbled down his chin.

My heart burst, “Isaac, you’re drinking from a cup! Woweee!”

He looked surprised, then smiled his most unbridled smiled at the praise. “Yay!!” he shouted with glee.

Then he quietly stepped down and resumed his cup extravaganza.

Later at dinner, he did it again for a full audience, including Ray and Pierce, and we all hooted and hollered our praise. I burst into tears of joy…and relief, at the latest gentle assurance that Isaac will continue to make headway at his own pace, and that our risk in trusting that is OK. Maybe even better than OK.

Isaac is five, and that was the very first time he took a tidy sip from a regular old cup. He used a bottle for a very long time before graduating to a sippy cup and eventually, a cup with a straw.

My mommy-ego wants so badly to take some credit, to say modestly, “We’ve been working on it for a while…I’m so pleased with his progress.” But the truth is, I have little to do with it.

Ray and I have long abandoned milestone madness, the meticulous and frantic pursuit and documentation of achievement that has overshadowed joy and peace in my own life. We just don’t mark the dates anymore, or read up on motivational strategies, or bully or plead (mostly). It made life exhausting and tense and seemed to saddle the kids with something the tiger mom may one day regret.

We mostly just live and love on both our boys, encourage them and for me, continuously fight the urge to fix or force, often admittedly more fueled by my own feelings of inadequacy or guilt than a desire to advance them on some continuum of performance.

Isaac has provided so many object lessons on the matter of performancism. Lessons which I am reluctantly learning to apply everywhere.

I still don’t know just how to tell the difference between positive encouragement and responsible parental tutelage and destructive, alienating controlling, so out of sync with my boys’ rhythms or my own for motives only God knows for sure. One cue of my misguided manipulation is panicky, clench-toothed insistence, even when accompanied with a smile and warm woos. When I sense that creeping up in me, I sometimes stop and pray. Or just stop. Which is a good place start…or stop.

When I pay attention, I see that God graciously seems to issue ongoing assurances that it’s OK to let go. Like Isaac–of his own accord, on his own clock–moseying up to sink and taking a sip of water from a cup.

A cup of tears.

Gross Motor Development is Key to Other Developmental Areas

Early Intervention is designed to promote development and address specific developmental delays. These services are mandated under a federal law call the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Common therapies that the child and family may receive include Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and Developmental Therapy. Early Intervention should begin as soon as possible once a delay is discovered.

Gross Motor delays are sometimes not discovered until a child is not sitting independently or rolling. Some typical ranges for Gross Motor Milestones include: Sits Independently- 5 to 9 months, Crawling on hands and knees- 6 to 12 months, Stands without assistance-8 to 17 months, Walking Independently-9 to 18 months. Physical Therapists use tests designed to determine if gross motor skills are delayed or are still within a normal range of development. Your Physical Therapist will also assess your child’s muscle tone, range of motion, reflexes, and quality of movement.

Physical development is key to the foundation for all other developmental areas. Movement is key to allow babies to have purposeful exploration of their environment. In turn, this also stimulates cognitive, language, and social development.

If a gross motor delay is found, then your Physical Therapist may suggest activities, positioning, developmental toys and equipment that will assist in progressing physical skills. Common activities include tummy time (sometimes with additional chest support), supported sitting skills, trunk strengthening using therapy balls or balance discs, small wrist or ankle weights applied during functional reaching/play skills, and/or lower extremity braces or orthotics to promote alignment due to weak muscles or ligamentous laxity.

Early intervention has been shown to result in the child: (a) needing fewer special education and other rehabilitative services later in life; (b) repeating grades less often; and (c) in some cases, were able to show abilities similar to their peers who did not have a need for early intervention.

Contact your state’s Early Intervention Program if you have concerns with your child’s development. A referral can come from you, the parent, or from your child’s physician, or from another agency. Visit http://idea.ed.gov/ to learn more about IDEA or to find additional resources.

Let him be. Let it be.

Our family was visiting some old friends recently. They are people we only see about three or four times a year, usually for an afternoon (read, not enough time to be truly familiar). While the big kids went out to play and the adults congregated in the living room, Isaac scooted off behind some furniture to play with some seemingly random objects he found in the toy chest, deeply and blissfully absorbed.

Balls1After a few minutes, one of my friends looked around, and craning her neck, spotted Isaac. Her nose scrunched up in what looked like consternation. She rose purposefully, making her way to Isaac. “Isaac, how are you? Can I play?,” she asked in that artificial playful tone we sometimes use to engage kids. Not to be distracted, Isaac mewed a familiar “No!” still enraptured by his solitary play. She was insistent, and from where I sat, I could see her trying hard to make order of his special play–What I’ve come to call Isaac’s physics experiments, his careful manipulation and observation of objects, often balls, but sometimes other random-seeming items.(Since my dad was a physicist, I’ve come to believe Isaac got that gene, which I lack, incidentally.)

She continued to attempt to enlist him in one on one contact, meanwhile imposing her notion of what made sense to her with the objects provided. I felt myself growing antsy and defensive…of Isaac and myself. Did she think he was being neglected, playing all alone in a qu iet spot? Did she see his unique form of play as just another pitiful sign of his “limited” Down syndrome world? “Couldn’t she see he wanted to be alone and was happy that way?”

Gee, Isabella, you may be thinking by now, give the mind-reading a break! Well, let me tell ya, they say if you can spot it, ya got it! Isaac just recently turned five, and it probably took me half that time to lovingly accept that how he plays, when he plays, when he engages, how he engages and who he chooses to engage or not as PERFECTLY OK.

balls 2Isaac, I’ve come to realize, has much healthier boundaries and self-awareness than I’m likely ever to have. He is unfettered by the social grace indoctrination that burdened me most of my life. “Hug Aunt Franny,” who routinely intrudes on your personal space. “Play with little Johnny,” whom you don’t really like. “Talk to adults when they speak to you…” even when you feel intimidated and unsure of what to say because you’re five years old. Isaac is not unkind. Actually, he is an ambassador of love. But he feels no pressure to socialize artificially and is wiser than most, taking time to himself when he needs it, and actively seeking out playmates when he’d like.

Before you swell in uproar, I am not advocating abandoning good manners, kindness or even teaching a child with special needs how to socialize appropriately. I am not suggesting (ok, maybe kinda) that we ignore expert advice about teaching a child to play with balls, blocks, cars and kids the “right” way.  I am just inviting you to consider that maybe, just maybe, the way your special someone does it is totally OK.  That maybe our insistence that our kids–any kids–conform to our vision (about good play–or a good education, good job or good time, for that matter) is perhaps at least somewhat misguided and more about our comfort than theirs. And that maybe we could learn a different way.

Let them be. Let it be.

P.S. How about you? I’d really love to hear your insights or experience with this.



Beneficial Activities For Children With Low Muscle Tone

Has your child been given the diagnosis of low muscle tone or hypotonia? These terms refer to muscles that are loose or floppy and less resistant than those with a normal level of tone. Hypotonia can be caused by a variety of conditions, including those that involve the central nervous system, muscle disorders and genetic disorders. However, in many cases the cause is not known and referred to as Idiopathic Hypotonia. Usually, a child with low muscle tone will have difficulties with certain functional skills such as sitting erect while working at a desk or table or playing games that involve short bursts of running. Many children with low muscle tone also tire quickly from routine tasks such as walking up a flight of stairs. Infants may lag behind in acquiring certain fine and gross motor developmental milestones that enable a baby to hold his or her head up when placed on the stomach, balance themselves or get into a sitting position and remain seated without losing their balance. Regular exercise and movement activities help build overall strength while positioning and flexibility can also be a benefit.

Regular exercise and movement activities help children with low muscle tone build overall strength

Treatment programs to help increase muscle strength and sensory stimulation programs are developed once the cause of your child’s hypotonia is established. Such programs usually involve physical therapy through an early intervention or school-based program among other forms of therapy.

Encouraging family centered exercise that is fun and enjoyable will help your child develop a routine and long term commitment to staying fit and improving strength.

Movement activities can help kids with low muscle tone build overall strength while also developing coordination and endurance. For example, Crab walking and wheel barrow walking helps to promote core, back, and arm strength in children with low muscle tone.

The earlier that you can get your child started with muscle strengthening activities, the better. Early intervention helps with starting the best exercises and activities to improve specific areas of weakness for your child and your family.

Mighty Tykes offers great gear for special kids. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or therapist, your children, students, or clients may benefit from our infant and kid weights. These weights address a range of issues including overall weakness, one-sided weakness, toe-walking, tremors, sensory issues, visual field cut, and low muscle tone. Visit our website to learn how our weights are made, what size is appropriate for your child, and how to care for the weights. If you have any questions, give us a call at (877) 456-2822 or Contact Us via email.

Reasons And Treatment For Toe Walking In Children

Reasons and treatment for toe walking in children can vary from child to child. There may be a need for an evaluation by your Physical Therapist or Physician in some instances. These instances include your child continuing to walk predominantly on their toes after several months of independent walking or your child not coming to a flat foot position when standing.

Children have various strategies when learning to walk and perfecting their balance. Typically, developing children practice placing weight on all surfaces of their feet. Using their calf and feet muscles to push up on their toes to reach objects that are farther away, children test their new found skill of standing and walking. In fact, being able to push up their toes is important and is required for a normal gait pattern.

When observing your child, it is important to note that he or she is able to come to a flat foot position when standing. After a child has been walking for several months independently, she or he begins to adopt a walking pattern. This pattern includes landing on the rear of the foot (heel strike) and then rolling the foot forward. Followed by coming up on the toes to push off and propel the foot forward.


Reasons for toe walking in children

Reasons for toe walking include tightness noted in the muscles of the calf and/or foot, clubfoot, sensory processing disorders, autism, or neurological tone due to cerebral palsy. Related neuromuscular disorders and weakness in the abdominal muscles can also be a reason for toe walking. There has been research suggesting that toe walking in children may be hereditary.


 Treatment for toe walking in children

Treatment for toe walking is usually very effective. Mild to moderate heel cord (Achilles) tightness can be addressed by stretches taught by a Physical Therapist. Strengthening core muscle groups is an effective means for addressing abdominal weakness, which improves the gait cycle and control in the distal muscle groups. Small weights, such as MightyTykes Infant and Toddler Weights, have been effective in addressing sensory processing disorders and mild tightness in heel cords.

In more severe cases and if the underlying cause is due to neuromuscular issues, a neurologist may suggest Botox injections or a tendon release. In other toe walking cases, a brace or casting may be suggested.

Most toe walkers are considered idiopathic, which means that there is no known cause or diagnosis associated with the condition. The severity is usually measured by how far the heel is from the ground when walking. If a parent has any concern, an early intervention or pediatric Physical Therapist can assess the child’s gait pattern and recommend an effective treatment plan.

For more information about toe walking and child development, contact Mighty Tykes today! Give us a call at (877) 456-2822 or Contact Us via email. View our products if you are interested in trying infant and toddler weights for your child. We look forward to helping your child in his or her physical development!

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