Tag

internal regulation

Why Kids Need to Outdoor Free Play

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Angela Currie, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA
Director of Training and New Hampshire Operations

One of the best ways to make the most of your summer is to get outside and engage in lots of outdoor play. We live in a society where we tend to over-schedule ourselves and our children. Particularly during the school year, this makes it very difficult for children to get the amount of free play that they require. With this, I’m going to tell you five great reasons why you should throw away your schedule, put down the tablet, and get outside.

The first reason is probably the most obvious. Outdoor play provides great benefits to physical development. It improves motor coordination, strength, and balance, and it puts kids in an overall healthier position.

The next reason to play outside is that there are benefits for internal regulation. Not only does it make kids sleep better at night, but there is research to show that it aids attentional control and stress reduction. Being outdoors also provides kids with different sensory experiences – such as feeling the texture of sand and mud, or feeling the wind blow on your face – which will help to build children’s sensory tolerance.

The next reason to get outside is to improve cognitive development. Being outdoors provides a lot of opportunities to make observations, draw conclusions about things, see cause and effect, and be imaginative.

Next, playing outside aids emotional development. When we are over-scheduled, children do not have the opportunity to feel confident in their ability to step outside of their comfort zone or take risks. Experimenting and taking risks during outdoor play can help children understand that they have some control over what they can do within their environment, as well as begin to recognize boundaries.

Finally, the last reason to get outside is that it really bolsters social development. When there is no structure or there are no rules to follow, kids have to learn how to initiate their interactions, engage in conversation with each other, communicate, problem solve, and find ways to along, even when others have different ideas.

With all of the above benefits, outdoor free play is one of the best things you can give to your child. So as the weather is getting nicer and summer is fast approaching, if you are looking for something to do, sometimes it is best to just put down your schedule, get outside, and get dirty.

 

About the Author

Dr. Angela Currie is a pediatric neuropsychologist at NESCA. She conducts neuropsychological and psychological evaluations out of our Londonderry, NH office. She specializes in the evaluation of anxious children and teens, working to tease apart the various factors lending to their stress, such as underlying learning, attentional, or emotional challenges. She particularly enjoys working with the seemingly “unmotivated” child, as well as children who have “flown under the radar” for years due to their desire to succeed.

 

To book an evaluation with Dr. Currie or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician in the referral line.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Londonderry, NH, Plainville, MA, and Newton, MA serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call (603) 818-8526.

Enjoying the Holidays with Sensory Needs

By | NESCA Notes 2018, NESCA Notes 2019

 

By: Sophie Bellenis, OTD, OTR/L 
NESCA Occupational Therapist; Community-based Skills Coach

School vacation! Bright lights! Snow! Holiday cards on the wall! Bells a’ringing!

For many of us, the holiday season is an exciting, family-filled occasion that brings people together to celebrate yearly traditions. However, for some with sensory needs, the season can be over-stimulating, anxiety producing and difficult to navigate successfully. Even children who love the spirit of the season can quickly become saturated with the onslaught of visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory input. Here are some tips to consider as we head into holiday mode!

  1. Make Your Home a Safe Space – Consider reducing decorations, holding off on moving furniture and choosing a select few holiday cards from friends and family to display. With everything from daily routines to the look of familiar neighborhood streets changing throughout the month, maintaining consistency within a child’s home can help offer a much needed respite from the visual clutter. While these changes may seem minor, visual clutter causes some children’s eyes to continuously scan the room, move from place to place and constantly work to perceive all of the information. This is exhausting!
  2. Less is Often More – For a child who is easily over-stimulated, opening two presents can be much more exciting and rewarding than 10. One hour visiting family can feel easy, while two hours feels impossible. And a small tree can look beautiful, while a huge tree feels intimidating and scary. Set children up for success by keeping activities manageable.
  3. Have a Designated Sensory RetreatWhen venturing out to visit family or friends, preparation is always key. Discussing a sensory plan before arriving and having supports in place can catch stressful situations before they develop. A pre-planned hand signal or code word can save a child from having to explain that their body feels dysregulated and they are overwhelmed. Children may want to take breaks in a quiet bedroom, bring a pop-up tent to hide in, or eat their meal somewhere quiet before a big sit down dinner begins. For adolescents, this sensory retreat may simply be sitting in the car for 10-15 minutes in silence. Give children permission to take what they need.
  4. Enlist the Help of TeachersSocial stories, modified visual routines and exposure to holiday sensory input are all strategies that teachers and therapists in the school setting can help to develop and introduce to a child. Previewing the plan for school vacation can make the week off go much more smoothly.

In a household such as mine, that celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah, the month of December is fraught with routine change, decorations and new smells from rarely cooked, homemade meals. Allowing our children with sensory processing disorder, autism spectrum disorder and other sensory needs to prioritize their internal regulation can help make the season fun for everyone!

About the Author:

Dr. Sophie Bellenis is a Licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in pediatrics and occupational therapy in the developing world. For the past five years her work has primarily been split between children and adolescents on the Autism Spectrum in the United States, and marginalized children in Tanzania, East Africa.

Dr. Bellenis graduated from the MGH Institute of Health Professions with a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy, with a focus on pediatrics and international program evaluation. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, as well as the World Federation of Occupational Therapists.

Dr. Bellenis has worked for the Northshore Education Consortium at the Kevin O’Grady School providing occupational therapy services and also at the Spaulding Cambridge Outpatient Center. She also has extensive experience working at the Northeast ARC Spotlight Program using a drama-based method to teach social skills to children, adolescents, and young adults with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and related social cognitive challenges.

Internationally, Dr. Bellenis has done extensive work with the Tanzanian Children’s Fund providing educational enrichment and support. She has also spent time working with The Plaster House, a post-surgical, pediatric rehabilitation center in Ngaramtoni, Tanzania.

Dr. Bellenis currently works as a school-based occupational therapist for the city of Salem Public Schools and believes that individual sensory needs and visual motor skills must be taken into account to create comprehensive educational programming. Dr. Bellenis joined NESCA in the fall of 2017 to offer community-based skills coaching services as well as social skills coaching as part of NESCA’s transition team.

If you are interested in an Occupational Therapy consultation/ assessment or individualized skill coaching with Dr. Bellenis, please complete NESCA’s online intake form today.

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

Enjoying the Holidays with Sensory Needs

By | NESCA Notes 2018

 

By: Sophie Bellenis, OTD, OTR/L 
NESCA Occupational Therapist; Community-Based Skills Coach

School vacation! Bright lights! Snow! Holiday cards on the wall! Bells a’ringing!

For many of us, the holiday season is an exciting, family filled occasion that brings people together to celebrate yearly traditions.  However, for some of our children with sensory needs, the season can be over-stimulating, anxiety producing, and difficult to navigate successfully.  Even children who love the spirit of the season can quickly become saturated with the onslaught of visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory input.  Here are some tips to consider as we head into December!

  1. Make Your Home a Safe Space – Consider reducing decorations, holding off on moving furniture, and choosing a select few holiday cards from friends and family to display. With everything from daily routines to the look of familiar neighborhood streets changing throughout the month, maintaining consistency within a child’s home can help offer a much needed respite from the visual clutter. While these changes may seem minor, visual clutter causes some children’s eyes to continuously scan the room, move from place to place, and constantly work to perceive all of the information. This is exhausting!
  2. Less is often More – For a child who is easily over-stimulated, opening two presents can be much more exciting and rewarding than ten. One hour visiting family can feel easy, while two hours feels impossible. And a small tree can look beautiful, while a huge tree feels intimidating and scary. Set children up for success by keeping activities manageable.
  3. Have a Designated Sensory Retreat – When venturing out to visit family or friends, preparation is always key. Discussing a sensory plan before arriving and having supports in place can catch stressful situations before they develop. A pre-planned hand signal or code word can save a child from having to explain that their body feels dysregulated and they are overwhelmed. Children may want to take breaks in a quiet bedroom, bring a popup tent to hide in, or eat their meal somewhere quiet before a big sit down dinner begins. For adolescents, this sensory retreat may simply be sitting in the car for 10-15 minutes in silence.  Give children permission to take what they need.
  4. Enlist the Help of Teachers – Social stories, modified visual routines, and exposure to holiday sensory input are all strategies that teachers and therapists in the school setting can help to develop and introduce to a child. Previewing the plan for school vacation can make the week off go much more smoothly.

In a household such as mine, that celebrates both Christmas and Hanukah, the month of December is fraught with routine change, decorations, and new smells from rarely cooked, homemade meals.  Allowing our children with sensory processing disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and other sensory needs to prioritize their internal regulation can help make the season fun for everyone!

 

About the Author:

Sophie Bellenis, OTD, OTR/L  is a Licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in pediatrics and occupational therapy in the developing world. For the past five years her work has primarily been split between children and adolescents on the Autism Spectrum in the United States, and marginalized children in Tanzania, East Africa.

Dr. Bellenis graduated from the MGH Institute of Health Professions with a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy, with a focus on pediatrics and international program evaluation. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, as well as the World Federation of Occupational Therapists.

Dr. Bellenis has worked for the Northshore Education Consortium at the Kevin O’Grady School providing occupational therapy services and also at the Spaulding Cambridge Outpatient Center. She also has extensive experience working at the Northeast ARC Spotlight Program using a drama-based method to teach social skills to children, adolescents, and young adults with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and related social cognitive challenges.

Internationally, Dr. Bellenis has done extensive work with the Tanzanian Children’s Fund providing educational enrichment and support. She has also spent time working with The Plaster House, a post-surgical, pediatric rehabilitation center in Ngaramtoni, Tanzania.

Dr. Bellenis currently works as a school-based occupational therapist for the city of Salem Public Schools and believes that individual sensory needs and visual motor skills must be taken into account to create comprehensive educational programming. Dr. Bellenis joined NESCA in the fall of 2017 to offer community-based skills coaching services as well as social skills coaching as part of NESCA’s transition team.

 

If you are interested in a consultation or individualized skill coaching with Dr. Bellenis, please complete NESCA’s online intake form today.

 

 

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.