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Lauren Zeitler

ADHD: Setting Up A Successful Environment

By | NESCA Notes 2020

Co-authored by: Lauren Zeitler, MSOT, OTR/L, NESCA Occupational Therapist; Feeding Specialist, and Lindsay Delling, OTS, Occupational Therapy Graduate Student

Before any assessments, treatment planning, or suggestions of adaptations take place, we must first understand what attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in childhood means, and how it may present and affect each individual child. The American Psychiatric Association defines ADHD as one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders affecting children, with symptoms including, “inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought)” (2017). There are three different types of ADHD: inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, or combined type, that come with specific criteria within each to provide a diagnosis. While some symptoms of ADHD are common amongst young children, such as difficulty sitting still or limited attention spans, the difference in children with ADHD is the inability to control it without external forces providing regulation for them. This blog post will outline the sensory systems and will provide environmental suggestions and adaptations for children with ADHD to help them succeed and increase focus!

It is estimated that 8.4% of children have ADHD; so, that being said, what can we as occupational therapists recommend to enhance attention and regulatory strategies in children with ADHD using the sensory systems as a guide?

  1. Touch – Children with ADHD may actually scientifically benefit from utilizing fidget toys to increase their attention to a task. This thought process comes from the fact that using a fidget toy, such as a fidget spinner or some putty, allows children to exert some energy while also keeping their hands busy. This then makes them more likely to attend to another task, such as listening to a teacher speak, because they have sustained alertness while working with the fidget toy and can therefore sustain attention to the overarching task. We have seen this in most people on a smaller scale as they twirl their hair or tap a pen while attending to a task; they are essentially using these items as fidget toys to enhance their alertness and sustain attention to the task at hand (CHADD, 2021). The same can be said for a wiggle seat cushion or chair to promote seated movement so the child can gain that sensory input of movement, while staying seated and attending to the task.
  2. Sight – Because children with ADHD exhibit hyperactive tendencies, this means that they are likely hypersensitive to lighting and types of lighting within environments, such as fluorescent lighting which is prevalent in many school systems. Providing children with ADHD breaks from this harsh light and allowing time for their eyes to relax is a great way to promote improved attention throughout the school day. Hypersensitivity in sight is also important to be aware of regarding any schoolwork a child may be doing. If there is a lot going on within the page, a child with ADHD can become easily overwhelmed and may be quick to abandon the activity due to overstimulation. Covering portions of the page so that the child can only see one activity at time may be helpful in keeping them focused and on track and will likely decrease frustration.
  3. Hearing – Due to the hypersensitive nature of children with ADHD, sounds can be very distracting for them when they are trying to focus on a task. One solution would, of course, be to find a quiet space for them to complete schoolwork and other activities. This, however, may not always be readily available or even an option. In that case, providing these children with other adaptations, such as noise cancelling headphones, while they complete their work or even just frequent noise breaks and allowing them to take a walk or play with a preferred item can be great alternatives in promoting sustained attention in a noisy environment!
  4. Smell – Just like the other senses, certain smells can also become overwhelming and even distracting for some children with ADHD. This can happen for many reasons, such as smells of food reminding them how hungry they are at school, smells that make them think of a certain memory that promotes daydreaming, or even simply gross smells that the child cannot seem to get their mind off of. To promote sustained attention and a calming effect with children with ADHD, essential oils can be a good option to trial! While they are not scientifically proven to directly help with symptoms of ADHD, they are proven to ease anxiety and stress, which can occur with ADHD. Scents such as lavender, vetiver, and chamomile are known for their stress-relieving abilities that promote relaxation and serenity within the body.
  5. Taste – Snacks…a fun way to wrap up this post! Similar to fidget toys, crunchy snacks can also provide attention-enhancing qualities when eaten during a time where sustained attention is necessary. The child will be focused on the task of chewing the crunchy item, such as carrot sticks, an apple, or some chips, and will therefore be present in the moment and better able to attend to the task going on around them. This strategy can be used in a variety of settings where eating is appropriate – school, home, tutoring, etc. And, it’s a fun contribution to the repertoire of strategies to enhance attention and self-regulation strategies!

As always, we recommend reaching out to your occupational therapist or getting an occupational therapy evaluation. Contact NESCA’s Director of Clinical Services Julie Robinson, OT, to learn more at: jrobinson@nesca-newton.com.

References

https://chadd.org/adhd-weekly/fidget-toys-and-adhd-still-paying-attention/#:~:text=Putty%2C%20squeeze%20toys%2C%20fidget%20cubes,classroom%20without%20becoming%20a%20distraction.

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/adhd/what-is-adhd

 

Lauren Zeitler is a licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in pediatric occupational and feeding therapy. Ms. Zeitler joined NESCA full-time in the fall of 2020 to offer occupational therapy assessment and treatment for children of all ages, as well as to work in conjunction with Abigael Gray, MS, CCC-SLP, on the feeding team.

 

Lindsay Delling is a graduate student at Regis College working toward obtaining her master’s degree in occupational therapy. She previously completed fieldwork at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown and many school-based settings before coming to finish her fieldwork with NESCA. Prior to graduate school, Lindsay worked with children with disabilities in the Boston Public School system, as well as in a special education preschool setting in her hometown. Lindsay is open to working with many different populations once she completes her degree.

 

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.

 

A Feeding Therapist’s Guide to Cups, Bowls, and Utensils – Part 1

By | NESCA Notes 2021

By Lauren Zeitler, MSOT, OTR/L
NESCA Occupational Therapist; Feeding Specialist

As an important area of development, feeding and eating time is a special opportunity for children to not only grow, but also interact with their environment. This includes transitioning from breast and bottle feeding to cups, bowls, and utensils. With so many options available on the market, it can be hard to decide what to buy. If you are unsure where to start, this blog will introduce different tools to help promote a more independent eater in your child.

In this week’s OT Tuesday blog, we provide suggestions on utensils and bowls for new eaters, toddlers, and more. In our Part 2 of the blog, we will focus on different styles of cups for all stages of child drinkers.

Recommended Utensils throughout Developmental Ages and Stages

Vital Baby Soft Tip ‘n’ Grip Feeding Spoons

Designed with a flexible, spatula-like tip, this spoon is great for scooping food out of the bowl – and off a little one’s cheek! Great for first-time feeders, this spoon holds the perfect amount of food and fits comfortably in their mouths. It is easy to wash and BPA- free.

Soft Tip Infant Spoon by Munchkin

When introducing solids to a baby, it is important to have a smaller spoon belly to fit comfortably in their mouth. The soft tips and rounded shapes of this spoon are gentle on their gums as they adjust to utensil eating. This spoon also has a long, ergonomic handle which makes it easy for caregivers to hold.

Nuby Fun Feeding Spoons & Forks

Lightweight and easy to grasp, this set of cutlery provides a traditional spoon as well as a spork (fork and spoon combination). Compared to other brands, the belly of this spoon appears deeper and has more success holding foods, such as soup. This set is recommended for children ages 12 months and up, encouraging independent eating.

NUK First Essentials Kiddy Cutlery

Made with rubber handles and stainless steel tips, this set is made to fit right in a toddler’s hands. Dishwasher-safe and BPA-free, it comes in a variety of colors and is best for children ages 18 months and up. This is a great starter set to later introduce children to adult utensils.

Nuby 9 Piece Mealtime Travel Set Spoon

Made for developed self-feeders, this set makes eating out a little easier. Pop this travel set into lunch boxes, purses, etc. This is BPA-free and dishwasher-safe.

 

Recommended Bowls and Plates throughout Developmental Ages and Stages

Baby B Suction Baby Bowls

BPA-free, this bowl set suctions to the table to firmly stay in place and decrease floor clean-up time. With built in handles, this bowl is easier for babies to grasp while learning to scoop and self-feed. It also comes with snap-on lids to quickly throw the leftovers in the refrigerator!

MUNCHKIN Stay Put Suction Bowls

Dishwasher- and microwave-safe, this bowl suctions to the table with a modern look. This bowl works well with new feeders, because the suction remains in place while children are learning to use a spoon.

EZPZ Happy Bowl

Built with a 12 ounce bowl, this product serves as an all in one style device. Great for toddlers and preschoolers, it suctions to the table to reduce throwing and has a placemat surrounding the bowl. It is easy to wash both in the sink and dishwasher.

EZPZ Happy Mat with sections

Made with the same great suction material, this mat provides sections to place different food items. This tool can be used this with eaters who do not like their foods to touch. It is also a fun way to teach about food groups and portion control.

Re-Play Divided Plates for Toddlers

Designed to easily stack in the cabinet or drawer, these plates are deep and durable. Each plate has three sections: two 3oz. sections and one 8 oz. section ready for a well balanced meal. Ready to graduate to an older plate, this option is recommended for children who do not need the throw-proof suction. This plate is dishwasher- and microwave-safe.

If you have any concerns about your child’s feeding or questions about feeding or occupational therapy, please complete our online intake form, or email NESCA’s Director of Clinical Services Julie Robinson at jrobinson@nesca-newton.com.

 

Reference:
Elliott, C. & Clawson, E. (2018). Mealtime Miseries: Management of Complex Feeding Disorders. All workshop materials © Pediatric Feeding Institute, Inc

The product information in this blog is provided for educational purposes only. NESCA, nor Lauren Zeitler, accepts any incentives or payments from the manufacturers. The recommendations made come only from the professional experiences of NESCA’s occupational and feeding therapists and the personal experiences of clients.

 

About the Author

Lauren Zeitler is a licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in pediatric occupational and feeding therapy. Ms. Zeitler joined NESCA full-time in the fall of 2020 to offer occupational therapy assessment and treatment for children of all ages, as well as to work in conjunction with Abigael Gray, MS, CCC-SLP, on the feeding team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Is My Child a Picky Eater or Problem Feeder?

By | NESCA Notes 2020

Co-authored by: Abigael Gray, MS, CCC-SLP, NESCA Speech-Language Pathologist; Feeding Specialist, and Lauren Zeitler, MSOT, OTR/L, NESCA Occupational Therapist; Feeding Specialist

Do you have a child who presents as a picky eater? Have you ever wondered if their difficulties are more than just “picky eating”? Are mealtimes stressful for your family? There is someone out there who can help you!

Many children may be perceived as “picky eaters” while they are figuring out their food preferences. The important thing to understand is when your child would no longer be considered a “picky eater,” but instead a “problem feeder,” and therefore may benefit from feeding therapy. The chart below describes the general differences between the two. Every situation and child is different. If you have concerns, we always recommend reaching out.

There are other concerns that indicate a child may benefit from feeding therapy beyond the variety of food they accept, as described above. These concerns include:

  • Gagging, vomiting or choking when eating or drinking or shortly after
  • Poor posture while sitting at the table for meals
  • Difficulty using utensils within age-appropriate timeline
  • Issues with food control involving the mouth (e.g., chewing, closing lips around spoon or straw, drooling, pocketing food in cheeks, etc.)
  • Eating small volumes of food or taking more than 30 minutes to eat
  • Only eating certain textures of food (e.g., purees, crunchy solids, fluids)
  • Difficulty weaning from a bottle to solid foods
  • Transitioning from tube to oral feeding

Feeding therapy involves:

  1. Intake: you will be asked questions about your concerns to match you with a feeding therapist.
  2. Evaluation: before the evaluation, you will fill out a questionnaire about your concerns and goals for therapy as well as your child’s medical/developmental history. To obtain information about skills and behaviors, the feeding therapist will observe your child eating a variety of foods/textures and gain input from parents/caregivers. This will help the therapist determine whether your child presents with a feeding disorder and would benefit from feeding therapy. Recommendations will be made in a written report.
  3. Therapy: ongoing weekly therapy will be child-driven, and goals will incorporate your family’s priorities. Therapy will be individualized to address your child’s specific needs and goals.

For more in-depth information on this topic, register for the upcoming free webinar, “Is My Child a Picky Eater or Problem Feeder?” on November 18, 2020 from 10:30 – 11:30 AM Eastern Time. Register in advance for this webinar here.

If you have any concerns about your child’s feeding or questions about feeding therapy, please complete our online intake form, or email NESCA’s Director of Clinical Services Julie Robinson at jrobinson@nesca-newton.com.

 

About the Co-authors:

Abigael Gray has over six years of experience in assessment and treatment of a variety of disorders, including dysphagia, childhood apraxia of speech, speech sound disorder, receptive and expressive language disorder, autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She has a special interest and experience in working with children with feeding and swallowing disorders, including transitioning infants to solid foods, weaning from tube feeding, improving sensory tolerance, developing chewing skills, increasing variety and volume of nutritional intake and reducing avoidance behaviors during mealtimes.

 

 

 

 

 

Lauren Zeitler is a licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in pediatric occupational and feeding therapy. Ms. Zeitler joined NESCA full-time in the fall of 2020 to offer occupational therapy assessment and treatment for children of all ages, as well as to work in conjunction with Abigael Gray, MS, CCC-SLP, on the feeding team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.