Sensory Processing

Sensory Processing: What is it and how can we Support it?

Written by: Rachele Gentry

Bright lights, loud conversations, kids crying … public spaces can be overwhelming for everyone, especially those with sensory processing sensitives. 

What is sensory processing?
Sensory processing is how our nervous system understands and organizes the details in the environment around us. For some people, their nervous system responds differently to certain stimuli, and may create an over- or under-sensitive response to everyday events in their environment. Common situations might include having an intense response to a loud noise, feeling agitated by the way clothing touches the skin and having adverse reactions to textures of specific foods. 

Many people attribute difficulty in loud and overwhelming environments as a symptom of Autism. While most individuals with Autism do experience sensory processing difficulties, processing differences and difficulties can affect anyone. 

Coping Strategies for Those with Sensory Processing Difficulties
Create a chill out zone; a quiet and organized space for a child to go to when things are too overwhelming. This space may include: 
  ◦ Low lighting
  ◦ Favorite books
  ◦ Noise cancelling headphones
  ◦ Weighted blanket

Allow your child to wear noise cancelling headphones in public 
  ◦ Reduces sound input significantly 
  ◦ Decreases overstimulation of one major sense 

Eliminate the use of fluorescent lights
  ◦ You may not even notice, but these bright lights produce a low-tone buzzing noise, which can be overstimulating 
  ◦ The intensity of the lights can be overwhelming

Allow people to make their own choices
  ◦ 
Some people may need or prefer a specific diet to reduce adverse reactions
  ◦ It may be beneficial for someone to have the option to move freely through public spaces, rather than the rigid structures seen in public settings (classrooms, movie theaters, restaurants)

Community Resources
Imagine Museum’s Imagine the Possibilities: Sensory Time
• On the 3rd Sunday of every month, Imagine Children’s Museum provides sensory time for those who need it.
• This is a FREE event for children ages 1-12 (parents, siblings, and grandparents can join too!)
• The museum is only open during this time for these children and their families, making it less crowded and quieter.
• Noise canceling headphones, sunglasses, and sensory balls are available.

Sensory Friendly Films
The theater chain AMC provides a Sensory Family Films program the second and fourth Saturday of every month.
• Enjoy hit new movies such as Aladdin and The Secret Life of Pets 2 at a lower volume and in a less dark environment.
• Attendees are invited to get up, dance and walk around the theater during the showing.

When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Alexander den Heijer

Shaping Preschoolers’ Geometry Skills

Shaping Preschoolers’ Geometry Skills

Written by: Clarissa Alfes

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has become a hot topic among early educators and families in more recent years. Many adults are wondering how to support children’s learning and excitement for STEM. Research suggests that engaging with geometry and spatial activities is a good starting point!

What is early geometry
Early geometry, also called ‘spatial sense,’ is an understanding of space and shape. Spatial sense includes knowing spatial objects such as shapes and lines, their relationships and positions in the spatial world (e.g., “next to,” “shorter,” “corner,” “left”) and transforming the objects in space (e.g., manipulating blocks or rotating shapes in your mind.) Spatial abilities are foundational for STEM and inquiry-based learning and are one of the key areas of early math development that families can work on at home.

Play with Toys
Playing with certain toys builds young children’s early math skills. Toys such as puzzles, blocks and shape tangrams provide an opportunity for children to explore and learn through play. This play has been linked to stronger geometry and spatial skills in young children. Toys for play-based spatial learning are:
1. Puzzles. Talk with your child about the edges and curves on the puzzle pieces and about the shapes of the pieces as you work toward completing the picture. 
2. Blocks, Legos & Lincoln Logs. Ask your child to build structures using descriptions such as a “tall tower” and to recreate structures based on blueprints or models you build.
3. Tangrams. Support children to get creative in fitting shapes together and forming images. Challenge them to see how many different scenes and shapes they can create with the same tangrams.
4. Magna-Tiles. Have your child match designs that you construct and create patterns in the tiles. Support them in building 2D and 3D shapes while you label shapes, sizes and provide directions such as “on top of.”
5. Many others!
Bonus: try giving your child a problem to solve or creating a story that goes along with the spatial play. Evidence shows that adding storytelling to block-play makes the play more effective for early spatial learning (and language skills too!)

Spatial talk in everyday activities
Early geometry skills can be shaped through spatial “math talk,” when adults narrate during play and everyday interactions. Caregivers can name shapes they see in objects, use location words and gestures such as “below” or “left” and describe features of objects such as “curvy” or “short” during play and everyday activities. Activities to try with your child include:
1. Going on a shape hunt in the car, house or grocery store.Name shapes, sizes and features of objects you see in the environment (e.g., stop sign, cereal box) and ask your child to do the same.
2. Drawing, origami and painting during art time. Follow step-by-step directions of animal origami to create 3D forms together and spend arts and crafts time drawing shapes, lines and grids while narrating how they relate to each other. 
3. Playing maze games and Tetris. Have your child race to solve games in the quickest way possible then see if they can solve the visual-spatial games in other ways too. Encourage your child to explain how they solved the problems and to use their own ‘spatial math talk.’
4. Following and drawing maps. Read maps with your child to complete a scavenger hunt, talking about directions while you walk between locations. Suggest drawing maps to familiar places from memory, including discussing landmarks and distances.

Museum Store
Imagine’s Museum Store is stocked with educational games and toys, many of which help develop math skills. The Museum Store is open during regular Museum hours and Museum members receive 10% off of purchases. You can stop in and shop without paying Museum admission. Our friendly staff are always happy to help you find the perfect gift.  

Why Reading to Your Child Matters

reading to children

Why Reading to Your Child Matters

Written by: Kayla Polk

Shared book reading is an important educational activity in the home. Not only is it important, but it is enjoyable and fun!

What do you need to know about reading books with your child?

1.Quality and quantity of book reading interactions are important
Evidence shows that the quality and quantity of shared book reading interactions are important. Frequent parent-child book reading is associated with improvement in children’s language skills, early literacy skills and reading achievement in school. It has been recommended that parent-child home reading should begin at birth. Try reading with your child for 15-20 minutes per day, every day. The quality of the book reading interaction is also important because warm and supportive behaviors from parents are related to positive child behaviors, including focused attention, emotional outcomes, positive mood and enthusiasm for reading. Warm and supportive parent behaviors include emotional support, shared enjoyment, animated facial and vocal expressions and child encouragement.

2.Interactive book reading builds children’s language skills 
Good book reading is when the child is actively involved during reading. Because shared book reading can improve a child’s vocabulary, it is important for parents to interact and read withtheir child rather than only reading totheir child. Before you begin reading a story, introduce the author and illustrator and ask your child what the author and illustrator do. You can also talk about the parts of the book (front cover, spine, back cover). To be more interactive during reading, you can encourage your child to talk about the pictures in the story, respond to your child’s comments and questions, ask questions about the story, ask your child to predict what is going to happen next, connect the story to your child’s personal life and talk about the meaning of words. 

3.Shared book reading increases imagination
Reading aloud with your child can help them to become more curious, and can help them to experience places they have never been and things they have never seen. Imagination leads to invention and creation. Try introducing your child to new topics through books. For example, maybe your child has not yet learned about the lives of horseshoe crabs. The book Moonlight Crab Countshows children how they can be scientists while learning about a mother and daughter who observe horseshoe crabs on the beach. 

Examples of how to encourage shared book reading (adapted from Parental Influence on Child Interest in Shared Picture Book Reading by Camilo Ortiz, Rebecca M. Stowe, and David H. Arnold, 2001):

• Let your child pick the book and follow your child’s interests when selecting books.
• Use examples during reading that are related to your child’s interests.
• Ask questions throughout the story and encourage your child to ask you questions.
• Use sound effects and different voices for the characters.
• Take your child to the public library.
• Praise your child for their participation, questions, answers and listening.
• Pick books that are appropriate for your child’s age.
• If your child does not seem interested in reading with you, try again another time.
• Read in a comfortable, quiet, relaxing environment. 
• Make sure the reading time is not rushed.
• Sit close to your child while you are reading.

For book recommendations specific to your child’s age range, click the following link! https://www.cbcbooks.org/readers/reading-lists/

Reach Out and Read serves children and families through pediatric partners by providing literacy information and books to families. Use the following link to see if there is a program near you! http://www.reachoutandread.org/resource-center/find-a-program/

Visit Imagine’s fun and interactive story times. Story Times are offered in English and Spanish. Click the link for upcoming titles and times. https://www.imaginecm.org/programs-camps-events/storytimes/