Category Archives: Health & Wellness

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

Growth Mindset and the Power of “Yet”

Growth Mindset and the Power of “Yet”

Written by: Caitlin Courshon

Using decades of research, Stanford researcher and professor Carol Dweck explains that people have a tendency to view intelligence from one of two competing perspectives: “fixed mindset” versus “growth mindset.”

A person with a fixed mindset tends to view talents and abilities as unchangeable. For example, you may hear your child say any of the following:
“I can’t read that word!”
“I’m not a math person.”
“I’ll never get this right!”

By contrast, an individual with a growth mindset tends to believe that they can improve their abilities over time with practice. For example, you may hear your child say any of the following:
“I love a challenge!”
“Puzzles are really difficult for me, but I’m going to keep practicing.”
“That book was tricky for me to read, and I worked really hard to make it to the end.”

Watch this brief video that explains some key differences between fixed and growth mindsets.

Research shows that students who have a growth mindset tend to value learning, remain positive when dealing with setbacks and believe that the harder they work toward a goal, the better they will become. For more information, watch Carol Dweck’s TED Talk on “The Power of Believing that you can Improve,” in which she explains the importance of growth mindset through her years of fascinating research.

How do we teach children to adopt a growth mindset?

1.Teach your child about the brain
Ask your child, “Did you know that your brain is a like a muscle?” Then watch this brief video and explain the concept of neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to constantly change and grow. 

Teaching your child about how the brain works and reminding them that they can change their brain through practice is a great start to encouraging a growth mindset. You can use videos, books, coloring sheets and physical models of the brain to make this information engaging and interactive!

2.Praise your child’s process, not their intelligence 
Instead of praising your child for their talents, try to provide specific praise about their process, such as the effort they showed, the strategies they used, their focus on work or how they improved or learned from a mistake.
Instead of: “You are such a talented artist.”
Try: “I really like the details of your painting. I can tell you worked really hard on it.”

Instead of: “Wow! You got 10/10 on your test. You are so smart!”
Try: “Wow! You got 10/10 on your test. You studied a lot for that test, and I’m proud of you for working so hard.”

Instead of: “Nice job getting that math question correct!”
Try: “You tried a lot of different strategies to solve that tricky math question. That was great to see!”

3.Use the word “yet”
The word “yet” can be very powerful when it comes to teaching children about how to re-frame their fixed mindset. For younger children, check out this Sesame Street “Power of Yet” music video

Child says: “I can’t read that word.”
You say: “You can’t read that word just yet! Let’s sound it out together.”

Child says: “I don’t know how to do addition.”
You say: “You don’t know how to do addition yet! Would you like to practice together?”

Child says: “I’ll never get this right!”
You say: “Not yet, but with lots of practice, this will get easier.”

4.Be the growth mindset role model
What better way to teach your kids how to adopt a growth mindset than to model one yourself? Show your child what it looks like to work hard when you encounter a challenge, the importance of practice and how to learn from your mistakes.

In the words of Carol Dweck, “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”

Nutrition in Childhood: It’s Important!

Nutrition in Childhood: It’s Important

Written by: Rachele Gentry

Many children are famous for refusing to eat food that is green, stinky or, generally, healthy. As a result, many parents say, “My child wants to eat chicken nuggets for every meal.” 

While chicken nuggets and French fries is a fun and tasty meal every now and again, eating processed food is not benefiting your child’s health. 

Childhood obesity is at an all-time high. Parents must know how to promote a healthy lifestyle to their children, and this includes good nutritional habits. Research suggests that nutrition is linked with learning and memory, and children who eat more nutritious food do better in school. 

Many parents find it difficult to provide their children with nutrient-dense snacks and meals. The difficulty may be related to a busy schedule, limited budget or a child who is a picky eater. But parents, you are not alone in the struggle. 

Here are a few simple tricks for promoting a healthy lifestyle for your child:
• Use the “rainbow test” when making a meal. Is the plate full of colorful foods or foods that are white or brown? When food is naturally colored orange, yellow, green, red or purple, nature is telling us it is packed with essential nutrients. 
• Get sneaky with it! Here are some wonderful tricks on hiding healthy in your child’s favorite food. 
Prep meals in advance to save time during a busy week. Meal preparation also helps to prevent eating out.
• Get your child involved in making a meal! Even something as simple as stirring pasta or seasoning vegetables can give children a sense of responsibility for a meal. When children know they helped make a meal, they are more likely to eat it.

What nutrients are essential for my child?
1. Protein helps build cells, produce energy and fight infection. 
Chicken, fish, beef, pork, beans, tofu, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt

2. Iron is important for making healthy blood that carries oxygen to all parts of the body
Red meat, beans, green leafy vegetables, eggs, tuna

3. Fats have a bad reputation, but healthy fats are a wonderful source of energy for children. Cooking oil, avocado, meat, fish, nuts, cheese

4. Calcium helps build healthy bones and teeth. It is also important for nerve, muscle and heart function. Dairy products, tofu, some dry cereals

5. Vitamin A helps growth, strengthens the eyes, promotes healthy skin and aids in preventing infection. Carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli

How many calories should my child eat per day?* 
Ages 2-3: 1,000-1,400
Ages 4-5: 1,200-1,400
Ages 6-8: 1,400-1600
Ages 9-10: 1,600-1,800
Ages 11-12: 1,800-2,200
* Calorie needs vary based on gender, activity level and overall needs. Please consult your pediatrician to verify your child’s recommended caloric intake. 

Healthy eating prepares your child for a healthy life!