This is Amber she is 4 years old and has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) with traits of ADHD and Autism.
Amber has a younger sister Maisie who is 17 months old and lives with Mummy – Nicki and Daddy – Paul in a village in Worcestershire. Amber is a lively little girl who’s always on the go, she finds it difficult to control her emotions and frustration. She requires a calm place if it all gets too much at home. Amber is a ‘Sensory Seeker’ and therefore will thrive on all sensory experiences, the messier the better! Family Fund provided Amber with a grant for Sensory toys and equipment from Learning SPACE and sessions at a local multi-sensory centre called SMILE (Sensation Movement Interaction in Life Experiences) at ARCOS (Association for Rehabilitation of Communication and Oral skills,) in Malvern, Worcestershire. We have noticed a marked improvement in Amber’s ability to cope with sensory overload, frustration and anger and will use the toys and equipment in her calm place.
Our experiences of bedtime and sleep.
From 6 months old Amber slept through the night from 7pm until 7am, we couldn’t believe we could be this lucky after talking to other families that experience sleep deprivation. There had only been a few occasions where Amber had woken in the night and these occasions were usually down to a bad dream or an allergic reaction as Amber is intolerant to dairy and egg.
This was the case until only a few months ago, when Amber started refusing to go to bed and would do anything she could to gain our attention and prevent herself from settling and falling asleep. We have put this sudden change in routine and her being unsettled down to being aware that there’s a change coming from ending Pre School to starting ‘big school’ this September. As a family we’ve found the last month extremely challenging because some nights Amber won’t settle and fall asleep until 9pm and no matter what time she goes up bed she wakes up at 5am regardless, in an extremely spritely manner! Sometimes she’ll wake up at 3am and refuse to go back to sleep and we have to bring her downstairs as she’ll make noise to wake her sister or our neighbours. This is why Amber cannot yet share a bedroom with her younger sister, as Maisie would be woken frequently. We as a family, are all affected with such early starts, especially Amber’s daddy who works a full time. It makes for a very long day and it often feels like it’s the afternoon and we’re still only at 10am! From around 4pm each day Amber will start to get tired, from this time until bedtime is a tricky time, as it’s a battle to get the routines of meal, bath and bed into place when Amber is so tired.
We have tried many methods to help make the bedtime routine run more smoothly and reduce Amber’s meltdowns:
● Reward charts and stickers – this is the first method that we tried with advice from our local children’s centre we used a visual sheet with pictures of getting Pyjamas on, brushing teeth, getting into bed and then saying good night. A sticker was awarded for each stage that was completed. This worked for quite a while but Amber lost interest and stickers didn’t motivate her as much as when we started. She started to run around to avoid getting ready for bed.
● Lights on, lights off – Amber dislikes the dark so we’ve tried keeping the main light on for her, to then using a lamp. She struggles more in the summer months saying “but it’s not bedtime, it’s sunny!” We now use a black out blind. Amber responded so well to the addition of a colour-changing bubble tube that projected on the walls and ceiling and also a ‘Rainbow in my room’ projector. Due to recent meltdowns, these have been relocated to Amber’s ‘calm zone’ under the stairs as we couldn’t risk these items being broken.
● Classical music – we tried using a CD player with a classical music CD and also lullabies from a phone App called ‘Sleepy Sounds,’ again this worked for a time and Amber will decide on the night if she wants the CD player or not.
● Less distractions – we’ve had to simplify the layout of Amber’s bedroom as it was filled with toys, we felt she may be over-stimulated at bedtime, she now has her bed, a chest of drawers and a tent, including some soft toys. Amber gets frustrated and throws any item she can get her hands on, so now she only has access to soft toys at bedtime.
● Extra tall stair gate – I felt really bad when having to install a tall stair gate, I didn’t want Amber to feel ‘caged in,’ but for the time being this is essential to ensure Amber is safe. She was able to run around freely upstairs and would also wake her sister up, and I’d find her inside the cot, she was also able to access our landing and I was worried she would climb the normal sized safety gate and hurt herself. We’ve had to secure this to the wall as she was able to pull the pressure fittings straight off the wall! She really is very strong! We’ve also had to remove her door from the room as she was banging it against the wall in process and made a hole in the wall!
● Being brave enough to leave ! This has been my biggest hurdle, I hate it when my children are upset, but after advice I received we had to make a choice whether to commit to continually having to go back upstairs to settle Amber or whether to leave her and allow her to settle naturally. What we’ve found is no matter how difficult it is, and when it pulls at your heart strings, it is working for us to allow Amber to settle herself, we have spoken to our neighbour to explain and they are understanding of the situation. Amber will call “mummy” or “daddy” for a drink, to go to the toilet, for a story – even though she’s had her specified 1 or 2 stories, for a cuddle, etc – any method to get us to return to her. She is now learning that once we’ve said goodnight then she should try to relax and settle.
● Being clear on how many stories/songs. I took the advice of our local children’s centre here again, and we have a set rule that if Amber has got dressed for bed without any problems then she will have 2 stories, if there’s been some tricky behaviour then she will have 1 story. I recognise the importance of reading at bedtime and this rule ensures that Amber always gets at least 1 story per night. Some nights this routine works better than others, if she’s really tired she will fall asleep whilst in reading or singing songs from her favourite nursery rhyme book. But if Amber isn’t very tired we can get protests for more stories or songs, I did start to sing Amber to sleep but it only worked a few times and I was spending a great deal of time in her room in the evenings.
● Benefits of spending time outdoors – on the days that Amber has spent a lot of time outdoors, particularly if we’ve been out for the day, we find that the fresh air does make her more tired at the end of the day, especially if she’s been running around all day and has burnt lots of energy!
We recognise the importance of having time to ourselves as parents because our days are very full-on, it’s so beneficial to wind down during the evenings.
I’m unsure how long the unsettled bedtimes will carry on for, but it’s highly important that both myself and Amber’s father work as a team and support each other throughout the routine. We hope that the unsettled bedtimes will reduce once Amber is familiar with her new school routine. Only time will tell.
We have got quite a lot done this week and Lou has enjoyed keeping busy! Here’s a few of the activities we got up to:
Book pointer wands:
This was a simple but effective activity. We used lolly sticks, cardboard and sequin stars and lots of glitter and PVA glue to create these pointer wands. The lolly sticks were coloured using felt -tipped pens. The wands can be used as a pointer when reading, they will come in useful when Lou starts school.
I’d never thought of this idea before – Pinterest is a great place for these ideas! We used paints and forks to print these flower heads. The stalks and leaves were painted on using a thin paint brush.
I found a template of a seahorse and Lou decorated using sequins and again, lots of glitter and PVA glue!
We started off the week with a sunny day, so provided buckets of water and paint brushes. This was a popular activity and Lou enjoyed also tipping the water out and stamping in it!
Pots and pans:
Such a simple activity using saucepans, a colander and wooden spoons. Both Lou and Moo enjoyed creating their own sounds!
Rice, pasta and spaghetti play:
Tea sets are very popular in our household at the moment. So we added some rice, pasta and spaghetti to the ‘tea party.’
This was the most popular activity of the week. This non-cook dough is the easier I’ve ever made. All I used was some fragranced conditioners from Aldi at 35p each and some cornflour. The consistency is very soft and we used Raspberry and Tea Tree & Mint conditioners, tinting the dough slightly, we liked the Tea Tree and Mint dough best as it smelt like peppermint creams!
We also conpleted a music session with a children’s CD with popular songs such as ‘Old Mcdonald’ and did the actions for ‘Dingle Dangle Scarecrow.’ The girls both enjoyed using instruments to the songs and this keeps me in practice for my music sessions ready for September!
Looking forward to sharing our second week’s activities 🙂
This is Amber she is 4 years old and has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) with traits of ADHD and Autism.
Amber has a younger sister Maisie who is 15 months old and lives with Mummy – Nicki and Daddy – Paul in a village in Worcestershire. Amber is a lively little girl who’s always on the go, she finds it difficult to control her emotions and frustration. She requires a calm place if it all gets too much at home. Amber is a ‘Sensory Seeker’ and therefore will thrive on all sensory experiences, the messier the better! Family Fund provided Amber with a grant for Sensory toys and equipment from Learning SPACE and sessions at a local multi-sensory centre called SMILE (Sensation Movement Interaction in Life Experiences) at ARCOS (Association for Rehabilitation of Communication and Oral skills,) in Malvern, Worcestershire. We have noticed a marked improvement in Amber’s ability to cope with sensory overload, frustration and anger and will use the toys and equipment in her calm place.
Amber first took an interest in technology, particularly our tablet, at the age of 3. A few people who saw her use it would say “she’s very good at using that, better than me!” And others in discussions would say that tablets aren’t suitable for young children as they can become addictive and cause over-stimualtion, especially if used at bedtime. I have also had a love of technology from when I bought my own PC complete with ‘Windows 2000’ and ‘dial-up’ Internet! I think Amber follows me with her love of technology, I must admit throughout my life I’ve found it easier to relate to a screen than have real conversations as I’m quite anxious in social situations and so is Amber already, what I’ve had to teach myself over the years, and what I want to instill in my child, is to have a healthy balance and therefore we have set times of the day and set periods of time that Amber can access our family tablet. I want Amber to be able to be confident in social interactions.
Times of the day when a tablet is used:
Amber uses the tablet after she’s dressed and ready for school, if I leave her to free play with other toys she is always distracted by her younger sister and will rough-house with her and I simply cannot get any belongs together to get out of the house. If Amber is focused for 20-30 minutes on the tablet I can ensure that everything is in order and we can get out of the door reasonably on time!
As Amber holds in her sensory overloads all day whilst she’s at school, once we reach home she will explode and release all of the overloads from her day, often resulting in meltdowns where she can be physically aggressive, shout, scream, run around the house, jump off the furniture and rough play with her sister. The only method I have found to allow her to focus and stay calm is to offer the use of the tablet. Without the tablet use at this time I’d be unable to prepare an evening meal for the 2 children.
I had trialled using the tablet to calm Amber at bedtimes, as we currently have a major issue with getting her to bed, but this hasn’t worked for us as I do find her brain is too stimulated and she will stay calm, but still won’t go to sleep! If the battery runs out we’ve had aggressive outbursts and throwing any item she can find in protest.
Protecting our device.
At present we only have 1 tablet for our family if 4, and I use it a lot in the evenings. Amber doesn’t realise her strength and can be quite heavy handed with the Tablet, therefore we have added a strong screen protector and a large rubber case.
Apps that we have found Amber responds well to.
– CBeebies Playtime App.
This is a very popular choice as it includes many games and activities from Amber’s favourite CBeebies characters, Amber particularly enjoys the Topsy and Tim game. It is bright and cheerful for young children.
– Read with Biff, Chip & Kipper App.
Amber throughly enjoys reading stories and this App supports early reading that she’ll experience from September, in Reception class. You can buy more stories.
– You Tube Kids App.
I was a bit wary of Amber using the full version of You Tube as even though we have a strict Internet family filter – I found that some of the content was unsuitable for children of Amber’s age, she was watching a very odd video of Spiderman marrying Queen Elsa! And absolutely endless videos of ‘Surprise Eggs!’ I found the App called ‘You Tube Kids’ and was relieved that Amber can access her favourite TV programmes, Such as Paw Patrol and Topsy and Tim, and we’ve also used the search facility to find nursery rhymes for a music session at home.
I can see that there are both advantages and disadvantages to allow your child to use a tablet or other device, we haven’t reached the age of ‘gaming’ yet! I remember not being able to put down my ‘Nintendo Game Boy’ when they first came out!
It’s been nearly 5 months since I came across another Blogger’s site, via a parenting support group, before March 2016 I didn’t even know what a Blog was! I would have never have thought that 5 months later I’d be sharing my own story via my own Blog!
Yesterday I hit a 50 post milestone, some posts have taken me over an hour, sometimes up to 3 hours long, so on reflection I realised how much time and energy I’ve put into my Blog so far. I’m trying to educate my other half on the benefits of me Blogging as even though it’s not a paid ‘job’ I do say:
“This is what I do.”
I now find myself explaining this in general conversations – stating that I am a stay at home mum, but I’m also a parenting and additional needs Blogger.
It’s difficult lately as it’s the school holidays, and I would normally spend sometime writing in the day whilst Lou was at Pre School and Moo had a morning nap, therefore I’m doing more in the evenings! It is addictive once you start but I’ve found so many benefits to Blogging, I’ve now signed up for an online course in Blogging and Web design to help develop my own understanding and to help advise and support others who maybe want to start their own Blog or Website.
This is the direction my Blog is now heading in:
1. Continuing our own personal journey, writing posts from the heart and sharing our experiences, whether good or bad.
2. Sharing parenting experiences in general – I love sharing parenting quotes, especially the humorous ones!
3. Product reviews – this is a direction I wasn’t sure about at first, but I’ve now completed 2 reviews and currently reading 2 parenting books to write a 3rd review, it’s nice to work with companies that appreciate me writing about their products.
4. Continue the fight to make Sensory Processing Disorder more acknowledged in the UK, as it is in the USA.
5. Sharing my love of photography – I’ve loved photography since I was a child, I enjoy taking nature photos and photos of my children, what a way for them to look back at their childhoods, when they have grown up! Or say “mum, what did you take that photo for?!?”
6. Helping others – my brain is a minefield – I started blogging to help collect my thoughts together, that were endlessly floating around in my brain. I’m certainly not an expert in anything but I’m passionate about my children and working with children as I have done for 12 years, if I can just help 1 person I’m happy. I’m also happy to help other people start a Blog and happy to learn alongside as I’m still picking up new things myself daily! I’ve had a love for technology from a young age – I can be quite addicted but I’ve always enjoyed using technology and just have to ensure that this is done at an appropriate time and place!
7. Sharing activity ideas and plans. This reminds me of my passion for planning and implementing early years activities – some of my most popular and most read Blog posts are those about ‘Sensory Diet’ and ‘Messy play’ experiences. If I find a new activity and it’s successful at home I like to share with others.
8. To continue to write monthly Blog posts for Family Fund – a charity that provides grants to disabled or seriously ill children. I’ve had posts shared via Family Fund, Learning SPACE (Specialised Products Aiding Child Education,) Footie Bugs, (a children’s football programme, and the SMILE (Sensation, Movement Interaction in Life Experiences) centre in Malvern where Lou attends, has shared my Blog via their Facebook site. I have recently written a post to share our experiences of the benefits of our local children’s centres as I was saddened to hear that funding is proposed to be cut and groups at some centres are closing already, I was recently approached by a local radio station to talk about my experiences.
I am the worst person for complimenting myself but I am surprised and proud of what I have achieved in a few months, I feel that I would like to return to my career once my children are both at school, but in Blogging I have found the very thing that knits all of my interests together.
I’ve learnt such a lot in the past few months I’ve become a stronger person and feel confident enough to share my views and beliefs and stand up for what I truly believe in, even if not everyone agrees. I stand by that “knowledge is understanding” as this time last year I was completely lost in own self doubt regarding my parenting skills, I was stuck in a rut and from researching and sharing via support groups I’ve learnt so much about why Lou does what she does. And I’ll continue to fight for support for her 🙂
I’m not normally this organised! After hanging up Lou’s new uniform ready for September it really hit home how much my ‘baby’ has grown up! I only have 1 or 2 items to get now and I cannot believe I’ve had to get age 7-8 for my 4 year old – she’s so tall, which I’m informed by my parents, is exactly the same as I was as a child!
I was very happy to work with Tommee Tippee in preparation for their ‘Ultra Games’ sporting event. I have used Tommee Tippee products since I had my eldest child, Lou in March 2012. I used the products again for my 2nd child Moo, from March 2015. My children have used Tommee Tippee original bottles, soothers, Tippee cups and beakers, bowls, snack tubs, etc! I find that Tommee Tippee products are those of a very good quality and strong to withstand daily use with babies and young children.
I was happy to receive the new Tommee Tippee Ultra bottle to try on Moo, I will also be giving away another brand new Ultra bottle, more details to follow below.
We also received a Tommee Tippee Ultra ‘Athlete status’ medal and sweat band, where Moo was fascinated with the star-shaped Medal.
It was interesting to see how the bottle has evolved over time after Moo started using the original Tommee Tippee bottles, we were able to compare the newest Ultra model. Moo found it easier to hold this bottle herself, which she was pleased about – being such an independent and strong willed young lady! The angle of this bottle also allows for a smooth milk flow, which is beneficial, especially for younger babies, as both of my babies had colic. The design of the Ultra teat also allows for less air ingestion and discomfort.
I have always found that because Tommee Tippee bottles have a wide neck teat, it allows for switching between breast and bottle feeding. I also found that this bottle is less dribbly for Moo, the screw ring is thicker and wider than the original Tommee Tippee bottles.
As with previous bottles the Ultra range comes in 2 different sizes – 260ml and 150ml, with 3 different teat sizes:
• 1 = Slow flow (from 0m+)
• 2 = Medium flow (from 3m+)
• 3 = Fast flow (from 6m+)
Due to the Ultra featuring a unique:
‘Contoured and angled’ teat’
(Source: Tommee Tippee Ultra bottle and teat instructions.)
As with other Tommee Tippee specialist bottles, they are only suitable for use with Tommee Tippee Ultra teats. I’ve had to ensure to pick up the correct teats for the type of bottle in the past.
As I know quite a few ladies who are currently pregnant, I will be highly recommending the new Tommee Tippee Ultra bottles to them.
Please click on the link below to be taken to Gleam page, where you will be asked to like my Facebook page, if this is done via this link you could be in with a chance to receive a boxed 260ml Tommee Tippee Ultra bottle RRP: £8.99
Disclosure: We were sent these products for the purpose of this review, all opinions are my own.
I have finally got around to finishing my 2 plans for activities to do with Lou over the next 6 weeks of the summer holidays. Lou is the type of child that requires constant stimulation, she thrives whilst doing craft activities and we’ve already seen the positive effects a ‘Sensory Diet’ has on her. I have always been a planner, I need to have everything written out in front of me to focus and ensure that I have the appropriate resources available for the activities. This need for planning comes from being in the childcare profession for the past 12 years, and it never really leaves!
It’s been a while since I submitted a Saturday siblings photo as there’s been so much going on! Things have calmed now as it’s the start of the summer hols and the girls will be spending more time together. I hope to continue to support their sibling bonding. This week they enjoyed the paddling pool with the hot weather we’ve had. Moo found Lou hilarious as she splashed the water about! 🙂
I currently feel so passionate about writing this post to explain to others how much of a positive impact our local children’s centres have had on our family. Without this service I’m not sure where we’d be at with our family life right now.
Worcestershire County Council are proposing 1.5 million cuts to local children’s centre services. I have found that accessing these centres have been vital to both myself, and other parents I have spoken to in the past 5 years that I have accessed local children’s centres. I went to Saffron in Worcester for my Antenatal appointments with my first child, born in March 2012. I used to be the baby room leader at the centre in Tudor Way, Dines Green. This centre shared a building with the day nursery I worked for and offered a crèche service for the children of parents attending courses at Tudor Way. When my second child was born in March 2015, we had only just moved to the Evesham area, I found it quite isolating and found it difficult to make friends. I attended the baby stay and play at Orchard Vale centre and found the staff extremely supportive and the other new mothers so friendly. This was a huge step for me as I struggle with self-confidence and I had just found out that my child had additional needs so a supportive group such as Orchard Vale was vital at that time. When we moved house to the Pershore area, I accessed the centre at Blossom Vale. This centre offered me the most support and without this my family wouldn’t be functioning as we are today.
I would like to explain my experiences of the Blossom Vale Centre, Pershore in more detail:
I currently attend with my 16 month old daughter:
Tiny Turtles swimming sessions at our local swimming pool at Rivers, Pershore, run by the children’s centre.
‘Bounce and Rhyme’ 0-18 months music session at Pershore library.
We have taken part in ‘Sensory Madness’ and ‘Toddle Along’ courses with my daughter.
We accessed the crèche in the centre whilst I attended ‘Triple P’ and ‘Family Links’ parenting courses.
I have been invited to attend an additional needs parents forum and a talk about Autism run through Autism West Midlands.
My partner has attended the Father’s groups with our 4-year-old.
In July 2015 our health visitor referred us to family support as we were having a very difficult time at home coping with our child’s behaviour, whom has additional needs. In June 2016 I self-referred back to Family Support. Due to the forthcoming transition from Pre school to school as my 4-year-old finds changes and transitions particularly unsettling.
The benefits of attending children’s centre groups and sessions are that it’s a welcoming environment to talk to other parents, especially if you are a socially awkward and un-confident parent as I am myself. My partner struggles socially and he felt at ease to chat to other fathers at the ‘Dad’s group’ sessions. The staff at the centre are so helpful, they are aware that my eldest child has difficulties with her behaviour at home and when attending sessions they take the time to check in and ask if everything is ok at home. Without groups such as those mentioned above I fear that many other parents will be completely lost and isolated, especially first time mothers, who find that support from talking to other new mothers in the same situation, its such a relief to find that you’re not alone in what your are currently going through, whether this be problems with feeding, colic, sleeping, etc.
The most beneficial service for our family by far has been that of Family Support. I felt like an alien to everyone when I found out that my child had additional needs, I felt like the only parent in the world going through this. Our daughter, now 4, had extreme meltdowns which escalated after her sister was born in March 2015. Her behaviour was unbearable at home, she would scream, shout, throw items at me and was very rough with her younger sister. When our family support worker first came into our home, we were without a diagnosis for my daughter’s difficulties, I blamed myself as a parent and I was extremely low in myself. Our family support worker was able to finish a course of ‘Family Links’ parenting course that I’d be unable to carry on with due to problems in pregnancy, we talked about acceptable behaviours as my daughter has no awareness of dangers, we discussed tactics of how my daughter could keep calm, including breathing techniques and I was offered support and advice on using strategies such as ‘Visual Timetables’ and ‘Social Stories.’ The family support worker helped me gain confidence in my ability as a parent and helped my partner with self-esteem strategies. Without this service my family would be completely and utterly lost, we wouldn’t have been able to function or carry on. As we are currently at the beginning of the school summer holidays I’m unsure as to whether we we actually gain any more family support, as my daughter is on the way to a more thorough diagnosis and has already been recognised as having Sensory Processing Disorder, with traits of ADHD and Autism. Her behaviour has recently spiralled, she is bigger and stronger than when we first accessed family support and faces the transition between Pre school, then the school holidays, then starting First school. She finds changes very unsettling and we are currently experiencing up to 10 extreme meltdowns per day.
I feel so devastated that services like these mentioned could be cut, and centres even closed, my fear is that there are so many other parents out there who have and who are experiencing the same as we have in the past 2 years, where will these people go to for support?
In those times when someone is totally and utterly desperate will more parents be faced with visits from social services when all they need is someone like a family support worker to pick them up and tell them everything is going to be ok?
Thank You for your time,
Worcestershire Parent and Blogger at Sensory Sensitive Mummy.