Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Drive-Thru Carwash, What's Not To Like?

My two children love to go through the car wash after I fill up my car tank with gas. What's not to like about the drive-thru car wash anyways? The car gets sprayed with water, soaped up, and "blow dried" before you leave the tunnel. Well, it is quite the sensory rich experience, because the car is moving while all of these noisy machines are coming at you!

Although my typically developing kids think it is fun, I can see why a child with sensory over-responsiveness, poor motor planning (AKA dyspraxia), and/or anxiety would not think it is fun. If lots of noise, sights, movement, and smells tend to be over-whelming to a child, then the car wash is not the place to go for entertainment!

This gets me thinking, how many common daily or week events would be over-whelming to these children. Well, just to name a few: going to the grocery store, taking a bath including washing hair, mealtime (preparation and eating), singing at church, going to the local park, and playing with other children. Then, there's always the events that tend to happen on a monthly or quarterly basis: birthday or holiday parties, haircuts, zoo, and going to the movie theater. How fun would life be, if these things created more anxiety?

Children who over-respond to sensory input to the point where it interferes with functioning in life events, could benefit from occupational therapy services. Children who have difficulties with motor planning and learning new activities or with transitions could often benefit from occupational therapy as well; these kids tend to be clumsy and may need physical therapy, and may also have a speech delay requiring speech therapy.

One thing that is beneficial to do at home for these children is to make routines predictable. This helps them to feel in control because they know the order of events. But we all know that the unexpected can happen, so the best thing to do is be calm and provide calming sensory input (see ). Realize that the child gets upset and reacts the way he does because of the "fight, flight, or fright" response. If attending occupational therapy treatment, ask the therapist for a home program and ideas on how to handle tough situations. This is especially the case if the child has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (AKA sensory integration dysfunction).

Well, I'm off to go cook a new recipe- not a predictable experience. And I'm doing this after I attended a sporting event, took my child to a roller rink with her friend, and cleaned up my son's vomit...none of which are predictable experiences! Wow, and it's not even 5 pm yet!


  1. This is a really interesting question and something that can be so easy to overlook. My son has major sensory integration issues and sometimes I think I'm being very tuned in to his needs only to find that he has the exact opposite response to a situation than I predicted!

    I'd love to publish your post on my site: Would you be interested?



    Amber Bobnar

  2. There is more and more research that links many learning and developmental difficulties to poor communication and synchronisation between the two brain halves. An effective way of improving the processing functions in the brain is to listen to specially altered sound or music through headphones as pioneered by Dr. Alfred Tomatis (Tomatis method) and Dr. Guy Bérard (Auditory
    Integration Training - AIT).

    Now there is a new Sound Therapy Programme which has been specifically developed with the aim to improve sensory processing, interhemispheric integration and cognitive functioning and it is entirely free to download and use at home. It has helped many children and adults with a wide range of learning and developmental difficulties, ranging from dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder to sensory processing disorders and autism. It is not a cure or medical intervention, but a structured training programme that can help alleviate some of the debilitating effects that these conditions can have on speech and physical ability, daily behaviour, emotional well-being and educational or work performance.

    Check out the Free Sound Therapy Home Programme from Sensory Activation Solutions. There is no catch, it's absolutely free and most importantly often effective. Find it at: