Sensory Friendly Dental Environments?

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014



For children with Sensory Integration challenges, going to the dentist is particularly daunting.  However, research on “Sensory Adapted Dental Environments” may help soften the experience in the future. Click here to learn more.

While it is rare to find a pediatric dentist with a sensory friendly environment who is keenly attuned to the needs of children with SPD and those on the autistic spectrum, in Bergen County we are fortunate enough to  have a dentist with an environment replete with spa music, nature sounds, smells and tactile toys to calm the senses of parents, employees and doctors. A shout out to Purnima Hernandez who has been an advocate, sensory star and recently became a BCBA. Check out her practice here: www.Bergenpediatricdentistry.com.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 and is filed under Autism, Getting Ready for School, Navigating the system, Parenting, Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing, The Special Needs Child.

Occupational Therapy Assessment

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

This is a good time of year to evaluate your child’s development in and out of the classroom. Here are some answers to parents’ questions about assessment.

What is the purpose of an occupational therapy assessment?

The goal of a one-on-one occupational therapy assessment is to identify your child’s areas of strength and weakness, figure out what drives your child’s behavior, and set goals and priorities for treatment.During the assessment process we ascertain the difficulties your child is experiencing and uncover the underlying causes. To do that we need to learn as much as we can about how he/she functions in his/her every day environments such as home, and/or school, and in other settings such as playdates, birthday parties, movies, the mall, and after-school activities. Underlying skills that we evaluate include core strength, gross motor and fine motor skills, visual perception, sensory integration, and social skills, among others. Alternatively, an assessment may be limited to performance in one area of function, such as self-care, handwriting or play skills.

Do we need to have an evaluation in school?

Back To School

If your child is having difficulty in school, such as with circle time, attention, fidgeting, behavior, playing with others, daily routine, etc., a school visit may be in order. When the therapist observes in the classroom he/she will glean an understanding of the specific challenges your child faces, and the supports and opportunities the particular classroom affords. Armed with this information and a newly formed relationship with your child’s teachers he/she can figure out which strategies to recommend for the classroom and determine which underlying skills your child needs to develop to survive and thrive every day.

 Blog written by: Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 6th, 2014 and is filed under Getting Ready for School, Navigating the system, Parenting.

How to Make the Change: Essential Tips for Transitioning Your Child to a Big Kid Bed

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

It can be difficult to help your child transition from a crib to a bed. Sometimes your child may climb out of the crib before you really feel he/she is ready for a big kid bed, and the decision is hastened. Alternatively, you make be expecting an addition to the family, which may prompt the need to move your older child to a bed. Whenever and however it happens, here are a few helpful tips for making the transition as smooth as can be.

  1. Minimize the changes:

    a. Stick to the same bed time routine that was established when your child was in the crib

    b. Place the bed in the same location in the room as the crib

    c. If your child has a preferred plush toy or blankie, make sure that it makes the move to the new bed

  1. Build the hype:

    a. Allow your child to help pick the sheets for his/her new bed to build excitement and to feel some ownership for the new bed.

    b. Read books together about transitioning to a bed, such as Sesame Street’s Big Enough for a Bed by Apple Jordan & John E. Barrett or Your Own Big Bed by Rita Bergstein.

    c. Make your child feel like a big boy/girl for sleeping in a big bed

  1. Safety first: Many children do not realize initially that they can come right out of bed, but safety is key:

    a. Place a gate at the door to your child’s room so that he/she cannot walk out of the bedroom unsupervised and possibly happen upon danger (i.e., stairs).

    b. Survey your child’s room carefully. There may be items in the room that were not of concern when your child was confined to the crib, but that you want to remove or place out of reach in case your child comes out of bed and can explore freely. Be particularly mindful of items on the changing table, such as vitamins or medications.

Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR/L & Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, OTR/L, Director of POTS

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 and is filed under Navigating the system, Parenting.

10 Things We Know About Autism That We Didn’t Know a Year Ago

Monday, April 8th, 2013

In her Huffington Post article “10 Things We Know About Autism That We Didn’t Know a Year Ago,” Geraldine Dawson, Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks, shares some of the great progress made in autism research in just the last year. As we celebrate and recognize Autism Awareness Month this April, Dawson reminds us not only of the steps forward we’ve taken, but how many more still need to be made. Take a look at her article and tell us what you think below. What are some things you’ve learned about autism this year that you didn’t know before?

This entry was posted on Monday, April 8th, 2013 and is filed under Navigating the system, News and Views.

Autism is Not a Parenting Fail

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Responding to Brenda Rothman’s “Autism is Not a Parenting Fail” on The Huffington Post.

Hopefully Brenda Rothman’s experience as a mother of a child with autism is different from that of parents of newly diagnosed children these days. At POTS, when coaching parents of children with differences, from mild to catastrophic, we emphasize that each child develops on his/her own timeline. Parents do not have the power to cause their children’s differences, but they do have the power to help them discover their unique passions and strengths and capitalize on them. It may be a lot of hard work to figure out what that is, but the end result is worth it. Working from a strength-based model rather that focusing on deficits can open up a world of possibilities to children, whose skills and interests are not those of typically developing children. Each parent will need to write his/her own child’s instruction manual, and be sure to give all of those on their team access to it.

Submitted by Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, Director of POTS

This entry was posted on Monday, February 25th, 2013 and is filed under Autism, Navigating the system, News and Views, Parenting, The Special Needs Child.

ADHD and Medication May Not Mix?

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Many parents bring their children for occupational therapy as an alternative to medication to manage the symptoms of ADHD. Often medication is recommended by their child’s school (although the teacher is not a medical professional). Here is an article from MedlinePlus, the publication of the National Institute of Health, with evidence that will come as no surprise to the skeptical among us: in a recent study conducted at Johns Hopkins 90 percent of the children taking ADHD medications continued to experience symptoms of the condition six years after their diagnosis and ongoing treatment. What has your experience been? Tell us in the comments.

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2013 and is filed under Autism, Navigating the system, News and Views, Parenting, The Special Needs Child.

The 6 People You Need in Your Corner

Friday, February 15th, 2013

It takes a village to raise a child, especially a child with unique needs. But the composition of that village is rarely discussed in detail. I would look to Jessica Hagy’s Forbes article “The 6 People You Need in Your Corner” to suggest a team of people with the diverse qualities and positive energy you can surround yourself with as you continually evolve as a parent and an advocate for your child.

At POTS we assume different roles depending on the qualities and needs of the child and family. We are always Cheerleaders and often the Instigators, propelling our parents to make things happen for their children. We are the Taskmaster  who will keep you on track making sure that you never miss an opportunity or a deadline. The Connector to help you reach out to new allies and broaden your support system.  The Doubter, the voice of reason that demands you clarify your goals and keeps you on task. Finally, the Example are those parents who have done it before you, survived the maelstrom and came out stronger and wiser.

Submitted by Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, Director of POTS


This entry was posted on Friday, February 15th, 2013 and is filed under Autism, Navigating the system, Parenting, The Special Needs Child.

Sensory Tips for Surviving Supermarkets

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

As much as we may try to dodge dragging our children along to the supermarket, sometimes it is just unavoidable. For a child with a sensory processing disorder, bright lights, unrelenting visual stimuli, long aisles begging your child to run and overwhelming sounds and smells can be recipe for disaster. Here are some tips for surviving the supermarket trip with a child with sensory processing disorder:

  • Plan ahead! Prepare a list so you can get in and out as quickly as possible. Organize your list according to aisle to avoid zigzagging all over the supermarket, which can be overwhelming and over stimulating.
  • Put your child to work! Have your child push the cart. The heavy work is organizing and calming proprioceptive input. For additional input, have your child take heavy products off the shelves to place in the cart.
  • The urge to run down the long aisles of the supermarket might be too strong for your child to resist. Avoid yelling “no!” and “stop,” and instead give your child an acceptable alternative that allows him to safely get the movement he craves. For example, say, “Let’s see if you can jump all the way to the end and then hop all the way back to me.” Or if you want your child to stay close, “Do 20 jumping jacks.”
  • Don’t expect your child to stand still and wait patiently at the check-out counter (which is difficult for most adults!). Have your child help put the groceries on the belt or give him the shopping list and have him check off items as he sees them, to make sure you got everything.

Submitted by Ariela Warburg, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 and is filed under Navigating the system, Parenting, Sensory Integration, The Special Needs Child.

Parents, Sleep Late this Sunday!

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Most children, especially those with sensory processing disorders, benefit from a structured morning routine. Unfortunately, once a morning routine is established, children rarely sleep later than their usual wakeup time. As much as you might fantasize about sleeping late on Saturday or Sunday, your children probably make sure that you are up as soon as they are. Here are some tips that might get you some extra shut-eye this weekend, without ever turning on the TV.

  • Have breakfast easily accessible
    Pour the cereal into bowls and cover with a napkin.  Place the filled bowls and spoons on the kitchen table the night before. Pour just enough milk into cups and place on a reachable shelf in the fridge. You can have mini milk cartons available to prevent spilling. Children as young as 3 years old can manage this self-serve breakfast task independently. A bit of a mess is inevitable, but worth the extra sleep!
  • Have specific activities set up
    Older children: Teach your children that after (or before) breakfast on weekends they can play on their own for a while. Have games that your child enjoys, has already mastered and can play with independently within sight, reachable, and organized enticingly.  For example, have a puzzle, Legos or a dress-up box ready in the middle of the play area.
  • Younger children: Place enticing toys that your child favors between his or her room and yours. Hopefully your child will get distracted on the way to your room and start to play. If your child is still in a crib, setup crib toys that will keep your baby entertained for a while. Here are some suggestions:
    Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Soother
    Fisher-Price Luv U Zoo Crib ‘N Go Projector Soother
    Fisher-Price Precious Planet Kick and Play Piano
    Sassy Crib and Floor Mirror
  • Children who can read and tell time:
    Set up a treasure hunt: This one takes a bit more preparation, but what wouldn’t you do for some extra sleep? Send your child on a treasure hunt that takes all morning. For example, start by leaving a note on the kitchen table saying “eat Cheerios, check the back of the box.” On the back of the Cheerios box tape a note that says, “Dump out the Legos a build a huge castle.” In the Lego box will be a note that says, “Draw a picture and hang it on the fridge with a magnet.” On the fridge will be yet another note. You get the idea. The last note can say something along the lines of “Clean up the playroom and at 9:00 am claim your prize from Mom.”

Everyone Wins!
You get some valuable sleep time while your children develop important skills including self-organization, independent play, imagination, creativity, and patience.

Submitted by: Ariela Warburg MS, OTR/L & Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, OTR/L, Director of P.O.T.S.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 25th, 2013 and is filed under Navigating the system, Parenting, The Special Needs Child.

Managing Play-dates For the Sensory Challenged Child

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

For many children, play dates are a skill to be mastered. For children with sensory processing disorders, play-dates can be a particularly challenging time, but a skill well worth investing time, money and creativity to foster.  Here are some tips for setting your child up for successful play-dates:

Start at your house:
To minimize sensory demands host the first few play-dates with a child at your house where your child feels most comfortable and secure. Children who are overly sensitive to touch, sight, sound or movement may become overstimulated and tend to avoid novel environments. The possibility of overwhelming or noxious stimuli may cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.  Children who crave sensation may be distracted by every novel sensory experience available. When a child is preoccupied with addressing his/her sensory needs, he/she cannot tap into the social skills necessary for collaborative play. Your house will eliminate the need for your child to attend to environmental novelty.

Less is more:

  • Three is a Crowd: Stick to playing with one other child at a time while developing play date skills. Two or more children can feel like a chaotic experience for a child who with sensory sensitivities or a child who simply has not yet mastered play-date skills.
  • Time is of the Essence: Keep the play-date to a maximum of an hour and a half to ensure that the play-date ends on a high note. If you wait until the children tire and their behavior deteriorates, your child is less likely to look forward to another one.


  • Advance Planning:  Advanced planning is essential for a successful play-date. Plan fun and novel activities that will entice both children to play. Fun engaging activities take the pressure off your child to entertain his/her play partner, while still fostering interaction.
  • Be prepared to be part of the process: Remember, a play-date is a learned skill, and like all new skills sometimes children will need some assistance and practice.
  • Establish the Rules: Prepare for the play-date by reviewing and rehearsing the rules of being a good friend—whether you are the host or the guest. Your child will walk into the play-date with more confidence and sense of control knowing the rules and what to expect. If an issue arises during the play-date, all your child will need is a gentle reminder.
  • Hide the Treasures: Put away treasured toys, or anything you are unwilling to clean up. Everything else is fair game. This can be emphasized when reviewing the rules of being a good friend.
  • Designate areas for play: Don’t let the children wander and flounder. Designate specific areas that are open for play, and close the ones that are too unstructured to benefit the children. The idea is to structure the play-date to encourage maximal interaction.

Sensory prep right before the play date:
Give your child the sensory input that he/she needs before the play-date begins to achieve a regulated state necessary for interacting with another child. For calming, provide proprioceptive input and deep pressure. Try giving big bear hugs or wheelbarrow walking. For a child who needs alerting, provide a crunchy snack and do some jumping jacks.

Clean-up is part of the play-date:
Transitions are difficult for most children and ending a play-date, especially a successful one, can be challenging. Clean-up is a great structured transition activity and clearly signals to the children that the play-date is over.

There is a big return on your investment:
Playing together with other children is an important part of social-emotional development. Children with sensory processing disorders often have a hard time interacting with a group of children in a school environment and miss out on opportunities to develop social skills in school. On parent structured play-date they have the opportunity to learn to successfully interact with individual children and establish solid relationships, which can pave the way to group interaction.

Submitted by: Ariela Warburg MS, OTR/L & Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, OTR/L, Director of P.O.T.S.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 and is filed under Navigating the system, Parenting, Sensory Integration, The Special Needs Child.