Help for out-of-sync kids

Debbie Hopper with Leighton Hopper (aged 5) & Aimee Kempers (also aged 5).
Debbie Hopper with Leighton Hopper (aged 5) & Aimee Kempers (also aged 5). 

The new school year is freshly upon us and there is no better time to help pre-schoolers and school children who struggle with concentration skills to reach their full potential.

So many toddlers and children struggle with concentration or so-called “behaviour issues” and meltdowns. They may be labelled as being “misbehaving” children, and struggle at preschool and school to be able to sit, concentrate and learn.  Research has shown that children who are diagnosed with a particular disorder often have underlying sensory processing issues that impact on their behaviour and learning. 

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can cause a bewildering variety of symptoms. When their central nervous systems are ineffective in processing sensory information, children have a hard time functioning in daily life. They may look fine and have superior intelligence, but may be awkward and clumsy, fearful and withdrawn, or hostile and aggressive. SPD can affect not only how they move and learn, but also how they behave, how they play and make friends, and especially how they feel about themselves”.

Debbie Hopper, a paediatric Occupational Therapist with shares some insights to help parents whose babies and toddlers are struggling with issues that may be of sensory origin.

Q. So often children with sensory processing issues are overlooked until symptoms of poor concentration, clumsiness, “poor behaviour” or meltdowns are identified at preschool or school.  Are there early warning signs in infants that can help parents get help earlier?

A. Yes, definitely. In my clinical practice I see many babies who are telling the adults who care for them that their nervous systems are screaming out for help.  What does this look like?  Babies who struggle with their sleep and settling, dislike being hugged, do not like bath time, dislike being laid down to have their nappy changed and who hate tummy time. These babies may be experiencing sensory processing difficulties. Some babies and toddlers have extreme reactions when transitioning from milk to solids and cannot tolerate different tastes and textures. Another common sign is when babies are very quick in developing their sitting skills, but then seem to be “stuck” in their gross motor development and do not progress to crawling or movement for many months, or just try and stand up and walk!

Conversely, there are babies and pre-schoolers who struggle to “get going” in life, and often appear placid and laid back.  These children often need more intense sensory experiences to “wake up” their nervous system to encourage them to participate in life. Often when these children start school, they may be the ones who are slouching on the desk, watching others to see what to do next and may be more clumsy than their classmates.

Q.   If a parent identifies some of these early warning signs, what can be done and who should they seek out for help?

A.    Parents should seek the advice of their trusted health practitioner, whether that be their Child and Family Health Nurse, General Practitioner, or their local Occupational Therapists who are specialised in identifying infants and toddlers who are struggling with sensory processing issues.


Q.   What resources are available for toddlers to help parents through this tricky time?

A.   There are many books about SPD, including Carol Kranowitz's 'The Out of Sync Child' and Tools For Tots by Diana Henry.


Diana Henry, Occupational Therapist, researcher and international expert in applying practical sensory-motor strategies will soon be conducting parent workshops across the country.

Throughout February and March 2011, Diana is touring to Newcastle, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra for the series of workshops aimed at demonstrating practical strategies to help toddlers and children concentrate, learn and relax in learning and social environments. Workshops are suitable for parents and professionals.  Registrations available still for all workshops.

Information about all workshops is available at Essential Baby readers can receive a $50 per day discount by quoting code EB101 when booking by phone or fax.

About Life Skills 4 kids

Based in Forster, NSW Life Skills 4 kids is dedicated to the growth and development of children, and is co-ordinating the Diana Henry workshops. Debbie Hopper, creator and consultant paediatric Occupational Therapist with has over 10 years experience working with children in therapy and is passionate about helping children concentrate, learn and relax. She is also the mother of two pre-schoolers, one of whom struggles with sensory issues, including being sensitive to loud noises and walking on different textures.

PHONE: 02 6536 5308

MOBILE: 0409 605 414

FAX: 02 6554 9316