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Children With Sensory Integration Disorder — Help Me Understand.

For children with sensory integration disorder, their experiences stem from the fact that the brain seems unable to balance the senses appropriately. The brain may not be able to filter out background stimuli while allowing important information in, so the child may deal with overwhelming amounts of sensory input day and night, sort of a rush-hour gridlock of information. This causes dysfunctions with their sense of touch, smell, hearing, taste and/or sight, which may also lead to difficulty in movement, coordination and even sensing where one's body is in a given space.

Children with sensory integration disorder may be overly sensitive to certain textures, sounds, smells and tastes. Wearing certain fabrics or experiencing normal everyday sounds may also cause discomfort. But the opposite is also possible. A child may feel very little pain or actually enjoy sensations that neurotypical children would dislike such as strong smells, intense cold or unpleasant tastes and even pain.


Research in Developmental Disabilities

Children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) have poorer postural control and are more susceptible to falls and injuries than their healthy counterparts. Sports training may improve sensory organization and balance ability in this population. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of three months of Taekwondo (TKD) training on the sensory organization and standing balance of children with DCD. It is a randomized controlled trial. Forty-four children with DCD (mean age: 7.6 ± 1.3 years) and 18 typically developing children (mean age: 7.2 ± 1.0 years) participated in the study. Twenty-one children with DCD were randomly selected to undergo daily TKD training for three months (1 h per day). Twenty-three children with DCD and 18 typically developing children received no training as controls. Sensory organization and standing balance were evaluated using a sensory organization test (SOT) and unilateral stance test (UST), respectively. Repeated measures MANCOVA showed a significant group by time interaction effect. Post hoc analysis demonstrated that improvements in the vestibular ratio (p = 0.003) and UST sway velocity (p = 0.007) were significantly greater in the DCD-TKD group than in the DCD-control group. There was no significant difference in the average vestibular ratio or UST sway velocity between the DCD-TKD and normal-control group after three months of TKD training (p > 0.05). No change was found in the somatosensory ratio after TKD training (p > 0.05). Significant improvements in visual ratios, vestibular ratios, SOT composite scores and UST sway velocities were also observed in the DCD-TKD group after training (p ≤ 0.01). Three months of daily TKD training can improve sensory organization and standing balance for children with DCD. Clinicians can suggest TKD as a therapeutic leisure activity for this population.


Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years

As scientists continue to learn more about how the brain grows and how children develop intellectual abilities, it has become increasingly clear that the younger the children, the more they benefit from active and integrated learning experiences. We know that opportunities for young children to become truly engaged in worthwhile investigations which enable them to take initiative has positive long-term effects on their abilities to observe, reflect, analyze, predict, and evaluate their experiences.

The goal of the first edition of our book Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years was to help teachers to implement project work with children who are not yet proficient in reading and writing. Since that first edition we have become more and more committed to the project approach as a way of providing children with opportunities to develop intellectual abilities and to support their confidence in their ability to solve problems.
Young Investigators by Judy Harris Helm and Lilian Katz

However, as we work with teachers across the country and internationally, we are finding that more and more teachers are telling us that project work is being squeezed out of the curriculum experiences of young children because of the increasing emphasis on standards and early introduction of academic skills. We are also concerned about the disconnection of our children from the natural world.

In the second edition we discuss how project work provides opportunities for young children to grasp the usefulness of emerging literacy and mathematical skills and motivates them to acquire and to practice those skills. We also show readers how they can use project work as a way to connect children with nature and to deepen their knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of it.

In this online discussion we welcome basic questions about the process of guiding projects in classrooms. We are also interested in hearing from teachers and directors who are implementing project work in their programs about the challenges, such as those stated below, and the solutions they have found to these challenges:
how to make time available for project work
incorporating standards and required curriculum on project work, particularly in kindergarten and early primary classrooms
how to increase children's connection with nature through project work
how to do projects with toddlers
We look forward to your questions and welcome participants to share what works for them in project work.

— Judy Harris Helm & Lilian Katz

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