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Month: January 2015

The need to CONTROL

In my sessions this week a common theme has arisen, the need to have control. So I decided to explore this concept of control to better understand what my clients were going through. Why is it that we feel the need to control others? Why is it so hard to let go of control? The message I often convey to my clients is that you can only control yourself, you cant control others. But why is this so hard for us to actually do? Then I realized I was asking the wrong question all along. Putting on my detective hat I started to observe that a persons need to control increased as their stress levels increased. The more things that felt out of control the more they needed to be controlled and reigned in. Examples this week included; children dictating what had to happen next, parents not allowing their children to be independent, and friends stifling relationships as they hold on too tight. To better understand this I started to look within myself, how is control affecting my life? I discovered that I was trying to control a new business partnership, as I wanted my ideas to be the ones implemented.

So why is it that we feel this compulsive need to control? Well maybe question is actually… What do I fear is going to happen if I let go? This then changes the way the situation is viewed and can be managed. The controlling child becomes the child who is afraid that they wont see their parent again as they have attachment difficulties. The controlling parent becomes the parent who is afraid that their children wont need them any more. The controlling friend becomes the friend who is afraid that they will lose a person they care about. And me, I become the person who is afraid that by listening to others ideas mine would be dismissed.

If we try to address a persons control issues they will push back harder. So instead look for the underlying fear that is driving the control. I have found that taking this view reduces the frustration that often comes about when battling against a controlling person. Instead this frustration is replaced with compassion and hope, not only for the other person but also for ourselves.



What are Sensory Diets?

Sensory diets are specific individualized programs written by an Occupational Therapist (OT). They are designed to help a person with Sensory Processing difficulties manage their symptoms so that they can function in their daily routine. The concept ‘sensory diet’ was termed by OT Patricia Wilbarger in the late 1970’s. It refers to having regular sensory input throughout the day, consisting of intensive large amounts (main meals) and smaller top ups (snacks). An Occupational Therapist develops a sensory diet with the child and supporting adults to determine what ‘nutritional’ sensory input their nervous system needs to function. Activities are chosen according to the individuals preferences usually determined by interview, observation and often formal assessment (such as Sensory Profiles or Sensory Processing Measures). Each activity is strategically placed in the child’s daily routine considering the following:

  • Activity power; determined by intensity, duration and frequency
  • Practical activities; so they are easy to embed in the child’s routine
  • Identifying ‘high stress’ times; so additional input can be given to balance the stress
  • Regular input; activities scheduled throughout the day to maintain optimal behaviour

When used correctly the most powerful and long lasting activities include; movement, deep pressure touch, joint compression and heavy work. With the right amount of intensity, duration and frequency, these activities can have an impact for 2 to 4 hours. It is highly recommended that trialing sensory activities is done in collaboration with an OT trained in this area, as when not done correctly can have a negative impact for 2-4 hours!

Often a family is provided with a Sensory Program or some Sensory Strategies. These are usually more flexible and less targeted then a Sensory Diet. I find it is the process of putting together a Sensory Program with a therapist that families find most helpful. As this gives lots of opportunity to learn about what sensory processing is, about their child’s specific needs and allows for problem solving along the way.


Sleep restores the body’s resources that have been used up during the day (such as the immune system which is needed for healing and fighting illness). While sleeping the brain processes and retains information that was learned from the day and stores it into long-term memory. The common sleep issues that children may experience are:

  • Not enough sleep
  • Taking along time to fall asleep
  • Wake up in the middle of the night
  • Staying up too late or waking up too early
  • Difficulty waking them up in the morning
  • Night terrors, or sleep walking

It is important to address any sleep issues as they greatly affect performance during the day.

  • Learning; affects concentration, problem solving and decision-making.
  • Emotional well being; linked to depression, low mood, decreased motivation, irritable and anxiety.
  • Daytime Behaviour; sleepiness, hyperactivity, non-compliance, impulsivity, inattention, risk taking and oppositional behaviour.
  • Sensory processing; heightened sensitivity, leading to overload or over reactive response.
  • Physical coordination; slower reaction time and reduced stamina.

How much sleep do you need?

  • 10 – 13 year olds need about 10-11 hours
  • 14 – 18 year olds need about 8.5-9.5 hours
  • 19 – 30 year olds need about 7.75 hours

Research has shown that it is the first 4 hours of sleep that are the most important. This is when we are in our deepest sleep and therefore the most restoration/healing occurs. There are seven main factors that impact quality of sleep: routine, diet, light exposure, exercise, environment, health/stress and sensory input.

Register for the online training module to learn more about how these areas impact our sleep and can be used to develop healthy sleep practices. Alternatively, give me a call book a session to tailor these strategies to your family.