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New Ulm Medical Center

A healing touch for kids with sensory difficulties

Most kids love getting messy, but not 19-month-old Isaiah Beaumont. Up until a few months ago, touching anything wet would send him into a screaming, crying fit.

Isaiah has Fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder that can affect a child's development. He also has sensory processing difficulties that make certain textures – things that are wet or moist, hard or soft, for example – very unpleasant to feel.

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Isaiah Beaumont works with Occupational Therapist Shari Meyer at Courage Kenny Kids, part of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - New Ulm. As part of his therapy, Isaiah works with a variety of textured foods to become less sensitive to touching them.

"He just didn't want to touch anything," said Dorothy Beaumont, Isaiah's grandmother. "If you put him on the floor and the carpet didn't feel right to him he would start screaming," explained Dorothy. Isaiah also couldn't stand the feeling of grass. "He just cried and cried until you picked him up," added his grandmother.

Isaiah would eat if his mother or grandmother fed him, but he refused to feed himself. He wouldn't pick up popular baby foods like Cheerios or dissolvable puffs. His family was growing concerned, and started to look for help.

Making great strides at Courage Kenny Kids

Isaiah was already receiving services from the Birth to Three program offered by the River Bend Education District. His services team picked up on Isaiah's sensitivity to touch, and spoke to the boy’s family about their concerns. They suggested the family seek help from the Kenny Kids program at the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute (SKRI) – New Ulm.

Courage Kenny Kids offers occupational, speech and physical therapy to children with many different needs. The facility expanded in spring 2012, and the additional space included a kitchenette, where therapists can offer special programs for picky eaters. The expansion provides more room for kids who need to improve their gross motor skills, like running and jumping.

Isaiah has made great strides during his weekly therapy appointments at Courage Kenny Kids. "Isaiah's hands were sensitive to touch. That was interfering with his ability to explore his surroundings, play with toys and interact with food," explained Shari Meyer, Isaiah's occupational therapist.

Isaiah has been working with Meyer for about seven months. During this time, "he has become less sensory defensive and is able to touch a variety of textures," said Meyer. He's learning to explore his environment with his hands, and be less sensitive to touch. "And, he is now able to feed himself."

Sensory problems are common in children with Fragile X, said Meyer. "In Isaiah's case, he struggles with exploring various textures with his hands. If this had not been addressed, it could have affected his overall development of fine motor skills and object manipulation."

A caring touch makes all the difference

To help Isaiah become more comfortable using his hands to touch, Meyer introduced him to different textures. She started at his tolerance level of touching feathers, cotton balls, marbles and sand. Eventually, Isaiah’s tolerance level progressed so he could touch objects that were moist or wet – things like shaving cream, pudding or cooked noodles.

Meyer has had great success with Isaiah, thanks in part to taking the time to gain his trust. "If that trust isn't there and the child isn't comfortable, they will have a harder time interacting with the therapist during the treatment session," said Meyer.

Dorothy agreed that Isaiah enjoys his therapy sessions and responds well to Meyer. "I love how he is so willing to participate in his therapy sessions. He has been so compliant and engaging with me,” said Meyer. “He has progressed well with the support of outpatient therapy and his family through the development of his home program."

The road to Isaiah's progress has been tough. His family is grateful for Courage Kenny Kids and Meyer’s caring expertise. "It's been a challenge," said Dorothy. "But he's improved a lot since we've been seeing Shari."

For more information about Courage Kenny Kids, please call 507-217-5173.

Source: Health Edition, September 2012
Reviewed by: Shari Meyer, OTR, Courage Kenny Kids - New Ulm
First Published: 09/15/2012
Last Reviewed: 09/15/2012