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Building Healthy Brains: Sensory Strategies for Optimal Brain Function & Postural Concerns

Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L

October 1, 2018

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Question

Do you see a connection between emotional regulation issues and sensory processing disorders?

Answer

Emotional regulation issues are very common in the children I see. They are very immature. Depending on what they are doing, there are only certain moods that are available to them because of their current body state. They cannot be happy and calm when their adrenaline and cortisol hormones are at their peak levels. When our sympathetic nervous system is on, there is no "off" button. It is a non-teachable moment when you have a child in this state of arousal, and it takes time for those hormones to resolve. On the contrary, the parasympathetic system focuses on "rest and digest", and has our feel-good hormones. When we are feeling good, it is harder for us to be angry. Make sure that their state matches. 

Breathing is important to balance arousal levels. This is why when you are testing kids, breathing and rib cage and diaphragm movement are critical. Go ahead and do a W sit for me if you are able, and then try to take a deep breath. In addition, try to do the Valsalva maneuver, which is when you push to go to the bathroom. You cannot do this if you are hunched over with a posterior pelvic tilt.

With motor and emotional regulation issues, we may have an imbalance. How do we regulate? The sympathetic nervous system, which I did not know until I took a recent neurology course, is located in the thoracic cord. This is how basic these reflexes are. Even if you do not believe in reflex integration as there is not a ton of evidence, it is good to realize that these are basic reflexes. Parasympathetic reflexes are located in the sacral cord. I think that is interesting. When you look at interoception, that eighth sense, and sexual arousal, those are in the parasympathetic nervous system, but climax is located in the sympathetic nervous system. Even that takes quite an orchestration of our bodies.


cara koscinski

Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L

Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L, author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist Book Series, is a pediatric occupational therapist with over 20 years’ experience. She specializes in Sensory Processing Disorder, trauma-informed care, behavior, advocacy, and autism. As a speaker, Cara brings her expertise as a pediatric occupational therapist and mother of two children with autism to parents, caregivers, families, and educators in an easy-tofollow format. She has published six books which are sold globally.

Cara obtained her Master of Occupational Therapy degree in 1997 from Duquesne University. She is currently attending university to obtain her doctorate degree in occupational therapy. In addition to her longstanding work as a private practice OT, Cara is a successful entrepreneur. She founded two pediatric occupational therapy companies. Her products can be found in special needs catalogues and websites across the US and UK.

In addition to her books, Ms. Koscinski regularly blogs and creates fun products for those who work with children who have special needs. This February, her blog was rated as number six in the top fifty blogs for therapists and teachersin the world by Feedspot. Cara also speaks regularly across the US and provides OT consultations, trainings, and seminars as The Pocket Occupational Therapist. She serves on the Advisory Board of Autism Asperger’s Digest Magazine and Asperkids. Articles and courses authored by Cara are featured in many special needs publications such as Autism File, Harkla, Chewigem, Autism Society of America, Advance for OTs, OccupationalTherapy.com, Autism Parenting Magazine, Autism Asperger’s Digest and NewsLine. Cara is also a children’s YOGA instructor and Certified Irlen screener.


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