Sensory-adapted Dental and Hair Care Environments for Children with Disabilities

Atypical sensory processing can negatively influence every aspect of a child with a disability, especially activities of daily living (ADLs). This response can have a strong relationship to behaviors relating to problems with cooperation and active participation in their care. Flinching, withdrawing from the stimuli, and visually and verbally appearing uncomfortable by a person or object touching them is the typical reaction to see when someone is over stimulated by their environment or the context of the situation. This project will focus on the following aims: 1) increase participation of children with disabilities for dental and hair care at home and at the dentist or hair salon; 2) provide strategies to parents to use prior to having their child participate in anxiety inducing life activities, such as the oral and hair care activities; and 3) educate dental and hair care professionals on effective strategies to increase participation of children with disabilities. The team will adapt the environment with various sensory inputs to provide calming stimulation to improve behaviors and concentration during these life tasks, as well as educate the professionals on use of the sensory tools. Also, parents will be mailed a preparation kit which will include various supplies (i.e., nuk brush, straws, vibration, Social Stories™) to regulate their child’s systems and prepare them for the interaction with the professional during their appointment with the dentist or hair stylist, as well as educational materials (i.e., toweling technique, joint compressions). The Sensory Profile- Caregiver Questionnaire, Negative Dental Behavior Checklist, the Parenting Stress Index, and interviews will be completed pre and post participation to determine the effectiveness of the environmental adaptations and education initiatives.