I feel like I am starting to get a better handle on things. Starting to.
When I first learned of the diagnosis and all the sensory diet needs, it was overwhelming but I went at it full speed ahead. Since I did not know a lot, I just followed a basic, repetitive routine of OT stuff like deep pressure followed by joint compression. I read about making it a part of your life, about following your children’s clues, but I just did not understand how to apply it. It is finally beginning to make sense. Through therapists and readings like The Out of Sync Child has Fun, I have discovered so many more ways to provide a sensory diet, ways that are not so obviously therapeutic or monotonous.
Why should it even matter if the sensory diet is “obviously therapeutic?” My daughter has been quite resistant to OT /sensory diet lately. She says she does not want to do it, says she just wants to be normal (heart breaking, and she is normal!). I know it helps keep her regulated and better in control of her emotions, so I want her to get it in, but not if it is a fight. Instead of having her sit down for joint compression, we played Simon Says and I had her do things like Crab Walk. When she tired of her soothing bean box, I squirt a bunch of foam on a tray with some plastic tools for her to squish and slide. To her, were just playing like “normal” kids. She is a clever one, though, and she caught on to all my heavy work and prop during Simon Says and now she won’t play with me, ha! Therapeutic or not, she never turns down any sort of massage, so at least we always have this going for us!
My son has been a tricky case. It seems something is working, and then 2 weeks later it no longer works, or even makes his symptoms worse. He is so mixed…seeks and avoids, high arousal then low…that is has been difficult to find a sensory diet that works well for him. Once he finally started OT last month, we hit it hard and he was all of out whack. The therapist warned us that may happen at first, but poor Buddy! Recently, we backed off OT at home. I was doing a regular regime 3 times a day, so I decided to decrease it a bit and change it up. I watched for what he sought and loved and gave him more of that and cut back on things that bothered him, like traditional joint compression. We would swing to his delight. I “bench pressed” him. We twirl and toss and play. I would just do these things when the occasion naturally arose during the day rather than scheduling them or forcing them into our day. He seems to be doing much better right now and we are both happier.
For me, it has been so much easier to naturally fit in a sensory diet rather than follow a strict routine. I am aware that this will change and there may be times that they need more OT and other times less. The type of input they need may vary on any given day. I feel more competent, though, like I am starting to decipher the clues in their behavior, and know what input to give and how much. Not always, but more often than a few months ago. I know there will be days it will change and times where absolutely nothing will work, but finally I am starting to get that a sensory diet does not have to be a stressful burden. I see the potential for it to be a part of our every day life, something necessary but (mostly) fun that we do just like family time, meals at the table, home work, or a bedtime routine. I certainly do not want to get overly optimist as I know Life will slip right in and knock me down a peg or two, but I am starting to feel capable to provide for my children’s sensory diet at home. And it feels good.