In our house we are trying to wake up our sluggish systems with various activities.
Zak has chores that include heavy work, such as taking out the trash, and hauling baskets of laundry to their respective places. We also have a play set in the backyard which allows him to climb, slide, hang, and dig. We also allow him a digging hole. It is in a place in the yard that does not have a lot of traffic, is not obviously visible to those driving by, and must be covered at all times when he is not actively digging in it. Victor let him pick out his own shovel, and when he feels like it, the boy can just DIG!
The interesting thing is, we have provided all of these thing for him before we ever knew about SPD or suspected he had it. They just seemed like something he really needed to be able to do, and they seemed to make him more mellow. Only for a while though, then he needs another wake up call.
Kit gets her proprioceptive needs met by pushing anything she can find across the floor. Kitchen chairs, stools, boxes, both full and empty, her old bouncy seat that she still likes to sit in to read, and her little pink wagon. She also likes to run back and forth on the couch and throw herself into the cushions or the other people sitting on the couch. We ask her to take things to someone in the family so that she can carry things, a full wipes container is perfect heavy work for her. (And for Daddy after she brings it to him!)
…and Other Activities (?)
But above all, Kit likes to climb! She climbs on the couch, the recliner, the beds, the chairs up to the desks and table. She pulls herself up onto the piano bench and pushes open the lid, plunks out a happy baby tune, then yanks the lid shut. (Then she usually proceeds to pull all the pictures off the top of the piano, and anything else that we have carelessly set down there.)
She tries to climb the slide out side, and can easily clamor up most of the playground equipment at the park. I have to follow very closely behind her all the time. She was most proud of herself for figuring out how to climb the ladder of the kids bunk beds. Oh, yeah, she made it all the way up and onto the top several times. We don’t allow her to do this, but she is quick so sometimes we are still running as she’s starting to climb. As a result, she did fall off the ladder one time, but she emerged with only the slightest bruise on her cheek.
Both Zak and Kitty Kat like to CHEW! Seriously, like puppies. We have NO erasers on any of our pencils. Not one. Even the replacements we have are chewed! Even the metal is all gnarled and deformed.
Most of Zak’s shirt collars are stretched because he will twist it up as he chews on them. Same thing for the corners of several of our blankets, and often his pillowcase. He chews his fingernails till they are nubs. Then he just chews on his fingers, especially while he watches TV.
Kit’s nickname around here is Goat Baby, because she will eat ANYTHING! She especially loves paper and anything she can pull out of the trash, coffee grounds, chicken bones, and much grosser. Hence, all of our garbage cans are now elevated. She daily taste tests the dog food. She tries to suck the shampoo and conditioner out of the pumps.
She loves finding treasures that the kids have neglected to put away including but not limited too: Legos, googly eyes, fuzzy balls, coins, glue sticks, candy wrappers, marbles, ear buds, and yes, I’ll admit it, batteries (EEK!!). Let’s face it, our house is one giant chocking hazard!
So what do we do about it? Short of throwing everything in our house away (since we can’t give it away all chewed up!), we must find alternatives!
|A smattering of sensory satisfiers.|
For Zak, we give him straws, allow him to chew gum (sugar free), and we bought him a couple of teething toys. Yup. Right out of the baby section. One is a ring and has tiny plastic bristles, great for tactile input too! Another vibrates when he bites down on it.
We got the same items for Kit, and of course Grace was pouty and all upset because, (by thunder!) she wants a baby teething toy too! So we got her one. Now all three of my kids can sit on the couch lined up watching a movie with chewies in their mouths. Yay…right? Well, at least the fingernails are getting less action.
Less Embarrassing Solutions
We also have a weighted exercise ball that they can bounce, roll, and otherwise play on, but not throw.
We have recently learned about ‘sandwiching’. This is where we put couch pillows on the floor, then have Zak lay on them. Then another layer of pillows, then Grace will lay on those. Then another pillow, and Kitty Kat goes on top of that. I use a small pillow or blanket to gently push Kit down into the pillows below, transferring gentle pressure all the way down into Zak’s sleepy receptors! I bounce them, and make them roll back and forth.
Kit is usually done first, then Grace. That’s when I lay on the pillows like a t and roll back and forth until Zak either says he’s done or starts wrestling to get up, or starts getting too giggly. That means his receptors are on line! Ready for action. Nice, calm, steady action. Like school work, or getting ready for bed without mass distraction. Or doing chores without too much silliness.
So Many Things to Do :-D
Some other things we are eager to do more of is clay and play dough molding. It’s wonderful deep pressure for the hands and arms and even the shoulders. Also would like to have the kids do more jump roping, tug of war games, and more time upside down.
Yes, being in an upside down position, stimulates the proprioceptive and vestibular system in different ways than when we are upright. I’ve read that some kids who have trouble reading or listening to a story, can do so, much more efficiently while or just after being upside down for a period of time.
I think it would help Zak, and maybe even Grace when she’s struggling with a tough concept in her schoolwork. I know that Kit likes to be upside down. We often swing her by her legs gently. Or I will just let her lay backward off my lap or on the exercise ball. She really likes it. She sings, especially ”Patty-Cake”. Even though the only words she knows to the song are “roooooow eht”. (Roll it. You know.)
There’s more, but it now spills over into more of the other sensory needs.
One last thing I wanted to mention. These strategies are not just helpful to kids with SPD, Autism, Asperger’s or ADHD. ALL kids can benefit from these types of sensory breaks built into their day. All kids have these needs, and they are being met less and less in schools and daycares, where, recesses are reduced or simply removed and where they might only have gym once or twice a week. Even then activities are restricted because of liability issues.
As adults we are encouraged to take a ‘stretch break’ every 15 to 20 minutes, and a 5-10 minute brisk walk or other physical burst every 2-3 hours if we work sitting down in an office type job. Why do we expect our children to sit longer than that without moving, at any point during their day, but especially during school when their brains are working so hard?
Kids aren’t always getting what they need at home either. Far too many kids spend too much time in front of screens and not enough on bikes or in trees, or just digging a good, deep hole. So please! If your kid is kicking the chair, or thumping something on the table during dinner or homework, maybe try challenging them to do 30 or more jumping jacks, pull against you in a tug-of-war, or see how long they can hold up a wall. Perhaps put on a feisty song and let them dance and stomp their way to sensory success. It usually only takes a few minutes, but pays huge dividends in terms of focus. You might be pleasantly surprised! (Obviously those with much more specific sensory needs would need more individually tailored sensory breaks and/or therapy techniques. These are very generalized suggestions.)
Okay, that’s it. I’m really outa here now!