Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Calling All Sensory Seekers!

If you have never had a chance to observe an occupational therapist trained in sensory integration work with a child, I would highly recommend it. You are in for a real treat. From a child's perspective it is action packed fun and leaves their body feeling great and relaxed. A child can swing and crash and fill their body's with all different types of sensory information that is both exciting and calming wrapped into one. From a parent's perspective it can be a much anticipated hour that turns their child back into a "human being".

With this being said, therapy is expensive, and it only happens once or twice a week. Not 24/7. If you do the math, 99% of your child's week is spent in a state of relative sensory disorganization. I was not about to accept that percentage, it would lead to insanity and utter chaos in our home.

What did we do???

One idea was to create a sensory room in the basement.

We worked carefully with Crash's therapist and observed calming and exciting activities and created a sensory room in the basement. He can crash into bean bags, swing on swings, ride scooter boards, explore different tactile sensations and so forth as he needs to on a daily basis to help maintain an appropriate arousal level (in other words, to prevent or lessen the extreme fluctuation in mood and temper resulting in meltdowns and tears when situations become overwhelming).

This being said, this is a very carefully thought out plan. We started with very regimented activities to help Crash learn and understand some of the activities his body craved. If we were to let him go crazy in the room and do whatever he wanted, we would have ended up with a crazy outcome. It is important to incorporate specific activities that are calming into the mix in order to have a beneficial experiences.

Some alerting activities for crash included swinging and spinning. Some calming activities for Crash included deep pressure being squished under bean bags or crashing into bean bags as well as rhythmic music such as Native American drumming or chants.

In the beginning we would spend an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon working through these activities. A year later, he has come to understand the benefits of the activities and will seek them out as needed through out the day. At times with guidance and at times independently. We have also incorporated smaller forms of similar sensory activities throughout the house for him to seek out as needed, but that is a later post.

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