Since I wrote my last post about my son and his weirdness, I’ve had lots of people emailing me and asking me how we helped him get through his days. So, I’ve made up a list of some of the things that we did and still do for him. Even if you don’t have a sensory kid, you may find some of the info very calming and soothing for your kids as well.
But first, If you suspect your child may have a Sensory Processing Disorder, or some weird sensitivities, talk to your doctor. They’ll point you in the right direction and help you get the support that you need. If your doctor doesn’t know much about SPD, or you’re not satisfied with their response, contact your local Health Unit. There are many early childhood programs available and they will most definitely lead you in the right direction. While you’re waiting for that help to arrive, take notes. Makes lists of what your child does or doesn’t do. Make note of situations or activities that set them off. The more information you can present to the professionals, the quicker a diagnosis and assistance can arrive.
2 Books that I highly recommend you read are “The Out of Sync Child” by Carol Kranowitz AND “Raising a Sensory Smart Child” by Lindsey Biel. Both of these books really helped our family understand our little boy a whole lot better. You will most definitely feel a sense of relief when you read them as you’ll recognize that you’re not alone in your journey with SPD.
1. Change the way you “touch” your child. Many SPD kids and “normal” kids for that matter don’t always like “light fluttery touch”. Rub their backs or skin with purpose, don’t be afraid to apply a little pressure. It’s also a good idea to “cup your hand” when you touch as opposed to using an open hand or just your fingers. Try it on yourself, you will feel a difference. Something that really calmed our son down was to stand behind him, cup our hands and place them on his shoulders. Then push firmly on his shoulders and all the way down his arms and then repeat. You could literally see and feel him “melting” in front of your eyes.
2. Look at your surroundings. Does his favourite chair face a window? (The sun may too bright for him). Is his desk at school beside a garbage can or the pencil sharpener? (Those smells and sounds may be too much for him to process). Is his bedroom really busy … as in too many things on the walls, too many toys, etc. (He may need calmer surroundings). When trying to figure out how to calm your child and make them feel “safe”, step back and look at the big picture. You can make a significant change in his life by just moving a chair, or giving him a ball to sit on. Little changes can be HUGE.
3. Establish a calming “routine or space” as soon as possible. Our son liked a variety of things, but they all involved him being covered up or buried someway/somehow. Those cool little “cocoon” chairs that close up from Ikea work awesome. Blanket Forts, Heavy blankets, crawling tubes, under a coffee table covered with a blanket, all work great. Just figure out a place where they can go chill with little to no stimulation. Pay attention to what sensation they’re always seeking, and figure out a way to feed that need. Be Creative.
4. My son was always seeking out deep touch, so we had to figure out ”strong” activities for him to do. He would always carry our groceries for us. We’d dump them by the front door and let him carry them to the kitchen. We also kept full paint cans in various areas around the house and would get him to carry them for us to wherever. Another great activity for him was to take a pair of pantyhose and wrap them around the bannister on the stairs and let him play tug of war by himself. He would toboggan down the stairs, bumping and banging his little body along the way. He’d lie down on the floor, we’d cover him in couch cushions and push down on him, or let other kids jump on him. We would roll him up in a big blanket like a sausage and roll him around the living room. One of his favourite things was to lay down and let his body be a drum. We would drum on his little back, race hot wheels all over his body, and roll a big ball over top of him. The more creative and sensory we got, the happier we has.
5. At night, he slept with a very heavy weighted blanket and during the day, he would sit and relax with it across his lap. We had to keep his bedroom pitch black in order for his little brain to slow down enough for him to shut off. It took us many tries to find a blanket texture that he could stand touching … we actually ended up taking him to a fabric store and just letting him touch and feel. (If you have a child that just won’t settle, I’d totally recommend giving a heavy blanket a try, even while watching TV. It’s very calming).
6. Items we wouldn’t have survived without: weighted vest, weighted Superman cape, sunglasses, ball caps, fabric tube to crawl inside, super soft fingernail brushes for dry skin brushing, weighted blanket, large yoga ball, paint cans, play tent and bucket loads of “fidgets”. (Bumpy little textured toys of various shapes and size). We still walk around stores touching and feeling things and letting him buy stuff that just “feels” right. Water tables, sand boxes and hundreds of Hot Wheels to line up and race kept him happy for hours.
Your child will give you many clues as to what they need. Be warned that their needs may change, and a favourite toy or activity today may be repulsive tomorrow. Polar fleece is one of those things for our boy … he either loves it or hates it, there is no middle.He continues to keep us on our toes, but if things get bad, we increase his “sensory diet” and things settle down right away.
A diagnosis of SPD is a little bit overwhelming at first but trust me, it’s not the end of the world. Listen to your child and you’ll find your way through it together. I promise.