Posted by Rebecca Bingham, Special Needs Mommie | Posted in The Special Needs Mommy | Posted on 26-05-2010
My 5 year old son, Cubby is (what we call in the business) a sensory seeker. That is just a small part of his diagnosis which includes Sensory Processing Disorder (or Sensory Integration Disorder). What being a seeker means is that his brain is literally starving for stimulation, just like a body does for food. And, like the body, when it doesn’t get what it needs, it does everything it can to find it. Before we knew what we were dealing with, we just thought he was a little kid with lots of energy, freakish strength, and the absolute inability to sit still.
Early funny stories from his babyhood include him lifting a 4 pound weight in each arm over his head, when he was 13 months old. He would drag his sisters school bag around, the heavier the better. He would climb up the highest things and jump off anything, and never got hurt. In fact, he never seemed to get hurt. Even the things that SHOULD have hurt him (and would leave him scratched or bleeding). Nothing.
There are even more scary stories. Like the time where he chewed his way out of his crib tent (we went through 4), figured out how to unlock the door in his room during nap time (yes, there was a child lock), and ended up on the top of the balcony about to jump over. Or the times he started to hurt himself just to see how much he could take before he ‘felt’ it. Not to mention the fact that he couldn’t seem to manage his strength and recognize how much was too much with other children. If any of these things sound familiar to you, you might have a sensory kid.
With the help of some Occupational Therapists, he is learning to recognize what his body needs as well as to modify his behavior. We are able to manage this pretty easily with some awesome tools and some creative parenting. A seeker needs to get extra stimulation in order to satisfy their brain and body so they can be calm and focus. It is counter intuitive to how most of us live but a sensory kid will need to fidget so that they can be calm. Often something needs to be moving to keep the motor going.
In our house, Cubby watches TV while standing on top of one of those pool noodle things, cut into a smaller length. A favorite in our house is also a wedge cushion. It allows his body to get stimulation while also sitting “still”. When he goes to school, we tie a length of rubber pilates band across the bottom of his chair so he can press his feet against it while he is working.
Another thing that helps is giving him lots of chances and places to get his wiggles out and get the right kind of stimulation. We have a trampoline (can’t live without that one) and a rope swing where he can spin and spin and spin. We even put a trapeze swing in so he can work on that. It feels like play, but it is work. The more he can compress his joints and use his large muscles the more he is able to regulate himself.
Other great things to do with seeker kids:
Brushing. Using these brushes gently up and down his skin on his arms and legs and tummy helps him learn to tolerate stimulation. This works with both stimulation seekers and avoiders.
Tent. Cubby has a tent over his bed, but any small space will do. When he feels like he is in a small, enclosed space he is able to escape stimulation and calm down. Behind a couch, a closet or even a box works too. Just as long as it is a space only for them.
Wii Sport. Seriously, it gets all the muscles moving and is like an OT session right on the TV. We are looking for a dance game now.
Blowing and Chewing. Anything that gets those oral motor muscles moving. Chewing gum, toffy, beef jerkey. Cubby also loves to blow bubbles with a straw. Fill a bowl with water and dish soap, give the kid a straw and let him blow until the bubbles are all gone. To make it harder, give them a silly straw that has loops and turns. We also blow up a lot of ballons in our house.
Two books that were really helpful for me are The Out of Sync Child and The Explosive Child. You can get them at the library or even borrow them from the lending library of your local Early Intervention Center. Did you know each county has one of these? It is a resource for parents to take classes, get evaluations and a lending library. The one I go to is Community Gatepath. Their library is awesome! Plus, you can meet other parents that are walking the road you are. Meeting with other parents can help you realize you CAN do what you need to for your child, and that your child will see progress from all their hard work, and you don’t have to explain anything.
If you need any more ideas, come on over to my house and our kids can have a “sensory playdate”. I would love to hear what other people do with their kids.