Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Seeking Sensory Input; At Home Edition

Kiddo craves movement. All the time. She is constantly running, spinning, jumping, crashing, swinging, flipping, etc. As I'm writing this, she is in the next room with daddy spinning in circles and crashing (unfortunately, she just crashed herself right into a wall).

Jump Jump Jump- Trampoline is from Walmart - $36

All of this feels good to her, more than it would for us. She uses these activities for two main reasons - self regulating and seeking input. It is more common for her to use it to regulate her body and feel comfortable again, but sometimes she seeks the sensory input from spinning fast or the repetitive motion of swinging back and forth. Sometimes she just wants to be rough-housed and thrown around to get that "deep pressure" feeling. Over time, we are starting to learn what she needs and when she wants it. Its important for a child to learn which ones soothe them and feel good. A lot of exposure at different times when experiencing different emotions is a good thing. Over time, they'll most likely find a way to communicate which ones they need. We use the same blanket to swing, and she eventually learned to bring it to us when she needs to calm down.

Swing, count to 10, then "crash" on the couch/bed. 

I hear a lot that you don't want to let an autistic kid spin too much or they will 'do it forever/more' or 'look funny when they go to school' or "get too excited". You want to let them do it and learn how to regulate their bodies. Over exposure can be bad, but you want to aim for 5-10 minutes, no more than 15 (this is advice straight from her therapist). Most kids will usually not go over 15 minutes but in some cases, they don't know when to stop. That is something to discuss with your child's OT and figure out a schedule. Every kid is different so you will want to talk to an OT about it if you have access to one. If not, there are some things you can still do. Just remember to listen and watch for cues from your child.

Some easy ways to do these at activities at home if you don't have access to private OT therapy:

- A Mini Trampoline
- Wrapping the child in a blanket, swinging to 10 and "crashing" on the couch/bed
- A Sit and Spin
- Spinning in a laundry basket
- Spinning on a computer chair
- Special needs treadmill (no power involved, but pricey)
- Swimming or water play
- Weighted Blanket (see below)
- Weighted lap pad or vest
- Smushing underneath a pillow
- Rough Play / Wrestling
- Throwing weights or a Medicine Ball (5pounds or under is good to start off with)
- Wrapping up in a blanket and rolling
- Pop Tube (Helps with pushing and pulling sensation)

Weighted blankets provide the perfect amount of all over pressure to the body

Weighted blankets are really great and I recommend them to everyone. Kiddo uses hers every day. Sometimes she will use it during the day to calm down, but mostly she asks for it at night. Weighted blankets are okay to use as much and as often and the child wants, unlike weighted vests which should be used for 20 minutes. They are safe to use all night long. A lot of times Kiddo will wake up if hers falls off. A good starting point is 10% of the child's weight + 1 pound.

Hopefully, after doing all of this HARD work throughout the day, your child will be tired and actually sleep. I wish this worked for mine but we did notice a decrease in night-wakings when we bought the trampoline. She no longer wakes up at 1am to jump on her bed for 3 hours. I'll take that as a positive!

Hey, at the very least, your kid will walk away with huge muscles...

*As an added note - I am not an OT, just a parent who is trying to help my kiddo make it through the day. If you have serious concerns or questions, please contact your doctor or local therapy center*


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