"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

Sunday, March 20, 2011

SPD and Autism: Part 2

Peanut has various sensory issues, mostly sensory seeking.  Currently Peanut goes to Sensory Integration Therapy an hour a week.  Sassy is about to begin SI therapy as well this week.  It's wonderful that we are able to get insurance coverage for this service, but an hour a week isn't enough.  In order for a SI program to be successful, it must also be used at home.  This sounds like a daunting task, but we have learned many ways that we can bring SI into our home.  

When we began SI Therapy, Peanuts number one need was an oral motor need.  He was constantly chewing on everything.  So the first thing we did was create a "chewy basket".  We took a basket and kept it in a particular area of our house that was accessible to Peanut.  We then filled the basket with things that were safe for him to chew on.  Be sure to chose items that are specifically made to be in children’s mouths and that don't have small parts that could be chewed off and choked on.  An OT had suggested to us to buy dog chew toys.  It sounded like a good idea at first, but with some research it quickly was a bad idea.  What was the lead content in dog chew toys?  Do they contain BPA or other chemicals?  There are some really good OT websites out there that have items specifically for chewing.  We use Chewy Tubes.  Peanut likes them, they are not too expensive, they are safe, and they come in different shapes, thicknesses and textures.  We are able to buy them through the facility that our children go for their SI therapy (saves us on shipping).

Our next struggle was head banging.  Peanut would hit his head on anything (people, couches, walls, file cabinets).  We found (and this may not help everyone with this problem), was that if we put a hat on his head he would stop banging his head.  The feeling of the hat on his head gave him enough sensory input to fulfill his need.  So we created a second basket with hats.  When Peanut began to bang his head we would prompt him to go pick out a hat.

Peanut in one of his favorite hats.

Next we decided to start small with sensory toys, and we created a sensory bin. (Our toys are spearated into bins to encourage spontaneous speech.)  This is also a good alternative for those who have limited space in their homes.
Our Sensory Bin
This bin can be filled with anything your child loves that can stimulate the sensory systems.  This Playskool gears toy was one of the first toys that Peanut played with as it was intended (instead of holding it and running in circles with it all day).  This toys lights up, the gears spin, and it plays music (perfect sensory toy).  We also have some textured sensory balls (an awesome find at Costco), pull toobs, tops, a windmill (a great oral motor sensory activity), rubber balls, chew tubes, brushes, a soft fabric flower that sings when you push it etc, etc...

We then created a second bin that was out of reach (some of the pieces posed a choking hazard) and included more sensory items for Peanuts oral motor needs.  We included things like whistles and bubbles.

Last summer we decided to create our own sensory room.  At first the task seemed impossibly expensive but I soon realized it didn't really have to be!  First, we had to figure out where we were going to create this sensory area.  We had a space in our basement that was ideal (and the only place we had space for it).  If you don't have a room that you can spare, then an area of the house, or a secluded corner in a room could also be utilized as a sensory area.  When choosing a location, keep in mind what may be distracting for your child.  Is it bright? Noisy? Are there strong smells? (We had our cat box near by when we first created the sensory room, and so we relocated it so any smell it could create didn't bother Peanut while he was down there.)

Next we looked at examples of other sensory rooms online and in different therapeutic locations.  A ball pit is definitely an activity that Peanut is drawn to, but we couldn't afford to pay for a ball pit to be constructed in our home.  I looked online for ball pits but they were anywhere from $50.00 to $200.00.  I went to Walmart and bought a blow up kiddie pool. (I think we paid $6.00). Next, we needed balls for our ball pit.  I was able to find bags on clearance (at Targets annual toy clearance) for $5.00 a piece.  Peanut has issue with low tone and trunk stability so sliding can be an issue (he falls backwards when he slides down) so we wanted to include a slide to help with his trunk stability and motor planning.  We splurged and we bought a slide from Toys r Us for $50.00.  We took this slide and put it in the ball pit so Peanut could slide down it and land in the balls.  He loves to do this and then roll his face and body around in the balls.  I would love to get a second deeper pool to fill with balls so he can bury himself in it. 

Our ball pit and slide.

Peanut is more of a sensory seeker, so he needs alot of deep joint pressure.  Knowing this we knew we needed a trampoline.  For his birthday the previous year, Nana had bought him one and so this made it's way down to the new sensory room.  A trampoline can be purchased from numerous online sites as well as in most toy stores.  Their cost can range from $30 and on up.
"Super Peanut" on his trampoline
We wanted to also work on Peanuts vestibular system so we had to find a way to help him spin safely in the space we had available.  The perfect way we have found to spin, is using a "Sit n Spin". It retails for $20.00.  I had found it on sale for $15.99 and then had a $10.00 gift card so it cost us $5.99!

We also wanted to include somthing to crawl in but due to space issues it had to be able to be stored away.  A collapsible house or tube is perfect for this.  We had a play hut set that has tubes to crawl through as well as houses to sit in.  The whole thing doesn't fit in our sensory room, but we can manage having one hut open and still have room for Sassy to run around and play as well.
Peanut in the hut.
Finally we added toys in the room that we thought would be stimulating for Peanut that he enjoyed using.  We made sure to also keep in mind his fine and gross motor skills that he needed to work on as well.
Some of our "sensory" toys.

My husband would love to hang a swing or a hammock swing from the ceiling but we havn't done that as of yet because of a space issue. We do have a swing set outside and use it often for Peanut to swing and spin. That definitely could be an option for other homes.  When all was said and done I think we spent about $100.00 on our sensory room! (with time, patience and planning) If we had to buy everything down there I think it may have cost less than $500.00 which is really a good price for a room like that!

I have to say, adding strategies for sensory regualtion into our lives has changed our lives for the better.  Peanut has less sensory issues because of it and it really helps to regualte him.  We recently stopped using the room for a while (it became a storage area over Christmas time) and his sensory problems have begun to reemerge again.  Now that the room is clean again, we WILL be down there.

If you are not familiar with Sensory Processing Disorder and Sensory Integration, you can find out more information at:  http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/

Information on Sensory Diets (no...not diet as in food) http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/7758796/sensory_diet_for_the_tactile_system.html

I highly recommend 2 books as well.  The first one is, "The Out of Synch Child." by Carol Stock Kranowitz.  If you have a child with Autism with Sensory Issues I would also highly recommend, "1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising a Child with Autism or Asperger's."  by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” – Phil 4:19

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