Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Great things for Sensory Integration and Preschoolers

Today you are going to benefit from some of the things I have taken away from my son's occupational therapists over the years. These are not just good for kids on the Autism Spectrum. They are great for preschoolers too. They will help your child to center themselves so that they can attend to a task at a table. Strengthen their fingers and hands for pre writing and cutting skills. A treasure hunt to warm up those fingers before writing or cutting.
This is silly putty and some beads. You can get putty that is meant for hand strengthening and it comes in different colors associated with how stiff the putty is. I have even spotted some in sporting good stores, used for strengthening the hands. For this post, I wanted to give you the general idea. You will hide the beads in the putty and then let your child play with it.

Ask them to remove all the beads inside. Tell them how many they are looking for. That way they can make sure they have found them all. It really does take some doing and manipulating to get those beads out. What this does is several things. It warms up their fingers to get them ready for writing, fastening buttons, snaps and, using scissors as well ask toning the hand muscles. Also it is very calming.

An added bonus is a quick counting lesson. When they have found all the beads, have them hide them again. They will most likely want to do this several times before they are done. Be ware that silly putty does not come out of hair, carpets or clothing with out a huge fight and scissors. For those with sensory issues, it gives input to the hand muscles and helps to center the child. Allowing them to be able to sit and attend to a task. This is also something that a child could do if they are getting agitated. The input of working the silly putty will help to calm them. This is something that you should do with your child. I had to shave it out of my son's hair the first time I let him have some (he put it on top of his head and left it there). Rebecca's son put is on his stuffed monkey's tail and well, I think it is still there.

This is a container of dry rice and beans that I hide trinkets in. This is for warming up the fingers to get ready for writing or cutting. Also a sensory integration tool. The texture of the rice and the beans on the hands can help to desensitize children with sensory issues. Again it is all about the input.

Here is the same container with all the trinkets well hidden. You can make this with all beans or all rice. I had some of both so that is what I used.

This is a hand fidget. It is soft and squishy. It is a balloon filled with flour. Think of it like this. When you are anxious or fidgety, if you have something like a ball to squeeze or some gum to chew, you will chew it a lot or squeeze it a lot at first. As you begin to calm down you will find that you aren't chewing as much if at all or squeezing the ball quite so much. This is because the input on your hand muscles or your jaw muscles is having a calming affect on you. Slowly you start to focus more on the task at hand and less on the gum or the ball. Plus this just feels cool. I like to give it a squeeze every know and again.

These are lap snakes. They are made from Men's tube socks. The boys used permanent markers to decorate them. Then they are filled with generous amounts of beans or rice to give them weight. You could tie them off with a thick rubber band, but I decided to go ahead and sew them closed. I didn't want the beans and rice to accidentally spill all over the place. The one on the right was made my by 7 year old last year at school. His brother wanted one too so I made the one on the left for him. What you do with them is have your child hold it in their lap while doing work at the table. They could also put it around their shoulders. What is at work here is the weight of them. These are again giving input that has a sort of calming and centering effect. Again it is all about the input on the muscles. For those that have children on the spectrum you may have heard of weighted vests or blankets. This is a smaller more portable more friendly version. Who doesn't like a sock puppet?

Other things that provide input are jumping up and down, hand walking (wheel barrow races) anything that puts pressure on the joints. In order to get my son ready for a big event we have had to give him joint compressions. What this means is that we are putting pressure on his wrist joint, elbow, shoulder, neck, ankles, knees and hips. It sounds strange but how we do it is hold his hand and arm just above the wrist and push them together in a gentle compressing motion. We do the same with the other joints. With the head we put light pressure down on the top of his head. We do each joint 10 times. This centers him and allows him to better cope with his environment. My 4 year old isn't Autistic but he loves joint compressions. It feels good to him, much like a massage. You don't have to be on the Autism Spectrum to benefit from these things.

Something else I have made for my son is a tunnel. One made out of knit material. You don't even have to sew it. You can buy knit t-shirt material that is a tube. It comes in various widths. The smaller the width the more the child will have to work to crawl through the tunnel. Guess what! It is that input again. The kids have to push their way through the tunnel because it does not have any supports holding it open. The nice thing about knits is that from the inside you can still see light and don't have issues with not getting enough air. I have one of these that I made from two remnants that I sewed together to make one long tunnel. The other nice thing is that I can lay it out flat and roll my son up in it. Rolling him in it gives him input on his shoulders, and hips. He gets a gentle squeeze from the fabric when he is all rolled up (like an infant in a bunting). Some times when he feels he needs it, he will still ask me to roll him up. Even though that was something we did with him mostly when he was 2 1/2 years old to about 4 years. He as out grown some of his early sensory issues. Some of that has been because of the intervention we did when he was little.

My son's Autism isn't a curse, it is a blessing. It has taught me how to look at things differently. I appreciate the little things that I would normally have taken for granted. The advice I have for every one is that what we teach our babies when they are young will indeed help them through the rest of their lives. I have seen it first hand because I couldn't ignore the issues. We worked and worked hard, harder than any typical child should have to but we are getting there. We have made huge amounts of progress.

For all our Autism Mom's out there. Happy Autism Awareness Month! Give yourself a pat on the back, you deserve it.

For all those Mom's out there that are looking for things to do with and for their children, I applaud you. You should also give yourself a pat on the back.

If you made it this far in the post, I thank you for taking the time to read my post.



Chrissy said...

Wow, guys! Fabulous post. I will definitely be linking to this post soon! Thanks for all of your hard work!

michelle@somedaycrafts said...

I can tell you are a great mom! I was a SPED teacher and have loved your posts about your son and autism!

Myrnie said...

Wow, fantastic ideas! My oldest daughter would benefit from ALL of these, although she's never been diagnosed with autism. Is that weird?

Lisa said...

Thank you for such a useful post.

RootsAndWingsCo said...

No not strange at all. There are many people out there with sensory issues that could benefit from stuff like this.

My little one isn't Autistic but he is brimming over with energy and can hardly sit still. Those were his hands playing with the beads and the silly putty. He was at it for quite some time in fact. He always loved doing everything right along with his brother at the Occupational therapist's.

These are ways to burn off some of that extra energy so that they can focus.

If I can make the path easier for some one else, I am happy.

Thank you for all your wonderful comments. They make me happy too. ;)


Kristin said...

I did the same thing but with dried rice and dried beans. I would use a big plastic box or bin and fill it with the dried rice or beans. Then I'd hide little surprises in it. I even put in a little vibrator (from one of those vibrating cushions) and that gave even more of a sensory experience!

Mama King said...

I tried the silly putty and beads activity with my daughter. She loved it! She also has a lentil tray which keeps her happy and occupied while I attempt to cook dinner. Thanks for the ideas :-)

RootsAndWingsCo said...

YAY! I am so glad you tried it and that she loved it!!!

Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me about what you tried.


Crafty Mom said...

Great ideas!!! My 3 yr old is not on the autism spectrum but she is definitely a sensory seeker. I've done the rice bucket with her before but I know she'll love the lap snakes and the flour fish, too. I've got a recipe for homemade silly putty, too. She's definitely centered when engaged in a sensory activity. I've written a bit on my blog about the sensory activities we do and I'll definitely be linking to your post!

Anonymous said...

This is awesome! I am a kindergarten teacher and will use all of these great ideas in my classroom. Feel free to share all of your great ideas! Thanks!

davesonya said...

thanks so much for posting this. I'll be homeschooling my 6 yr old this fall & I'm needing some help for meeting her sensory-seeking needs...
really appreciate this!

Sue said...

Hi from Sue in Australia.
loved this post. I am linking you to my Teacher Space blog right now!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. Lots of neat ideas for busy hands.

~cyndi said...

Thank you so much, wonderful ideas!!

A Magical Childhood said...

Great ideas! We use SI techniques all the time around here even though none of my kids has sensory issues. They're so great for all kids. :)

Katherine said...

This was a fun read, Katrina! My aspie kiddo (the oldest) was such a blast! I'm glad to see that you enjoy the unique qualities to cherish. I'm such a better person for the priviledge to raise him!

Unfortunately, the little darling went to his heavenly home after a brief illness four years ago. He was a few months shy of 11. I am blessed with 5 other children (two born after his death) but there is nothing like the rewards of these special blessings.

Keep up the fabulous mothering! You'll never regret all the time you spend with him.

Tricia said...

Great post! My son has SPD and does the putty game and the bean/rice game at OT. His speech therapist also uses beans to hide items in that relate to what sound he is working on. I was amazed at how much my son loved the putty! We are now doing that one at home. He loves Gak too (recipe is on Skiptomylou.org)

Michele said...

I loved your ideas. I am a prek4 teacher, and have a big bin table full of "rainbow rice" that the children have been exploring for a month. I'm thinking the t-shirt tubes would be great for a butterfly unit...imagine all those "caterpillars" emerging from eggs, then going into a chrysalis to emerge as a butterfly! thank you for your blog.

Lu said...

I love this post! My son is on the Autism Spectrum. He has had a lot of sensory issues. I'm so excited to use some of these ideas!
I agree, raising an autistic child is a blessing!