Monday, November 16, 2009

Sensory part II

As an old friend used to say to me, true originality is concealing your source! With that said, I'm borrowing heavily from others and mixing in my own experiences today.

Have you ever been extremely tired, but needed to drive somewhere? Either on a long trip, or just trying to get home late at night? What do you do to stay awake? What do you do to keep your focus?

Turn up the radio. Sing.

Roll down the window. Turn on the AC.

Drink something. Chew ice.

Eat something. Crunchy Cheetos? Even better - sunflower seeds which keep your mouth busy!

You are giving yourself sensory input in order to stay focused on completing a boring task!

Now think about a child who is losing focus in school. Could a little sensory input make a big difference? Do you know any pencil chewers? Hair twisters? Toe tappers? We all do these things from time to time. Some of our little "things" are harmless but some are destructive and attract the wrong sort of attention!

The trick is to find ways to provide enough of the right kind of sensory stimulation without destroying anything or making a spectacle. I've heard lots of good things over the past few years about having kids sit on exercise balls instead of a typical chair. That makes me think back to of all the boys in school who would tilt their chairs back and rock on the two back legs. I used to think they were being naughty and dumb. Maybe my teachers thought the same thing because they would always get into trouble for this. Now it's clear to me that they were just trying to stay focused and needed the kind of input that could easily (more safely?) be provided by sitting on a ball.

This makes me wonder if many of the ways our children get into trouble, or just irritate us, are examples of sensory needs not being met. Maybe we (*I*) should view this as an opportunity to help them find appropriate ways to meet those needs.

Try chewing on gum, a straw, or some food-grade plastic tubing (which you can cheaply obtain from any hardware store) instead of eating your shirt sleeve. Or chewing up your pencil. Or chewing your hair. Ick.

What about the child who cannot tolerate certain sensations? Like shirt tags, snug clothing or haircuts. The obvious answer might be to avoid or remove the offending sensations. *Disclaimer - I'm just thinking out loud here, because I'm NOT an expert* What about providing more and different input? Counter-intuitive?

I have heard it suggested to give a reluctant child a haircut while they are sitting IN a tub of rice or beans. That reminds me of what I tell my kids when they have itches or they bug me for snacks between meals - a dog in the hunt doesn't feel the fleas! 

I'd love to hear your ideas.


Anna said...

Great thoughts. Makes me think of serveral moments of when mine were young. My 15 taps his pencil, listens to music loudly and rocks in his chair while doing algebra 2!!! Drives me NUTS. I will try to be more patient. (he does homeschool so as long as its getting done I shouldnt complain right? And done without a fight to boot!

Stephanie @ Ralphcrew said...

Oh Anna, if the work gets done you cannot complain! I attempted to homeschool a child with an attention/distractability problem. I wish I knew then what I know now!

Leslie said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts! Thanks for sharing them as it has given me more to think about. I have one child with SPD (sensory processing disorder) so we've been delving into some of this too. Another child with ADHD and a different set of sensory needs.

Here is my suggestion if you want to learn more, The Out of Sync Child has a lot of technical info. The Out of Sync Child Has Fun has a lot of practical things you can do at home to help your child and their sensory needs! :-)

Hugs to you

Anonymous said...

Sorry it took me so long. I was here on this comment page 3x before and each time I was interrupted. hrrmph!

Nicely explained, Stephanie.

The most confident thing I can say is if a child's behavior is enough of a problem to seek help, try to see an OT. Barbara