Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Back in May of 2008 I purchased some books and DVDs on Sensory Processing Disorder to see if I could get some guidance for my nonverbal son Matthew. For months now he has been seeking input by wacking his elbows against the walls in the house and literally bouncing off the walls. He runs from one side of the house to the other and presses against both the front and back doors.
Sensory Integration Strategies was one of the purchases. The price was under fifteen dollarsm, but there were no reviews, so I took a chance on this well developed DVD. This runs under thirty minutes in an interview setting with parent and therapist.
You will not see any children to help you gain insights into Sensory Processing Disorder. It is the bare basics with limited explanation of the terms utilized. The screen shows lists that are helpful, but it goes almost as fast as the therapist, Lisa Berry, MOTR/L speaks. The parent asking the quesions is Girard Sagmiller. At the back of the DVD is a website, Gifted Learning Project.
I have no idea who these people represent on the DVD or their organization. It would have been nice to get some sense of their experience at the beginning of the DVD, at least their credentials and where they are located and who they serve.
I was a bit distracted by tbe format since they sat next to each other with a laptop in front of Lisa, but she would look toward Girard when answering and this was not in front of the camera. It looked like a very uncomfortable position to be in while engaging in a conversation. I was not sure if she was reading off the laptop while responding at times.
Lisa started off by stating that "Sensory Integration is a foundation for all development." She basically said it is our central nervous system and at one point compared it to having a nervous breakdown. That was the first time I have ever seen, heard of read that comparison.
The screen showed the seven senses briefly:
1. Vision - Sight
2. Auditory - Hearing
3. Tactile - Touch
4. Olfactory - Smell
5. Gustatory - Taste
6. Proprioceptive - where in space
7. Vestibular - movement
Some of the information shared in Sensory Integration Strategies includes:
Sensory Integration can interfere with learning.
Sleep, Environment and Medication are variables. Sensory needs include fidgets, heavy blankets or maybe wearing a heavy coat or no coat at all. It depends on the child since some cannot tolerate the thick coat and others want the cool air on their skin.
For Oral Sensory a child can be defensive to the texture or smell of the food. If a child is grinding their teeth they may do well with chewy and crunchy snacks and also a chewy tube.
Sensory behavior will fluctuate day to day.
Proprioceptive input helps unify sensory input for most people.
Calm, soothe and organize the central nervous system (CNS) through heavy work and deep pressure input.
Outside of the classroom try sports and rough and tumble play. For the classroom there were several suggested activities that were quickly mentioned without explanations to fully comprehend for the newly diagnosed family. Lisa called sensory breaks brain energizers. The child can balance on one foot, stand and stretch between lessons, take a restroom break and change seating positions. There are classroom jobs for input like carrying books to the library, erasing the board, passing out papers, sharpening the pencils (manual not electric), and some mention about adding weights to clipboards. I needed some visuals to comprehend some of these tips.
There was no mention of the squish seats that my son Matthew has utilized in Elementary School from the Occupational Therapist. The term sensory diet was not used and she glossed over the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol.
The suggestions for those with oral motor issues covered chewing gum, hard candy, using a whistle, crunchy snacks and thick liquid through a streaw or coffee stirrer like pudding. My son Matthew received feeding therapy for over five years, which I participated in. Not once did I ever hear this suggestion, so I am not sure what to think of it. Lisa mentioned that it takes a lot of muscle to increase focus.
She also offered tips of opening doors and stacking chairs for classroom jobs. Lisa said that these jobs would also boost the self esteem of those doing these jobs. Others included stapling papers, setting up activities, rearranging furniture, placing books in the backpack and trying tennis balls on the chair legs.
I have mentioned in the past that the Occupational Therapist for Matthew's Elementary School placed tape on the floor in an area of the autism classroom and placed many books in his backpack for doing laps. He would rather leave the classroom that opened up onto the playground. I suggested many times the first two years there that doing laps before circle time would make a big difference with my son participating and being more focused, etc. Now in Middle School Matthew is doing about 7 laps in Adaptive PE each afternoon.
The clinic we first went to for floortime and I attended parent training had an exercise ball chair that I wanted to get for our home. I have heard of these being available in classrooms for kids as well.
Lisa also suggested theraband exercises and bean bags, weighted pencils, deep pressure vests, weighted vests, finger and ankle weights. I have considered these for Matthew and hope to get some feedback from the new OT soon. Mathew did wear a weighted vest while in preschool and we tried years later at the feeding clinic a deep pressure vest, but he was not interested.
Lisa stressed that many times schools take away recess from kids and she said all kids need movement breaks and not to take recess away from them. My biggest issue has been that in the morning at the two Elementary Schools Matthew attended the special education students were made to sit at the cafeteria or stay in classroom doing puzzles while the general education students were allowed recess. This has never made any sense to me and it has to change.
Last year the OT at the school tried the theraband around the chair, but it did not appeal to Matthew. Other tips in the Sensory Integration Strategies DVD included running laps and to do pushups against the wall or building outside. I would have liked a visual to see how children accomplish this task.
The tip for getting up and stretching inside the classroom mentioned that kids should not be sitting more than 15 minutes and to do this every 10-15 minutes. There was also a repertoire of calming activities for those over stimulated and not able to self regulate. Some scents suggested wer orange oil, rose and lavender. You can put the oils in bubbles (another tip I never heard of in past ten years), use a room spray and unlit candles. Dim lights, use a soft voice, pastel colors on the walls and classical music in the background. For alert activities the ideas were bright lights, taps on shoulder, strong voice, dark colors and lemon or peppermint scents. Also peppermint candy to chew and lemon drops.
I thought for the price this was a good start to learning about sensory issues. To get a more visual perspective I do recommend for an additional twenty dollars to get OT for Children with Autism a DVD that shows therapy in process with several children on the autism spectrum.
Helping the child with autism self regulate
Sensory Products at Fun and Function - Affordable Resources For Therapeutic Play & Education
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.