Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kids Have Energy, We Need to Help Them Use It Well

Kids are full of life. Sometimes it spills out of them in a whirlwind of activity. Incredibly, the simplest sensory integration tool can be the most effective vehicle to harness and direct their energy.

I love how they phrase this! Some of the simplest tools I've used are:

Balance and Movement

A "wiggle seat", which Viking calls a Seat Cushion. They can be used to build core balance and strength but they also allow any stationary seat to be a little more movable. Students sit on them, put them on the floor and balance their feet on them, and a few occasionally push their heads into them for 10 seconds or so to "reset" themselves. These seats are portable and can be taken from room to room which is a huge plus. At home,we have used one at the dinner table, we have put in in the booster seat for long trips, we have taken it to church to use on the pews, to softball games for on the bleachers and have even used one as an "extra" seat on the floor.

Balance boards also work wonders. I found one at an Odd Lots store and it is the most demanded tool I have at school, with all ages! Some use it under their feet while they are sitting, some stand on it for short bursts and I have one that stands on it to read and another stands on when she has a longer writing assignment.

Massage/Tactile Options
I picked up some small massage knobs (for lack of a better term) at a local Dollar Store. One version looked like a small brush and one had more knobby bristles. These are great for a quick pick me up once a class or so and one boy likes to keep one in reach and rub it on his leg periodically which helps reset his attention.

Another teacher found some inexpensive massage tools like this that vibrate and the elementary students use these at times. Viking Fitness also has vibrating pillows available and there are many other options online I'm sure.

At home, we have a pad that goes on the couch and we can set it to heat (for my fibro days this is great) and can set it to vibrate also, which works well in short bursts once a day for my daughter. If she is getting out of sorts or we know we'll be going somewhere that will overload her senses, she parks on the vibrating cushion for 5-10 minutes - fun and effective!

Fidget Tools and Fine Motor

We bought one of these for my daughter and I love it - so does she. It's portable and soothing and all one piece. You can take it apart I think, but that is not the goal which can help it be less distracting.

Other options I've used in the classroom include stones (from a planter that broke), fabric swatches, placing small strips of velcro and some smooth fabric on notebook covers, we use TheraPutty and squishy balls, I've also used hand grippers from the Dollar Store or twisty stick. I know these have a different name, but they are from the craft section of some store and don't have pointy ends like pipe cleaners or bent paper clips.

Some Sources for Sensory Tools
Our best resource is our OT at school. She is full of ideas and is great at finding cost affordable options. Her favorite easy recommendation is a water bottle. Sucking is one of the most soothing actions for the nervous system apparently and water is great.

Be sure to browse your local Dollar Store, Target or Odd Lots. Thing tactile and think management. Lots of pieces will be found all over!

I have found that when looking for ideas or materials on the internet, I can find some things by searching with sensory integration, but I find more at occupational therapy sites. Most of them even have separate sections just for sensory tools.

Some places I like on the web:

* Viking Fitness, Grand Rapids, MI and on the web
* Dream Catcher Weighted Blankets (these are a little pricey for classroom use, but a great resource to recommend to parents)
* Therapro - discount occupational therapy supplies.

1 comment:

Marja said...

Great tips Thanks. We had one of these cushions but my son thinks he is now to big for that stuff.
We used the brush years ago to develop his tactile system. The OT called it a surgeon brush. It was very soft.We lost it and I haven't found a new one yet.