Parents, teachers, special education service providers, and everyone who works with children are doing everything they can during these unprecedented times to help our children thrive. One thing many younger children are missing out on in this at home environment is sensory input. This is important for not only our children who have sensory issues (most common in children with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD), but also for typically developing children.
As a parent whose son seeks sensory input constantly, I have been working with his service providers to give him as much as possible. I started out this quarantine miserably failing at this. Because I was not providing him with enough sensory stimulation, he was essentially using me as a punching bag, not out of anger, but as I am his safety net, he was physically hurting me because he needed that sensory input. Once teleservices started and I got advice from his service providers, I was able to provide sensory stimulating activities for him that have lessened these tendencies.
While a typically developing child may not lash out the way my child did, they need similar sensory input as well. In fact, I have spoken with many local kindergarten teachers who are currently rewriting curriculum for next year to include more sensory input, realizing that this is something children who have been home for months will be seeking next school year.
So what can we do at home to help? There are so many simple things we can do that require little to no preparation. The easiest thing to do for some sensory stimulation is heavy work. The best way to do this is to pile something heavy into a laundry basket or box and have your child push/pull it through the house. I happened to have a laundry basket filled with children’s books the other day and it was perfect. My son spent almost twenty minutes working with it. He pushed it around the house and made me time him for races against the clock. He then lifted the piles of books and carried them back to his bookshelf. It provided two different types of heavy work and there was no preparation or work for me.
Another super simple activity is jumping. One easy thing to do is putting something on the floor to jump over. Our go-to is one of our living room pillows. My son stands to the side and does a two-foot jump sideways over the pillow. He also does the same activity to the front and back of the pillow. According to our occupational therapist, using two feet to jump vs running and hopping over the pillow is better to build core stability rather than leg muscle. In the same vein, you can have your child do bear crawl or crab walk races. The board game Twister is also a great way to get your child in those positions and sustain them. So fun! Both of these work on that same core stability.
Depending on the day, my son will also do chair squats against the wall.When he started months ago, he could barely stay there for five seconds—now he can be challenged to a minute or more. All of these things can be done in your house with little to no preparation. Tune in next week where I will give some more sensory activities, ones which require a little bit of preparation.