Learn about the Proprioceptive Sense and
How to help Proprioceptive Dysfunction
Here are some more great sensory products and/or cheaper alternatives to meet those sensory needs. I will try to feature one great product a week with links to sites that sell the product and at-home alternatives for it.
This week's products are to help with proprioceptive dysfunction, which is when the proprioceptive sense can't receive and interpret information to the brain in regards to one own's body movement.
If you are a parent or teacher that doesn't understand why your child/student keeps slouching, enjoys tight clothing, has trouble dressing, seems clumsy, is constantly breaking the tips of pencils and crayons or is banging/rocking in their seat then you need to read this article.
Explanations and definitions are in the links below:
When I first started taking my daughter to Occupational Therapy for her sensory issues, the only thing that she wanted to do was climb up a triangular (wedge) cushion and jump into the crash pad. Eventually, we used the crash pad as a motivator to get her to do activities that she wasn't excited about.
The sensory store, Fun and Function has two different crash mats priced for $119 each, which is quite a deal.
Another great product for a crash mat is the Yogibo cushions. They are like a "giant-pillow-meets-bean-bag" and some can even be used to sink your child into, so they get the compression input that they need. Both Fun and Function crash mats and the Yogibo products come with washable slip covers.
In my house, I let all "my little monkeys to jump on my bed" or the couch for that matter (as long as a grown-up is standing by the edge to make sure they don't land on the floor.) However, before I had my cushiony leather couches, my good friend Anne, bought me one of those inexpensive air mattresses. I don't think I will ever forget opening my door to see her standing there with an air mattress already blown up. You would have thought that she bought me a diamond ring. I was elated! So were my girls. They would climb on our ottoman and crash into that mattress over and over and over again. When they got bored with that, we would lay the air mattress on the stairs and slide down it - like one of those inflatable bounce house slides. Of course it eventually popped, because that's not what it was meant for, but it got me and my daughter through some difficult stuck-inside, winter days. Again, always supervise these activities. I always pad the bottom of the stairs with pillows and lay down the rules such as: only one at a time and wait until the person is done and has moved before you go sliding, etc.
Another alternative idea that I have heard of was when one of my daughters' Occupational Therapists told me that she knew a woman that sewed a bunch of body pillows together then stuffed them into queen size sheets that she sewed together on three sides and zippered on the fourth side. In all honesty, I don't sew well, nor do I have any time to be taking on extra projects but "YOU GO GIRL" to the momma that made that for her child.
The last idea for creating your own crash pad comes from one of my favorite books, "The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder" by Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A. It is similar to the idea that the mom did above. In the book she recommends... "sew two together on three sides, like a large cloth envelope, fill the liner with foam scraps or pillows, sew the fourth sides of the sheets together." To make a cover Kranowitz recommends "sewing two more sheets together on three sides" and "sew in a zipper or velcro" on the fourth... or "buy already-made duvets (covers for down comforters) or covers for futons."
Of, course, when all else fails - pillow fight!
If you are out in public and your see that your child needs some input. Try "squeezes."
"Squeezes" in my house are bear hugs that you hold for a small length of time. When I see that Mary is getting overwhelmed, I ask her if she needs squeezes. When she was younger, I would just grab her and give her big hugs. The key is to hold the squeeze for about 5 seconds. Follow your child's body signals.
You can actually buy a "squeeze machine," which Temple Grandin (a famous Aspergian speaker created). If you haven't read her books or seen the HBO movie - I highly recommend them all.
Another great alternative is to give head compressions if you have a child that seeks input by banging their head. To do this you cup your hand and slowly press the top of their head. Press down for two seconds then release. Repeat for a set of five. You should not attempt this with any child unless an OT has shown you how to do this and how much pressure to apply.
This is like a massage. It is very calming and soothing. However, you need to be careful when it comes to the head and neck.
A beneficial activity to do with kids that have proprioceptive dysfunction is lifting, pushing, or pulling heavy objects.
Make it fun. Some clever ideas that I have used at my house are:
- filling empty water or soda bottles with water, roll them up hills or put in backpacks for weight
- take a sack of flour (put in a gallon size ziplock) dress in baby clothes & rock back-and-forth
- pushing or sliding a sibling or bags of potatoes or rice in a heavy duty, plastic, circular laundry basket across the room on a rug or the grass is best
- pushing cans of food in a kid sized grocery cart ( I love the one made by Melissa & Doug shown below because it comes slightly weighted already to help keep balance)
- lifting (or helping) put books away (if you have a young child don't expect them to align them neatly on a bookshelf, get a basket they can throw them in)
- pushing or pulling someone or something heavy in a wagon or pushing the baby in a stroller
- sand buckets are great - use them in the sand box but you can also fill them with water and tell the kids to water the bushes or the trees
- have them help you carry in the milk or if they are old enough -let them help you get it out of the fridge
- if you have an exercise ball hold your child in a seated position and bounce her straight up and down it can be difficult at first because they have trouble with balance but it is a very good exercise to help them build core strength and balance (to help distract them it helps to sing a silly song or play music that they like)
- to help build core strength which will also help with posture - have the child lie on their belly with the ball under them (like they are superman/superwoman) and have them reach for something on the floor like a small toy crossing their mid-line.
I hope that this topic shines some light on the proprioceptive sense and the next time you see a kid that can't sit up straight at his desk or at the dinner table - please consider proprioceptive dysfunction. Now, if a child needs some sensory activities to help them function better throughout the day, you know how to help.
There is a ton of information on this topic. If you are interested in learning more, please comment or ask a question.
Also, I recommend the following books:
- The Way I See It Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition: A Personal Look at Autism and Aspergers by Temple Grandin
- The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun by Carol Stock Kranowitz;
- The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A.
- Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for Educators and Parents by Brenda Smith Myles and Richard L. Simpson;
- A Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome & High-Functioning Autism: How to Meet the Challenges and Help Your Child Thrive by Sally Ozonoff, Phd, Geraldine Dawson, PhD, James McPartland;
- An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate and Learn by Sally J. Rogers, Geraldine Dawson, Laurie A. Vismara
- The Sensory Processing Disorder Answer Book: Practical Answers to the Top 250 Questions Parents Ask by Tara Delaney
- The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents) by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve
- Take Control of Asperger's Syndrome: The Official Strategy Guide for Teens with Asperger's Syndrome and Nonverbal Learning Disorders by Janet Price and Jennifer Engel Fisher