If you saw my last post, Five Signs Your Child Has a Sensory Disorder, you know that my little 5-year-old is struggling with wearing pants, socks and long sleeves claiming they hurt and itch her skin. Her pediatrician suggested seeing an Occupational Therapist to help her overcome this challenge known as Sensory Processing Disorder. Although I was concerned to take her to a “therapist” (naively thinking she would be sitting in a chair across from a shrink for an hour each week), we decided to give Occupational Therapy a try. Elle has now been going to Occupational Therapy every other week and we have seen monumental improvements. Here are the biggest things I have learned about helping a child overcome Sensory Disorder from the Occupational Therapy.
- Proprioceptive input improves attention and mental organization – Proprioception is the sensation of the muscles contracting and stretching. Stimulating this sensation is a great way to improve sensory disorders. In plain English…aid your child in using his/her muscles throughout the day by being active with biking, skipping, pulling/pushing, jumping, and digging. Even more subtle movement is great like stretching, manipulating putty, chewing crunchy foods, or pushing hands together.
- Tactile stimulation gradually increases tolerance – Because my daughter is easily overstimulated by textures and clothes on her skin, the Occupational Therapist suggested some tactile stimulation activities to help overcome the sensitivity. One suggestion is to wrap the child in their favorite blanket or something with a texture that they can tolerate and tightly cuddle/hug. Another is to rub a soft bristled bush (like the ones you receive in the hospital to comb baby hair with) up and down the arms and legs. Her O.T. calls it her “Magic Itchy Brush” and it has help my daughter immensely.
- Vestibular stimulation can increase ability to balance and focus – The vestibular system tells your brain your position in relation to gravity. It is important to take time to help your child practice their balance and coordination to stimulate the vestibular system. Try a small bowling set, balancing on one foot, walking on a low balance beam, or balancing with each foot on a small stability ball.
I have been so happy with the choice to take my daughter to see the Occupational Therapist and would highly recommend it if your child has Sensory Processing Disorder. Most health insurance plans cover the visits! She has been consistanly wearing socks and occasionally wearing pants and long sleeves. I hope some of these suggestions help your little ones, too! Also, you can find more information on the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation website here.