Children have different sensory needs that can impact their degree of participation in daily activities and learning tasks. Some children experience more intense sensory avoiding responses, meaning that when their environments are too sensory stimulating they may withdraw or become overwhelmed. Other children have more intense sensory seeking responses and you may see them moving more, humming and touching things.
Selecting the right sensory tool and activities can serve as a powerful management strategy to support a child with sensory processing differences to learn or complete tasks.
What are sensory based strategies used for?
Children that experience sensory processing differences, may require certain sensory activities and tools to support them in the home and school learning environments. Sensory tools and activities, designed for individual child’s sensory needs, can support a child to have increased participation, engagement and attention. Sensory tools can assist a child to regulate the big feelings they have in their bodies, helping them to focus longer, connect with others and be in a “just right” state for learning and working.
Sensory based strategies are used for children requiring either;
– extra input from their environment or
– decreased sensory input from their environment.
Some sensory tools are designed to increase movement opportunities, maximise tactile input or provide deep heavy pushing and pulling movements during a break time. Other sensory tools are designed to block or minimise the sensations, for example noise or lighting.
By using sensory tools and strategies that are unique to the child’s sensory processing pattern, you are supporting them to get their sensory needs met. You can teach the child ways to recognise when to use a sensory tool, and for how long. For example, a weighted lap blanket can calm a child that needs deep pressure input. A wiggle cushion can provide the child that is in constant need of moving to stay on their seat and finish a fine motor task.
The use of sensory tools, such as fidget spinners, wiggle cushions and weighted products are becoming more commonplace in the classroom. It is therefore important to ensure the items are effective for the child using it. An Occupational Therapist helps to identify a child’s sensory preferences, and which sensory tool is likely to be the most effective. The Occupational Therapist does this by completing an individual sensory assessment of the child’s unique sensory processing pattern. The OT is also responsible for ongoing review of the child’s needs.
Creating low-budget alternatives to expensive equipment.
There is a lot of ‘professional’ equipment on the market, but with the right guidance from an OT, you can actually use low-budget items from around the home to DIY your own sensory ideas and tools.
For example, you can get creative with a scooter board to work on our child’s proprioceptive and vestibular systems. These items can be purchased at a cost via www.sensorytools.net or www.thetherapystore.com.au, or you can make your own by buying some wheels and board from the local hardware store at much less expense. Click here for some ideas.
Or you could create the lycra swing available from online sites including https://www.heavenlyhammocks.com.au or you can use a piece of lycra from your local material shop, to make a body sock or lycra tunnel for proprioceptive and vestibular input, connecting to an area low to the ground, under a table or bed, such as this one https://yourkidstable.com/cool-down-spot/.
Before purchasing equipment, we always recommend trialling the equipment first. If that isn’t possible we look to these low budget items meet the child’s needs. For example, does a child need to purchase a sensory play gym or will a therapy ball and blanket from the couch provide the input the child needs?
Margie Berrigan, a Therapy Connect Occupational Therapist recently presented a FREE Webinar on “Making simple low cost sensory tools for home and school to support your child’s sensory needs”.
The webinar covered:
> A broad understanding of what sensory tools can offer.
> Up to date evidence on the benefits of sensory based strategies.
> The importance of ongoing support from an OT when using sensory
tools with your child.
> How simple, low-budget and DIY sensory ideas can meet the needs of
your child, sometimes in place of the more expensive items.
> How you can create your own tools at a lower price, sometimes
with equipment in your own home.
> Links, demonstrations and instructions for making your own equipment.
> How to prioritize the costlier sensory equipment, and the pros and cons
of common equipment pieces.
Therapy Connect provides online therapy services using videoconferencing technology. We provide families and children access to therapy at a location that suits, at a time that suits. “Therapy Anywhere Anytime”