Many families who seek out OT services are overwhelmed by the seemingly endless energy of their little sensory seeker. Most of these movers and groovers are seeking vestibular and proprioceptive input. They love movement, enjoy the sensation of spinning or falling, and often take movement or climbing risks without regard for their personal safety. These kiddos are also our “crashers”. They touch everything or everyone, can’t seem to stay in their own space, and love to drape their body over furniture or people? While sensory integration treatment by a skilled OT may be the best solution for your child, these five must-haves will provide your sensory seeker’s vestibular and proprioceptive systems the boost they need.
IMPORTANT! IMPORTANT! IMPORTANT!
Okay parents, it’s imperative for sensory seekers to get their sensory needs met BEFORE trying to get them to sit and attend. Sometimes this is done backwards. “First you need to finish your school-work then you can go outside and play.” With good intensions, you might be using “outside play” as a reward for sitting still and completing a task. This is an excellent parenting technique for kids who have typically functioning sensory systems. However, if your child has sensory processing disorder or sensory challenges, this behavior modification technique may backfire on you.
A good rule of thumb – If typical behavioral management techniques are not working – it might be sensory.
If your child seeks vestibular and proprioceptive input always END with proprioceptive input. (Deep pressure and/or heavy work).
#2 Bilibo from MOLUK– Similar to a Sit-n-Spin, this bowl-shaped toy is really versatile! Your child can sit inside it to spin themself with their hands, rock back and forth, or wobble and tip over. This requires quite a bit of core and upper body strength which activates the proprioceptive system. It can also be flipped over for standing on, balancing on top of, and jumping off. Have multiple Bilibos? Use them as stepping-stones or stack them in a tower. This toy is affordable, safe and super fun!
#3 Mini-Trampoline– Certainly a kid favorite, a mini-trampoline can offer hours of fun! Jumping, dropping, and spinning offers both vestibular and proprioceptive input. Many models come with a removable bar to offer added safety. The best part is, they are small enough to keep inside and even move from room to room. Is your child having difficulty attending during virtual school? Set the computer on a high surface and allow your child to bounce while schooling. Some kids learn best when moving.
#4 Body Sock – Oh yes! This is one of my favorites! Body socks or Body Sox are made of stretchy LYKRA. Your kiddo gets inside this sock-like sack and the fun begins! He can push against the resistive material to get some awesome proprioceptive feedback. Moving about the three-dimensional space in which they occupy increases body awareness and creativity. The vestibular system is also activated by change in head position through movement and exploration. These stretchy sacks come in multiple sizes to fit toddlers to adults, so get one for your child and yourself and have some fun!
#5 Weighted Blanket– Recently, weighted blankets have gained commercial popularity and are easier to find than ever. They incredible deep pressure and proprioceptive input through the entire body (think a giant, sustained hug) and are calming and organizing to the central nervous system. The weight of the blanket IS important! It should be 10% of your child’s body weight plus one pound. For example, if your child weights 50 pounds, you should aim for a 6- pound blanket.
Supervise and monitor activities as “overload” of the nervous system can occur. Signs of overload include irregular breathing, color change, sweating, pallor, increased anxiety, change in sleep patterns, etc.
An activity should be stopped immediately if the child shows any signs of distress and/or discomfort.
Consultation with an Occupational Therapist is recommended.
Remember: ALWAYS END WITH HEAVY WORK/PROPRIOCEPTIVE INPUT/ACTVITY!