Last Minute Sensory-Based Gifts

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Mini Mat by ezpzfun.com

Last Minute Sensory-Based Gifts

by Stacy Turke, OTR/L

Tis the Season of Giving…and it seems that many folks are wondering what they should be giving to their friends and family members who are “Sensory” kiddos or grown ups. This year more than any other, I’ve been asked what a sensory seeker might like for Christmas, or what that anxious niece might like to open on the first day of Hanukkah. It is a good sign, I believe, that these questions are coming up more frequently, because I think it means that folks are generally more aware that these sensory processing challenges not only exist but also can and should be lovingly supported.  And because there have been so many questions about this topic in the last few weeks, this month’s post will help you decide “What should I give my special someone who has “Sensory” needs?

First a caveat. Everyone is unique, so this is NOT a one-size-fits-all list. I encourage you to consider your certain someone’s preferences, age, and living situation when you consider gifting. For example, a 10 year old child who lives for banging and loud sounds might LOVE a drum set…but the neighbors in the apartment upstairs might not think that’s particularly awesome! And while we know that research shows endless benefits of owning a kitten or puppy for mental and physical health, rescuing a kitten from a shelter should NEVER be done without full, enthusiastic consent of your particular giftee!

And without further ado, here are my Gift Giving Ideas, in no particular order of importance.

For that picky eater

ezpz Happy Mat and/or Mini Mat: Oh my goodness people, I am totally in love with these products for several reasons. They are aesthetically pleasing. The mats are made of dishwasher and microwave safe silicone that feels soft and smooth to the touch. The colors are kid-friendly and engaging. They suction to the table so food doesn’t go flying…well, at least not from a flying bowl or plate. And for goodness sake, their Happy Mat and Mini Mat SMILE AT YOU WHILE YOU EAT! Plus, the dividers in the mat themselves help to separate food so that things don’t touch (if you have to wonder why food that touches is a problem, ask a picky eater!). They help provide portion control for those who may want lots of only one thing. The fact that there are three different sections imply there should be three different things on the plate, so maybe you’ll even get an extra bonus of increasing food tolerances over time. The silicone keeps mealtime quieter than normal because there isn’t any “clink clink” of the silverware on the plate. And just think of all the fun you can have using these mats within the realm of fine motor skill development! Cheerios, chunks of meat, small pieces of fruit…all of these things will sit patiently for your little one to practice their pincer grasp when they pick them up with their fingers. The raised sides of the sections will provide a little support with utensil use. Check out the ezpz website for lots more great ideas in their shopping section and on Ms Dawn’s blog! (If this seems like an unpaid commercial for a really great product by a really great company it’s because I love them!)

For the Sensory Seekers

You know these kinds of people. We are folks who seek lots and lots of input. We move a lot. We chew on our fingers and clothes and gum (if it’s allowed). Some of us seem to be able to crash into things without apparent harm or ouches. So consider any of the following:

Compression clothing: these items can be worn under street clothing or just as the shirt! My favorites for kiddos are the Hug Tees from funandfunction.com, but you can find cool compression clothes at most sporting goods stores. Make sure the label includes the word “compression” and be aware that the shirt may look a little small. That’s okay, you want it to feel snug like a hug!

Body Sox: don’t knock it til you’ve tried it, really! These fun tools offer moderate to heavy deep pressure input while also giving a child a reduced-sensory environment. This picture shows a person completely INSIDE the “sox;” some of my students enjoy placing the top of it over their shoulders instead of hiding totally inside it. Try adding it to your before bedtime-routine, maybe even during that bedtime story. If your child enjoys playing in the sox, just be aware that it can be a little slick when walking on uncarpeted surfaces, so use with supervision.

Yoga Ball: there are so many uses for Yoga balls besides just yoga! One of my favorites is to roll the ball over the child from head to feet, slowly and with moderate pressure, and pretend you are rolling out cookie dough. The pressure of the ball will be calming, and the playtime will be fun. A yoga ball and this cool set of Therapy Ball Activity Cards would make a great gift!

Weighted tools such as pillows or stuffed animals: You can buy a weighted toy, or weight your own by opening the seam of a favorite stuffed toy and adding a small, reinforced Baggie of dried beans. I really like these pillows that are filled with cherry pits from hotcherrypillows.com. They weigh approximately two pounds, and have the added advantage of being able to be warmed in the microwave. So soothing, and lots of senses touched through the use of this tool.

For the Anxious among us (and really, who isn’t from time to time?)

Oil, Rose, Aroma, Aromatherapy, Essential, Flower, Spa

Aroma therapy: Essential oils are a really hot gift item in my part of the country right now. Small bottles of oils and lovely diffusers are available even in my local grocery stores, and it seems everyone has a favorite brand or scent. It’s important to remember that not everyone loves the intensity of the various smells associated with essential oils, so tread lightly at first and even consider cutting the intensity by diluting the oils with a few drops of a neutral smelling oil like a light olive oil. Your anxious child may benefit from the use of lavender oil; I know it works for me! But check with your local health food store or other knowledgable vendor for recommendations regarding which oils to try. Recently the parent of one of my littlest students contacted me to say that they had added lavender oil to their bedtime routine. Mom mixes a couple drops of the oil into a little bit of coconut oil and massages it into her son’s hands and feet before bedtime. She said that as soon as she brings out the bottle each night, he goes to the massage location and lays down, because he knows it feels good. She also told me that his sleep has improved since they started using the lavender oil massage. Gotta love those kinds of success stories, right?

Small tent: These are functional for so many reasons! They help provide a small space for homework, a spot to calm and settle, a quiet place to play during a busy holiday family event.

Compression tools: The same compression clothing and body sox that help sensory seekers also help folks who are anxious. Because compression items typically fit close to the body, they add a neutral warmth that is soothing for most folks. Pay attention to overheating and remove them if your loved one gets too warm.

Weighted tools: Weighted tools are soothing and calming overall. They can include stuffed animals, pillows, vests, even blankets. You can weight a backpack with a few books for a  young child. Whatever weighted tool you use, please use them with supervision.

Quiet time: You can never underestimate the importance of giving everyone opportunities to retreat to a quiet spot, especially during the busy family events that accompany the holidays. Anxious folks among us often need time to warm up, to ease into gatherings, along with time to themselves. Try to honor that when possible. And consider offering a pair of noise dampening headphones, especially when you know the festive events will have the potential of being noisy or loud.

Word Cloud, Compassion, Joy, Connect, Words

(Compassion word cloud courtesy of: https://pixabay.com/en/word-cloud-compassion-joy-connect-936542/ )

For all

Give the gift of understanding and compassion. Try to honor schedules and routines that are important. Take time out to recharge and refresh. Have familiar foods on the table during those big meals so that picky eaters don’t feel pressured to eat things they don’t like or haven’t tried. There will be other times to work on stretching food preferences or sensory tolerances. During the holidays, remember to enjoy the people you are with for who they are, and they will love you for it.

Stacy M. Turke, OTR/L: “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.” Stacy has been a school OT for 31 years with the same intermediate school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.” Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas. She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!” You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @StacyTurkeOT.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

Last Minute Sensory-Based Gifts

6 Quick Low or No Cost Movement Ideas

kids-exercising

 

 

6 Quick Low or No Cost Movement Ideas

By Stacy Turke, OTR/L

 

On November 5 of this year, I presented a session at #COETC16, or the MSU College of Education Technology Conference. As it states on the website, the conference was made possible through the collaboration between the College of Education at MSU and the Master of Arts in Educational Technology Program. COETC16 allowed educators to explore technology use across the curriculum while connecting with innovative educators from across the nation. This 33rd Annual event was focusing on the concepts of Equity and Universal Design for Learning, near and dear to the heart of this OT. The conference organizer, a former teacher with whom I collaborated frequently during her tenure at my school district, was adamant that our low-tech presentation, Meeting the Developmental Needs of All Learners Through Movement and Classroom Design, would fit well with the concepts of UDL and Equity, and help teachers answer the questions of just how to meet the needs kids present so that they can access all of the wonderful technology being used in today’s classroom. And so on that crisp autumn day, my generous OT colleague Jodie, our Fieldwork Level II student Dennis, and I found ourselves presenting our conference session to a room full of educators who all were giving up their Saturdays with their families.

figure-1-the-pyramid-of-learning
This visual is a great reminder to staff and parents (and we OTs!) that the academic learning happens when ALL THE REST OF THIS STUFF provides a solid foundation. That’s why we work on movement, provide proprioceptive input, etc!

 

We shared information about the Developmental Needs of Learning, reminding the educators of the importance of the building blocks that form the foundational layers of learning. We reminded them that young bodies NEED to move, and that our current educational system does not tend to keep developmental needs of young children in mind. And we shared all kinds of ideas for increasing movement options in the classroom so kids can be moving and focusing on curriculum at the same time.

Predictably, the teachers were especially interested in learning what they could do right away and with little to no cost, so this month, my blog post will discuss Low or No Cost Movement Ideas for the Classroom. (If you read back through my posts, you’d be able to find some of these already discussed, but who has time for that? So just keep reading, it will all be here for you!)

So here we go: 6 Quick Low or No Cost Movement Ideas

Animal Walks: move from location to location like a named animal. Prowl and pounce like a cat, gallop like a horse, bear walk on your hands and feet, slither like a snake. I’ve seen teachers dismiss their entire class from circle time by asking them to frog-hop to their seats at tables. Some teachers have had kids move like a snake from one center to another. I’ve seen an entire class walking like quiet tiny mice in the hallway between the gym and their classroom. Teach the movement first, separate from any other expectation, then use it when the children are transitioning around the building. Check out this cool visual that helps organize your kiddos and their animal walks!

2 Kinds of Push-ups…but not what you are thinking! Chair push-ups and wall push-ups are really effective for helping kids calm and focus either before or during listening tasks. Most classrooms I support do not have enough wall space to do whole class wall push-ups, so typically this is done one or two kids at a time. Chair push-ups can be done by as many kids as you have non-wheeled classroom chairs, and they can be done by individual students if they notice that they need to focus and attend. Here’s how to do them:

Chair push-ups: In a well-fitting chair, meaning the child’s feet reach the floor, have the child place their hands on the edge of the seat of their chair, right along side of their thighs. Slowly straighten the arms to lift the bottom off the chair, slowly count to three, then slowly return the bottom to the chair. Repeat 3-5 times.

Picture Card Appointment 4in

Wall Push-Ups: So wall push ups are as easy as they look. Have the student stand, facing the wall just farther than their hands can reach. The child should lean forward and place their hands at shoulder height on the wall, then slowly bend the elbows until the nose ALMOST touches the wall. Slowly straighten the elbows again to the upright position. That’s one rep, repeat 3-5 times. To help your students structure this a bit, consider making a couple sets of paper hands, and laminating them. Place one set on the wall at approximate shoulder height for your taller students, and one set a little lower for your shorter students. This will help structure the where part of the process, and may even serve as a visual reminder of a teacher-approved way to get their move ON!

wall-pushups

Propped on Tummy: I know how important properly-fitting seating is, and I bet you do too. We need to sit at tables that hit us approximately at our elbows, in chairs that allow us to sit with a 90 degree angle at our hips, knees, and ankles, so that we can maintain good posture and have maximum stability. But sometimes we need to move, and work can be done while lying on the floor. Seriously! Just grab a clipboard, or a large hardback book that is no more than a half inch thick, and plop down on the floor on your tummy. You are going to want to elevate your chest and head off the floor by weight bearing on your forearms, and then this position will not only give you deep pressure through your shoulders, but it will also put your face in alignment with the work on that clipboard or book. It will be easier to pay attention to your work, and it will be easier to avoid distractions. We spend so much of our time hunched over our desks or tables, with our backs flexed and curved toward the table. This position will give your back extensors a chance to stretch out and your brain a break from the sensory stimulation going on above the floor level. Some kids may have trouble maintaining this position for more than a couple minutes to begin with, but over time their strength, endurance, and interest will increase and you will find that students love the freedom laying on the floor in class brings

coetc16-propped-on-the-floor-pic
Yep, one of my prouder moments. I’m lying on the floor demonstrating “propped prone on elbows” in the middle of a conference presentation. Everyone does that, right?!

 

Yoga: A teacher colleague swears by Cosmic Kids Yoga, have you tried it yet? Subscribe to their YouTube channel, and you will have access to all of their videos, and they add a new one each Monday. Yoga poses can help with so many developmental needs, including motor planning, bilateral coordination, improved deep breathing, flexibility, strength, endurance, calm focus, mindfulness…you name it! You can access individual yoga videos that target specific needs, and you can also check out playlists targeting specific age groups. But of course, there are other ways to access Yoga for kids, both internet-based and in print. Yoga in the classroom can be done by the whole class, similar to GoNoodle, or you can consider a quiet corner of your room that is a Yoga spot for one or two children to visit when they need to regroup, refocus, or re-energize.

Fitness Stations: A PE teacher in one of my schools has created fitness stations throughout the halls of her small elementary school so simply that really ANYONE could do it in their own school! Ms. Bain simply taped page protectors at various points along the walls of the main hallways, and she inserted a simple exercise visual into each one. Kids walking the halls can move to one or more and get a little exercise while getting a drink, taking a walking break, etc. How simple is this?! Examples include wall push-ups, squats, and these toe touches. I feel a little silly that I never thought of this, and I also feel grateful that I work with someone who DID think of it, and better yet implemented it throughout her school! Check out these pictures, one from a distance to show how unobtrusive the pictures are, and the second showing how simple her instructions are.

fitness-station-1
This fitness station is just outside the cafeteria, giving kids a quick stretch before heading into lunch!

 

fitness-station-2
This is a close-up of the fitness station just outside the cafeteria; look how simple these instructions are!

 

Hopefully one or more of these ideas will be easy to implement in your classroom right away so you can help your students get focused and get moving! They will love you for these opportunities!

Pyramid of learning photo courtesy of: http://indonesiaexpat.biz/lifestyle/sports-health/sensory-integration-disorder-spd-a-misunderstood-disorder-of-addadhd-in-children/

Chair Push Up photo thanks to: http://special-ism.com/seat-based-sensory-strategies-to-keep-students-seated-and-focused/

Wall Push Up photo taken from: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/pushup-start-with-wall-pushup

Stacy M. Turke, OTR/L: “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.” Stacy has been a school OT for 31 years with the same intermediate school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.” Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas. She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!” You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @StacyTurkeOT.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

6 Quick Low or No Cost Movement Ideas