Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Push, pull, lift, carry

It seems it's time to start paying more attention to Bud's sensory integration needs. I have to admit, I'd gotten lazy in that department. A couple of years ago, when Bud was in preschool, sensory integration was a Top Priority, but the better he got at self-regulating, the less attention I paid to it. We ended his supplemental Occupational Therapy sessions last spring (though he still has them at school), and bit by bit I've started slacking on all the other stuff - the jumping, the swinging, the marching. In the past couple of months, I'd even gotten slack with the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol, which we'd been using faithfully with Bud since he was three.

My laziness has caught up with me.

To be fair, it's not just my laziness. Sensory integration activities are easy in the summer, when we can spend whole days splashing in the lake and rolling down hills and playing at the park. It's even pretty simple in the fall and spring, when the weather is still mild and the days fairly long. But in winter - especially this winter, when there has been no snow for sledding and digging and building - it's a much greater challenge. The days are short, the calendar is packed, the cold metal playground has low appeal - and even playing in the backyard is difficult, because we are currently managing through some particularly unpleasant issues with our septic system (and I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that it makes the scatalogical issues I've been reading about in the autism blogosphere lately pale by comparison.)

Anyway, for the past couple of weeks, Bud has been making his sensory needs known. I've been particularly aware of them in the middle of the night, when he crawls into our bed and tries to slide underneath me, or digs his heels into my shins, or buries his chin between my shoulder blades or hides his elbows in my ribs as he thump-thump-thumps his feet against whichever part of my body is closest, or as he wraps his leg around my kneecap and yanks. When Bud needs sensory input, he gets closer than close - and now that he's over 60 pounds and solidly built, it feels a bit like we've got a Marmaduke who thinks he's a lap dog.

So sensory integration is making its way back to the top of the priority list. We're brushing regularly - at least twice a day. We're ending our days with games that involve a lot of climbing, marching, dancing, pushing, pulling, hugging, squeezing, jumping, and crashing. My favorite was "sled dog," in which Bud (the dog) pulled me (the sled) by the hands as I slid across the wood floor in my sock-covered feet. I think Bud's favorite was the game in which Bud, Daddy, and I dog-piled on top of each other in varying order, requiring the person on the bottom to wriggle themselves free. Kyra also provided a terrific (and well-timed) list of sensory integration activities on This Mom. I just keep thinking back to the workshop I attended a few years ago, in which Carol Stock Kranowitz, author of The Out of Sync Child, said that the keys to promoting sensory regulation were "push, pull, lift, carry," and I'm trying to build in those activities wherever I can.

It seems to be doing the trick, and Bud must be remembering how good it feels to have his sensory integration in check, because as I tucked him into bed last and he wriggled and twitched and tried to get comfortable, he stopped and said, "We need a swing." He went straight to the closet to unpack his doorway swing, and after a few minutes of flight he was ready to settle into sleep.

Bud's upcoming evaluation with the child development clinic is well-timed, since an OT is among the consultants we'll meet. In the meantime, we'll just keep pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, sled-dogging, and dog-piling. And swinging, of course. Always swinging.


Lynanne said...

Our OT told us that her experience was that brushing was more effective if not done continuously. Or rather, you follow the routine for a set number of weeks and then wean down to little or none for a while (I wish I could remember how many weeks she recommended)

So, don't feel bad that you've slipped...just tell yourself you took a break so you'll be re-energized with ideas which will be more effective :)

Anonymous said...

yes! swinging! i wanted santa to bring a 'moon swing' something fluffy uses at his weekly OT sessions but i thought he'd find a big jumpolene more fun. not sure it is? he's climbed in it here and there but his favorite thing in his playroom is, and has always been, his swing.

how smart of bud to know what he needs! i love that. and i love the short hand, 'push, pull, lift, carry.' thank you for that. i will keep it in mind as i go through the day, finding places and times to insert this much-needed sensory food!!

and thanks to lynanne for the reassurance re: brushing. we've fallen away from it lately. nice to know it may be part of a larger plan!

kristina said...

I really miss having a pool to go to---where we used to live, there was "family swim" every evening, but the pool where we live now has no such time slots, and swimming definitely does a lot for Charlie in the sensory department. I miss snow, too......... When Charlie was younger, his sensory were not as apparent. I would say he was just around Bud's age when these becamse a bigger issue---so you are just in time!

Anonymous said...

i'm having trouble in this area right now as well. it's just too cold (and muddy) to send him outside very often. i've been trying to do more crashing/bouncing type things with him - thanks for the title of this post - it'll be my new mantra.

Daisy said...

I wonder if some of that would be good for Amigo? He's fourteen (almost fifteen), and hasn't had sensory integration since preschool. When he did have it, his self-stims like rocking and humming were minimal.

Anonymous said...

We dealt with SI issues with my (now twelve year old) daughter for a long time. While not on the spectrum, she had a few significant areas of dysfunction, so we, too, did OT and home remediation. The things that fit into her life and worked best for her were:
1. Being the kid in the class in school who was the designated one for returning the heavy box of books to the library each week (heavy muscle work)
2. Being the art table scrubber each week (heavy muscle work)
3. Being the paper gopher for the teacher - taking attendance sheets to the office, delivering the lunch money to the cafeteria, picking up notices for the class
4. She was the impetus for the classes doing mid-morning jumping break (proprioceptive input)
5. She was the impetus for the change in bus rider line-up policy. They used to just have a very loud semi-free for all in the gym while waiting for the busses in the afternoon. After her panic attack, etc., they instituted a policy of having the kids sit down instead of stand while waiting, and the noise was reduced by 75% just by doing that one little thing. (removed a trigger for dysregulation)
6. She was old enough and full of attitude enough to not want to do the brushing protocol, so we snuck in things like "back scratching" and "tickle fights."
7. We did the therapeutic listening CDs, and since she was opposed to doing that, we made deals like 30 minutes of TL, then 30 minutes of whatever she wanted.
8. We did lots of bath tub play, Crazy Foam, scrubby puff things, filling small buckets in the tub (water is heavy!)
9. We tried a stationary bike for a short while
10. Blow-up or Nerf bats for whacking stuff
11. We did "spa" stuff: hand and arm massage with either scented lotion, or with a scented oil and sugar scrub; she actually liked a parafin dip with the gloves over it and a warm towel wrap; we'd "massage" each other.
12. We'd have a time for being very loud (yelling or singing at the top of our lungs).
13. Lots of dancing, lots of messy art projects, lots of home-made play dough

I feel like I am the last one to be able to offer something to you friends, but hey, if it helps...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the all the great linkage throughout this post...especially the additional suggestions for home intergration. Our private OT is rather young, thus somewhat inexperienced. Over the past 6 months, she has over some suggestions for things to do at school but minimal suggestions for what we can do at home to address sensory needs.

Sarah and Jack said...

This is my first visit to your blog, but I didn't want to leave to tell you that instead of just "flinging by" as I do with so many blogs, I have read each and every entry on the front page. I am amazed at how thoughtful and insightful you are able to be with your sweet little boy. I often find myself struggling on a daily basis to try and "figure" my own little boy out!