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.