This is an upcycled post. While Bubs was only 5 years old than when this was first posted, he still deals with coping issues.
I received a sweet email from a mom a few days ago desperate for support with her son who has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Her letter cried out as she struggles to deal with the stares from people over her son’s “quirky” coping mechanisms when he is in sensory overload.
How I feel her pain. Just a few days ago I received a “look” from a very good friend.
I never doubted myself so much until Bubs was born. I realized around 18 months that normal discipline did not work with his sensory issues. Those well-meaning suggestions from family, friends, and strangers did more harm than help. Others simply didn’t get it. For that matter, I didn’t either. I didn’t know what to do.
Finally we started Occupational Therapy that focuses on Sensory Integration. I am 100% sold on OT with these SPD kiddos. The difference in Bubs is night and day. While he isn’t “cured,” we are both learning how to cope with his issues.
There are two things that I have learned through OT. First, Bubs needs a sensory outlet – jumping, riding a bike, running, carrying heavy things. Secondly, we have to train him to have “normal” and socially acceptable outlets. Not the ones that cause people to stare or walk the other way.
Let me give you an example: When Bubs has a meltdown, he yells – really loud. Yelling is not socially acceptable. So, we are training him to yell into his pillow. He also wants to throw things. He is learning that throwing his stuffed animals at the floor is okay. Throwing his toys at the door is not. Hitting is not allowed. We are training him to hold his hands together tightly or put them in his pockets. He is learning to trade his ugly anger with outlets that are acceptable.
Basically, he is learning to trade unacceptable behaviors with ones that are okay all while dealing with the turmoil of emotions which he is feeling.
What are some coping skills that you are giving your child? Please share…
A few things that seem to help in general (my son is primarily a sensory SEEKER by the way):
Playdough – (for a while a lump of playdough in bed, yes I said in bed, was the magic trick to get his to go to sleep.) helps to calm and relax
Outside time -(he'll play no matter how cold, if we let him) works better than just active play indoors, something about that fresh air
McDonald's Playland – (when it's yucky out, we just order a little snack/drink) great sensory input for his muscles and nobody really cares if he's loud, his FAVORITE place
Tape Books, and Quiet/Calming Music – Gets him to stay in one place and slow down
Water play – Outside, in the tub, or at the sink, calms and entertains
Sand play – indoors or out, just fill a bucket with sand, spoons, cups, a few toys, calming
Trampoline – we have a small, indoor, exercise trampoline, all the kids like to use it
Watch what your child does to "self-medicate". Mine likes to drag a heavy blanket around, draped over his head and shoulders. Also likes his weighted vest (you can make your own) he calls it his "robot vest".
If they naturally gravitate to it, it is probably helping them in some way. Try to offer similar experiences in a socially acceptable format.