Lou has been given the chance to borrow a ‘Weighted Blanket’ to help her at Bedtimes, and at other times to help assist in calming her. Before we trialled the blanket I found it difficult to comprehend how a blanket with weights in could have such a positive effect!
What I’ve found is that these blankets are literally worth their weight in gold! We noticed the improvement in Lou’s bedtime routine straight away, anyone who has read my ‘Bedtime and Sleep’ series will have read that Lou has had problems with bedtimes since May ’16. We would usually experience a high level of anxiety with the transition of getting ready for bed then settling to go to sleep, objects are often thrown and Lou will try anything possible to gain our attention to return back to her upstairs.
The first evening that we tried the weighted blanket, Lou was keen to be wrapped in the blanket and I couldn’t believe that within 5 minutes she was sound asleep! This has also worked during ‘Chill Out’ time after a bath, and before going up to bed, Lou asked for the blanket and fell asleep on the sofa and had to be carried upstairs!
We also would like to try the blanket for comfort during the day, and try and recognise if Lou is feeling anxious or angry about something and use the blanket to prevent any further sensory overloads.
Lou is a huge ‘Sensory Seeker’ she has loved being swaddled tightly since she was a newborn and would settle to sleep far better. Lou thrives on the pressure that a weighted blanket offers.
As a family we have decided that a personalised blanket of her own, is a must for Lou and we hope to be able to provide one as a Christmas present!
We all explore the world via our senses. The brain has a filter system that allows us to only pay attention to what is most important at that time. This filter may not work in the same way for some people. They may experience things differently, as I always say: “My child sees the world differently.” This may lead to a ‘sensory overload’ due to experiencing many sensations all at once. In our case, a ‘sensory overload’ manifests itself as a ‘meltdown,’ where items are throw, hitting out, screaming and unable to cope with the current situation. We remove Lou to a safe and calm place, she has a ‘calm tent’ where she can access cushions, blankets and her calming sensory toys.
As we know the senses are:
But there are also senses related more directly to movement:
▪ Vestibular – sense of balance and position of the head.
▪ Tactile – sense of touch.
▪ Proprioception – our sense of body position, pressure, movement.
There are people who are ‘Hypo’ (under sensitive) and be seen as a ‘sensory avoider. ‘ on the opposite side, some people may be ‘Hyper’ (over sensitive) or seen as a ‘sensory seeker.’ In my experience, Lou is on the whole a ‘seeker’ – although has some ‘avoider’ tendencies, e.g dislikes showers, swimming and having hair brushed amongst others!
What is a Sensory Diet?
A sensory diet is a planned scheduled activity programme that is designed to meet a child’s sensory needs. This can change over time as the child’s behaviour changes. The application of the sensory diet is used both as a treatment strategy and also to prevent behaviour challenges. A sensory diet is important just as it is to have a balanced food diet, we need a balance amount of sensory information to allow our bodies to function. The sensory diet with aid a child to self regulate their behaviour, emotions and attention.
The benefits of using a balanced sensory diet are:
▪ To handle changes/transions with less stress.
▪ To reduce sensory seeking and avoiding – in particular unwanted behaviours.
▪ To help increase attention, alertness and emotions.
In terms of this checklist in our personal experience:
Lou on the whole, for touch is a definite avoider, she particularly dislikes clothing seems, and takes her socks off moments after having them on! She wears leggings and soft T-Shirts everyday. Lou is not a fan at all, of the shower, having her hair washed or brushed. Although, the exception to touch is that she is a seeker in terms of messy hands, face, others parts such as legs. In materials such as glue, paint, lotion, sand etc. She thrives on these type of activities.
Proprioception: (body sense)
Lou is a seeker in all movement, such as rough housing, jumping, climbing, etc. She is a risk taker and thrives on impulsive and risky actions, for example, jumping off steps at height, she literally has no fear! Lou prefers dry, crunchy foods, she isn’t keen on soft textured or runny foods, especially sauces.
Vestibular: (movement sense)
In terms of balancing, riding equipment, spinning, climbing – especially stairs, Lou is a definite seeker. She enjoys being lifted up in the air and twisted down so her head is facing the floor! She also enjoys bring twirled around by an adult.
Lou comes across as loud, she talks loudly and will create her own sounds to mask other louder sounds, for example, when Moo was a tiny baby crying, the hoover, motorbikes passing by, etc. She isn’t keen at all on sudden unexpected noises, and can hear sounds far away that I can’t even hear! E.g aeroplanes, grass cutters, if Lou has been in a loud environment with a lot going on, she may try and escape, e.g a sports hall, or hold in her sensory overloads until she reaches the safe place of home and will often have a meltdown. Lou made sounds whilst she ate even from 6 months old, when she first started eating sold foods, this came out as humming. She still does this humming and now sings whilst concentrating at an activity and when eating.
Lou has a ‘thing’ about screens, e.g an ipad. She used to be more into the TV but lately she gets absolutely absorbed in the ipad, in fact this is the only time she isn’t moving or talking! Lou has been interested in colours from an early age, she enjoys watching her gel droppers, rainbow projector and goes to sleep with her bubble tube on, which projects changing colours onto her ceiling. Lou dislikes the dark, she will always have a light on somewhere at bedtime, or she can’t settle.
Lou smells everything – play dough, new toys, books etc. She will notice a change in perfume and often says: “what’s that smell?” It may be a new air freshener or that something is cooking. Lou will chew on toys, and will try and get Moo’s dummy to chew on! She now has a safe Chewigen bracelet and necklace if she has the need to chew. These were from: http://chewigem.co.uk/
Sensory diet activity ideas:
– Bear hugs
– Massage with or without lotion
– Joint compressions
– Therapy brushing
– Jump on cash pad – can always be homemade with sofa cushions and pillows.
– Hand fidgets
– Mixing cake ingredients
– Vibrating toys – we have a vibrating neck cushion.
The products are reasonably priced and we received a prompt delivery, I will be ordering more for Christmas this year!
Through starting to use the sensory diet approach for the past month, I’ve already noticed that whilst absorbed in these activities, Lou is calmer and focused. She will often create her own opportunities, even if I haven’t provided them. For example, she will find a wet chalk outside and rub it into the concrete slabs to feel the texture on her hand. She is also always seeking for water play, she fills the sink and will explore soap – I do have to keep an eye on this as she does like to flood my bathroom!
It may be easier to put sensory diet ideas and activities into a chart of plan to clearly see whats to be worked on. Examples can be quite simple:
Source: Google search: ‘sensory diet plans.’
Or a little more detailed:
Source: Google search: ‘sensory diet plans.’
I am currently working on a sensory diet plan for Lou over the next few weeks as she transitions from ending Pre School to the 6 week holidays, in preparation for starting ‘big school,’ in September!
Here is the copy of the post I wrote to thank the charity Family Fund:
This is my daughter Amber (4) she has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) with traits of ASD and ADHD. I hadn’t heard of the Family Fund until I took Amber to a play therapy centre and the Specialist teacher at the SMILE centre at ARCOS in Malvern, Worcestershire suggested I should try and apply to Family Fund. I was desperate to provide Amber with equipment to help keep her calm, but as we’re a low income family I was finding this difficult. My daughter was given a grant for sensory equipment and toys from the Learning SPACE and further sessions at the SMILE centre where my daughter can explore bubble tubes, role play, snugs, musical instruments, etc. My partner Paul and I were delighted that our daughter would benefit so much from this. Already we’ve noticed that Amber is calmer when she’s accessing the toys and equipment. She explores the scented doughs, squeezes and pulls stretchy men and butterflies. She goes to sleep with stars on her ceiling and a rainbow on her wall! She is fascinated by squeezing the Gelli Baff and Magic Snow, and is calmer from watching the gel droppers in her ‘calm’ tent. I’m currently logging the success of this equipment via my personal Blog and will also do so when she attends the play therapy centre – I’d love to give you feedback on that too 🙂
I’ve never been so grateful for anything in my whole life, it makes such a difference to a little girl who finds it difficult to control her emotions and frustration. Thank you so much for making a difference in my child’s life Family Fund 🙂
Above picture shows Lavender scented Modoh which I’d never heard of, when squeezing it gives off a calming lavender scent it even worked on me!
The yellow dough is scented with banana and I’d never come across Gelli Baff before but It suggests putting it into the bath but we used a washing up bowl. The crystals expand and Lou enjoyed squeezing the gel it made when mixed with water.
I’ll be updating more successes in the near future, especially with the musical instruments as Lou has already shown great interest in these!
I’ve also been asked to join the Family Fund’s monthly blog where for June I’ll be writing a post about taking a child with additional needs on holiday.