Learning through touch at home

Posted: 20 May, 2016

By: Annemarie Lombard

Section: Education, Parenting

Learning through touch at home

The sound of a revving engine and screeching brakes alerts me to the fact that my last client of the day has arrived. My little client, Sean, runs into the practice with mom Andrea hot on his heels, trying to wipe the dirt off his face to no avail! “Eeeeee…boommmm…crrrrrash…..” he heads straight for the large beanbag. Just in time, I grab Sean to prevent him from obtaining a head-injury by rolling forward on the therapy ball headed for the floor. Andrea looks absolutely exhausted and I can see disorganization written all over her face!!

Sean is a sensory seeker, who crashes, jumps and bumps into anything on his path, which explains the bruises on Andrea’s legs! In addition, he touches, chews and smells anything he can lay his hands on, so Andrea needs to constantly be in a high-alert state to ensure that Sean does not put anything dangerous in his mouth, up his nose or into his ears. This of course, raises her levels of anxiety as she is constantly in a state of fight-or-flight mode. Other than providing Sean with the sensory input he so regularly needs, what kind of sensory input does Andrea need to organize herself? She is aware that she constantly feels overwhelmed and that she is always running late for appointments! Although this may be the feeling of many a parent, it can be especially overwhelming for a parent with a child who constantly seeks sensory input. As a parent, whether you are a sensory seeker or a sensory avoider, you need different kinds of sensory input at different times of the day than what your child needs.

What on earth is Andrea to do?
One type of sensory input that has both a calming and organizing effect on the nervous system is known as proprioceptive input. This type of input can be given in lots of different ways that will benefit both child and parent. Deep pressure bear hugs, wrestling and pillow fights may be a very effective way to fulfill both parent and child needs. Whilst giving the hug, the parent receives just as much proprioceptive input as the child. Parent and child can both roll in a duvet alongside each other, pretending to be caterpillars or playing tug-of-war with a towel before bath time. Whilst doing chores, such as cooking or washing, involve your child in these activities. Loading washing into the machine, grating the cheese or turning the salad spinner (even if you have to go and buy a salad spinner just for this purpose!), he or she receives deep pressure input. Gardening is a great way of incorporating proprioceptive input. Think: carrying the hosepipe, digging a hole or pushing the wheelbarrow around. At the same time, we can really give positive input and build his self-esteem: You are such a good gardener, salad maker and washing loader!

So what do we do if our child is a tactile seeker? Should one not feel comfortable with messy play in the house? There are other “cleaner” options such as shaving foam on the bathroom tiles, a feely box (which can be made out of scrap material) or a beanbag made out of fluffy material, a rice box where objects can be hidden or stress balls (balloons filled with flour or play dough). Of course the stress ball idea applies to both parent and child!

According to Carol Stock Kranowitz, author of The Out-of-Sync Child, The Seven Drops can be a very useful tool to use when your child is experiencing a difficult day. I do feel that even if your child is not having a bad day, the Seven Drops can be put to good use in order to prevent over-stimulation of either child or mom!
These are:
1. Drop your voice
2. Drop your body
3. Drop your TV remote
4. Drop your guard
5. Drop your defenses
6. Drop your batteries
7. Drop your misconception that fun is frivolous

Andrea, my wish for you is that next Friday afternoon you will arrive on time, with a stress ball in hand.

* Of course names are changed for confidentiality purposes!!*