by Amanda Simmons M.S., OTR/L
Many of our clients are used to getting the sensory input they need in the gym. This is the best, most effective way to achieve the most optimal level of arousal, but during a quarantine, may not be accessible. Set out aside “play or gym time” and try these methods at home. We will give you the signs and indicators we look for when we think the input we’re providing is too little or too much.
Signs of sensory overload
- Shutdown: unable to process any information, becoming quiet or flush
- Eloping: trying to escape the input in any way
- High Arousal: becoming silly to the point of being unable to be re-directed, or running around aimlessly
- Disorganization: disorganized thought patterns or sentences
Sensory management strategies
Jumping on the bed
Momma always said “DON’T”, but during this time where access is restricted, we recommend it as a potential strategy. Bedding provides good resistance and heavy work. If you are concerned about your child falling, put your couch pillows on the sides of the bed as a make-shift crashpad. Be clear about the boundaries and appropriate times to do this (with supervision, during a certain time of the day).
Wrap your child up in their heaviest blanket and ask them to find their way out. Added props if you can get your child into full body flexion (like an egg or ball), when you wrap them up (either before or after).
If your child is a “sensory seeker” or generally likes movement, have them sit in a spinny chair and use a broom or a toilet plunger (or any long sticklike object) to spin themselves around. Warning: vestibular input without paired heavy work can be very dysregulating. You can also tie a rope to a door frame or a table and have them pull themselves back and forth in your spinny chair.
The most intense vestibular input you can have is submerged and inverted in water. While your tub may not provide this, submerging in the bathtub might be a good way to get input. Even if your child is in a bathing suit and just playing, stick some goggles on them and have them find things at the bottom of the tub. If you are aiming for a more relaxing experience, lavender oil and calming meditation music, with ambient lighting, is likely to do the trick!