It never ceases my to see how small insignificant activities can make such a difference to a child's sensory experience. While thinking about a discussion on how a child can communicate their sensory needs. At the same time I have been reading an article by Sue Larkey on a similar concept called a preventative break, all combining with information I learnt yesterday about the value of sensory input to ease transition to a new activity.
The holy grail for us as parents is the idea that our child can have a form of self regulation this is "is the ability to maintain a level of alertness appropriate to a given activity. Adequate self-regulation is essential to the development of attention, regulation of sleep/wake cycles, and the control of emotions, as well as the daily transitions that make up a child's routine." Honestly I notice this issue in regards to being able to understand their bodies, what their senses are trying to communicate with them and thereby being able to handle the challenges of the senses and problem solving skills. This skill is something that has to be taught to any child who has sensory processing issues.
Sue Larkey introduces the idea of preventative breaks, using activities and skills to enable a child to ask for help and defuse the sensory overload that is building. In her explanation of teaching these skills she introduces the concept of a break card, which a child can ask for an activity that would assist them in their self regulation such as a movement break, wall push ups and breathing.
Carol Gray originally introduced the concept of a social story. If you are considering using social stories often I do recommend you buy her book which gives you hints on how to write a great social story.
In teaching these skills Sue mentions the importance of social stories in this process. My thoughts on the subject are also in this process teaching a child how their sensory system works. An example could include:
When I hear sometimes the noise can be:
If my ears are having trouble sometimes I might:
- cover my ears
- make more noise
- find it hard to think
When my ears tell me something's wrong I can
- find a quiet place
- ask for the noise to be turned up (TV) or ask Mum for headphones
- ask for the noise to be turned off
This type of communication can be a powerful tool in helping our children learn self regulation. We can use a simple break card as Sue Larkey describes which would look like this:
- ask for a movement break
- do wall pushups
- have a drink
Ipads can give us some useful tools to easily create social stories and and others to help our children communicate needs to us.
In the case of choices and feeling we can use:
I forgot this app existed, it is a choice board app that has different boards that are easy to create show a child what they can and can't have. This can be easily utilised and divided into senses to show children how they can help themselves feel better.
This app has a great section called a feeling board. It has simple instruction and visual cues to show When I feel (insert emotion) I can .... and ..... to feel better.
Also included in this app is a visual schedule I think this is a great app for our younger kids as visually it is simple and I have been able to use it for the feelings board and learnt a lot about my second boy's feelings.
It would be great to in the process of teaching these skills add a sense each week and learn all about it, what could work is to have a visual cue on the fridge with pictures of each sense and then use that in communication about their self regulation skills.
Social story apps
Keeping in mind, I haven't needed to use social stories often but we do use a calming book sometimes. There are quite a few apps that are spoken of, but it is really hard to recommend the social stories apps as they are so varied, these apps include, icommunicate, speech journal (another fantastic mobile education store app) and I think you can even use imovie to make a social story video if you like as well.
Using preventative breaks to aid transition
Particularly in the school environment, sensory tasks can really help a child to transition and provide a valuable opportunity to build the sensory diet into the daily routine. For example when finishing an activity you can punctuate the routine with activities such as bouncing on a small tramp, doing a lap on the bicycle, wall pushups, respiration activities. This can help I think also when getting ready for school and transitioning from play to getting ready for school. I also find using routines and even better an ipad with a routine will really help a child be empowered to follow a schedule and complete tasks with minimal involvement. I have mentioned it before I have bought large cooking timers to help at home and this can help (there are apps such as time the timer that can work too) finishing a task or helping a child do a task, I generally use the time to remind myself to shut up and give the child the time including processing time, to complete the task.
This has all been processing lately and I have some new ideas of how to tackle the sensory needs of my son. At one point I think I believe that my son's issues with sensory processing were not so bad. Since watching "traffic jam in my brain" and attending the "autism-the whole person conference" raised some valid issues. Interestingly enough I can see how easy it would be for someone to dismiss a child like mine's concerns in the classroom setting. Please share your ideas of how you teach self regulation and what apps you use. I would be happy to share more on what social story apps are available if you need me to!