But we have seen such a spurt in development with Malakai - from better balance, to greater fine motor skills, to actually saying words (real words...)! Our SI therapist said he would improve in all areas over time - and he has. And I can't believe its simply because of 'feeding' him the sensory input he needs.
In our last bi-weekly speech therapy appointment, Malakai was able to work a toy that involves pushing down a lever to get a ball released - something that we had played with previously, but without success. I mean, we demonstrated how the toy worked over 30 times and Malakai just really struggled to figure out how to push the lever down - he pulled it, pushed it sideways, hit it and the like, but couldn't seem to make his hand push it down. In our last session? First try! He got it right first time and then repeated the movement over and over again. His speech therapist is so impressed with his development and ability to follow instruction - she's amazed that she's now able to work so much more constructively with him.
It makes sense though, if you think about it. We understand our world through our senses - if the information is not coming through strongly enough, or if it's all jumbled, then our ability to process the information (and learn from it) is limited. When we start to 'integrate' our sensory world, then we can understand and respond easier.
I really wanted to share this news because there must be other little kiddos out there that could benefit from Sensory Integration. It helps to see a trained therapist, but if you can't find one (or can't find the time...) - here are some tips on how to 'feed' your little one a sensory diet that will help them to integrate their sensory system better - if it worked for Malakai it can work for you too!
"Young children need to absorb sensory knowledge through their skin, muscles and joints before they 'graduate' to a developmental level where they can gather information through their eyes and ears."
The following are ideas for Proprioceptive sensory input throughout your daily life:
While in the car:
- Playing with and pulling prestik
- Popping bubble wrap
- Uncurling paper clips
- Lacing rubber bands together
- Cream containers that you have to push down and squirt out
- Pouring water from big containers
- Stirring bath water clockwise and then anti-clockwise with eyes shut (one hand goes back, one forward)
- After bath - give a good firm toweling rub down, wrap child tightly in the towel, and later cream body as if giving a massage. In summer this can be done after a swim in the pool.
- Pouring water from a 2 litre container into mugs
- Peeling oranges
- Mashing potatoes
- Sitting on a cushion or something 'wobbly'
- Squashing a squishy ball from time to time
- Use proprioceptive snacks to maintain focus and concentration
- Put these in a lunchbox to help modulate the child during the school day or during a long car journey
- Rice cakes, biltong (beef jerky), dried fruit (mango is best as it provides the most resistance), wine gums, crunchy fruits like apples, pickles, yogisips with a long straw, popcorn, carrots, liquorice strips, dried fruit rolls, cheese squeezies, pretzels, raisins.
- Peeling oranges, or make a hole in the top and squeeze and squash the juice out
- Freeze juice bottles in summer so child has to squeeze and suck the ice as it melts.
- Allow child to chew gum (if old enough), eat chewy or crunchy foods
- Sip water from a water bottle with a straw
- Drink thick liquids through a straw - the thickness of the straw and the liquid can be varied to change the degree of heavy work required
- Play mouth soccer with straws and cotton balls
- Blow bubbles in a dish of soapy water with a straw (adult supervision required)
- Blow whistles, blow up pool toys, balloons
- Eating grapes or cherries with pips - finding the pip with your tongue
- Copying funny faces and mouth shapes
- Roller skate / roller blade uphill
- Garden work such as: mow the lawn, rake the leaves, push the wheelbarrow, shovel sand, pulling out weeds
- Pull a friend or heavy item in a wagon
- Climbing ladders, ramps, trees, anything
- Push a friend in a wheelbarrow
- Walk around outside in the dark, looking at the stars
- Pull a wagon or sled uphill - walking backwards is best
- Piggy backs - let the child hold on himself and do all the work
- Tyre tube for walking or sitting on
- Wear a backpack around the house or garden - go on a treasure hunt collecting heavy bean bags (or bags of rice) to fill the backpack
- Tug-of-war - do this in sitting, standing and kneeling position
- Hanging from monkey bars
- Tumbling with friends
- Leap frog
- Wheelbarrow walking - hold your child's legs and see how far they can go on their hands
- Pouring - put different amounts of sand, beans or water into a cup or pitcher. Let the child pour from one container to another
- Bulldozer - two children sit in a large cardboard box and two others push the load across the floor, using their shoulders, backs, hands or feet to make it move
- Carry heavy items - baskets of blocks, groceries for mom
- Push or pull boxes with toys or a few books in it - more resistance is provided if boxes are pushed/pulled across a carpeted floor
- Fill a pillowcase with a few stuffed animals in it for weight - child can pull it up an incline or stairs
- Use the cushions from the sofa for climbing, jumping and crashing into them
- Perform household chores such as vacuuming, sweeping, carrying the laundry basket, wiping the table, washing the windows, scrubbing surfaces
- Have pillow fights
- Make a sandwich out of your child - between couch cushions
- Have a child close his eyes and 'feel' where his legs, hands, arms etc are positioned.
- Massage child's hands before he tries a difficult motor task
Outside in the Garden:
- Rolling down a grassy hill
- Airplanes - parent lies on back and places feet on child's tummy. Child is lifted up by parent's feet and is suspended above.
- Piggy backs
- Park activities - swings, slides, merry-go-rounds, climbing
- Swinging in a blanket
- Jumping on a trampoline
- Jumping to rhythms - recite a nursery rhyme, clap your hands or beat a drum in a steady rhythmic pattern.
- Riding vehicles - trikes, bikes, scooters
- Walking on unstable surfaces - in a sandpit, suspended bridge, water bed, rocks
- Jumping from the bed into a parent's arms
- Jumping off a chair onto a crash pad
- Moving through obstacle courses - tunnels, ramps, balance beams, steps, sofa cushions
The following are ideas for Tactile sensory input throughout your daily life:
In the Bathroom:
- Play in bubble bath
- Swaddling - roll the child tightly in a towel which provides deep pressure
- Rub-a-dub-dub - encourage child to rub a variety of textures on his skin (oatmeal soap, shaving cream, lotion soap, loofah sponges, thick wash cloths, foam pot-scrubbers, brushes)
- Play with finger paint or use instant pudding as a finger paint
- Goop - mix maizena (corn flour) with a little water to make a past
- Cooking - mix dough with hands
- Draw in flour in a baking tray
- Roll in the grass
- Get buried in sand
- Sand tray - fill a large box with sand, beans, rice, cornmeal or popcorn. Add a small toy such as a car
- Make a collage of various outside objects - eg leaves, stones, pine needles, dirt, sticks, acorns, pods
- Make a collage with corn, lentils, noodles, pasta, rice, tin foil, sand, cotton wool, finger paint etc
- Crawl through tight spaces
- Secret hideaways - supply towels, blankets, sheets, sleeping bags, down comforters, pillows etc for your child to construct a fort or hideaway under a table
- Drawing on skin - draw a design on the child's back.
- Feely box - cut a hole in the top of shoe box box. Place different objects in the box such as spools, marbles, plastic animals etc into a box. The child feels through the hole and guesses what toy she is holding.
- Craft stores and fabric stores - feathers, cotton balls, silk, raylon, netting, wool, lace etc.
- Make puppets or rag doll out of different textures
- Buttons in a bag - order the size without looking
- Clay and play dough
- Walking barefoot on bubble wrap.
Sally Mackenzie: Hons O.T. (UCT); Hons Psych (UNISA); SI (SAISI); Dip TherMassage
Kate Bailey: Hons O.T. (UCT); Masters O.T. (WITS); SI (SAISI); NDT