Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Idle hands and all of that

I've posted multiple times about homeschooling a child with Sensory Processing Disorder. I guess I'm something of an in-the-trenches pro at this point. Why? Atticus has sensory issues. Logan has sensory issues. Oliver has sensory issues. I suspect that Manolin has sensory issues.

So I've btdt.

Once you make the commitment to keep a steady, balanced sensory diet at work in your child's life, dealing with SPD is nowhere near as difficult as it may seem at first blush. The initial diagnosis, the tinkering with schedules, the working through the therapy plan, the worry ... all of that eventually gives way to something of a norm for your family. And from there, well--you're just one other mom advocating for her child with a little scrubby brush and a book of heavy work activities.

There is something of a trick to homeschooling the child with SPD, though. I won't lie to you. Balancing activities that keep sensory-seeking or sensory-avoiding behaviors in check is a challenge when seatwork needs to get done. And let's be honest--
eventually, some seatwork will have to be done. Not when your child is 2 or maybe even 7, but eventually. Depending on the issues and the strengths your own child has, the homeschool plan may look radically different. For Atticus, a vigorous brushing, ten laps up and down the stairs in an army crawl and ten good minutes of pushing a laundry basket filled with the heaviest books we could find was enough to prepare him for a long reading session. Your mileage may vary, of course, but this was how I stayed sane in the early years.

Now that we're past those days, and Atticus can regulate himself more often than not, I've moved on to more subtle methods of sensory input. In this post, I'm going to share directions for one of the most successful tools in my little toolbox.

Very Cheap Fidget for Very Happy Hands

What you'll need:
medium-sized balloons (as many as you'd like to fill)
a small funnel
one or all of the following: flour, sugar, dry rice

one chopstick
one small measuring cup

Step one: Inflate a balloon. You'll want to fill it fairly full--the object here is to stretch it out quite well.

Step two: Deflate balloon, and slip opening completely around the end of the funnel.

Step three: Begin filling the funnel with your choice of rice, flour or sugar. A general guide: rice makes a lumpy, slightly scratchy fidget that's good for kids who seek sensation. Depending on how full you make the balloon, a sugar-filled one often has the most "give" and is the easiest for kids who struggle with finger strength. The opposite is true, though, of an over-stuffed sugar balloon--it's actually the hardest to work. And a flour balloon has a nice, stretchy, rubbery quality that just about all kids like.

Step four: Decide how full you want your balloon to be. (More full generally = harder to maneuver and more sensory feedback for kids.) Keep in mind the size of your child's hands, too. You want the end result to be about palm-sized. To keep adding filling, you may need to periodically tug at the sides of the balloon, or even take it off the funnel and re-inflate it for a moment before continuing. (I don't recommend doing that with flour!) Using the chopstick to wiggle the contents of the funnel down can help, too.

Step five: Tie off the end of the balloon after pressing out as much air as possible. The small, heavy little bag you have now is the fidget. I hand them to children doing seatwork, keep one in my backpack as a random toy for kids bored in the car and otherwise recommend them for keeping hands busy in general. Enjoy!


obladi oblada said...

Great suggestions! Thanks...I know what Ill be doing this weekend. :)

Beth said...

Interesting... I would totally worry about the balloon busting wide open after my son had it for a few minutes. He's 6, and while I don't think he has sensory issues, seatwork is a STRUGGLE. Today he had about an hour of seatwork to accomplish. It took him almost FOUR hours to get it done! AUGH! (Not to mention 2 spankings for argueing with me). I know he could do it. He lacks the ability to focus and sit STILL. HE would play outside all day if I let him. Maybe I should let him?

These issues have me pondering my entire education philosophies. I am realizing how I am still stuck in the "school" mindset instead of the joys of "learning." I fear failure, though. It's so hard finding that happy balance.

However, my daughter LOVES seatwork, and regularly asks for more! Go figure.

Cheesemakin' Mamma said...

That is a great idea! Thanks for sharing.

The Hayes Zoo said...

MG - These are fabulous!!! I'm going to look around and see if I can find some of these balloons this week!

Amazingly - the boy (12) would still benefit greatly from this..and the youngest girl (7) will be in heaven - and maybe they'll be able to concentrate!

Carla said...

I love your blog! I have fostered special needs preschoolers (Downs syndrome in one and neglect issues in another). My oldest son is on a wait list to be tested for ADHD, Dyslexia, and Sensory Processing disorders (very sensory seeking). I've done enough reading and know my son well enough to know I've already been dealing with these things for years now. All thats waiting is the "label" which I'm not a big fan of. But like you have said its about getting them the help they need not about boxing them up into a label. Thanks for the great ideas and just the assurance of knowing my quirky challenging kids are not alone.