Quinn's sensory-seeking (part of his sensory-processing disorder) is the one thing about him that can really cause him problems. He craves deep pressure when he gets wound up, and that can lead to some problematic behaviors like leaning hard on kids, running across the room and banging right into them rather than stopping, and driving his chin into the dog's back. He might stomp on the ground during circle time, spin out of control when he is supposed to be sitting down or run through a shop or restaurant with little regard for who might be in his way. Taking him out can be a breeze, or it can be scary as heck.
We've been in lots of therapy, with four different occupational therapists. And in case your kiddo is in the same boat, I thought I'd share what's working for us:
First, some tools :
- A core disk. This works so well with Quinn that if I walk into preschool without it the teacher looks visibly nervous and asks hopefully, "Did you bring his cushion?" So we try never to forget it. His teachers use it during circle time, but also carry it into the church for worship time with other classes or into the audotorium for group activities. Something about sitting on this thing calms Quinn tremendously and helps him to sit still.
- A weighted vest. This is a tricky one. The vest definitely helps ground Quinn. But for some inexplicable reason, every time it's on he will only talk with teeth clenched. So we only use it at times when we really, really need for him to stay calm.
- A chewie. I bought a cute necklace from a company called Chewlry with a silver-dollar-sized disc to bite. Quinn won't wear the necklace - it comes off it you pull it hard, and he can't resist doing that -- so I carry it in my purse and it's always there when we need it.
- A backpack (on his back). The heavier the better. Deep pressure to go!
Next, some techniques:
- Engine check: This awesome technique was suggested by one of his OTs. When he starts winding up - and with practice I can spot this earlier and earlier - I get down to his eye level and say, "Quinn, your engine is running too fast. What would help it to slow down?" Often times he will tell me what he needs - a bear hug, to push on the wall, deep pressure on his shoulders, to chom on the chewie. If he doesn't tell me what he needs I list the above things - "would you like a bear hug? do you need to bit on your chewie?" - and he chooses.
- Move the wall: This one came from his really excellent school OT, who one day saw me trying desperately to sign him into school with one hand while attempting a death grip on his arm with the other hand so he wouldn't bolt. If I need him to stand still like in line at the bank - which is REALLY hard for him - is I ask him to push really, really hard against the wall and try to make it move. It keeps him still, is instant deep pressure and calms him very quickly.
- Don't pop her bubble: Quinn was getting into a lot of trouble at his private school for getting in kids' faces, poking toward their eye, leaning on them, etc. So the OT from his public school (the same one referenced above) suggested that we tell him that everyone has a bubble around him or her, and he should not pop anyone's bubble (except for Mama's, Baba's and Nana's) without asking. Wow, does he get this one. The day after I introduced the technique, he ended up at the bottom of a pile of kids, with his friend Nicole on top. Out popped his little head and he shouted, "Nicole popped my bubble!"
He initiates this technique more than any other.
- Being loud in a whisper: The louder and more out of control he gets, the softer I talk to him. Yelling or traditional discipline just seems to fire him up. Talking soft gets his attention and helps calm him down.
Do all these techniques work all the time? Heck, no. But knowing I have all these options has helped me feel more confident when we go out, which I think Quinn can sense. In short, I'm not expert on sensory-processing disorder (not yet, anyway!) but these things have helped me, and I hope they can help someone else, too!