Spectrum Warriors: Life Through The Autism Spectrum

Bounce, bounce from morning till night!

The last few weeks, although they have been met with a few extra meltdowns thanks to a new support worker starting, have been all around really good. The Monkey has been in slightly better spirits for the better part of most of his days and that is always nice to see. I think that this has a lot to do with the trampoline that his grandfather bought him for his birthday. This is what he would like to do all day if you let him especially if you go on there with him.

Bounce, bounce from morning till night! He has even gone outside, with permission and a little encouragement, all by himself to bounce for an hour or so. This in itself is amazing. Unlike many autistic children who tend to wander, we have the opposite problem. I am very grateful that I don’t really need to worry about him taking off (except on occasion when he is having a meltdown and tries to run away) but it is also hard to do anything when you have a child pretty much glued to your hip all day. He has a very hard time figuring out what to do with himself and we struggle with this daily. In his perfect world someone would be there to direct him and play with him every minute of his waking hours but unfortunately this is just not possible and although we play with him constantly we sometimes need him to entertain himself. The trampoline has become his go to. It is providing him with a bit more independence and although he constantly calls out to us to make sure we are close – and he does eventually ask us to come jump with him – he still spends a portion of his time doing it all alone.

The trampoline has also provided a great sensory break during therapy time. His ASW’s have been using the trampoline as an incentive for him and then going out and jumping with him. This has made therapy much more pleasant for everyone. Rarely do we have a meltdown before therapy now and he gets excited to go on the trampoline when they get here. Sensory breaks are great and although they were taking breaks before, we have been finding a big difference in his focus after he has 10 minutes on the trampoline.

The downside to all this greatness is the trampoline is outside and this means when it is raining he can’t use it. Queue the tears and anger here! He gets very upset over not getting to use the trampoline and will tell you on an hourly basis in the saddest little voice, “it’s raining so no trampoline today.” I can’t wait till winter comes and we have to put it away for 5 – 6 months. I am thinking we will need to try and get him an exercise mini-trampoline that we can attach a bar to so he has something to hold on to – and wont fly off – that can be used indoors. I am also hoping the school might have something like this already, because letting him bounce for a little while between classes will probably make the entire school introduction a bit more manageable for him.

Most of our kids are sensory seekers in some areas and avoiders in other areas, so finding what sensory activity will help your child takes some detective work and trial and error on your part. Rebecca talked about sensory bins and breaks awhile back showing us all how to build a sensory bin and the different types of things to use in them. I even ended up making a sensory bin for the Monkey after reading her post and seeing how much MJ loves hers. The Monkey liked his for a little bit if you were playing in it with him, but he never asked to play with it.

What I learned, was that he likes playing with water more then playing with things that have lots of textures. So I will either let him play in the sink with some measuring cups, spoons, and toys or I will fill a large plastic bin with water and let him play with that. Now that is a sensory bin that he likes to play with! He likes pouring water from one container to the other and he can do this for a good hour if you let him. So although MJ and the Monkey are very similar and have a lot of the same sensory triggers, their sensory soothing needs are very different.

Here are some ideas for sensory activities targeting the different senses – some of which may work for some children and not work for others:

Sight: 

1: Glow in the dark bowling: fill water bottles with water and add different coloured sticks to each bottle. Screw the cap on tightly and line them up at the end of a hallway. Turn off most of the lights and then using small ball, we use a plastic bowling ball that came with a plastic set for this,  bowl away.

2: Lava lamps: Lava lamps like these ones can be very pleasing to children who like to spin things and watch things move. They offer a pleasing colour changing affect as well as a movement affect that many children may find relaxing to watch.

3: Liquid visual timers: These although technically timers, are very soothing to some children, the Monkey included. He loves watching the bubbles swim through the liquid. These are very cheap and could easily be sent with your child to school to use when they need a sensory break.

4: Bubbles: Most kids on and off the spectrum love bubbles. Watching them float away and trying to pop them is great for the visual seeker. This one can be tricky however if your child does not like things “broken” as when the bubbles pop then that may be the end of the game and could trigger a meltdown.

Touch: 

1: Fidget sets: Fidget sets like this can make for great additions to sensory bins or sensory tool kits for school.

2: Sensory bins: Like mentioned above Rebecca has a great post on making sensory bins that you can find here. Let your child help pick the items to put into the bin so that you know those are textures he/she likes. If using water in your bin make sure to dump water out after each use and allow items in the bin to fully dry before putting away so that toys do not mildew or grow mold.

3: Sensory books: Touch & feel books are generally geared towards a younger audience but they do offer some great tactile input that many of our kids like. We have a few books like these that the Monkey still sometimes likes to flip through the pages and touch. The stories are much to young for him but it has nothing to do with the story for him, it’s all about how each page feels.

4: Sensory bags: Pinterest is a great place to look for ideas on making great, no mess sensory bags that can be thrown in your purse and used away from home. Again this is something you can get your little one to help with. Not only do these bags provide a great textural experience they also offer great visual experience, so allow your child to choose the colours and items to go in them. Avoid things with sharp edges.

Movement: 

1: Jumping on a trampoline: Although large ones can be expensive, many of our kids love to jump and as you have read above for my son this was a great investment. We did not however go out and buy a trampoline until we knew for sure that this was something he would really love. Thanks to some friends who have a large one and friends with a small indoor one we were able to see how much he loved them before purchasing them ourselves.

2: Swings: If you have a large tree in your yard, it could be pretty easy to add a basic swing or tire swing for your kids to use. If you have a garage or a basement, you can also anchor these from the ceiling which will allow them to swing whenever they want regardless of weather. If any of your kids are like my Monkey, although he loved to swing when he fit in the baby swing, the basic swings you find in a park, do not work for him. Many therapy swings can be bought, but can be very expensive. However, if you have access to an Ikea in your area (or can have it delivered) they do have some swinging chairs that could be perfect. Check for that here.

3: Dancing and exercise: Being silly and dancing around for 5 – 10 minutes or doing jumping jacks etc.. is a great way to relax a little especially for our little ones who crave movement. Sometimes we will literally run around the house while the dogs chase us from room to room. The Monkey loves these types of activities and you can see how much more relaxed he is once we are done. Taking a break at school to run around and be silly like that for any child would be very beneficial.

4: Hop Balls: Hop balls are great for movement. They allow the child to bounce around and are relatively cheap to purchase. They come in a variety of sizes for younger to older children as well which is great. You can order them here but I am sure I have seen similar items at places like Walmart and Toys R Us in the past.

5: Yoga: While many of our kids can have problems with coordination, simple yoga poses can help to increase balance and flexibility and can be made fun and a little more easily identifiable by using animal names for the poses. This can also help for those kids who have a problem mimicking or copying a sequence of moves. Many kids love “acting” like their favourite animal and can relate to it easier than simply saying “watch and do what I do.” It’s also a chance to help teach them some breathing/calming techniques also. For some examples of easy animal poses, take a look here.

Sound: 

1: Music: Some kids love music and find it soothing but the trick is finding the right music that works for your child. The Monkey loved Classical and Jazz and even now we will sometimes play this at night to help him fall asleep. He also likes us singing to him and he likes the rhythmic loudness of metal music (something he gets from his father). Music can be very therapeutic but might take a lot of trial and error in the beginning with those that are sensitive to sound. You will need to pay with volume as well as setting the base, treble etc… before deciding that one type of music doesn’t work. Small things that we do not hear may be unpleasing, so if the base is too low or to soft they may not like it but if you adjust this then it is possible that they may.

2: Musical group classes: Some kids may enjoy a group music session and many places will tailor this to help meet the needs of the child. For instance, if you indicate your child does not like loud abrupt noises then they can generally use songs and instruments that minimize this sort of effect. This brings in some socializing as well, so although it has the possibility of being a sensory overload sort of environment, some children may actually love this type of commotion. Kindermusik is great for this.

3: Private music lessons: Older children might enjoy music lessons for piano, guitar, drums, singing etc… These things may take them out of their comfort zone, but it may be something they truly enjoy and excel at once they get started.

4: Rain sticks: Rain sticks are easy to make and might be a great sensory toy for some kids. Here are a few detailed videos that will show you how to make your own cheaply. If your child really likes the sound of the rain stick you could even make a small one that can go into their bag at school that can be used to help sooth them when they are anxious or need a break. If you don’t want to make one you can also buy one here.

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We’d love to know what sensory tips or activities your children like and enjoy. Are there any that have really helped them in school?

 

Have a great day!

Sabrina

 

 

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