Tuesday, April 6, 2010

more on Andrew: the senses

After Andrew began attending his new preschool, the Occupational Therapist had me and his teacher fill out a Sensory Profile. The questions thoroughly covered the seven senses to see what stood out so that she could better focus her therapy.

Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing are the new buzz words in Special Education. When I started teaching (10 years ago!) teachers were just starting to get training in this new field. I find it absolutely fascinating and it helps me understand Andrew (and Isaac!), and even myself, better.

Sensory Processing is how you understand your senses. What feels cold to you, might not feel so cold to someone else. That sour pickle might make me shudder, but it just right for Andrew (and Isaac and Dave). Most folks fall within similar parameters when processing their senses, but some don't. People that struggle with processing their senses are often diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder.

There are a lot of ways that Andrew's Sensory Processing doesn't affect much. He loves pickles and olives and super tart foods. He loves feeling cold and eating super cold foods. He loves and craves the shock from those experiences. And that's fine. Those things won't hurt him (well...as long as we are careful about frostbite!). But there are a lot of ways that his senses make things harder for him, especially in school.

The two senses that he struggles with most are the least known senses. The vestibular sense is the sense of movement. It's all about your inner ear and how you feel gravity. Andrew has a hypo-sensitive vestibular sense. That means it's hard for him to feel where he is. He often hangs upside down or spins around in circles to jump start his vestibular sense.

The other sense that causes him trouble is the proprioceptive sense. This sense tells you where your body is. It's what tells you where your foot is right now without looking at your foot. You can sort of feel it. It's more of a joint/muscular thing. Andrew also has a hypo-sensitive proprioceptive sense. That means it's hard for him to feel his body. It's what makes him want to crash into couch cushions and wrestle with his parents (and any other willing participant).

I think all of this just used to be called "get the wiggles out". ;)

In my reading of Sensory Processing Occupational Therapists recommend all kinds of equipment to help kids regulate their systems. In school Andrew sits on a special cushion that lets him wiggle around him a little, but keeps him in his seat. His teacher tells us that it has really helped his participation in circle time. His Occupational Therapist showed me the Sensory Gym that is in his school. It has ropes hanging from the ceiling and huge cushions and balls and a trampoline. She told me that she often has Andrew swing from a rope, knock down the huge heavy cushions and then she pelts him with pillows. He LOVES it. I bet A LOT of kids would love that!

So, for Easter this year, I decided to get something to help him with all of this. And something that would be a lot of fun too. A trampoline! I looked for the smallest trampoline they make. It has a bar to hold onto and it folds in half for storage.

And so far? Everyone loves it.
Except perhaps our neighbors. ;)

ahem. excuse the mess. ;)


firefly said...

I love this post! So helpful!

Deb said...

Thanks for a very informative post, Robyn! The trampoline is a great idea!!!

Kirsten said...

Very informative. Thanks.

Stefan said...

There is more and more research that links many learning and developmental difficulties to poor communication and synchronisation between the two brain halves. An effective way of improving the processing functions in the brain is to listen to specially altered sound or music through headphones as pioneered by Dr. Alfred Tomatis (Tomatis method) and Dr. Guy BĂ©rard (Auditory Integration Training - AIT).

Now there is a new Sound Therapy Programme which has been specifically developed with the aim to improve sensory processing, interhemispheric integration and cognitive functioning and it is entirely free to download and use at home. It has helped many children and adults with a wide range of learning and developmental difficulties, ranging from dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder to sensory processing disorders and autism. It is not a cure or medical intervention, but a structured training programme that can help alleviate some of the debilitating effects that these conditions can have on speech and physical ability, daily behaviour, emotional well-being and educational or work performance.

Check out the Free Sound Therapy Home Programme from Sensory Activation Solutions. There is no catch, it's absolutely free and most importantly often effective. Find it at: http://www.uk.sascentre.com/uk_free.html.

Ruth said...

I've just come back to this post ~ terrifically informative. It must be a relief to you and DH that these things are now recognised and that Andrew can receive all the help he needs. x