Thursday, August 12, 2010

homemade therapy

Recently I seem to be going through another phase of processing my life as a mother of a Special Needs child. (On a side note: even saying, I am the mother of a Special Needs child feels like a step in the right direction.) It seems as though I wrap my head around some aspect of this theme, and I feel like I've reached stable ground, when something new comes crashing over me and knocks me down again. And then it takes a few days for me to scramble for footing.

I do all kinds of things to find that footing. I do lots of crying. I pour my heart out to various friends and relations that don't seem to mind. I say terrible things that are true, but that you really shouldn't say. Or maybe you really should say them, now that I think about it. I forget to fold the laundry and I let the dust build up around me a little and I make the easiest dinners ever.

Sometimes I want to burrow into a project. I want to find something to make and have a place to pour a little neurotic energy into.

Sometimes I think that if I can just make this one thing it will help. It will help me by making it, and it will help Andrew to have it. And so last week, after school one day, we all piled into the car and drove over the big, expensive bridge to Staten Island to go to a fabric store. Andrew and I picked out some fabrics, I picked up a pattern, and left with a project.

A few months ago Andrew started wearing a weighted vest in school. When they began to talk to me about incorporating the vest into his school day I assumed he would wear the vest while he worked in his seat. I thought it would be a little extra something to help him focus on tracing his ABC's. But on the contrary, he doesn't need any support at all when he's working at his seat. He seems to really sit and focus on his paper and pencil tasks. His real struggle: playtime.

Andrew has a hyposensitive proprioceptive sense (I wrote more about this here). Basically, it means that sometimes it's hard for him to feel where his body is in space and it makes him crave sensory input. He'll run around in the classroom or tackle Isaac or crash into the couch cushions to get the input he needs to feel settled again. During unstructured times of his day, like playtime, his body starts to crave order, and he races around to find it. The vest gives him enough pressure and weight to help him feel his body and then he doesn't need to run around looking for sensory input. The sensory input is strapped right to him.

I've been talking to his Occupational Therapist about using a weighted vest at home. Some days he comes home from school and settles right into something. He builds or plays or draws and is able to really engage. Other days he roams the house unable to find something to do. And when he can't settle, he'll often turn to Isaac for a good match of wrestling that will go too far and someone will end up crying. I thought a weighted vest would help for those days.

And so, I made one.

The pattern was for a fisherman's vest with pockets on the front. I added some pockets in the lining on the back too, so that there will a good distribution of weight. I'm actually haven't yet decided on what to use to give it that weight. But, when I figure out the perfect something, it will go in the pockets. ;)

So, I'm not sure yet if it will help Andrew or not, but it's helped me already. And there is definitely something to say for that.


Susan said...

That is super-cute, Robyn. I mean, the vest itself, not that you made him one for home. I imagined his school vest as extremely dorky-looking. Is this one nicer? I have a whole long e-mail to send to you about proprioceptive stuff. I'm glad you are blogging about all this :)

debs14 said...

What a great idea, and how cool does he look in it?! As for weights, over here you can get little circular discs that you can use to put in the hems of curtains to make them hang nicely. They would certainly fit in the little pockets well. Failing that, little wheat bags would do the trick.

Robyn said...

des14, my mom was telling me about curtain weights too! Wheat bags?!? What is that?

Susan, the one at school screams "THERAPY VEST!" I wanted something a little more understated. ;)

Ladkyis said...

curtain weights would be dead good because they are flat discs, sometimes with a hole through the centre so they can be sewn into the corner of a curtain. you can also use more than one in a pocket if they are not quite heavy enough. sometimes they come in little covers like a teabag which is also good to sew them into linings. I think they are white metal - not lead so not poisonous and if they are enclosed in fabric they would be safe.

Ruth said...

Robyn, you are so clever! And Andrew looks so adorable in it. Following on from Deb's comment, wheat bags (here in the UK, anyway) are about the size of your palm (but probably come in different sizes) and you can microwave them and then use them on painful areas of your body ... a wrist with carpal tunnel syndrome, say. Some have essential oils in them so they smell lovely when warmed. Try asking in a healthfood shop/store.

Kirsten said...

It looks great Robyn! So cute.

Mama V said...

Robyn, you rocked that vest pattern, and Andrew, you rock the look!

I've got a HUGE bag of rice from Costco (a friend of mine calls it "famine relief-sized" but obviously she's never spent time in a Latino home!) that we'd share with you if you decide you need a lot of rice for your little weighted bags!

Amy said...

Robyn he looks gorgeous in his little vest! A classmate of my boy has his vest at school and I'm pretty sure he uses little wheat bags, basically they are like pouches of wheat sewn into the vest. Lots of people use the wheat sacks here for muscle aches and pains - they can have lavender added to them and can be heated in the microwave, not what you are going to be doing in the vest but you get the idea :-)

It would pay for me to read all these comments first .. Ruth has nailed it in one!

Deb said...

Very interesting, Robyn. I've never heard of this method but it sounds so logical. Andrew looks adorable in his vest! You'll have to keep us posted on its effectiveness. xo