My most recent video blog post shows my work with a girl with Autism who is non-verbal and has many sensory needs. She comes into the session upset and anxious and I do my best to help her regulate her sensory system so that she can calm down and work on her therapeutic goals with me.
Whether you are a parent, teacher or therapist, if you try to get a child with sensory integration issues to do work without first addressing their sensory system, you are going to be fighting a losing battle.
Let's put this into perspective. If you were to go into work with a rash that was itching like crazy, a headache, and hunger pains gnawing at your belly, it would be really hard to focus on your work and get things done, right? When a child has a dis-regulated sensory system, this is what it can be like for them.
So what can you do to help regulate a child's sensory system? You can:
Have calming instrumental music playing at 60 beats per minute (resting heart rate). Click here and scroll down to the music player to check out my "Sleep Soundly" CD to listen to an example. This is the music that you hear in the background of this video blog post.
Zip it! Keep you words and directives/prompts to a minimum.
Turn down the lights! Avoid using fluorescents if possible.
Give the child a fidget toy or mouthing/chew toy to help them get the sensory input that they need to become regulated.
Use deep pressure if that what your child craves (consult with an OT about how to do this).
Many children respond well to swinging so if you have a swing, use it.
Use a calming activity such as blowing bubbles. If you can have them blow a bubble off of the wand that is great since it will be encouraging deep breaths.
Consult with an Occupational Therapist! OT's are well-versed in sensory regulation strategies.
As with any intervention, it all depends on the child and his/her individual needs and challenges, so be observant and try to learn more about their sensory needs.
Ryan Judd is a board certified music therapist. He has a master's degree in Music Therapy and a bachelor's degree in Psychology, with an emphasis on Child Development. He has been working as a music therapist with children with special needs for more than 16 years. In addition to working one on one with clients, Ryan also leads groups focused on the development of social skills. His services are available in Southern New Hampshire, Northern Massachussets and Southern Maine. He lives in the Seacoast region with his wife who is a 1st grade teacher.