Sensory Strategies for Children
Sensory Integration: the neurological process that organizes sensation from one’s own body and from the environment and makes it possible to use the body.
There are several areas of sensory integration:
Oral: Children with oral defensiveness dislike or avoid certain textures or types of food.
They may be over or under sensitive to spicy or hot foods; avoid putting objects in their mouth; and/or intensely dislike tooth brushing or face washing. Some have had a variety of feeding problems since infancy. Activities should be fun and may include:
- Experiment with: fruit roll-ups, a fruit popsicle with gummy bears, Dum-Dum suckers, Cheetos, cold orange slices (sucking), a yogurt shake with straws, Cheerios, chocolate sauce, slurping noodles, pickles, Jell-O Jigglers, frozen orange slices, ice-pops, etc.
- Experiment with Nuks and marshmallow paste, Nuks and peanut butter, Nuks and salsa, Nuks and cranberry sauce, etc.
- Experiment with vibrators/nectar or pudding, bubbles, whistles, squiggle pens, sticky paper (licking), blowing ping-pong balls, flashlights, faces in mirror, blowing feathers, etc.
Tactile: Children with tactile defensiveness avoid letting others touch them and would rather touch others.
They frequently fuss or resist hair washing or cutting. They may act like their life is being threatened when being bathed or having clothing changed. These children are often irritated by certain types of clothes, clothing labels, or new clothes. They often do not like to get their hands or feet dirty. They may seem unnecessarily rough. They may bump or crash into things on purpose as a way of seeking sensation or be under-responsive to certain sensations or pain. Activities should be fun and may include:
- Writing letters in shaving cream, water play/making mud pies
- Making sand castles with hands, yard work/planting seeds or collecting flowers
- Baking bread/biscuits – using hands to manipulate dough
- Making shapes out of play-doh or modeling clay
- Popping bubbles blown and popping bubbles on bubble sheets
- Finding letters in beads/making letters out of beads/stinging fruit loops or cheerios on pipe cleaners or yarn
- Tactile booth – Shoe boxes with different textures/items. Child guesses the item, i.e., rabbit’s foot, tennis ball, golf ball, hairbrush, toothbrush, fur, silly putty, etc.
- Enjoy crafts which include glitter, glue, cooked spaghetti, pipe cleaners, sand, etc. – using hands
- Sponge, Q-tip, and finger painting, Jell-O Jigglers/cookie cutters
- Experimenting with hot packs and cold packs
Vestibular: This includes children who are gravitationally insecure (fear changing positions, movement, having their feet leave the ground, or having their head tipped backwards) or children who are posturally insecure (fear certain movements and avoid them due to poor postural mechanisms).
Activities for these children should be chosen carefully and graded according to the child’s comfort level. Slow back-and-forth movements are easier to process than fast movements or rotary movements. Activities should be fun and may include:
- Rolling: log-rolling, somersaults
- Animal walks: crab-walk, elephant-walk, seal-walk, rabbit-walk, wheelbarrow-walk, etc.
- Combat crawling: keeping stomach on floor when crawling
- Swinging: on swing or in sheet (requires 2 adults)
- Scooter board activities: lying on stomach, pulling rope, moving through obstacle course, down a ramp
- Jumping: up/down, over objects, on trampoline, jumping rope
- Bouncing on a large ball: hippity-hop ball in an obstacle course
- Rocking in a rocking chair or rocking horse
- Jumping and running on bubble sheets with bare feet
- Two-child see-saw: Two children sitting facing each other, touching feet. Both children hold onto a rope. As one child lies down, the other child comes up into a sitting position. Keep moving reciprocally, one pulling the other up/down.
- Dancing: all styles
- Riding: bicycles, tricycles, merry-go-rounds
Proprioceptive: Involves activities that allow deep pressure on joints and can help a child process tactile information more efficiently.
It is important for joint stability, muscle strength, and coordination. Activities should be fun and may include:
- Joint compressions (ask therapist for training)
- Jumping up and down
- Push-ups off wall or floor
- Play wrestling (STRICK RULES), foot wrestling
- Bean bag activities: pushing/pulling other children in bean-bag chair, “making sandwiches”, lift and drop
- Hang and drop: from rope into bean-bag, drop from monkey bars
- Lying on stomach while doing puzzles, games, etc.
- Re-arranging furniture: pushing pulling desks and chairs
- Moving books: stacking or making forts
- Pulling resistive blocks apart, pulling pipes apart
- Walking on hands and knees, etc.
Ask your SHBH therapist to explain or demonstrate activities as needed.