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Fidget Tools Overview

There are many strategies children use to attempt to regulate themselves. Whether this is more obvious Fidget Tooland large scale such as jumping on a trampoline or spinning around in circles continuously, or smaller, more discrete ways such as grinding their teeth, picking their skin, or squeezing their fists, each of these strategies are satisfying a need within their sensory systems.

These can be mindless or intentional, but the bottom line is that it is fulfilling their bodies and brains in a way that only they can truly understand. While we want to allow children to gain as much sensory input as they need to maintain a regulated state, it is important to explore options that are appropriate and safe. One such option is called “fidgets,” and they are a great tool, especially within the classroom environment, so as not to draw attention away from class learning.

It is important to understand the root of your child’s sensory seeking behaviors in order to provide him or her with the most appropriate fidget tool. There are two main sensory systems that fidget toys typically stimulate; these are the tactile and the proprioceptive system. The body reads touch based on light and deep touch, light being more stimulating (tactile) and deep being more calming (proprioceptive). Think, the feeling of a feather brushing across the underside of your arm versus the feeling of a deep tissue back massage.

  • If your child seeks regulation through obtaining deep pressure input i.e. jumping, crashing, and squeezing, a fidget that targets the proprioceptive system may be the best option. To put this in perspective, think about a child friendly and inviting “stress ball.” These may be in various forms, i.e. foam resistance balls, stretchy theraband, theraputty, and squeeze toys.
  • If your child tends to seek regulation through touch i.e. seemingly mindlessly touching other people, fabrics, or objects, a fidget that targets the tactile system may be the best option. For example, swatches of various fabrics, bracelets with a preferred fabric, and balls or other toys with bumps or (soft) spikes.
  • If your child seeks regulation through movement, and you are looking for something to provide him or her with that while maintaining appropriateness based on the environment (…as it may be frowned upon to start doing jumping jacks in the middle of circle time), there are options for this, as well. When it comes to movement, though it is important to consider if the fidget is facilitating the child to cope and pay better attention, or if it is actually contributing to increased distractibility. Typically, if a child needs their eyes to utilize the fidget, it may not be serving its ideal purpose and other options should be considered. Fidgets that provide movement include snaps, marble tubes, and plastic tangle tubes.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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sensory strategies for school

Sensory Strategies for School

Preparing your child to go back to school can be both exciting and challenging. Research suggests that approximately 1 in 6 children experience sensory symptoms that are significant enough to interfere with everyday life functions occurring at home and in the school.[1] Targeting the body’s sensory systems of oral, vestibular (movement), proprioceptive (body position), tactile (touch), visual, and auditory will help them to stay motivated and engaged in the classroom. Check out these 5 tips that describe various sensory strategies for school.

Sensory Strategies for School:

  1. Send your child to school with a healthy, crunchy snack in their lunch such as carrots,Sensory Strategies for School celery, granola bars, licorice, or gummy worms. Research suggests children with sensory processing difficulties, specifically those who are underresponsive to sensory input, benefit from crunchy snacks to improve their attention and arousal levels.
  2. Offer a move-n-sit cushion, wiggle seat, or theraband seat modification– Children who seek out movement often have difficulty sitting still in class. These children may benefit from some added movement opportunities to assist their body in focusing and attending to tasks. Often, move-n-sit cushions, wiggle seats, or tying a theraband around the two front legs of the chair offers the child just enough opportunity to stay aroused and attended without becoming too distracting.
  3. Assign classroom chores– for those children who are underresponsive to proprioceptive input, activities such as watering flowers, carrying books to and from the library, sweeping or mopping the floors, and cleaning the chalkboard are all effective ways to target the body’s proprioceptive system, which gives the body’s muscles and joints the resistant heavy work they crave. Often, these children require an adult to help them identify when their body needs to take a break and move around[2]. They may not register that their body is in an awkward, uncomfortable position when seated at their desk. Heavy work activities are often helpful in allowing their body to become more regulated and aware of their surroundings.
  4. Reduce visual clutter and auditory noise– For those children who are overresponsive to visual and/or auditory input, try and use natural light versus fluorescent lighting and reduce classroom background chatter whenever possible. Reducing visual and auditory external stimuli may help with overall attention and focus.  For grade school children, decreasing the amount of math problems on a page, and leaving plenty space between each problem may assist with better performance when working.
  5. Give children their own space– For children who are overresponsive to tactile stimuli or who have difficulties with tactile discrimination, it is important to decrease instances of accidental touch from classroom peers. For younger children, having separate carpet squares for them to sit on will reduce the amount of unexpected distracting touch from other classmates. For grade school children, it may be helpful to place their desk at the front of the class to avoid any unnecessary touch from others, or let the student walk at the end of the line to avoid anyone bumping into them[3].

Is it Bad Behavior or SPD?

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Resources:

[1] Sensory Over-Responsivity in Elementary School: Prevalence and Social-Emotional Correlates By: Ben-Sasson, A., A. S. Carter, and M. J. Briggs-Gowan. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology J Abnorm Child Psychology 2009-01-20

[2] Kranowitz, C. (2005). How to Tell if Your Child Has a Problem with the Proprioceptive Sense. In The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: A Skylight Press Book/A Perigee Book.

[3] Kranowitz, C. (2005). How to Tell if Your Child Has a Problem with the Tactile Sense. In The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: A Skylight Press Book/A Perigee Book.