Occupational therapy with a sensory integration approach often has a strong element of parental involvement, with Mom and Dad asked to perform tasks like brushing and joint compression. There's more you can do, though, whether filling in for the therapist during school breaks or just augmenting the work being done throughout the year. Here are five easy ways to get started.
Cover image courtesy of PriceGrabber
The sequel to The Out-of-Sync Child
by Carol Stock Kranowitz is full of easy exercises for parents to do with children to augment sensory integration therapy. These can be as easy as setting a child atop a rumbly washing machine, as makeshift as kicking a paper bag, or as orchestrated as putting together a "touch pantry." But it's all enjoyable, do-able, and expert-approved.
Catalogs like Abilitations, Therapro
and Sensory Comfort
allow you to order the same sensory integration tools and toys that occupational therapists use. This equipment isn't cheap, but may give you a springboard to starting fun sessions with your child and seeing what you can improvise along the same lines. Check the article "Make Your Own Therapy Tools and Toys"
for some do-it-yourself variations.
Deep pressure is helpful for many problems with sensory integration, especially those involving the tactile and proprioceptive senses. Administering it can be a simple as pressing down on your child's shoulders or giving a good hard hug.
Try wrapping your child up like a burrito
as a (sure to be oft-repeated) therapy game, or let your child self-administer pressure to his or her joints by doing heavy work like lugging boxes or vacuuming.
If your child has an IEP, read it over again -- just as you'd expect any therapist working with your youngster to do. Review any occupational therapy goals that apply to sensory integration or processing. Review academic and behavioral goals, too, and think about how your child's sensory challenges impact these. Use what you've read to choose the things you want to work on with your child, whether they're specifically what the therapist targeted or not.
The How Does Your Engine Run
program helps kids learn about the way their sensory systems can get out of control, and how to keep their trains on track. If the train metaphor used in this program doesn't interest your child, try applying it to something that will captivate his or her imagination -- a car, maybe, or a computer that freezes when overloaded. The more kids understand about their own sensory systems, the closer they'll come to being at-home therapists for themselves.