As many of you know, my son has been diagnosed with PDD, which is on the Autism Spectrum. Along with this diagnosis comes a lot of issues…digestive troubles, social development, communication challenges, sensory processing disorder, and more.
For the sensory processing issues, we’ve been encouraged to create a playground environment for my son, or to enroll him in sensory integration. It’s crucial for him to jump often, to swing, to climb, and other things to help him deal with his vestibular and proprioceptive senses. He also needs a lot of stimulation, both for his sense of sight, and well as his sense of touch.
Unfortunately, we don’t exactly have a bunch of cash lying around to enroll him in these therapies, or to build him a playground. Fortunately, we are able to create the needed environment on the cheap…and you can too!!! Here are a few things we’ve done just to give an idea:
1. For his sense of touch, we have our “rice” game. We get a big bowl, some spoons, cups, etc, and fill them partway with uncooked rice. He’s able to play in it and feel it and my gosh, he LOVES it! He adores touching rice and playing in it. We also use other items like beads, dry beans, sugar, and other stuff. The goal is to eventually get him to play with more wet, sticky things (he gets very upset when something wet or sticky touches him).
2. We’ve “built” a playground with our mattresses. We put one mattress on top of another to form a slide, and we roll him down, encourage him to climb up on it, and to just play. He’s gotten braver and now somersaults down the bed, which is very good for his vestibular sense! Get creative! What kinds of things can you create for your child to climb and play on? (I have a video of my kids playing on this, I’ll post it as soon as I get a chance)
3. We got him a mini trampoline. We were extremely blessed to be given a mini trampoline by a wonderful neighbor. I’ve seen them at thrift stores for affordable prices as well. If you can’t find a used one, the new ones aren’t terribly expensive, and they can be a good investment. The trampoline helps to develop muscle, confidence in using those muscles together, and provide visual stimulation from going up and down, and is good for the lymphatic system! Plus it’s fun, even for mom.:-)
One thing to keep in mind: when doing these activities, get involved with your kids and do the stuff with them. It’s an amazing and beautiful thing to be able to understand a little of what makes your child tick. As I’ve played in rice and other things with my son, I’ve discovered why he loves it so much. I’ve found that I love the feel of soft, cool sugar slipping through my hands. And because of that, I’ve created a bond with my son, (odd as it may seem) and I understand a little part of him better. My son enjoys the trampoline twice as much when I’m on it with him. And I enjoy it too. It’s only a glimpse, but it’s a crucial glimpse into my son’s world, and I HIGHLY recommend you doing each and every activity with your child at least once.
One more thing: Don’t think that if you don’t have a child on the spectrum that they won’t enjoy these activities. My daughter looks forward to playing in the rice or rolling down the bed just as much as my son! Sensory stimulation is good for everyone!
A fantastic book with TONS of ideas for sensory integration is The Out of Sync Child Has Fun.
This book offers so many fun ideas that can be done at home with things you already have. One family favorite idea: roll your kid up in a blanket burrito style and slide them around the room.