The sensory system can be a tricky thing to really understand, at least for me. Lately I have seen Ruby become more regulated (by that I mean able to pay attention without interference from her sensory system) without a lot of intentional sensory activities to help her regulate. For a moment there I thought, oh her sensory system is maturing and she maybe she will not need as much attention to her sensory system and can just focus on addressing her delays. Let me tell you friends, this is not so.
There are a few ways to tell that Ruby is disregulated. One is when she is overly excited. I mean body shaking, running around in circles, cannot focus on anything but the object creating the excitement, excited. I haven’t seen her to this very much lately and we have had very exciting things, like a new puppy that is super adorable!
So, of course I thought well she must be naturally coping with these sensory issues and I may not have to worry about them anymore. Nope. During speech therapy the therapist brought out plastic animals and was working with Ruby requesting which one she wanted, and if you know you Ruby you know that she LOVES animals. And boy did she love this activity, running around in circles and shaking with excitement kind of love.
Now it may seem weird that I feel that being really excited is a red flag for disregulation. Don’t I want her to be excited? Of course I do! But when she gets so excited that she loses control and disengages from the world that is when it is a red flag and I know that I need to start focusing more on her sensory. Ideally, I want her to be really excited and present without losing control of her body.
So what are some calming things I can do to help her with that?
1. Therapeutic brushing. This is a technique that uses a soft bristled brush to give input to the body, followed by joint compressions. This help with calming and body awareness. There is a great video here on how to do it.
2. Calming myself. If Ruby is really excited, using calm tones and bringing the activity level down a few notches helps her to calm as well.
3. Changing activities. Sometimes too much of one activity can just be too much. So switching it up to a low key activity and then coming back to the really exciting one in small spurts can help.
4. Sensory calming activities. There are a range of sensory calming things you can do for all of the senses such as dimming the lights, soft music, slow rhythmic movements, wrapping the child up in a blanket like a burrito. You just need to find the right fit for your child. And guess what, what worked before might not work every time. Children change, their sensory system change, and we have to change along with them. Here are some great ideas for calming sensory activities here.
The sensory system is an ever changing world, which means I am always learning something new. I would love to hear some of your calming ideas for children! What has worked for you?