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Sensory Calming Activities When Talking Doesn’t Work

I was recently invited to be a guest expert on MOFAS’ Virtual Family Center (MN Organization for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) with parents of children with FASD who experience extremely challenging behaviors – and rages – at home.

Diagnoses do not offer an accurate representation of a whole child but there are definitely strategies to address the social difficulties these labels often indicate.

Generally, you can set children with challenging behaviors up for success by incorporating movement activities that integrate the senses. Children who do not process sensory information well often inform us of this underlying distress through their behavior.

Their brain needs different input in order to make sense of everything in a normal environment.  Many of the activities listed below I learned by working collaboratively with Occupational Therapists (OT) who specialize in Sensory Integration (SI) therapy.  They help a child’s brain and body communicate more clearly to allow organized, calm, self-soothing behaviors.

For an idea of what it feels like when your sensory system is “off,” imagine being in a closet that is pitch-black for 20 minutes.  What happens when you walk out into the glaring sun?  Most likely you feel physical pain – you squint, your eyes water, you scrunch up your face/body trying to escape the intensity – it is simply too much sensation to process all at once!

Luckily, many of our brains have smooth pathways that allow us to adjust quickly and normalize our senses (in this case “visual”).  Children who struggle with sensory processing do not adjust well to normal things in the environment and may feel physical pain from common events (e.g., a kitchen timer buzzing, the rub of certain fabrics on their skin, scented hair products, etc).  It is not something they can override since it is how their brains are wired!

Here is a short list of movement activities that provide different input to the senses, which you may proactively try with your child to see if it affects his/her behaviors, mood and ability to self-soothe, thereby indicating improved sensory integration:

  • Wheelbarrow walking,
  • bouncing on an exercise ball,
  • Wii Fit with balance board,
  • chair push-ups,
  • sucking applesauce through a straw,
  • shoveling snow,
  • rubbing lotion firmly onto arms and legs,
  • rolling child tightly in a sheet and playing “hot dog,”
  • blowing through a 3-foot long tube (from local hardware store, choose one that has the diameter of a drinking straw) into a big bowl that has 3 inches of water and 2 drops of Dawn dish soap in the bottom,
  • walking on a treadmill for 20 minutes,
  • chewing on rubber tubes,
  • going for a walk in the snow with heavy boots on,
  • swimming,
  • hitting a punching bag,
  • making a sandwich with pillows by placing child in the middle and climbing on top, and
  • pulling rocks in a wagon.

Implementing the above activities in a fun way allows you to connect with your child and shift their brain chemicals to get out of the anxious / alarmed / fight or flight mode they are constantly in.

Plus, you promote the natural release of relaxation chemicals in the brain (for you and your child!) allowing development of better coping skills.  With the right activity you will see a reduction in challenging behaviors as your child’s sensory need becomes fulfilled.

Parents often tell us how immediately their child improves in their ability to express their best, loving self and connect at a deeper, more meaningful level using activities from our Mad2Glad Blueprint.

For greater love, joy and peace in your household give these new ideas a try!

Want more ideas to decrease stress? schedule your private parenting consultation by visiting: https://www.mad2glad.com/clarity/

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