Sensory Breaks -- School -- Daily Issues

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by JJJ, Oct 28, 2010.

  1. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Tigger has an issue at school everyday between 12:00-1:30pm. He is in a self contained ed classroom except for pe/fine arts 11:55am-12:25pm and lunch/recess 12:45pm-1:15pm. Sometimes he starts the issue, sometimes someone else does.

    The teacher and I have brainstormed a list of possible reasons:
    1. the stress of the reg ed environment (noise, crowd, etc)
    2. hunger (although sometimes the meltdown is before lunch, sometimes after)
    3. being tired
    4. sensory processing issues

    To address #2, she added a snack break at 11am.
    To address #3, we added melatonin to his nighttime medications to try for better sleep.

    For #1, Tigger does not want to miss his reg ed time. He says he likes being 'regular kid' part of the day.

    For #4, he does get a sensory break during the day. The sensory area has thera-putty, weights and other sensory toys.

    To me, it seems that the sensory stuff isn't enough, that he needs more breaks and he needs some deep pressure sensory input. The teacher is willing but doesn't know what to do -- she's calling the Occupational Therapist (OT) and I'm asking you!

    I'd like to see her add some deep pressure input just before the reg ed class (pe/art), some inbetween that and lunch, and some immediately after lunch/recess.

    Any idea how much a squeeze machine is??
  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Squeeze machine - Temple Grandin made her own. She modified a cow crush. Like a lot of things, walking into a shop somewhere and buying exactly what our kid seems to need, doesn't always work. I don't know - it may be possible to find one for sale. But there are other options. Maybe because in Australia we often have to improvise, it's what we look to first. The thing with Temple Grandin's use of pressure, is that it works best when it is self-controlled. SHE controls how much pressure, and knows she controls it. If someone else were doing it to her, she would feel frightened. Well, maybe not these days, if she trusted the person doing it. But I remember hearing her talk about it at a conference I attended, on one of her visits to Australia.

    If you think pressure is something that will work, try a weighted vest. Despite what I said about improvisation, we did buy one. Trouble was, after all we paid for it, difficult child 3 wouldn't wear it at school because he felt self-conscious. Most of our schools have school uniforms and this was obviously not a school uniform item, even though we had it made in the same fabric colour. And at home he didn't seem to need it as much as at school. But a weighted vest has a similar effect to a pressure machine. Easy to make, now I've had a good look at what I bought. The vest is very simple, made from a strong calico. A lightweight denim would be great. French seams if possible (to avoid the "the seam is rubbing me" problem. And on difficult child 3's vest, there are 8 long pockets stitched around it, like vertical fingers. Two at the front on each side, four across the back. All placed evenly. Along with this come the 8 sandbags. These are made from strong unbleached calico, again with French seams and double-stitched. Each sandbag is a long finger of cloth filled with sand then the top folded over and stitched down firmly. Each bag weighs 200 g. Our reading showed that you adjust the weight to the level the child chooses, but the best therapeutic level tends to be 5% to 10% of the child's body weight. Start lighter, keep the sandbag distribution around the body balanced, and try the vest either worn constantly for hours, or maybe for half an hour before class (or during the most troublesome classes) and see which works.

    A lot of this weight therapy/pressure therapy (it affects the same sensory areas in the brain) is trial and error. Every child is different so you have to do the research on each child to get the details right.

    Another option for pressure therapy, is corsets. Again, the inventive difficult child led to answers for her own therapy - this time it's easy child 2/difficult child 2. And possibly a number of other, sometimes undiagnosed, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) people about town, because in Sydney and other areas of NSW there are shops (a chain of stores) which sell reproduction Victorian underwear as well as the latest in Goth designs. easy child 2/difficult child 2 bought several corsets of the industrial-strength variety form this shop, and laces herself in. Loves it. Says it's "like wearing a hug". Only she controls how much and for how long. She would wear her corsets either outside her outfits, or underneath (including underneath her demure Swiss maid work uniform). Her job was moderately active, she developed her own version of the "bunny duck" to get merchandise off the lower shelves.

    Corsets can be bought form various suppliers for various reasons. People with hernias sometimes have to wear a truss or a corset. You can buy strong elastic wide belts, which can be cinched up tight. Sometimes the pressure can work while being limited to a part of the body, not the whole body.

    All these ideas are more portable than a modified cattle press. Temple Grandin travels with her cattle press because she invented her own machine, it works for her and she can afford to do things her way. But there are other options.

    What we did - we looked around to see what was available, then we set out trying to work out what the boys felt they needed and could use. I bought cheap weights, including cheap flexible hand weights, to then attach these to the boys' clothes. difficult child 1 had a vest he bought form an army disposal store which had pockets, we put the store-bought weights in those. He wold sleep in that vest, that is what worked for him.

    We were pretty much experimenting with weights and vests, and also found that the need shifted over time so we don't really do it now. But you have reminded me - I think it's time to do this again. of course, difficult child 3's old vest will be too small for him now, but the sandbags are universal, all I have to do is make a new vest (following the pattern of the old) and make more sandbags, since the new vest will need more than 8 pockets. And living near the beach, we have plenty of sand!

    I hope there is something here that you can use.

  3. tictoc

    tictoc New Member

    Wouldn't a sqeeze machine be great? My difficult child takes A LOT of sensory breaks. How about a fabric tunnel to crawl through? You can get tube-top type material at fabric stores. It is already sewn into a circle, so you just have to buy 6 feet or so and you have an instantaneous squeezy tunnel. difficult child usually pushes a medicine ball through the tunnel to get some extra work.

    What kind of equipment is available to Tigger's teacher? Are Occupational Therapist (OT)-type swings available? difficult child does some exercises on swings, eg lying on tummy (on a platform swing) and grabbing onto a bar and holding for a few seconds. He also does push ups off the wall (and sometimes off sp ed teachers hands). He has a scooter to lie on and push/pull himself along with his hands (It is the square plastic scooter often seen in PE classes). These all are more proprioceptive exercises, but might be more easily accomplished in a typical school Occupational Therapist (OT) room or Adaptive PE room than deep pressure exercises.

    Or, does the school have any weighted vests (or blankets)? Maybe Tigger could wear a weighted vest for 30 minutes or so before going to the gen ed environment.

    Good luck.
  4. tictoc

    tictoc New Member

    Another idea...How about a tight swim shirt (rash guard)?
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I've got a roll of that stuff and I use it for various things, but it isn't squeezy enough for this to work for pressure. But it COULD work for the "I like to feel confined" kids. Sometimes they can be the same kid. If the child likes to feel confined (ie enjoys climbing inside the wardrobe, or kitchen cupboards) there are a lot of things you can do. We got our hands on an old cargo net and tied it firmly but loosely (so it hung down) into the tree. The boys would climb into it and wrap it around themselves, so their own body weight would add the pressure effect. They could get in or out when they chose. Another good one was a string hammock which we hung in the tree. The boys could wrap this right around themselves too. They had the feeling of being confined and the pressure, but could easily see because it was a loose net.

    Another thing we did, or rather the boys did for themselves, was when our new washing machine arrived, in a very large cardboard carton. They made this carton into a small sort of fort, cut a small window in one side and would fill this with cushions, climb in and watch TV through the window. Or pass controllers through the window and sit in there playing their console games from there. difficult child 1 sat in there to do his schoolwork. He said he found it restful and relaxing. Of course, the cardboard box eventually broke up too much, but it was a great toy for a while, an interesting therapy tool and was eventually recycled.

    Letting the kids be part of the experiment can be interesting. Letting them forage, fiddle and experiment is enlightening. I wielded the knife (on the box!) and the sewing machine, but I followed their instructions and we would discuss things together.

  6. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    What do you do with kids that are the opposite, the ones that don't like pressure or rubbing tags or feeling confined?
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Desensitisation helps. Investigate brushing therapy too.

    A lot of these things have been developed either by parents, therapists or people with the condition themselves. The human brain is very inventive and creative - it is marvellous what people come up with!

    I forgot to add - some people will reject hugs and reject certain pressure, if they are not in control. But if they ARE in control, it can make all the difference and it then can become therapeutic. Temple Grandin said this herself - she hated to be touched or held, but when she realised she could be in control, she found it helped her a lot to have pressure.

    Last edited: Oct 28, 2010
  8. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Thanks all! I've copied down all the ideas to discuss with his teacher. I taught at a school with a squeeze machine -- I didn't realize until years later how rare and special that was (we were part of the original research project to determine if they would be helpful in schools).
  9. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    If nothing else is available, try having him carry a box of books from one end of the school to another. My dad's school had NO equipment for this kind of stuff. He had a couple of kids who needed some type of pressure at times, so he and the sp ed teacher would have them carry boxes of books or papers back and forth. he was the ONLY teacher who would take many of the sp ed kids into a mainstream class (I know, not following the IEP/ADA needs/laws, but it was what happened - some of the teachers would refuse to let the sp ed kids into their rooms regardless of what anyone said or did, so many years my dad had ALL the sp ed kids who had mainstream time do it in his science classes) and he worked with the sp ed teacher to do a lot of things.

    It didn't matter what his class was doing. A couple of the kids would get into a mood/situation where they NEEDED the pressure so the teacher would send them to my dad's room with a box. He had them put it down and pick up another box to take back to the sp ed teacher. It seemed to really help the kids calm down. Of course this was a school with NO resources - many years the teachers each got one ream of copy paper, 500 sheets, to last the ENTIRE YEAR. Not for each class that they taught, for ALL their classes. Two years before he quit the school year started with no toilet paper and over half the toilets out of order. It took a parent bringing a news crew to the school to get the Board of Ed to give them toilet paper and working toilets. Not even the staff toilets worked. Teachers were supposed to go to nearby stores on their free periods to use the restroom. So they did everything on the super cheap. The boxes the kids carried were not ever opened - they were just carried back and forth to provide a sensory break.
  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Have you looked in "The Out of Sync Child Has Fun" for ideas?
  11. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have no idea what a squeeze machine is...but...just thinking know those tunnels that have wires in them and are about 6 feet long? Well what if you lined one of them with a used military sleeping bag. Those things are very thick and cocoon shaped so you could squish it down the tube. If the child shimmied himself/herself into the bag inside the tube...I am betting they would feel very squished. Of course, head would be outside the tube as far as they wanted it because they would go in feet first. You can find those sleeping bags at military surplus stores. We have two of them because they are good for very cold weather camping.
  12. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    What about a rowing machine? Doesn't that require use of the leg, arm and back muscles? Or one of those Versaclimber machines where you use arms and legs in a climbing motion? Anything that uses those big gross motor muscles and joints... Perhaps there's a donor out there who could provide one for the school... just trying to think of alternatives.

    I truly believe that many our kids would function better in a farm setting where there is ample opportunity to use their bodies and burn off stress!
  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Burning off energy is not the same as being able to self-apply pressure.

    For burning off energy in a confined space, we put a small round jogging trampoline in difficult child 1's room. We would send him to do 20 jumps, if we could see he was bouncing off the alls. Better then to jump on the trampoline.