Firstly, welcome to our new readers out there!
I thought I would share with you an email that I received from one of my clients. This topic is something that I am dealing with on a day to day basis in my work so I thought that it would be very relevant for many of you.
How many of you would love your child to be able to sit down and concentrate on a game, activity or piece of work for longer than minute or perhaps even a few seconds!???
Then Henry’s mum’s story will probably sound familiar to you…
“Thank you for putting together the Autism Essentials pack it has indeed helped us with our son Henry. We are going ok implementing the sensory diet but Henry is very physical and seeks movement activities all the time. So when we want to do something “low key” (eg: a puzzle) he really lacks interest and the balance between the two is hard to establish”
So what is a Sensory Diet and what can you do in these situations to help your child?
If you already have my DVD Training Program then you’ll know what we’re talking about…but it doesn’t hurt to go over it again :).
Each of us is born with a unique central nervous system and we use this system to help us to receive and process all the visual, auditory, touch, movement etc sensations that we come across in our environment. We basically use this information to help us make sense of the world around us.
Many children with autism are challenged in the area of sensory processing which often means that their bodies are “out of sync” and a lot of their time needs to be spent trying to make sense of all the incoming signals. This takes a lot of energy and often means that your child is distracted from what you are trying to teach them because they are focusing on something else.
If you don’t spend time addressing your child’s sensory challenges then this will undoubtedly affect your child’s ability to maintain attention, socialise and communicate with others and thrive in their preschool or school environments.
But I am here to tell you that it is very possible to help your child’s sensory system mature.
Here are the steps…
- Discover which of your child’s sensory systems is impacting upon their learning (ie touch, movement, proprioception, auditory, visual or a combination).
- Begin trialing a range of activities to help mature your child’s sensory systems.
- Develop a sensory diet which is a planned schedule of specific sensory activities to be carried out at specific times by your child’s team. This will create results in the fastest way possible because you are all working together.
So now let’s revisit Henry’s situation and see how these steps would be used.
One thing that we know about Henry’s central nervous system is that it needs a lot of movement input. At the moment he really seeks this type of input and his mum has reported that physical play generates a lot of wonderful connection. This also means that this kind of play is very ‘organising’ for his nervous system because otherwise he would find it hard to engage with her.
Henry’s mum has put together a sensory diet for him which they are carrying out with him on a daily basis to help fast track the maturation of his movement (vestibular) sensory system. This is wonderful and exactly what he needs.
What Henry’s mum will notice is that by implementing and revising his ‘sensory diet’, his nervous system will slowly but surely no longer seek excessive amounts of this input. As a result he will naturally want to engage in less physical play and will enjoy other activities like puzzles, reading of books, play-dough, imaginary play etc.
But for now, Henry’s mum should use movement as a foundation for the game but introduce other ideas like puppets, bubbles, balloons, songs, favourite characters, balls etc to try and expand the play sequences and target other goals (whatever motivates Henry). She may also find that by starting her play in a physical way that after a period of time he naturally wants a ‘more low key’ activity because his nervous system is calm and organised.
For all of you out there, there is no point fighting your child’s nervous system. It will just make you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. You must go back and treat these fundamental challenges because they simply don’t go away over time.
Please spend some time becoming more informed about your unique child’s nervous system so that you can use this information to help them reach their full potential.
Please stay tuned for the next message with my thoughts on discipline with children with ASD.
Until then, best wishes
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