Sensory Adventures (and the like)

(I decided to skip “Silent Sunday’s” this week due to the fact that I haven’t posted anything all week and it is hardly appropriate for my first post back to be silent. A week so silent I didn’t even drop in with a photo! Oops.)

 

(Mia intently playing with the “Life Cycle of a Butterfly” Sensory Toy I made her.)

This week has been ultra busy for me, for Mia, for Roger. It’s been a busy week for all of us. I must admit that I am exhausted. Mia has had a bit of a bad week; sleep wise. She is back to her old M.O. of going to bed at a reasonable hour only to awake in the middle of the night with an unparalleled amount of energy. She will then fall back to sleep a half hour before school starts at nine – making her extremely late. The days that I manage to keep her up long enough to arrive on time are days when I am only postponing the inevitable. The inevitable being that she will eventually nap at some point during the day – be it at school, or when she gets home – and the later is not always the better. This nap normally occurs around two in the afternoon.  And that power nap is enough for her to continue on for hours; uninterested in sleep until she passes out sometime around three in the morning. Meanwhile, I walk around in a catatonic state. Zombified. And praying for relief in the manner of a few uninterrupted hours of shut eye.

This is how I spent this past week. But that is neither here nor there. And it is definitely not what I want to express to you in this post. What I’d like to tell you about is a bit more positive. I am going to tell you about all of the many different things I have bought (and made) for Mia. I am going to tell you about the tools I will be implementing to make Mia’s days go by smoother. I am going to tell you all about the fun little things I have created for her; ranging from sensory bins and nooks, to sticker charts and prize boxes. I have even made Behavior Modeling Books. We (Roger and myself) even constructed, in her bedroom, her own closeted off area. A place for Mia to enjoy some time to recoup.

(Mia’s Nook.)

Before I start explaining this in detail though, I’d like to say a few things. A bit of a “disclaimer”, if you will. I am really excited about all of these changes, all of these sensory adventures. And, although, I have high hopes for each of these tools to make my life and, more importantly, Mia’s life less stressful (and thus easier) I am also quite realistic. I understand very well that some of my hard work could be for naught. I understand that some of these things I’ve spent weeks, months even, creating may just plain not work for Mia. But I am okay with that. It’s all part of my journey with her; finding and implementing, tweaking and adjusting, reorganizing and throwing out many different ideas and therapies until we find just the right fit. So, while I have great hope in these tools I do realize there is no guarantee they will work. But, as always, I am willing to try new things; no matter the outcome. I do this out of the great love I hold for Mia. And I try always to have just as much fun in the chase as in the victory. Although, throwing out the end products is bittersweet, I know that with each failure I am one step closer to unlocking something that will work for Mia.

So, with that said, I hope you enjoy reading about all of the silly little things I have spent my WHOLE WEEK working on (to the point where I have completely abandoned my blogging duties to you, for which I heartily beseech your forgiveness.)

All of these ideas arose from my desire to give Mia a new room. A child’s bedroom is a place where they go to dream. A child’s bedroom is a place where imaginations can sore. A place where ideas are born. A place of comfort on bad days. A constant place of belonging, and love. A place completely their own (even if they share it with a sibling.) My daughter’s bedroom was an overloaded, unkempt, sensory nightmare. My daughter’s bedroom, over time, had morphed into a place where objects were discarded to die in obscurity. Toys broken and untouched lived solitary lives there for years collecting only dust. My daughter’s bedroom, the place that should have housed her dreams, contributed only to her nightmares. Mia could not enter this place for long periods of time (and forget about sleeping there.) It was too overwhelming. With the shades drawn it was dark and cold. There were hardly any pleasant pictures. The TV stood atop a disheveled stand, with broken drawers and missing knobs. Even the closet was stuffed full of clothing and objects looking for a place to belong.

(Mia’s new bed – we still need to put up canopy bed curtains.)

It was in need of serious repair. Which we did quickly (quite some time ago) with the help of my parents readily opened wallet and Roger’s skill at anything hands on. We traded her wrecked TV stand and old gigantic TV for a wall mounted version to be hung above her dresser. We threw away her old bed in favor of a new canopy bed complete with “Lalaloppsy” decorated sheets (we still need curtains). The toys in her closet were sifted through, donated, thrown out, and reorganized.

In a natural divot in her wall, the place where her TV stand once stood how houses Mia’s very own “Sensory Nook.” Maybe it would be more fitting for me to call it a “Lack-of-Sensory Nook.” This place was originally created to hold all things sensory but instead has turned into an area devoid of anything sensory. Mia chooses to sit in there mostly when she is covered up with a heavy blanket in a dark and utter silence – in a sort of sensory deprivation chamber (or at least my poor man’s version of one.) Although, this is not fully true because sometimes she enjoys holing herself up in there with her eight “dream light pillow pets” casting different colored stars along the walls and ceiling.

(Mia sitting in her nook. Yes, she still chews on a nuk from time to time. It’s better than the alternative – her fingernails, hair, or me.)

After completely changing the room I instantly saw a calm envelope Mia. She now works better when we are at home. She now has an organized, suitable place for herself; to just be. She now even readily sleeps in there. She thoroughly enjoys her room so much that she can often be heard saying “Go to sleep” while pointing to the door. This is Mia’s way of effectively saying “Get the fuck out of my room.” Which is the equivalent of heavenly music to my ears.

I decided to take it a step further or, rather, a step in a different direction. Once Mia’s Sensory Nook changed into a “Lack-of-Sensory Nook” (somewhere I dare not touch for the love she bears it) I was left with a mind full of sensory play ideas but nowhere to house them. Never one to let small things like that stop me, I decided to go ahead with making a bunch of sensory bins, rather than sensory “cubbies” or table placed in the nook. I have currently made seven different versions of these bins.

  • A Farm Bin filled with different colored green yarn (to represent grass) and a variety of plastic barnyard animals as well as a big yellow farm.
  • A Dinosaur Bin filled with decorative rocks and painted Rigatoire pasta, different textured dinosaur toys, turtles, and snakes (some hard plastic, some squishy soft pliable plastic, etc.) 
  • A Frog Bin filled with various different colored blue glass decorative beads and blue plastic fish tank gems called “aqua beads”, plastic toy frogs, and lilypads (bought and handmade). I like to heat and cool the glass beads making them feel different each time she plays with it. 
  • An Ocean Bin filled with blue crimped paper stuffing (used to stuff gift baskets) and a handful of white cotton used to make an iceberg, an assortment of sea creatures in different textures such as a penguin, seal, sea lion, fish, octopus, turtles, etc. 
  • A Groundhog’s Home Bin filled with colored pompoms and a toilet paper roll covered in fabric to serve as the groundhogs hide-away, the groundhog himself is squishy yellow plastic with a light up ball inside. 
  • A “Water Bead” Bin filled with water beads and random chunky plastic animals. 
  • An “Artificial Snow” Bin made up of artificial snow and different characters doing things you would do in the snow (dog sledding, sledding, building a snowman, etc.) 

 

These are just the stationary bins that will always be at hand, ready to play with at any moment. ButI we also have a few “plan ahead” ideas up my sleeve. I purchased balloons to fill with water and freeze. After they are frozen they can be taken out, stacked in order of size and made into a snowman using various items such as buttons, a baby hat, etc. etc. I also got 30 glow sticks to use in a range of different activities; for example at bath time placing one or two in the tub and shutting off all the lights allowing the glow stick to illuminate the water and create a calming glow. I have even made Mia a sensory game with butterflies, caterpillars, cocoons and an egg made from pompom’s, pipe cleaners, fabric and paint; you play it by matching the corresponding life cycle to it’s proper homemade flash card.

All of these activities serve to help Mia in little ways that I am unsure I understand enough to explain it to you absolutely. All I know (and can say) is that after she has a sensory session (playing with a variety of textures) she tends to be more centered, more involved, and better able to concentrate. And those reasons alone are enough for me to continue searching for more fun activities to do; things outside of the regular towel rubs, joint compressions, and deep pressure massages that are used tirelessly to help ground Mia.

This week we have also started something I am really excited about. Mia’s own “Sticker Exchange Program”. Where she earns stickers for doing a variety of different tasks she normally dislikes – like brushing her teeth, cleaning her room, allowing me to brush her hair, dressing herself, listening to directions, sitting on the potty, etc. – mainly a list of self-help skills. After receiving twenty stickers she is able to pick out a prize from the prize bin. I know my daughter well enough to know that looking into a bin full of fun toys will never work – she would be unable to choose just one. I decided to take individual pictures of each prize to allow her a choice of which one she wants from the pile without having to see all of the toys “in the flesh”. (She has already won the privileged of picking a prize. After much thought she choose a bag full of twelve different Little People and their animals I purchased at our local Goodwill – and cleaned thoroughly.)

Along with the “Sticker Exchange Program” we have also implemented two “Behavior Modeling Books” called “Daily Companions”. They provide the much needed assistance in behavior reference for Mia. Each page shows a picture of a child acting appropriately in a variety of situations with a written explanation of what he/she is doing. The point is to allow for a visual reference so the child is able to model the behavior shown in each picture. It depicts visual models for many different environments like, “Going to School”, “Putting on My Shoes”, “Riding in a Car”, etc. We even have one solely based on “Restaurant Behavior”. These really are handy little tools. And I am extremely anxious to start using them properly, and regularly.

There have been so many changes this past week, both big and small. I really am sorry I didn’t write about each one individually to give you a better and more thorough seperate description. I felt it more pressing and important for me to post a glimpse into the reasons behind my silence; because regardless of Mia’s sleep patterns, the changes (and projects) are the main reason why. Although I am not proud of my week of silence, at least I can rest assured (as can you!) that it was for the best of reasons, and with the best of intentions..

(Mia playing with her sensory bins.)

..because Mia really is enjoying, and thriving, in this new environment we are creating.

 

(If you have any idea’s on different sensory ideas, bins, or activities for the winter please let me know. Winter is my most trying time to keep Mia busy – the chance for outside activities dwindles in the cold weather, leaving us lost inside a home with the same objects day after day.)

 

 

6 thoughts on “Sensory Adventures (and the like)

  1. Love the choice of photo prizes as opposed to picking one out of a bin.That could have been a bit rough on you, she would have wanted more then one most likely!!Always thinking you are.
    Great weeks work or longer that you worked on this
    seems as though it will be time well spent!
    Love Dona

  2. I was wondering when a post would be published. I look forward to reading them! But this definitely explains it!
    Love the ideas. I use these ideas and your everyday situations to better understand a family member’s son.
    You’re a great Mom to Mia. 🙂

  3. My son is autistic, and when he was younger(he’s 10 now) his teacher had us fill a shoebox with beans,all different kinds,colors,shapes, and sizes. He would play in the box for hours,putting his cars,trains,and action figures in it .Sometimes he would just play in the beans with his hands.There was just somthing about it that he absolutely loved, and it’s fairly inexpensive to do,,in most cases the box will cost more then the beans.

  4. Love this post!! So many ideas for you too, if I send you message privately can I include pics? Some of these ideas are better with a visual.

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