With school at home starting, some children are bound to have been struggling to adapt to this new routine. Haven’t we all? We often tell parents that “the more controlling they become, the more disorganized their sensory system is”.
Sometimes we ask our children to do something that is too hard for their disorganized brains to handle and, when this happens, they look for ways out. This can make them seem inflexible or hard to be around when they aren’t normally that way.
Regulation before activities and events, throughout the day and before bedtime helps kids make it through the day. Through child-directed activities with a sensory component, regulation will improve, as will the ability for your child to tell you what they need.
So, how do we help our children organize their systems and learn to self-regulate? We’ve covered some DIY sensory play you can do at home before, but here are a few examples of things they can do that won’t be disruptive while classes are in session.
Deep Pressure: Wearing a weighted vest or blanket is a great way to get this sort of input, and it’s not very distracting.
Heavy Work: Pushing or stacking chairs; carrying a basket of items or books; sharpening pencils with a manual sharpener; moving a trash can to a different location; squeezing stress balls or fidget toys or crushing paper into a tight ball; cutting heavy paper or cardboard with scissors. These are all things that can be done at home between or during classes as a way to regulate.
Oral Motor Input: Chewing on things such as straws, coffee stirrers, gum, licorice or twizzlers; sucking on hard candy or lollipops, or applesauce and other thick liquids through a straw; eating crunchy foods like pretzels or carrots; sipping water through a sports bottle. Mints can help with oral input and also help make us more alert! And remember they can always mute while drinking or eating something noisy so as to not disrupt the class.
Organized Tasks: Rearranging a bookshelf, stacking cups or solving a small puzzle are easy enough tasks that can be done fairly quickly.
Small Spaces: This may be a bit more difficult to do during classes, but you can always attempt to set up their study corner inside a small room or closet and, if that isn’t possible, have a tent or tunnel nearby that your child can use if need be.
Smells and essential oils can override the emotional system and calm them during a meltdown. Low lighting can also help so, if possible, try dimming the lights and lowering the brightness of the computer screen for some added benefit.
Deep breaths and head, shoulder and neck rolls can be done without moving from the computer, and you can set them up with a ball chair or place a theraband between chair legs that they can push their feet into.
It is also important to take movement or stretch breaks throughout the day! Some movement activities they can try include: push ups against a chair, desktop or wall; wheelbarrow, crab or spider walks; wall slides; bouncing on a therapy ball or jumping on a mini trampoline.
Do you have any tried and true tips for what regulates your child these days, and how you’ve managed to help them focus while online learning? We would love to hear about it in the comments below!