Thursday, December 5, 2013

All They Want For Christmas is Something to Bounce On (Or How One Mom Stays Sane)

Last December, I posted pics of some of our favorite toys, so this year, I thought I'd do the same. In particular, though, I want to focus on the things that have made living with kids with SPD (sensory processing disorder) a little easier. Stow and Sky are sensory seekers. They like to crash. A lot. They also like to be squeezed, smooshed (let's pretend that's a word), and rocked. Pink P has an insatiable urge to jump. It's all enough to make a mom a little crazy. (It's also enough to convince a mom that the new house MUST have a separate playroom with plenty of space and a door, but that's another story). So here I present:

MITC's Top 10 Sensory Gift Ideas

1. The Cuddle Swing

I bought this one by Southpaw used on Amazon*** for less than $100. Plus I had a gift card, so there's that. We have it anchored in the ceiling in Sky's room. He likes to sit in it and read. When he's needing some heavy input, he gets in the swing, and I push him by hitting him with a big exercise ball. It sounds barbaric, but it totally calms and reorients him. I have never seen anything quite like it.

2. Spooner

Aside from the unfortunate name, this is a great toy. Stow had a lot of balance issues that came with his low muscle tone, and just having this lying around has encouraged all of the kids to step on it and work on their balance and strength. You can also rock on this which is always soothing for Sky. We use it indoors, so it's perfect for rainy days. Plus, it stores well.

(Spooner from Veach's, one of the best independent toy stores I've ever seen)

3. Bilibo

Ditto everything I said about the Spooner, including the part about its unfortunate name.

(Bilibo from Amazon)

4. Trampoline

We got this for Christmas three years ago when I consistently failed to convince Pink P to stop jumping on the furniture. Since she seemed compelled to jump, I figured it'd be a lot safer for my furniture and my children if we had our own trampoline. The first day we had it, I established four rules which miraculously stuck: 1) only one kid jumps at a time, 2) no toys allowed on the trampoline, 3) hold on, and 4) don't jump on to or off of it.

If a trampoline won't work, kids can also bounce using a balance trainer or one of these desk chairs with an exercise ball in it.

We also still really love our Rody for our littlest sensory seeker.

(Trampoline from Toys R Us, chair and Rody from Amazon)

5. Weighted Blanket

After years of telling myself I was going to make my own weighted blanket and stocking up on dried navy beans when they were on sale, I finally broke down and bought one of these for Sky. I mean, even if I managed to figure out how to sew a blanket in a way that kept the beans properly compartmentalized, there was no way I would be able to wash my navy beans in the washing machine. This blanket is from SensaCalm and is by far the most reasonably-priced one I found. It feels like it weighs a ton, but Sky sleeps peacefully under it. He did mention it was too hot once, but then again, it was summer and besides the weighted blanket, he also had on a fleece blanket, a quilt and a throw.

6. Bean Bag Chairs

Sky's chair.
Stow's chair.
Both Sky and Stow have bean bag chairs in their rooms. The chairs are great for throwing themselves into or getting good deep pressure. They're also a great place for a poorly-regulated kid to vent his frustrations without actually hurting anyone. Moms can enjoy napping on the bean bag chairs when the kids aren't around, or so I've been told.

(Bean bag chairs from Target)

7. Chewies

We've tried all sorts of different chewing gizmos to help Sky with his obvious need for oral input. Without them he spits, blabbers, shrieks, and chews on his shirt sleeves. The problem is that he's also chewed through every chewy we've ever tried.  Like these:

We hooked this one to a lanyard, but he chewed through it.

Even his Z-vibe, which cost more than I wanted to spend, couldn't withstand his chewing. No matter what tip we used, he chewed through it in about a week and ended up swallowing some of the rubber. This made his teacher nervous.

The one that lasted longest was this "chewelry:"
It lasted for several months. The only problem was that he liked to pull on it and flip it like a giant rubber band. He also took it off and swung it over his head like a lasso. For obvious reasons, the other kids did not appreciate being hit by his spit. 

These Jigglers seemed like a good idea for school but the vibration was ridiculously loud! Plus, a boxing kangaroo is never good for a kid who has personal space and social skill issues. I figured it would take approximately 6 1/2 minutes in the school building for Sky to hit a kid with this one.

(Jigglers and Chewies from Sensory University and Amazon)

8. Granola Bars, Celery Sticks, and Gum

Obviously, you can't put celery sticks in their stockings, but for Sky, it turned out that super crunchy foods were the key to dealing with his oral sensory-seeking issues. He also totally digs the way the foods sound when he chews them. Much cheaper and more filling than the chewies. When crunching just doesn't do the trick, I give Sky 5-8 pieces of gum (enough so his mouth is full, but he doesn't choke, obviously). I can't tell you how many stockings and Easter baskets I've filled with granola and gum, but it's a lot. We've also stuffed stockings with various fidgets and vibrating toys like these two:

(Vibrating toy and fidget from Sensory University)

9. Tent

This collapsible tent has been a great "safe space" for Sky when he needs a sensory break or just wants to get away from his little siblings. This Ryan's Room set came with two tents and a tunnel, and every OT we've ever met finds something good to do with the tunnel. (Set from Costco)

10. Crash Pad

This is our most recent discovery/acquisition. When we moved, we got rid of the old hole-filled couch that Sky used for deep pressure and crashing (which I think ended up being more traumatic for me than for him--I wrote about that couch here). I promised him I'd use the money we made from garage sales to get something more appropriate for his needs. This thing is basically a thick nylon square filled with those foam blocks you see in the pit at gymnastics. We got this a couple of months ago and the kids have been running and crashing into it ever since. Since it's 5 ft X 5ft, the size can be an issue, but thanks to the new playroom space it fits. Added bonus? The kids like to practice their gymnastics skills on it. (Amazon)

So that's the list. Some of these things were gifts, most were on sale, and some we just broke down and bought because I couldn't figure out a way to simulate the desired effect. Either way, since the diagnosis, we've been much more intentional about using birthdays and Christmas to get the kids things that help with balance and sensory integration. I don't know if they work or not, but life does seem slightly less chaotic. Plus, I feel better knowing the stuff we are bringing into our lives is working toward a greater good.

*** In fact, I bought most of this stuff on Amazon--what can I say? It's hard to get to the store, plus I'm a fan of free shipping.

Pictures of the chewies and vibrating toys were taken from the following websites:

All other pictures are mine.


Talon said...

Guh. I desperately want a weighted blanket for my Aspie daughter and my Aspie self, but they're so so so so expensive!

(at the moment we have no income, so they're extra expensive) I've also looked into bean bags and cuddle swings; trouble is, Chibi is and always has been big, and tall for her age and given that she's 13 and 5'9 and still growing all the ones that would meet her needs are also expensive.

The other stuff is also fodder for thought, especially the Spooner. I wish I'd known about that when she was little; she's a climber and swimmer, but if it doesn't involve water or vertical surfaces, her gross motor skills always lagged. This would have been GREAT for her and might be something good for my niece who has classic autism.

Mom on the Edge said...

I totally get what you are saying. Some of these things I waited a long time. Some I got as gifts and some on sale. It's frustrating, isn't it, that nothing seems to work for long?