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Toys, Products, and Ideas
for Sensory Education
|I still remember sitting at the "student study" group with the school principal, psychologist, resource director,
kindergarten teacher, and occupational therapist while they gave me their official findings. I am very thankful and
lucky that our school took the time to test my son, but that day when I heard the words Sensory Integration Dysfunction
for the first time, I remember thinking... SO? So what if he has some trouble staying still in his seat? So what if he
can't quite get a handle on "personal space"? So what if he is the messiest eater in the class? So what if he likes to
paint his whole hand and maybe his friend's shirt instead of one picture on one piece of paper? I felt like they were
just telling me what I already knew. After all, I had lived with him for the last 6 years and I knew what he was like. I
remember asking, "Aren't these behaviors just his own unique personality and won't he eventually grow out of them or
learn to deal with it? Why would I want to change my perfect, adorable, first born son? When does it go from a quirky,
possibly irritating, behavior to a "Dysfunction"? The answer was, when it interferes with what he needs to do in his
daily life which currently is: sitting together in a group during circle time, paying attention to the teacher when she/he is
talking, participating in a classroom by raising your hand before you talk, following directions, taking turns and sharing
and playing together with friends, and being a part of a class that is LEARNING and having learning be FUN!
I decided to stay open to what I was hearing because I want my son to enjoy himself at school and to enjoy learning,
but I was still concerned that they wanted to pull him out of class for 15 minutes a day to see the occupational
therapist. I expressed that I didn't want him to feel singled out or different from the rest of the students and their
answer was that he already knew he was different. I gave permission for him to be able to see the occupational
therapist for 15 minutes every day at school and I was loaned a copy of "The Out-of-Sync Child" by Carol Stock
Kranowitz and read it over the spring break. It was what Oprah would call an "Aha!" moment. I saw behaviors and
tendencies that I recognized instantly. What excited me the most was the fact that instead of being told to "sit still",
"stop bouncing", or "don't touch that", my son was going to have a time during the day when these things were
permissible. He was going to be told that the things he craved were ok to do and that it was right for him to trust his
instincts. Ultimately, he would be taught to "self regulate" and take control of his own sensory needs. That in and of
itself would be a huge boost to his self confidence.
Finally, I stopped wondering and questioning everything. Why does my son crash into people to say hello? Why does
he hug so hard it hurts? Why does he like to be upside down? Why is he always jumping off of things? Why does he
touch things and people too often or too hard? Why does he climb so high? Why does he want to jump on the
trampoline all the time? Why is he so tenacious? Why must he taste, smear, and submerge himself in anything that
looks different and interesting? Why is every lamp in our house broken? Why do we not have any breakable knick
knacks out at all? Why is the dinner table a disaster after every meal? You get the picture. I felt like there was finally
an answer. And after many battles, yelling bouts, power struggles, and time outs, we felt a quiet peace settling in our
home. I know now that I don't need to feel guilty about letting my son jump on the couch or bed because that is
actually good for him. I don't have to explain to anybody why I allow him to ride under the grocery cart on his tummy so
he can feel like he's flying. I don't worry that I'm being too lenient when I let him dripping wet from his bath spin
slippery and naked in circles on the kitchen tile floor. Now, instead of saying, WHY are you doing that?, I say WHAT
do you like about that? HOW does it make you feel? And I can make sure that type of sensory input is included in his
"diet" at appropriate times. It is liberating to let my child be who he is and I am encouraged when I see how much he
truly enjoys experiencing the sensations. Note that this does not mean he is free to do as he pleases with no discipline
or consequences. We still deal with that like every other parent on a daily basis! See the "discipline" section of our
What Is SI? page.
04/07-We have just started OT at his school for 15 minutes a day. He absolutely loves it and has been more focused
during class. He even got an award in his class for "caring". This from a boy who was sent home from preschool only
one year ago at least once a week for biting, hitting, throwing, and using profanity towards his teacher. He is so proud
of himself! And we are proud also, of course.
04/08 UPDATE: In first grade, his day was almost 3 hours longer than in kindergarten, so we added another 15 minute
session of mostly fine motor or large motor focus in the afternoons. Now, near the end of his first grade year, I've just
had my one year meeting to discuss my son and his IEP at school. He has met all the goals set up by the occupational
therapist. Once we were able to meet his sensory needs, we were able to address the problems that were behavioral
with a "behavior chart". Daily his teacher marks his chart ever 30 minutes with a + or o and at the end of the day, he
discusses the chart with the resource teacher. I feel like all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. Now we can
deal with the sensory needs and the behavior too. He is a much happier, more focused, confident, well liked boy.
04/09 UPDATE: We just had our yearly IEP meeting again and everyone happily agreed that he will no longer require
occupational therapy at school. His behavior has improved dramatically during his second grade year and with his
teacher and I both on board, he has made remarkable progress. The resource director and occupational therapist
both observed him thoroughly and found him to be very co-ordinated and energetic, yet also able to focus when
necessary. (as much as the average 2nd grader!) They have reported that he is now "integrated" and his sensory
needs have been met. He still loves swinging, jumping, and spinning, but he is able to wait for the right time and place
for those actions and is not consumed with them so much that they disrupt his daily activities. I believe he will always
hug, push, and hit a little too hard, but this year that has meant 5 solid homeruns!!
Since the beginning of this journey, I have read many books on Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing and it
occurred to me how many other children (and some adults!) have many of these same behaviors. There are so many
different degrees of this "disorder", it seems to be something that every parent should pay some attention to. Not that
every child has a "disorder", but I believe senses are meant to be used. Like the article on the home page says,
children thrive when they get all kinds of sensory stimuli. In our TV, video game, scheduled, computerized world, these
days our kids are being deprived of not only the simple pleasures in life, but also a necessary component to their
development. Have you noticed the playgrounds lately? Do you see swings, merry go rounds, or the old favorite
teeter totter? Lawyers, liability issues, and the price of steel has made the playgrounds plastic, foam, and incredibly
"safe". Did you know that recess time is being edged out minute by minute? New standards in education places
demands on preschoolers and kindergarteners that used to not be required until later in the first or second grades.
And the role of play, which many early childhood education experts see as key to learning for the youngest children, is
under siege. In most cases, kindergarten centers have morphed from art, drama and housekeeping to ones focusing
on literacy, math and writing. See Kindergarten used to be play and naptime — no more.
I've become extremely interested in and am currently taking classes and majoring in Early Childhood Education. In my
website, I've included pages on childhood, nature, play, plus all the "therapies" for good sensory development. I
believe Sensory Needs will be mainstream in the next few years and all children will benefit from these strategies. Most
importantly I believe that we need to honor children and know that they are so in tune with themselves, they know best
what their bodies and systems need.
Welcome and have fun browsing!
See an excerpt from "A Child's Work The Importance of Fantasy Play" or get the book and visit our Play Therapy page
for many more articles on the importance of play.
Here's part of an article from Florida's Sun Sentinel ^ | 7-18-05 | Chris Kahn
"In the pursuit of safety, teeter-totters and swings are disappearing from playgrounds
Andrea Levin is grateful that Broward County schools care about her daughter's safety. But this year when they posted
a sign that demanded "no running" on the playground, it seemed like overkill. "I realize we want to keep kids from
cracking their heads open," said Levin, whose daughter is a Gator Run Elementary fifth grader in Weston. "But there
has to be a place where they can get out and run."
Broward's "Rules of the Playground" signs, bought from an equipment catalogue and displayed at all 137 elementary
schools in the district, are just one of several steps taken to cut down on injuries and the lawsuits they inspire. "It's too
tight around the equipment to be running," said Safety Director Jerry Graziose, the Broward County official who
ordered the signs. "Our job was to try to control it."
How about swings or those hand-pulled merry-go-rounds? "Nope. They've got moving parts. Moving parts on
equipment is the number one cause of injury on the playgrounds."
Teeter-totters? "Nope. That's moving too."
Sandboxes? "Well, I have to be careful about animals" turning them into litter boxes.
Cement crawl tubes? "Vagrants. The longer they are, the higher possibility that a vagrant could stay in them. We have
shorter ones now that are made out of plastic or fiberglass."
Broward playgrounds aren't the only ones to avoid equipment that most adults remember. Swings, merry-go-rounds,
teeter-totters and other old standards are vanishing from schools and parks around the country, according to the
National Program for Playground Safety."
And Another from the Boston Globe,Drake Bennett, April 15, 2007
Back to the Playground
Writing on the “renewed interest in how and where children play,” Boston Globe staff writer Drake Bennett relates that
the recent “reexamination of playgrounds is triggered by the conviction that, in the United States in particular,
playgrounds have become rather unfun – designed with only safety in mind, they’ve lost the capacity to excite or
challenge children.” Playground historian and Common Good “Value of Play” panelist Susan Solomon tells Bennett
that “fear of personal injury lawsuits has shrunk the playground.” “Slides and swings today are lower,” she argues,
“and therefore slower, than before. … ‘The see-saw today … is pretty much a horizontal bar that hardly moves in
either direction. It just kind of jiggles a little bit.’” Yet, increasingly, Bennett writes, play advocates are arguing for a
better balance between “the need for free, even rambunctious, play” and safety concerns – and for an
acknowledgment “that risk and imagination deserve a place in the playground.” Mary Rivkin, a professor of education
at the University of Maryland, states: “‘Children need vertiginous experiences …. They need fast and slow and that
high feeling you get when you run down a hill. They need to have tippy things.’ … If there’s no challenge, no pain of
failure … there’s no learning – and less enjoyment.” Roger A. Hart, director of the Children’s Environments Research
Group and “Value of Play” panelist, adds that “one problem with trying to child-proof playgrounds is that children,
trying to make the safer playground equipment interesting, come up with unforeseen and often more dangerous ways
of using it.”
So, here's to getting "back to basics", getting our hands dirty, recognizing the Value of Play and letting kids be kids!