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{Not so} bright ideas...dimming down sensory issues!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

{Not so} bright ideas...dimming down sensory issues!

*Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor. Anything you read on here is my opinion, which is backed by an education from the University of Google. I may be "just a mom", but I'm just a mom who has spent the last 11 years trying to help her kid, and now we're finally getting somewhere. Praise God!

We've learned some tricks that have helped my son's anxiety level at home and during school. I can really see how sensory issues have played a part in his history all along, but we just didn't know it/or how to manage it. Much of his inability to focus and stay on track was due to sensory issues. Sometimes it's not about the lack of focus, it's about what's causing the lack of focus. Not every kid can be put in the ADHD box, and be helped.

So here are a few things I do to make life easier for my son.

Reduce bright lights and glaring whites.
*Keep work areas dim. We keep our blinds closed during school hours and I make sure that any light sources are out of direct sight. Meaning overhead as opposed to a light on across the room. Think about the sun. If it's directly above you, it's not as glaring as if it were across from you. You would put your sunglasses on. But, if it's overhead, it's not going to make you squint. It's much the same way with artificial light for someone with sensitivity issues. 

*Make sure household light bulbs are extra soft or even colored. We changed out all of our bulbs, and put colored bulbs in the bathrooms. You can't even tell they're colored. One bathroom is painted in a blue/grey tone, so we put a baby blue bulb in there. The other bathroom has is pink tile (yes. that's right. Pink tile!). It got a soft pink bulb. The light in the bathrooms appear softer, not so much colored. Because of my son's OCD, the bathroom is generally a stressful environment. Reducing triggers in there has made a huge difference in his rituals.

*I even exchanges his white shower curtain for a green one. Much better.

*Change paint colors to be softer. No bolds or brights.

Avoid using harsh chemical smells during school hours. 
We homeschool, so housekeeping during the day is a given. But, I try to leave any chemical product use for after school. He just wouldn't be able to work or concentrate if it smelled of cleaning supplies.  

Keep house and work areas free of clutter. 
In my son's room and bathroom, there's not a whole lot of decor. Not my personal preference, but too much going on stresses him out. I got rid of all those cutesy baskets, magazines, and fun bathroom stuff. I try to keep things clear through the house too. He cannot work on the computer or at his desk if there's a lot of distractions there. Get rid of piles and all those cool organizers.

Find out what calms your child.
We use fish tanks, lava lamps, and fidgets. My son is older. He's 13. Many of the products for OT are geared for younger children. He's not going to sit on ball and play with other sensory toys he think are babyish. I have to think outside the box with him, and get things that he doesn't recognize as "therapy" tools.
He has a lava lamp in in room. I LOVE that thing. He'd watch it for three days if I let him. He has his own fish tank, and we have two other tanks in the house. One in the living area, and another in my youngest son's room. Extreme? Maybe. Helpful? Without a doubt! They love their fish!

Other options?
-desk water fountains
-zen gardens
-plasma balls
If you go on and search office/desk toys. Anything that pops up would be helpful! Finding things for older kids can be tricky. You also pay way less for these items if you're not shopping on a therapy website. I also like They have some really affordable stuff that can be used for sensory therapy.

Colored paper.
Crazy? I agree, but it works!
We do ALL math work on blue paper. Math is a struggle for him. Oddly, it's his strongest subject. However, he has a very hard time focusing during math and he gets easily frustrated. More so than any other subject. He sort of had a math road block a couple of years ago. I began using Math-U-See, and I started copying all of his work onto blue paper, and it made an instant difference in the amount of time it took to complete an assignment. He was more focused, and stopped complaining about headaches. He no longer fidgets! The bright white of regular paper is like a concentration block to him. It causes stress and interrupts his thought process. The blue stimulates focus. Yes, please.

Breaks! Breaks! Breaks!
Stop expecting your child to act like the world tells you children should behave during school. Learn to recognize his triggers, and when he needs a break. My son is 13, and he can rarely do that for himself. Heck! I'm 33 and I have a hard time doing it for me! We have to guide them into managing skills they can use. We have to learn to recognize their triggers, so we can teach them to do the same. My son is finally at a point where he will accept the fact that I think he needs a sensory break. He will go to his room and watch his fish or lava lamp, and do some deep breathing. After 5 minutes or so, he's good. then he can come back and be productive.

Maybe some of the ideas that are helpful for us would be helpful for you too?
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At January 17, 2012 at 11:25 AM , Blogger MiMi said...

We work on keeping things low key around son's anxiety can get off the charts if it's chaotic.

At January 17, 2012 at 12:17 PM , Blogger Lizbeth said...

It sounds like we were on the same, but different, page today!!! Great ideas!!!

At January 17, 2012 at 7:59 PM , Blogger Maggie S. said...

You know I wonder if my girls have sensory issues...surely not, but some stuff... I just don't know.

I may try employing some of these ideas.

At January 18, 2012 at 7:41 PM , Blogger Karen Greenberg said...

I'm so glad I got to read some of your ideas. I am a 5th and 6th grade teacher, so I can't necessarily have as much control as I would like. I think I'll get a zen garden for my classroom, though! I have a few students that would definitely benefit from it. I'll put it by the pencil sharpener so they can use it without making a big deal out of it.

At January 18, 2012 at 7:42 PM , Blogger Karen Greenberg said...

Do you think a CD with water sounds would be just as effective as a fountain?

At January 19, 2012 at 12:21 AM , Blogger The Preppy Girl in Pink said...

These are some great tips for any child with focus issues. Thanks so much for sharing. I'm definitely going to try some.

At January 19, 2012 at 7:05 AM , Blogger Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

These are great tips - we are dealing w/ some sensory issues here as well. One huge trigger I've noticed is if he is the least bit sick - the slightest stuffy nose will really cause him to struggle. Sounds like you're a great mom to be so attentive.

Love the idea of the lava lamp!

At January 19, 2012 at 10:00 AM , Anonymous Teresa (Embracing the Spectrum) said...

Love this. I needed some more tips. A fish tank is too high maintenance for us...I bet he'd love a Lava Lamp though.

At January 24, 2012 at 8:42 AM , Blogger Our Side of the Mountain said...

Oh, suggestions for READING? My almost 7-year-old with SPD (including visual tracking and conversion issues) does well with Math, but reading - nah! He's learning to read and doing better than expected, but show him some Hooked on Phonics (or anything else) and its instant anxiety.


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