Continued from Part 1 ...
Movin’ and Groovin’ for Vestibular Input
Mini Trampoline. This is a common sensory tool for many families; however, if you don’t have one, just know that you don’t have to spend a fortune on a “therapy-grade” one. I own the Jumpsmart™ Electronic Trampoline because of its triangular shape, ergonomic and intuitive handle bars, and integrated sound system. Just think, by having a trampoline that counts up (or down) for your child, he or she can get quality movement with less hands-on guidance from you, because all you have to say is, “Go do 100 jumps!” or “Can you jump for an entire song?” The Good News: All of that jumping provides great vestibular input, and making sensory activities fun encourages self-regulation. For information on the Jumpsmart™ Trampoline, and other great products for sensorimotor input, log onto: www.digginactive.com
Egg Chair. The people at IKEA deserve some kind of “Genius-Idea” award for this one! Not only does this chair offer great vestibular input because it spins smoothly and safely without any exposed parts, but also because it closes up to create a quiet “hideout” inside. This is a great way for kids to retreat and regroup after a long day. (A cautionary note: Be sure to check with your child’s physician or OT regarding the advisability of spinning.) IKEA also offers this at a reasonable price ($79 US) and in multiple colors. www.ikea.com
Hammock. Of all the ways to get vestibular input, this has to be the most relaxing. When we first got our hammock, all three of my sons would climb in on top of my husband and jostle for position. Unlike a traditional swing, the hammock allows for side-to-side motion, thus providing a different kind of vestibular movement. Gabriel prefers the side-to-side motion over traditional back-and-forth swinging both in therapy, and at home. You can find a variety of hammocks for sale, from many retailers. My advice is to choose a freestanding hammock with quality construction and frame because if your kids are anything like mine, it’s going to get a lot of use! Widely available.
Rocking Chair. We have two rocking chairs in the house, a small child-size one that my father built for me when I was two, and a full-size leather La-Z-Boy® that fits nearly all of us at once – or at least it did when the boys were younger! Rocking can have a calming effect on Gabriel’s sensory system. Reading and rocking with the boys is a nightly activity [pastime???] at our house, and most often we will use a heavy blanket while doing so. The combination of simultaneous vestibular and proprioceptive input [Does that work?] offers a strong dose of needed sensory input and calms Gabriel, and often Matthew, down almost instantly. Also, our kid-size rocking chair offers my sons the opportunity to keep their bodies moving on demand; encourages self-regulation; and keeps their bodies active while they watch a movie or TV. Widely available.
Giving children access to the types of tools discussed in this article helps them to meet their sensorimotor needs. It’s also a great way to help them learn to self-regulate in a socially acceptable manner. Without access to safe options for movement, children often choose less acceptable activities, like running through the house playing tag; hurling themselves toward objects; or jumping from bed-to-bed in their rooms.
Having the tools our kids need on-hand so that they can learn to self-regulate is a great investment in your child’s present wellbeing and future growth. I encourage you to talk with your occupational therapist to discuss ways that these items (or others) might benefit your child.
This article orginally appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of Autism Spectrum Quarterly.