Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sensory gift updates

I actually started this post in mid-Januray to report on the sensory-related birthday and Christmas gifts Josiah got over the holidays -- but after working on it for nearly an hour (adding fancy links and everything) it disappeared into the black hole of cyberspace and I was so frustrated I've been avoiding blogging ever since. But the guilt (and pressure from my lone follower) has finally caught up with me, so here I am starting again:

The sensory related gifts Josiah received over the holidays were met with mixed success. Here's a rough rundown:
  • Sit-n-Spin -- we requested this from the grandparents for his birthday because his OT suggested it might give him some good vestibular input and is a good indoor toy for the rainy months. We'd seen him use, and seem to enjoy, this at friends' houses a time or two and thought it would be great. I'm discovering, though, that the intrigue of some toys wears off completely simply by bringing the toy into the child's own house. (Wooden train sets worked this way as well, but that's a story for another day.) Long story short, he's more interested in using it as a step-stool (which is a bit precarious) or an obnoxious boom-box to dance to instead of spinning on. Oh well -- we'll hold on to it and keep trying!
  • Ned's Head -- I found this at a discount store and thought it might make a great tactile toy. The idea is to use only touch to find the right object inside Ned's Head -- I thought isolating the tactile sense could help boost discrimantory skills in that area, and the game element might help boost his self-control (he's a tactile seeker, wanting to touch everything he ever sees as a primary way to explore it and has a really hard time when he has to make sense of something without getting to touch and hold it). The only initial struggle we had involved the incredibly large plastic ant and rather realistic looking plastic spider that were included as objects to seek inside Ned's head (along with a "sticky" sucker, a "dirty" diaper, a rubber alien, a large plastic screw, and other "nonscary" items). The first couple of times we tried to play it, he refused to put his hand inside for fear of the bugs biting him, even when I showed him they were out of his head and safely contained in the box. I put the game away for a couple of weeks and tried again, this time removing the bugs before he even saw them. This time he eagerly reached in to find all sorts of goodies -- but he also remembered about the bugs and wanted to keep his eye on them, so we kept them out of the box and sitting off to the side. Several games later, he really enjoys this game and even plays with the bugs inside. He's gotten much better at not peeking and at finding what he's actually looking for instead of just grabbing the first thing he touches. While it wasn't an instant hit, this one has definitely grown on us and become a very fun sensory game!
  • Razor Jr. Scooter -- this was a hit from minute one! Our thinking was that it would help him develop added balance and learn to manage his vestibular input and motor-planning while he's in motion. With the weather yucky, we haven't used it outside yet, but he's gotten great at riding it up and down our wood-laminate hallway. Between this for balance and the Smart Cycle (see below) for pedaling, I think he might be ready for a tricycle this summer!
  • Indoor Exercise Trampoline -- jumping is one of JoNo's all-time favorite activities. Grandma has a huge backyard trampoline at her house that he puts to great use when we are there, and the trampoline is his favorite part of tumbling class. We thought we could not go wrong with this one! We were wrong. Apparently trampolines are only interesting outside our own house as well (see Sit-n-Spin explanation for more details on that phenomenon). He does enjoy it more when one of us bounces with him, and I think it's because our added weight makes it more springy -- I wonder if there's some way to loosen the springs without jumping on it myself for hours a day. Any ideas?
  • Handbells -- While not intentionally a sensory-gift, it will work out that way, and I love them! Grandma surprised us with these for Christmas, and while my sister-in-law isn't so crazy about the extra noise they'll facilitate in her house (they got a set for their sons as well), I adore them for a number of reasons: (1) I played in a handbell choir in high school, so the nostalgia of them made them automatic winners with me, (2) they are a full octave, so you can play a few actual songs and have them sound like actual songs, all while learning at bit about music theory, (3) they'll give Josiah some good audio input. We've noticed that as we've worked on desensitizing his vestibular and tactile systems, his auditory system has gotten a bit more sensitive. We've always kept a box of child-friendly musical toys (tambourines, plastic clarinets, maracas, drums, etc.) in the house, and he used to love them but seems to shy away from them of late. Perhaps it is our lack of talent, though that never seemed to bother him before. Hopefully these bells will help encourage him to allow more audio diversity again as well.
  • SmartCycle -- Eureka! This has been one of the best investments toy-wise we've ever made! There's really nothing NOT to love about this one. We originally considered it because Josiah has trouble coordinating his motor planning, especially when it is combined with vestibular input, and despite lots of interest and many attempts had still not learned to pedal a tricycle. We thought getting him this Smart Cycle would give him a stationary (eliminating the vestibular component) way to practice the motor planning -- and the fact that it is a video game, he might be motivated to try it out more often. He LOVES it! He spent far too much time on it that first week or two for me to even want to admit :) (mommy guilt over too-much-media-time is strong) but I'll tell you what, he can pedal like a champ already. His struggle was learning to keep moving his legs in one direction when he would hit resistance or come to the end of his range of motion, so he'd do half a turn forward and half a turn back. The Smart Cycle has a back-up beep, one that is just as annoying as any construction vehicle's back-up beed, that functions like a biofeedback device so he could tell when his legs were pedaling forward or backward. Over time he even learned to change direction and drive backwards when he wanted to, and then was able to begin learning to steer. Once the weather is more consistently dry and less chilly we'll put him back on his tricycle to see if the skill set transfers, but for now, we're impressed with the progress. And best of all, the games he plays on it are all education -- teaching him letters and numbers, counting and math skills (like more than, less than; basic addition, etc.), visual spatial skills (puzzles and mazes), and animal facts (Diego's wild animal adventures and a dinosaur game that lets you x-ray them to see their bones and hear what they ate, how big there were, etc.) We have thoroughly enjoyed this one!

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