Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Homemade therapeutic sensory items

I'm guessing this post won't get nearly as many hits as my "homemade laundry detergent" post, but SOME of you will enjoy it.

You see, I've been dealing with special needs in my home for about a decade. If there's one thing you learn through your kids with special needs, it's that we're all in the wrong business! Therapy and therapeutic products are big business. Take a squishy ball, add the words "sensory integration" to its title, and you can charge more than double the price.

So, leave it to me to find more ways to make my own stuff and refuse to spend more money than I have to! We have a "sensory basket" that stays in the middle of the table when we're working on school. My Tourettes gal has always needed stuff like this, but now that we have trauma struggles joining us, there was actually some jealousy and fighting over who got to tear apart the piece of cloth while mom reads, etc.

Our basket looks like this:

The items in it are just some things that give lots of tactile stimulation. I also try to make sure they're reasonably quiet (Tourettes LOVES noise, and can find a way to be noisy pulling on fabric - it's a gift).

Top row: different pieces of material with different textures and weaves.

Middle row: various bean bag items in different shapes (YES, I know what you're going to say about the one on the left).

Bottom row: a plastic stretchy bag, a squishy ball from Wal Mart (88 cents!), a feather, a balloon filled with sand and a little maze thing I made just from material and two marbles (they just move the marbles around inside however they want).

I also made our own weighted lap pads - just used old t-shirts and some rice!

Don't hate me because I'm brilliant!


Linda said...

That's very creative and resourceful. I especially like the marble maze idea.

sandwichinwi said...

Very cool. Tell me what you do with the weighted lap pads. In fact, let's do a whole post elaborating on the stuff you've mentioned so far. Like how do you get your kids to DO the strong sitting? What kind of consequences are there for not cooperating?

And when one is raging on the floor (to be stepped over) is one allowed to shout anything one wants? What if one is shouting inappropriate things?

And what IF the fabric is being noisy? Must it stop or is it ignored?

It's so hard to choose your battles when the fires to put out aren't one big wildfire but millions of matches every day...


Christine said...

Sandwich, I'll try to make a post out of this later, but thought you'd like to hear how I do it RIGHT NOW! ha!

I follow Nancy Thomas' lead on strong sitting. If they don't want to do their short allotment of strong sitting, then they can do 20-30 minutes of "weak sitting." But my kids haven't chosen to NOT do it (yet). They enjoy it. It's also a part of their school schedule. If they haven't done it, they are not done with school. If they aren't done with school, they can't do chores. If they haven't done chores, they don't have free time. It's their choice. I would prefer that they have lots and lots of free time.

If my kids are needing to say ... um ... "stuff" during a rage (you know what I'm talking about!), then I give them a "safe place." Typically a bedroom where everyone else doesn't have to hear all of the stuff. If they choose NOT to go to the safe place, and put everyone else through their spewing, then everyone else becomes very emotionally exhausted, and needs to go out for ice cream later - the rager does not get ice cream.

If my kids need a "safe place," they are allowed to say absolutely anything they want in a rage without consequence. Say those things outside the "safe place," and Happy Consequence!

If the fabric gets too noisy (and I try to count to ten first, and give them a chance to settle), then I ask them to utilize it in a different way. If they do not, then I get to choose their "therapeutic aid" for the rest of the morning. I make sure to choose something that their little sister just played with - cause that has cooties. They tend to do better the next time around.

Tomorrow is the six month anniversary of my RADishes being with us. We're trying to start the adoption process, but some things are slowing it down. THEY ARE FREAKED OUT OF THEIR NOGGINS!!! We don't have fires in our house. We have a constant covering of glowing embers in every single nook and cranny! Or lava flow? Either way, I feel your pain.

Brenda said...

Brilliant! That has saved you a ton of money.

Amanda said...

great idea! i need to take some stuff like this to class so my kids can get some energy out quietly while we're working!

Melissa said...

Great ideas! Thanks! I'm taking both my boys for a Neurofeedback assessment tomorrow afternoon - at a local school that works with Hope 139. We've borrowed the big bucks and are planning to do Neurofeedback at home. Just wanted to let you know, Christine. I'll be blogging about how this goes at if you're interested.
Melissa n Florida

Christine said...

Melissa, yea!!

We haven't talked since you emailed me, but after we pay off the adoption, we'll be saving for Hope 139. I talked on the phone with them extensively and that's who we'll be going with, when the time comes!!

Recovering Noah said...

Love it!! Your speaking my language.

We go through toothbrushes like you wouldn't believe. Noah loves to chew on them. We have playdoh and modeling clay everywhere. They also love to pop bubble wrap. They find it very therapeutic. We also give massages with those massage gloves that you can get at Dollar Tree. Oh, yeah. We keep two Steralite (Sp?) containers that we bought at Walmart on the table. One has dried beans and the other has dried rice. We open up a small package of Smarties and put them in there and the kids have to use their fine motor skills to get them out - at the same time, they're benefiting from the texture of the dried beans and rice. All three kids LOVE it. Who would've thought? They also like to play with shaving cream on a cookie sheet - and, believe it or not - I'll wrap pebbles from the yard in bits of aluminum foil and they love to open them up. They almost get in a trance-like state when they do it. I think it has something to do with the shiny foil, the noise it makes, and having to concentrate on getting it off the rock. Hey, it works.

This is one of the only ways we can get any school accomplished. Two of them will be doing "therapy" at the table while I work with the third one - and then we rotate.

Wani said...

great idea! my 18mos old has developmental delays and I think we'll be needing something like this. Thanks for the idea!

CC said...

You are my best friend now! I'll be linking to this post someday!

Sara said...

Awesome stuff! I really like the "puzzle" I think it could help me!! Heck.
I just FINALLY read your note over on my blogger hehehe...I think I should elaborate on whats actually going on in my life and stop relying so heavily on pictures. I'll get to that. I will. Soon! Promise :D

Kristen said...

This is awesome! You have no idea how timely this is for me right now. I've been googling sensory toys all week and every I find I think, really? That much $ for THAT?

These items look great. (I appreciate you leaving that one item "intact". hee hee)

Yes, this is the business to be in. We should put some dry beans, dry rice, and chopstix in burlap bag, call it a "sensory sack", and charge $39.99 for it!

Cammie said...

You are amazing! I pray for you and your family. I think you are quite a strong woman!

I guess I will with hold my comment about the penis looking beanbag and wait, I am with holding that comment :)

Kim said...

Great ideas! It is indeed crazy how much they charge for anything with "sensory toy" attached. I really love the marble/maze thing.

beth said...

Christine - and all the commentors - you are my heroes.

I still read you faithfully, although I don't comment much. This post stuck with me. I do not have any diagnosed issues with my nine-year old, but he has always been 'different' than his four older siblings. At this point, I wonder if he's borderline Asperger's or autistic - but very borderline.

He is so fidgety, and it's made me nuts at times. He is ALWAYS in motion - unless in a trance in front of 'Word Girl' on tv, or drawing intently. Doing homework (public school) math problems or sitting still to read or write spelling words is a huge effort. He's very picky about the feel of fabric, and feeling encroached upon; he's never been the kind of child who easily accepted hugs or touches, but he LOVES to have his back scratched...he's just very particular, and unique in our family.

I know these 'issues' pale in comparison to larger ones that you and other parents are dealing with, but there seems to be something 'different' about this child. I want to tell you that this post about the tactile/sensory stimulation really stuck with me.

Tonight, as we did math problems and he hopped all around the room after every problem (and I found myself more and more frustrated), I thought of what you wrote here. When we started spelling, I decided 1) we'll do it orally rather than on paper and 2) I'll look for ways to let him keep his hands busy and see if that makes a difference.

He started out spelling his words out loud, standing on his head on the couch. I don't mind that so much, but his flailing legs became a threat. I sent him to get his hackey sack and said, "Here. You can throw it. Toss it. Whatever. But no legs in my face."

He looked at me like I was nuts - and like I'd given him a million dollars.

He tossed the hackey sack in the air, rhythmically, as he spelled every word. When he had to think through vowel combinations, he squeezed it. Rote recitation as he spelled was all rhythmic.

It was fascinating. Again, you are miles ahead of me, and this is NOTHING compared to what you know and are teaching your kids. But, for me, you spoke volumes with this post. You gave me another perspective to mothering and education when it comes to my most energetic, least 'compliant' child. I felt like I was able to give him a gift, a way to focus his energy in a way that didn't earn him the unceasing "David, don't." "David, be still." "David, sit down." "David, STOP."

And he spelled better.

I am so grateful.


curlyjo said...

I realize this was an old post, but I happened upon it. Here's my 2 cents: We have a kid with some sensory issues. He used to steal soap and hoard it so he could smell it later. :) Up until this last semester we homeschooled and kept an ample supply of "squishy things" (dollar store purchases) on hand to help with our focus issues. My sister gave me the idea of filling all of our unmatched socks with different items. (i.e. lentils, beans, rice, rocks, pasta, marbles etc.) I like these because they're CHEAP and because many of them are heavy-ish. 'Round here heavy squishy things are just the best.

Love the lap blanket.

Anonymous said...


if you're kids like smooth, somewhat firm at first, then softens with the heat of your hand...

go to HEB or WM.they've got plain tall glass religious candles...nuke or sit glass in warm water for a while then scrape out some of the wax, ball it up in your hand and press, squish, rub away. it's lovely.

we used this in our marriage group that met for 2+years.