My couches take a beating on a daily basis. At one point they were a beautiful and new (and expensive) Raymour and Flanigan chenile pull-out sleeper couch and love seat duo. Now they are my three active children’s gymnastics mats, trampolines, and punching bags. I’ve given up trying to protect them from little feet and high energy. The once plush cushions have started to sag, but I can’t bring myself to purchase new couches because I understand my kids have sensory input needs that are greater than and different than my own. I don’t want to waste my breathe getting upset over my couches when my children just need an outlet to meet their needs. So, I’ve decided to sacrifice my own desires for a lovely living space for now in order that my children’s needs are met.
My two youngest children are classified as “sensation seeking” and need high levels of activity to meet their sensory needs. However, it isn’t possible for them to always be in high aerobic activity, and to avoid them causing disruption to other children we have had to learn other ways to provide them with tactile stimulation. Fidgets (small toys or swishy balls) help my children stay calm and seated for longer periods of time. We have needed to become educated on ways to meet their sensory needs in order to help daycare providers and teachers understand that our children are not bad kids, but that they need to meet their sensory needs by being allowed some flexibility in movement and that getting them involved as classroom helpers gives them positive outlets to receive the stimulation they seek. Websites like sensorysmarts.com have helped us make suggestions to our partners in raising our children. We do consider their teachers and daycare providers partners and communicate what works and doesn’t to help them as they help us care for our active little ones.
It isn’t always easy to take sensation seeking children places because their need to move and receive input can often conflict with the setting (restaurants, performances, church) which makes meeting their needs even more challenging due to not wanting to disturb other people. Even grocery shopping has been difficult because my active children refuse to ride in the cart. They prefer “helping” me get items off the shelves which has resulted in several accidents and led to my 2-yr. old scaling the cookie aisle to get the Oreos. I have started buying groceries online to avoid the hassle of my overly active children or I try to take only one of them at a time.
I worry about my kids going to Elementary school. I know they will challenge their teachers (I’m a Special Education teacher, and they often challenge me), but I fully intend to make sure they have OT services in place, and to send them with an arsenal of fidget toys, cushions to sit on for wiggle room, chewies (necklaces or pencil toppers) for oral stimulation needs, and weighted vests to remind them to stay seated. Whatever it takes to meet their needs and help them also meet with success in school then it will be done.
This summer we bought season passes to Lake Compounce an amusement park in Connecticut. The tickets were a great deal, and we knew our active sensory-seekers would enjoy themselves and going there would wear them out. While visiting we attended a performance by a group of acrobats and aerial performers. My two active little kids didn’t move at all during the show. They were enthralled completely by the trampoline flips and spinning of the “circle girl” and wanted to see it again and again. My 3 year-old said, “I want to jump up and fall down.” He loved the visual sensory stimulus and wanted to participate in the show with the performers. The performers were awesome– they allowed our children to take photographs with them every time we saw the show, and they started recognizing us when we came in because our children were so excited to see them perform each time.
My children are all now enrolled in either Acro dance or Kiddie Gymnastics. They love their classes, and their physical needs are being met, plus the activity wears them out, which I love. The little kids call their classes “jump up and fall down,” and I think that’s an appropriate name for what it’s like parenting children with sensory issues–sometimes things are up and sometimes they fall down, but you just keep on jumping. I’m really grateful for the physical outlet of gymnastics, but I do know that my couches won’t be leaving us any time soon though.
See the link below for resources for children with sensory processing disorders:
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