For many kids and adults with ADHD and/or who are autistic, there are are certain sensory needs involved in managing daily life. Some people like my Wonder Boy are sensory seekers. He smooshes firmly into anything he can, and this firm approach to life helps him to know where his edges are. He was a typical seeker- he walked up on his toes all the time, he needed to have brushing therapy and joint compressions. He likes his Body Sock and used to prefer his clothes on the snug side.
Other people are like my 10th grader. He’s a sensory avoider. He strongly dislikes anyone to touch him, he keeps his fingernails long so that nothing will touch the pads of his fingers. He doesn’t like tags on his clothes, and bright sunlight is painful to his eyes.
Figuring out what’s needed really involves a fair amount of trial and error. Through the help of occupational therapists, we were able to try out some items that helped Wonder Boy to get the sensory input he was so desperately seeking. Items like stretchy gloves, bracelets, compression clothing, and weighted blankets were all tried. We’ve used balance boards, peanut balls, and squeeze vests. There have been so many items that have come and gone that I cannot possibly remember all of them.
As a parent, the task of narrowing down the vast quantity of sensory items is really daunting. We have so much to think about daily, and finding the right sensory diet is key to your child’s well-being. When they feel good, we can take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief.
Those who know me personally know that for 8 years I worked from home. This was ideal because I ended up needing to be home for five days a week of therapy for Wonder Boy, and it is so much harder to manage with both parents working outside the home. I was already working from home when I had both Speedy and Wonder Boy, so I suppose that the silver lining was that I didn’t need to upheave our already chaotic lives when we realized that WB needed help.
For all of those years, because I was in sales, any and all available storage space in our apartment was dedicated to my samples. It was… overwhelming. My husband’s happiest moment when I changed career paths was when we were finally able to hand all of those items off to my former boss. We suddenly had closets again! And I was able to do something I’d been contemplating since the day we moved in: create a nook for the boys in one closet. We have a closet that we refer to as the “Harry Potter” closet- it uses the space beneath the stairs and has a short door on it. Where it is in relation to the building means that it’s also nice and warm, as it sits over the room where the boilers are.
This newly empty room was a blank canvas, and as we had already tried a variety of items, we had narrowed it down to the items that are currently providing the most benefit to WB and Speedy. Fortunately for me, WB has his services coordinated through an agency where there is an Autism Lending Library.
Okay, so I also work there, and this is the same amazing place where WB went to pre-K. I love being a part of this amazing place, and I just wish you all lived here so that you could get services here! That said, many of you are receiving some sort of service coordination, and if you are not, we need to talk- I can help you track down resources!
The Autism Lending Library has a bit of a deceptive name- it’s not just for people who are autistic, it’s more of a sensory resource room.
Through the ALL, we were able to try out a stretchy Body Sock and a Yogibo for the new sensory corner. Once we knew what would work, we ordered items for the room. The Yogibo was too big and FILLED the room, so I opted for a smaller bean bag and the body sock. I then hopped onto Amazon and found a really cool color-changing light, reminiscent of the 70s. Another great resource is Target’s dollar section.
I also ordered a “mermaid” pillow, which is a new trend with two-color sequins covering the pillow. Swipe your hand one way, and one color appears. Swipe the other way, and the second color appears. It’s pretty addictive, actually. These kids didn’t get this from nowhere- I’m a sensory seeker too!
I found color-changing glitter-filled balls and light-up wands, which went into the room. Last but not least, the weighted lap blanket and marble maze fidget that were made for me by a friend.
What will work for your loved ones may not be the same, so it’s trial-and-error for a bit. I recommend looking for an Autism Lending Library in your area (there are quite a few around the country), or asking friends who may have these items if you can borrow them for a time, to see how useful they’ll be.
Here are photos! I really had fun with my “models”! Below are links for the light that I mentioned as well as another light that I put in their bedroom for easier bedtime transitions.