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A common challenge for many rigid, anxious, and distracted kids is the tendency to be All or Nothing thinkers. This can be experienced in many ways – with their emotions, social experiences, rules, and with tasks. When you constantly live in a place of All or Nothing and Right or Wrong – it can be easy to become hyper-focused on perfectionism and rigid expectations of external experiences become the norm.
The first step towards changing any behavior is becoming aware of current behavior and then examining what other responses exist outside of our usual response map. For our sensory kids, this means exploring the space between All and Nothing – the Middle Space.
THINKING IN THE MIDDLE SPACE
Here’s an example of a simple map to help visualize and work through the new THINKING IN THE MIDDLE SPACE options. Before a known All or Nothing experience, sit down and fill out the 3 different ways that the situation could be handled through the All Lens, the Nothing Lens, and most importantly the MIDDLE Lens. This Middle Space will often have several options to explore, options that might not naturally occur to our sensory kids. Once you explore a few of these All or Nothing experiences through the Middle Thinking lens, you can try to practice them in real life situations. This helps our sensory kids have a visual map of Middle Space responses and also give us parents a map to help guide our sensory kids through a situation with verbal prompts around these new Middle Space alternatives.
* Paper and markers or word processor.
* Pictures or images that represent All, Nothing, and Middle.
* Picture Images Options: Take your own pictures of your real life tasks, pictures from magazines, stock photos, or image software like Boardmaker – http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-software/ , Picture Exchange Communication System – http://www.pecsusa.com/ ,Do 2 Learn (can sign-up for an annual membership on Do 2 Learn!) – http://www.do2learn.com/ , or Smarty Symbols Image Club (monthly membership) – http://smartysymbols.com/
* Can laminate and use a dry-erase marker for easy re-use.
* Could also make a simple, on-the fly visual using a notepad.
By creating a simple visual to help sensory kids make space between the All and the Nothing, they can begin to experience Thinking in the Middle. By helping them observe current behaviors and identify new ways of moving through an experience, we are helping them building new response habits. This is Sensory Organizing and this is meeting our sensory kids whenre they are today. Simple changes for more peaceful and empowered days ~
For many of our sensory kids, the vague or abstract can be difficult for them to understand. This is can also be true around making plans or organizing outings. For some of us, taking a walk outside because it’s a beautiful day makes sense. But for some of our sensory kids, the “why”, “what’s the reason or the purpose” gets in the way. Thankfully, we can create Plans with Purpose to help us put the why and the purpose into our family activities, yearly traditions, and / or weekend outings.
PLANS WITH PURPOSE
The best way to demonstrate this is to give an example. I knew a sensory family whose goal was to do a weekly family activity but just taking a walk or taking a bike ride wasn’t at all exciting or making much sense to their sensory child. Here’s where you can bring in the purpose and tie in something fun and/or a fascination. Maybe your sensory child like planning routes or loves maps. And who doesn’t like ice cream? This was true for this sensory family so they had found their purpose. They called it Frozen Fridays.
Goal is to map out and hit most of the ice cream shops in a 30 mile radius over a 2 month period. Each week, tie in a bike ride that ends at the ice cream shop of the week.
1) Identify the ice cream shops.
2) Map out the ice cream shops, plan the order of the ice cream shop attacks, and look for an easy bike ride around the area.
3) Make a Ice Cream Shop Visual that maps out the weeks in your plan and hang in a central area at home.
4) You could even make a rating sheet that could be filled out after each ice cream shop with a vote for best ice cream shop at the end of the summer.
Why It Works:
1) It creates a purpose, a goal for the weekly bike rides.
2) Mapping out the ice cream shops and bike rides ties into a fascination for this particular sensory child.
3) There’s a built in weekly reward after the bike ride – Ice Cream!
4) There’s clear cut start and end to Frozen Fridays – when all the ice cream shops have been hit on the map, the project is over.
When we take some time to identify a goal we might have (more time together as a family), we can then come up with an activity, find a purpose / goal, and bring in some fascinations and fun. Plans with Purpose really comes down to one very important idea that everyone can understand – your way is as important as my way and I really just want to spend time with you. Simple changes for more peaceful, purposeful days ~
The dreaded shower. For many sensory kids, this can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Chilly air, water (too cold / too hot), shampoo (smells / feels weird), so much to remember to do, managing wet, wrinkly fingers. Thankfully, we can even Sensory Organize shower time!
THE 1-2-3 SHOWER
1) TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Think about times of day when you child is most relaxed and has some sensory and regulation tickets in the bank. For example, for some sensory kids, a shower at night is too much. It comes at the end of a long day when a lot has been expected and flexibility muscles have been maxed out. Sometimes first thing in the morning of a new day is the way to go.
2) THE POWER OF CHOICE: When transitioning to an undesired task, the power of choice can often help get our sensory kids over the hump. What color towel today, do you want to use shampoo 1 or shampoo 2? A little choice gives a sense of control which helps to manage transition anxiety.
3) THE THREE STEP VISUAL: Like we do with other Sensory Organizing supports, we want to break the task down into steps, reduce external distractions (or too many choices!), and create a visual guide. Here is an example of a bathroom shower caddy that might work – The Bask Shower Caddy by Umbra from the Container Store ( http://bit.ly/1ycrYeo). I love this design – it has three baskets that are suspended by a chain that hooks over a showerhead, a curtain rod, or a towel bar for easy access. Each bin has holes at the bottom to allow water to drain freely. The bins also have plenty of flat space on the front to hold a visual image. Like our other Sensory Organizing supports, this allows us to slowly remove the visual supports over time. We can provide strong support to begin with (numbers / text / image) and then move to medium support (numbers / text ) and then light support (numbers only).
WHY THIS WORKS:
~ It does the first step (and often hardest step for many sensory kids) of gathering supplies into one area and sequencing the task.
~ We’ve broken down the task into manageable pieces and they visually understand what “take a shower” means.
~ We’ve created a visual checklist of sorts with the 1,2,3 Labels / Picture Images (and this allows for an easy verbal prompt – “Are you on Step 2 yet?”).
– Hanging Shower Caddy – I used the Bask Shower Caddy by Umbra from the Container Store – http://bit.ly/1ycrYeo
– Picture Images: Take your own pictures of your real life tasks, pictures from magazines, stock photos, or image software like Boardmaker – http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-software/ , Picture Exchange Communication System – http://www.pecsusa.com/ , or Do 2 Learn (can sign-up for an annual membership on Do 2 Learn!) – http://www.do2learn.com/
– Adhesive labels & Markets for the 1,2,3 numbers Laminating Machine or heavy duty packing tape to put over visual images to protect from the water.
Break it down, eliminate distracting stimuli, and create a visual support for shower time. Clean AND somewhat happy would be a big win! Sensory Organizing = Simple Changes for more Peaceful Days ~
So most of us are officially Back-to-School. For some sensory kids, there can be a “honeymoon period” when the excitement of the new school year keeps them engaged, on-task, and connected. For other sensory kids, feeling overwhelmed and / or forgetting things begins immediately. Thankfully, we can make simple but powerful visuals to help them prioritize and remember important items in a fun and memorable way.
MAKE A VISUAL WORTH REMEMBERING:
Identify the top 3 things that your child seems to be forgetting and then pick the one that has the biggest impact on their learning right now. This is where you start. For example, if your child is forgetting their baseball cap or their glasses, you start with helping them remember their glasses.
2) Choose an Image with Impact:
This is where you can tap into a fascination for your child – something they love and naturally connect with that will draw them in. Studies show that the more silly and outrageous we make it, the more memorable it will be!
3) Tap into Slogans:
Once you have an image, doctor it up adding in the item you are looking to help your child remember. Use popular slogans to help make the text powerful and easy to remember.
4) Make it Big and Let It Hit ‘Em in the Eyes
Print out the image / text visual, laminate it or put it in a sheet protector and hang on the door (at eye level) your child uses when they leave for school.
After success with the visual, you can drop the text and just leave the image or vice versa. Sometimes, you can switch to using the verbal prompt only “Got Glasses”. If your child has a hard time bringing their glasses back home from school, you could make a mini-visual of the picture only to hang in their cubby or locker as a prompt when packing up their backpack.
This visual example is one I made for a child I was working with who was struggling with remembering to bring her glasses to school. She loved dogs and loved her milk. So we took a picture of her dog wearing glasses and used the “Got Milk” slogan in the visual. When we support one item with a fascination, a catchy slogan, and add in alittle outrageous fun, we can help our kids remember. Keeping it simple but fun makes all the difference. Simple changes for more peaceful days ~
Now that the kids are back in school and getting into the new routine, this can be a great time to experiment with homework spots. When our sensory kids are younger, homework is often done close by parents as a way for us to help them with work but also to help them stay on task and facilitate breaks when frustration is building. As kids get older, many parents often assume that the next logical step is having kids do homework alone in their bedrooms. But for many rigid, anxious, or distracted kids, this is often too big of a step. Bedrooms are filled with distractions and if never used as a work space before, that can be a big cognitive shift for our sensory kids around the use of this space.
This is where the middle space comes in – a space that is not the kitchen and not the bedroom but a new, dedicated work space that provides some separation and independence. Often, this is a process we can make bigger then it is. But alas, you only need a few simple things for a Just-Right Homework Spot:
– An unused corner. Pick a corner in your home that is in a room next to the kitchen area (where most of us parents are while the kids do homework). The less visual distractions in the space, the better (no direct windows, limited wall hangings etc.). The corner we chose was just holding a storage ottoman before and was not adding any functional support to the room – just right for a homework spot.
– A simple desk. Here – less is more. A simple, open writing desk works well in a corner (no drawers, open lines helps minimize distraction and visually lightens the corner). The one here is the LEKSVIK Desk from IKEA – http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/80133402/
– A simple chair. Hold off on wheels and spinning chairs until you see how the space works. The chair is always something you can always change or add sensory supports to as time goes on. The chair here is the KAUSTBY Dining Chair from IKEA -http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/10242838/. few examples of simple sensory supports you can add to the chair down the road include:
1) A disk seat for movement – here’s one from Waccess on Amazon.com – http://amzn.to/1AuSX1C
2) A bouncy band for feet movement – Bouncy Bands on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Bouncy-Bands-students-without-distracting/dp/B00KRTNH0O .
– A Clean, Open Desktop – the key to a productive work space for many sensory kids it keeping the visual desktop space clean. On the desktop, just keep it to writing utensils, a desk light, and a homework plan. Having a supply bin close-by and accessible. Which brings us to….
– A Portable Homework Bin – in order to keep supplies close-by and accessible (but off the desk), get a portable bin to hold all homework supplies. One I like is the Sterilite Large Showoff Storage Container – http://www.sterilite.com/SelectProduct.html?id=25&ProductCategory=248§ion=1
Before your child is knee deep in homework, experiment with finding a simple, distraction free homework spot for your chid. A new, somewhat separate homework spot supports independence and self-reliance. A middle step as you help your sensory child make space for life ~