Today while working with one of my vision therapy patients, I heard one of my other therapists, ”Sue,” getting very frustrated with her six-year-old patient, “Peter” during their therapy session. This high energy first grader had just come from a long day at school and now was expected to continue to focus and concentrate on specific tasks to work on his tracking and convergence issues. Needless to say, it was not going well.
He was squirming in his seat, looking away from the tasks and trying to engage “Sue” in conversations that would distract her and keep him from having to do his work. It was becoming a battle of the wills between the two of them. While my patient was working on an individual activity, I grabbed a weighted blanket and put it on the lap of our wiggle worm patient, “Peter”, and went back to my area. Within about a minute, I could hear that “Peter” was completing the tasks that “Sue” was asking of him. The tension along with “Peter’s” inattentiveness was eliminated and he went on to have a productive session.
After this incident, I discussed with “Sue” that “Peter” has a lot of sensory issues and would not be able to complete the tasks effectively without her integrating some sensory breaks and techniques into his therapy sessions. The weighted blanket, a stress ball to squeeze, taking a break to do jumping jacks or toe touches are just a few of the things that I recommended that she try.
During his next therapy session, he did amazingly. “Sue” provided him with the sensory support that he needed, and it was like working with an entirely different child. He accomplished goals and in turn was very proud of himself.
The sensory breaks listed below have been found to be effective. Of course, every child is different and what works for one, might not work for another and what works one day, might not work the next. I encourage further investigation and experimenting with your own child.
- Wall Pushups – Similar to floor pushups but standing and leaning with hands on wall. Bend at elbows and lean in like you are “kissing” the wall.
- Jump on mini-trampoline
- Jumping jacks/jump rope (count to a certain number, sing ABCs, spell name)
- More Proprioceptive Solutions
Oral Sensory Breaks
- Cold drink of water,
- Crunchy or chewy snack for resistance,
- More Oral Sensory Solutions
- Hanging upside down
- Sitting on an exercise ball to complete work
- More Vestibular Solutions
As parents, it is very important to provide these sensory breaks for our children when they are trying to complete their homework. Regardless if the child has any diagnosis, but especially if they do, allowing them to do activities that provide sensory input can be the difference between a child that fights you the entire time doing homework or one that cooperates and completes the work in a timely manner.