Tips From a Mom With a Son Who Had SI
August 28, 2002
My son was diagnosed with Sensory Integration Dysfunction a year and a half ago. Since that time, he and I have been on a long, winding path of learning and development. On a scale of 1-10, ten being very functional, my son started as a three. He could read and do math but he refused to do writing or drawing. He could not get himself together enough to eat his breakfast in the morning nor get organized to dress into swim trunks for swimming. All this has since changed. After a year and a half of occupational therapy and the sensory diet, the sensory integration has resolved. My son is now a happy little boy with good self esteem. He now easily engages in purposeful play, feeds and dresses himself, and writes easily.
Below are some suggestions and tips that I would like to share that might help on your journey with your child. The interventions that I mention are things that my son needed to develop his neurological system. They are provided as examples only. Each child has different needs and the occupational therapists can best provide you with what will help your child the most.
Follow the program that Rita prescribes. The sensory diet is a critical component of your child’s rehabilitation. The occupational therapy provides intensive interventions. However, the neurological system needs a steady diet of vestibular, pro-prioceptive, and tactile stimulation. You are the best person to help your child get this input. You know your child’s interest and you have the most contact with him.
Talk with your therapist at the beginning of each visit. Tell the therapist how your child’s week has been. Share your observations. Ask questions. Your feedback helps the therapist provide appropriate interventions for your child. The therapist also can give you information on interpreting your child’s behavior and ways that you can help your child satisfy a need.
Learn all you can about SI. It will help you see your child with new eyes. Things that might be annoying to you might be therapeutic for your child. For example, blowing bubbles in his milk is poor table manners but it’s an excellent oral activity. So in this instance, I would choose to allow it at home but suggest alternatives at a restaurant. The book I liked the best was “Sensory Integration and the Child” by Jean Aryers.
Observe your child. Learn how much spinning, crashing, jumping, compression, hard work, and tactile stimulation that they need to do to be calm, organized, and “functional”. For example, for my son to wake up in the morning, he needed to jump, wrestle, or do some form of hard work (pushing or pulling). For my son to calm down in the evening, he needed to spin and have some form of compression, like crashing on the bed or clapping on his back.
Look for synergies. Look for ways to do two things at once or combine two activities together. For example, my son needed brushing two times a day. We did it in the morning when getting up and in the evening when going to bed. During that time, we did reading. Either I read to him or he read to me. Another thing I try to do is join in on the exercise. I need the exercise too.
The early days of therapy are the hardest. The child has so far to go that it’s difficult to see improvement in behavior and functioning. During this time, consistency is critical to keep the skills building. Just like as an adult when you start an exercise program. When you miss a few days it takes some extra effort to get back to the same level you were at. It’s the same thing with the child’s functioning. You will see minor improvements and then deterioration, minor improvements and then deterioration. Be of encouragement. Your child will get better. Throw yourself into the program and learn how you can help your child. Learn what’s normal for his age for balance, muscle tone, and vestibular responses.
The investment of time is worth it. Your child will have break-throughs when they are in synch and functioning. This actually makes life easier. Your child will engage in purposeful play so that you are free to do other things. By purposeful play, I mean that they will find a game to do that satisfies their sensory diet (like play in the sandbox, climb a tree, create a new swinging game) and you don’t have to be there to facilitate.
Expect to make life style changes. Your child’s neurological system has had a developmental delay (or for some reason is not functioning properly or effectively). The only way to help the system catch up to where it needs to be is through SI therapy and the sensory diet. Your child needs extensive opportunities to crash, spin, bounce, push, pull, climb, etc. Then your child needs to want to engage in these activities and do them so that his system can be satisfied. This is actually the hardest part for me. My son may need to jump around to wake up in the morning but designing a game where he will actually do, that is a challenge.
For life changes, I’ve cut back my hours at work so that I can take my son to various appointment and activities. Each day, my first focus is how to get my son his sensory diet. Once that need is meet, I can then attend to other things.
This may sound like a lot and you’re probably saying, I don’t have the time to do all these things. I felt the same way. What helped me the most was a simple principle from Steven Covey. What is the one thing in your life that if you did that one thing, would make a significant difference? What is the one thing that only you can do? For me, it was working with my son. Looking back, I’m even more confident it was the right choice to make. He is successfully wrapping up his OT therapy program and all the pieces in his life are falling into place. He is successful at school – he can listen, follow directions, and complete the work appropriate for his grade level. He is successful with his relationships with other children. He is no longer the child that is teased, ridiculed, and not chosen to play in organized games. He is now successful at team sports. He can participate in a soccer game, and now is coordinated enough so that he can not only score goals but he is one of the best players on the field. He can now actually anticipate and motor plan automatic movements (without thinking about it which causes stress and takes away from the enjoyment of doing the activity), to get to where he needs to be. Whether it be on the course to kick a soccer ball, in the classroom to get out his books, or in the morning completing morning routines, and his nervous system is not only efficient to help him achieve success in daily life tasks; but allows him to reach new heights; beyond anything he could have dreamed of doing (before therapy) making it possible for him to be all that he wants to be and to be successful at whatever he chooses.
Sensory Integration Therapy has changed not only my son’s life but our life as a family. This I attribute not only to the hard work my son has done in therapy but also to the dedication, we as a family have demonstrated through follow up with the prescribed sensory diet.
To this I say, for your child and family’s benefit; a commitment and dedication to weekly therapy sessions as well as follow up with a home program of a sensory diet; will result in a gift that will last a lifetime and surpass anything else you can do for your child!
Sincerely and Best Wishes to All,
From a dedicated mother of a son with sensory integration disorder (that no longer exists)
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