Adoption Interview

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sensory Play Room Take 2

Before moving to Rhode Island we had turned our spare bedroom into a sensory playroom for Hannah. While living in our temporary apartment when we first moved we really missed all of the tools we had developed to help Hannah regulate herself. Finally, after almost 5 months in our new house, we have a sensory playroom for Hannah again. We have some of the same elements that we had back in Indiana while others had to be revised because of the space we had to work with. Some things are much much nicer than we had before, while other aspects of her old playroom we really miss. Before I go into what her old room was like and what we've done with the new room, I'll fill in those who are new here about what sort of sensory problems Hannah has.

Most people are very familiar with the "5 senses," sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. What many people don't know is that there are two more senses often described as the invisible senses, proprioceptive and vestibular. The vestibular sense I had at least heard of before. When someone feels vertigo or has an inner ear infection, the vestibular sense is involved. Your vestibular system controls balance, senses movement, and helps with spatial orientation. Hannah's vestibular system is not as sensitive as it should be. As a result she craves excess movement such as spinning, jumping, swinging, etc. She almost NEVER gets dizzy and we can't swing or spin her high or fast enough. She has poor balance (although it is improving) for her age, but she still takes excessive risks in order to get her vestibular "fix." It's almost like she's a drug addict in that her little body compels her to do whatever it takes to get the sensations that her body craves that the rest of us feel just by living our lives and take for granted. When she doesn't have enough vestibular input she is wild, overly anxious, defiant, withdrawn in overstimulating situations, and less willing to interact with peers. She basically doesn't feel right in her own skin, but doesn't know what to do about it. The proprioceptive system tells your brain where all of your body parts are in relation to each other. When someone is asked to take a field sobriety test and close their eyes and touch their finger to their nose the officer is testing their proprioceptive sense because intoxication impairs your sense of proprioception. One of the most common visible signs of proprioceptive problems is clumsiness. Hannah's proprioceptive system is also under reactive. She is extremely clumsy. She trips often, misses her chair when sitting down, and is constantly falling or bumping into things. She has trouble judging pressure so she often hugs too hard, pats too hard, and purposely crashes into people and things so that she can feel where all her body parts are. She doesn't just know where they are so she instinctively craves pressure and input from outside her body to replace the sensations that are not being transmitted properly within her body. Besides problems with proprioception and her vestibular system, Hannah is also over sensitive to smells, sounds, and touch.

OK, back to the playroom. Hannah's sensory playroom almost exclusively focuses on her vestibular and proprioceptive challenges because those are the most prominent and hard to deal with. The two things that I miss the most about her old playroom are a chin up bar that Kyle mounted to the closet door frame low enough for Hannah to grab it and swing and flip on it. This chin up bar worked both Hannah's proprioceptive and vestibular systems and she LOVED it. The other thing I miss is her hammock. We put an old queen sized mattress on the floor and mounted a hammock to the wall. We would swing her vigorously in the swing and also flip her out of the hammock onto the mattress. The hammock was also awesome because it worked her vestibular system and gave her deep pressure (proprioceptive system) which she craved. In her new playroom we have room for her to use her hop ball (works both vestibular and proprioceptive systems) in the house, there is a pole for her to spin around (vestibular), and (my favorite addition) a crash pit which works her proprioceptive system. For the crash pit I got a cheap blow up swimming pool (only $8 off season) and filled it full of pillows, blankets, and her stuffed animals. Hannah runs across the room and jumps into the pit giving her body the input it craves. Then when she is tired of crashing she burrows down into the stuff in the pit and just relaxes and watches a movie. All those pillows give her deep pressure that is calming for her. In her playroom we also have a mini trampoline, a disc swing, an exercise ball, weighted medicine balls, and a child sized shopping cart and lots of bags, baskets, and buckets for carrying and pushing heavy things around. Most of the things in Hannah's playroom are also at her OT's office, but the OT's equivalents are very expensive to buy. There is no way we could possibly afford to outfit a playroom for Hannah with all the features we wanted if we had to pay what things cost in the therapy catalogs. However, it's possible to make a fully functional playroom for not much money. The most expensive thing in Hannah's entire playroom was her mini trampoline and it cost $60. If you have an older child (Hannah was only 2 and was not very coordinated when we got it) you could get one much cheaper at Walmart, but we wanted one with handles since Hannah did not have good balance.

Here are some past posts that mention various aspects of Hannah's sensory difficulties.


Patty O. said...

I love your room. We have a similar setup in our family room. We have a trapeze swing, and a bunch of other swings that we can attach to the ceiling (net swing, cuddle, inner tube, platform and pogo stick). We also have a bunch of pillows to fall into, a trampoline, etc. The kids love it. I need to use it in a more structured way after shcool. I usually do therapy later in the evening, but I am thinking I should do an obstacle course for the kids or something after school to get Danny's energy out.

Great post.

The Trumpsters said...

While looking for ideas for a sensory playroom I found your blog. As I started to read some of your posts I felt like you were talking about our daughter! Our daughter is 5 and has sensory issues, craves physical play, and also has not reached a point of spinning where she wanted to stop. We are thinking about installing a swing in our house and are trying to figure out the best/safest method. How did you attach yours? Did you have to reinforce? Any info you might have would be greatly appreciated! Her OT told me to tell my husband I couldn't bring Abby back until the swing was installed :).