We have homeschooled in part for Cub to have a positive sensory environment so he can focus on learning and not on his senses being overloaded in a traditional classroom. We also make an effort to participate in learning opportunities in our community when we can. By controlling his sensory diet we can work on his social skills when we are out and about. We have made a Sensory Toolkit to empower Cub to handle his environment when we are out.
Cub’s autism shows itself strongly with his sensory sensitivities, things like loud noises and busy crowded spaces can be overwhelming and make him easily agitated and anxious. We have learned many ways we can help him control his sensory input from working with an Occupational Therapist. Through trial and error we found the ones that work the best for Cub.
On adventure days Cub takes his backpack. It has many of the sensory tools we have found to help him adapt for his sensory challenges. Having tools available to him empowers him to control the situation and learn to stay calm. We are able to make the best of the environments be encounter.
So, Whats in Cub’s Sensory Toolkit
–Grounding Object. For Cub that’s his Blankie. He grew attached to it when he was a baby. It is never far away from him even at home. Its presence and silky tag help him stay regulated and focused.
–Noise Canceling Headphones are the #1 tool Cub uses. They are easy to pull out in church or a noisy classroom. These help him control the environment so its less intimidating to him. Cub is 7 now, as he has grown he has started using these less than he did a few years ago.
–Weighted Lap pad – This was a suggestion from Cub’s Occupational Therapist. The pressure the weighted lap pad provides is calming and provides positive stimulation. Pushing on walls or a good bear hug can provide similar sensory input. Cub can wear his lap pad on his shoulders when he needs to, it has magnets in the corners to stick together and hold it on him. Having the weight in his backpack also provides the deep pressure when he carries the bag. Both of our weighted items are from CapeAble Weighted Products.
–Fidgets lets Cub move his hands and stay busy when he is in situations he can’t get up and move physically. He can play with it in his lap while sitting listening to someone talk or waiting in a line. We really like this Fidget Toy Set which let us try out a variety of fidgets and see what he likes. Some fidgets you might already have a round your house include Tangles, Slinkys, Puzzle Cubes, Rubber bands, textured balls, or Silly Putty. You have to see what your sensory seeker likes.
-A book to read, waiting is one of the hardest things for Cub. So we often bring along something of interest to have ready when the need to wait arises. Usually this is a few books to read from our home library, I wouldn’t recommend library books for the risk of losing them. He often reads these in the car when we run errands for an extended time or when he gets bored waiting for us grown ups to finish talking somewhere.
-A Water Bottle, we often forget to repack this as he often takes it out of his bag. Taking a drink of water can be an important detraction tool when he is getting anxious or agitated. He can also be demanding when he is thirsty and can’t get a drink immediately so problem solved when he carries his own supply!
-A Backpack to carry it all. The action of carrying the weighted backpack can provide input. It helps the child work towards being a self advocate in meeting their own sensory needs. I would suggest a simple design with only a large and small pocket. Its easy to lose things in too many pockets and an unneeded stress when dealing with preventing a meltdown.