On the Go Sensory Toolkit

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 which 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.

Sensory Toolkit Backpack- InsideOurNormal.com

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.

-A Fidget Cube 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. Other fidgets could be 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.


Download Your Copy of the Sensory Toolkit Checklist!

Making The Hard Choice for School

One of the hardest parts about parenting an autistic child is that there is no one with all the answers for you. The spectrum is broad and each child is unique. This makes getting advice and plotting the best course for your child’s education unique and difficult. Many families find homeschooling a good fit for their child’s needs while others find success in the public school. The flexibility of the homeschool environment can be suited to educating a differently wired kid.  I know for a fact that my child is the brave, confident, child he is because we gave him a safe and supportive environment for the last 3 years to learn at home.

Homeschool Burnout can come with Special Needs

What often isn’t mentioned is the isolation that occurs for the parent when teaching at home.   When the child’s needs begin to limit your interactions with others it can be very lonely.  Homeschool Co-ops have been a great place for us to find a supportive community, but they do not solve all problems. You may  have to take him out of the co-op classes once a week because he’s being a disruption.  Co-op field trips can be an ordeal if the special needs child is having a bad day, and this can cause the siblings to miss a fun adventure.

Providing Special Education services at home can be exhausting and it affects the whole family.  Facilitating therapies and adapting curriculum can be time consuming.  Also, the needs of the child are constantly changing, which requires constant tweaking to the routine for everyone.  I have witnessed growing anxiety in our other kids as they struggle to make sense of it.  Unhealthy burdens can also be placed on the siblings as they have to (or feel like they have to) act as mini caretakers or guardians.

Trying Something New

For some of these reasons, we made the tough decision late this summer to enroll him in the local public school district this year.  At the end of his first day at his new school, we had an IEP meeting.  His new teacher prefaced her first comments with concerns for not hurting our feelings as the parents.  She shared with the others at the meeting that she needs help in the classroom immediately because of the multiple verbal outbursts that disrupted her class that day from our new student.

It was hard to hear another educator describe what had been such a part of our normal for awhile.  She was able to ask a team for help while I had very few people to turn to to help in the same way.  Most suggestions around me were to just “send him to school”.  Our previous experience with a local school (in another part of the country) had been very negative, so we were resistant to that suggestion for a long time.

Summer Growth prepares for New Experiences

However, last year I started to dream of other options for school for him.   I never pursued it because I didn’t want to be doing it for selfish reasons.  At times I felt like it would be choosing favorites.  Over the summer I started asking him what he thought about going to school, and (to my surprise), he liked the idea.  Recently he has made huge leaps in maturity and social interest.  He became comfortable at our city pool and could navigate the lazy river completely independently, even asking on multiple visits to go by himself.  He went to a day camp and took needed sensory breaks on his own initiative. For the first time, he was eager to rejoin the activities instead of wanting to quit and go home when he was overwhelmed.  His desire to try out school made it feel to me like this was no longer me considering sending him away to school. It was part of his desire.  As a mom it made all the difference in my motivation to pursue this different education path for him.

So here’s to a new year and a brave boy!  We will all be adjusting to a different rhythm and school routine. Now we have 2 students at home and one who rides the bus.   Those of us at home will be adjust to a missing playmate, and an empty desk.  We can’t wait to hear about his new friends and favorite activities.  I guess you could say we made already made some changes to those 3rd Grade Curriculum Choices.  


Linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers


Enrolling In Public School as A Homeschooler -InsideOurNormal

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