Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sensory Strategies

For the past few weeks, we've had Kia doing a therapy called Integrated Listening System or iLs for short.  For about half an hour she listens to classical music selections that have been engineered to rewire the connections in the brain.  That is, the connections that are misfiring or that haven't developed properly to this point.  

For the longest time, she (and we!) have been trying to deal with her extreme anxiety and overloaded nervous system.  The Occupational Therapist that has helped Ryan tremendously is now working with her too, and this is one of the therapies she has recommended for us to do at home.  

You can read the research on it at http://www.integratedlistening.com/research/. (Don't worry, I'm not getting paid for this in any way!)  Mainstream medicine says there's nothing proven with this therapy.  And it's not for every kid.  The OT tried it on Ry and it was immediately apparent it wouldn't work for him.  For Kia, though, this really seems to be helping.  Almost immediately I noticed how much calmer and more grounded she has become.  Even her tummy issues have relaxed considerably.  

She still gets upset and agitated if she gets overstimulated.  Tickling games before bed?  Not a good idea, no matter what she tells you!  It's always in the back of my mind to keep her on an even keel, never too hungry or tired or irritated.  Even too much of the iLs at one time can push her nervous system over the top, so I monitor how long she's been using it, and never more than a half hour to an hour a day.  

Other things we've learned to do to keep her steadier:  giving her tight hugs when she's overwhelmed.  Making sure she gets some time every day to just read or draw quietly by herself.  Learning to keep the volume of my own voice down when I'm frustrated because what feels like just being assertive to me feels like yelling to her and sends her into a tailspin.  

I'm so glad that J is the daddy to my kids.  He has put his foot down on meltdowns and we've learned that a calm but very firmly delivered, "Please keep your emotions under control.  There will be consequences." is generally a sufficient reminder for both Ry and Kia.  Rz, we're still working on but we haven't given up yet!

I minimized Kia's still extensive wardrobe (gotta love bags of hand-me-downs!) and left her with only 5-10 of each category such as dresses, or pyjamas, or pants, or tee shirts.  Less to have to choose from and less to pick off the floor.  As well, there are no toys in her room anymore.  Too overwhelming for her.  

We have a big box of communal Lego in the boys' room, a train set and a few large stuffed animals in the basement, and a stacking set of removable drawers in the livingroom with the toys that the kids actually play with consistently.  (Soft balls and stacking blocks mainly for Rz, math cubes, Little People, matchbox cars with a folding mat, sensory fidget toys and some smaller plush stuffed animals.)

That's it.  Games are kept behind cupboard doors and generally taken out with permission.  Sounds strict I know, but the alternative is mayhem and overwhelmed, overstimulated offspring.  Keeping things tidy has been much more consistent now that the toys are easily categorized into small sets, and with them in plain sight on the main level of the house, I can enforce the "put that box away before you take out anything else" principle.  

(Confession time:  One category we haven't totally simplified yet is Art and Craft supplies.  A weakness for both me and Kia.  Little scraps of colorful fabric, old road maps, bits of lace or string that just might be useful or crafty... I've managed to contain everything behind cupboard doors, but when we get creative, things tend to spill over somewhat.) 

Lots of exercise in the backyard or playground helps use up their excess energy and I try to plan special outings (like bowling) or fieldtrips at least once a week.  

All of my children seem to have inherited my intensity and super-senses, to coin an expression.  Hopefully we can guide and train them well so that these sensitivities are a blessing, however disguised just presently!