Before I found out that my twins had Autism, at 2 and a half, I was told that they had sensory seeking behaviors. I didn’t have any experience with sensory needs. I definitely needed to do some research to to understand what I was being told by the boys’ pediatricians. We were soon referred to Occupational Therapy (OT). This was the first step we took in the early intervention process. The boys were about 1 year old at this point. We didn’t attend OT for very long. I couldn’t see any benefit to the therapy, and I didn’t see any point in continuing. Looking back, I feel like I made the right decision for my family because it was so hard to get to the appointments. There were more drawbacks than benefits so, we stopped going.
I can’t even count the hours I have spent researching what it means to have issues with sensory processing. We didn’t have an official diagnosis, so my research was all over the place. Eventually an early intervention therapist started coming to my house for an hour a week. She introduced us to an autism specialty store where we got a hammock-like swing made of spandex. It came highly suggested, but I wasn’t completely sure how the boys would take to it. They didn’t functionally play with the toys they had, so it was definitely a gamble. I didn’t know it would change my kids lives.
From the second the swing was hung up in the playroom the boys loved it. They were engaged in a manner in which I had never seen. They were deliberately playing on this swing, each in his own way. They were genuinely having fun. Their laughter was beautiful. I was pleased, but I needed to know what the scientific benefit of the swing was, so that I could choose more toys that would satisfy their needs. I found that there are three major sensory systems that are affected by sensory processing disorder (SPD). This requires appropriate vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile inputs.
The hammock swing was satisfying the need for vestibular input, which includes motion, equilibrium and balance. I was excited to have guidance on the topic. I had read that 15 minutes of vestibular input can have a positive impact on a child for up to 8 hours after the activity. This lead to another tear drop swing so that the boys can spin, and a trampoline for jumping. These toys have made a hugely positive impact in my boys lives.
Proprioceptive input requires heavy muscle work. Think rough play and resistance activities. A big bear hug might satisfy this need. It has been suggested to me that I should get the boys weighted blankets to meet this need as well. My favorite toy for proprioceptive input is their drum set. They can bang on them as hard and fast as they want. It is very soothing for them.
The third type of input needed is tactile or touch. One might seek out a variety of textures that provide soothing input. This has meant that we eat a lot of mashed potatoes for dinner. They eat with their hands, so this provides a tactile experience. The biggest and best activity that we do with the boys to satisfy their tactile needs includes water. The boys absolutely love the water. We have a nightly bath-time routine that seems to help them sleep. They also love swimming. I try to make sure we go at least once a month as a family. I can see such a difference in my boys after we swim for an hour or two.
It is very satisfying to provide for these sensory needs as a mom. I eventually started seeing that meeting these needs helped keep the twins regulated. I will do anything to promote a good attitude. This is when we chose to give OT another shot. It seems to ground them. They always come out of therapy happy. They get to play in a ball pit and swing in various swings. They jump and throw balls. It just seems like play, but it is doing wonders for the boys. I am so glad we gave it another shot. I just know that the effort will benefit my entire family as we grow and learn together and as we try to understand more about sensory integration.
The Millennial Twin Mom