Peter is in a phase of crazed sensory seeking. He is constantly finding sticks, hangers, and papers (including important papers) to tap on. At times he’ll get a crazed look in his eyes, and will even go after his little brother to tap on the top of his head! (Luckily, the little guy is a fast dodger.) Needless to say, we are always on the lookout to find alternative ways to satisfy this mad sensory seeking.
A terrific occupational therapist named Susan Spitzer suggested we get Peter a body sock, a big stretchy breathable bag that Peter could hide inside and stretch his limbs for proprioceptive input. He loved it, but wouldn’t come out. So Belinda, his super intuitive ABA therapist, came up with a very cool game I want to share with you.
She had been doing a math lesson with him (counting by 5’s) when the sensory craze hit, and he dove into the body sock. So she had him tak e one end of the sock, and she took the other. They pulled tug of war back and forth as they took turns counting by 5’s. She made it cognitively very automatic and easy for Peter by counting the tens out loud so he only had to add 5 to each number she said out loud. So Belinda would pull and say 10, and Peter would pull and reply 15; then she would pull and say 20, and Peter would pull and reply 25,etc. They counted up to something like 300! as Peter enjoyed the game so much. Best of all, Peter’s sensory craving was satisfied by the end, so he came up to the table to work happily.
The game is a good example of what Susan told us, “Try inserting a cognitive demand into the compulsion.” I speculate that that engages the frontal lobe which gradually takes overrides the sensory compulsion, especially as the sensory needs are being met. Managing this in the context of relationship, with the fun of pulling back and forth, engages affect which drives motivation. The result is a happy, regulated, connected kid with frontal lobes primed to learn some more!