Amanda - posted on 02/11/2010 ( 8 moms have responded )
Hi gang! I just wanted to share with you a book I reviewed recently and *highly* recommend for parents/caregivers of ASD kids and teenagers (there are even some great ideas in it for adults on the spectrum too):
The Out of Sync Child Has Fun
I never used to think of Tallahassee as a rainy place, but man, if my kids don't get more outside time, one of us (or maybe all of us) is gonna lose it.
At least, that's how I felt until I discovered Carole Stock Kranowitz' book The Out of Sync Child Has Fun. Her earlier book, The Out of Sync Child, completely opened my eyes to my autistic son's sensory processing problems. If you aren't familiar with sensory processing disorder (SPD), it occurs when an underdeveloped nervous system can't make sense of the sensory input it receives. Autistic children are often afflicted with sensory problems, but SPD can be a standalone disorder in some kids.
A child might have difficulty taking in sounds, for instance, analyzing them and assigning more importance to human voices than other background noises. Another child might be “tactile defensive,” making human touch almost unbearable to them. The Out of Sync Child described these dysfunctions and how a parent could use a "sensory diet," a daily dose of the appropriate amount and kind of sensory input, to help regulate a child's nervous system.
Billy has some minor issues with his sense of gravity which results in him craving movement and impact. He also has some tactile defensiveness, specifically related to his head. Smells and tastes affect him in strange ways sometimes, as so certain sounds and lights. By focusing on a sensory diet, a large part of which involves giving him plenty of time and space to run off nervous energy, he can manage these issues to the point that you might not even notice them on a good day.
Rainy days, though, are a challenge. But The Out of Sync Child Has Fun provides parents with fun activities that provide that sensory input inside and outside. Depending upon your individual child's needs, you can choose an activity that engages that sense. For instance, if you have a child who needs to "crash and bang" to organize his/her balance and movement (vestibular and proprioceptive) systems, you can play the "Jack and Jill" game. Touch (tactile) sensitivity can be addressed by playing with "Unpaint." And oral-motor skills can be practiced with "Puffin' Stuff."
Almost all the materials are readily available either around the house or at your local grocery, craft or hardware store. And the great thing about the activities in this book is that they're fun for any kid. So friends, siblings and classmates will happily play along, not even realizing that their nervous systems are getting a little tune-up. Parents with perfectly normally developing children will find a wealth of fun stuff in these pages to entertain their kids, rain or shine.
Here are a few of our favorite rainy day games for preschoolers (games appropriate to ALL age ranges are in the book):
1. Go Fishing
A variation on a popular carnival game, this activity has you create construction paper "fish," with a paper clip attached to each fish's head, and then "Go fishing" with a magnet attached to the end of a string on your "fishing pole." Gross motor control is practiced as the child steadies the pole and magnet to catch each fish. A variation we've tried with this game is to use the pole to catch other small metal objects (such as his Thomas the Train engines).
2. Box Sweet Box
Every parent who has ever had a large appliance box in the house knows the fascination that it holds for children. Next time, store it somewhere in anticipation of a rainy day. Sometimes when we hit a run of rainy weather, a giant box is the only thing between me and total insanity. "Box Sweet Box" plays on the fact that many autistic kids, and Billy is one of them, are "nesters" who appreciate a quiet place to go. And when they help decorate the box, it feels even more like home. Some great ideas that Kranowitz adds include opening the ends and attaching several boxes together to make a tunnel; uses a flashlight to explore and decorate the inside of the box; and depending upon your confidence in your art skills, turning the box into a puppet theater, store, castle or rocket ship to encourage make-believe play.
Pre-writing and writing skills can be practiced on the surface of the box, as vertical surfaces (like easels) are often easier writing surfaces for kids with sensory issues. Crawling in and through the box works gross motor coordination, and of course, a quiet place to nest and rest is a handy tool for any child on the spectrum. (Obviously, this activity doesn't help a child with a fear of small places.)
3. Jack and Jill
Most kids like to crash and bang. Sensory seekers, like my Billy, need to do it. Kranowitz' "Jack and Jill" activity is good for inside or outside. Outside, you would construct a "hill" with a board elevated on one end, followed by a "crash pad," or soft place to land. Indoors, we use my inclined aerobic step (I have the Transfirmer, which is secure in an inclined position), followed by a folded up mattress topper that Billy uses as his crash pad. A bean bag also works. He carries a plastic pail "up the hill" as we recite the rhyme, stomping in rhythm and then delightfully crashes on the floor when Jack "falls down and breaks his crown" with Jill (played by Mama) tumbling after. He can do this 5,000 times without tiring of it. (My personal limit is about 12.)
4. Puffin Stuff
At its most basic, this one is super-simple. You just need a straw and a cotton ball and, as Kranowitz explains, and by blowing the cotton ball across a table, you can exercise the muscles in the face that strengthen the respiratory system and speech articulators. But you can make "Puffin Stuff" as complicated as you like, including different objects to move with the straw, like empty plastic bottles, Ping-Pong balls, feathers, golf balls, tissue, marbles -- and even some things you know will be difficult to move, so that you can discuss why certain things move and others don't. You can have races, create obstacle courses for your objects -- the sky's the limit.
5. Hammer and Nails
Also fairly easy to set up (hammer + nails in log = hours of fun), this one should obviously be closely supervised to ensure that objects other than the log don't get nailed. You'll need to start the nails for your child until they get the hang of it, but if you have a "busy beaver" in your house, this one is a winner. The impact of it really seems to be a great stress reliever. I think adults could get a lot out of this one as well.
If you aren't comfortable with the idea of nails, Kranowitz suggests an alternative: toy hammer, golf tees and an inverted egg carton or a pumpkin into which to pound them.
There are a jillion ideas in the Out of Sync Child Has Fun, complete with recommended supply lists and easy-to-follow illustrations. These are just a few of our favorites, but I'd love to hear about yours.
Blogging for Billy at www.AmandaBroadfoot.com