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  • Writer's pictureLucy

Sensory Products...a tool or toy?

In working with parents, caregivers and schools, many people will ask me questions such as: How does this help? How do I know if my child needs this product? Which product is the right product?

Here's my rule of thumb...if your child needs this product - it's a tool and if your child does not need this product - it's a toy! Seems simple right? Well it's a bit more complicated then let's break this down!

Today we will talk about sensory needs. I will expand on other areas; sensory seeking vs. sensory avoiding, sensory processing disorder, self-regulation and other sensory topics in the future.

So sensory needs: We all have sensory needs. We make sense of the world through our 7 senses...yes I said 7 senses! Thought we only had 5 senses right? Nope! There are also two very important other senses we have that are not very well known; but so important! These other two senses, in addition to taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing, are vestibular and proprioception. The vestibular sense, or movement and balance sense, gives us information about where our head and body are in space. It allows us to stay upright while we sit, stand, and walk. Proprioception, or body awareness sense, tells us where our body parts are relative to each other. It also gives us information about how much force to use in certain activities, allowing us to give a high five or a hug without squeezing too hard.

As we grow and develop, it is through our senses that we understand the world. Typically, we will learn how to use our senses to take in information, but not respond to all of these senses at the same time. Our brains will learn how to select what is important. So what if your brain couldn't do that? Imagine you are at the grocery store with a list of 10 items. When you look around all of a sudden everything is extremely bright, people are yelling all at once, you are taking in the smells from all isles...especially the fresh fish section...yuck. Now try to read your list, think about your budget and time you have left before you have to get to the bank. Seems stressful right? This is the world for some of the kids and teens I work with. No wonder we see 'behavioural' difficulties with these kids, such as hitting, screaming or even shutting down.

The kids that I work with, have a variety of needs such as anxiety, ADHD/ADD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder/attention deficit disorder), autism, etc. This difficulty in processing their sensory needs is an every day struggle for these kids. Sensory tools provide a number of benefits whether it be helping to calm down or increasing focus and concentration.

Stayed tuned and I will cover a number of topics around sensory tools, how they are helpful, which ones to choose and more!

Feel free to throw out some topics or questions you are interested in!

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I am very interested in sensory toys for my son. I’ve seen him use them on several occasions (i handed him one while he was doing something and he fiddled with it and sat more still while still focussed on the original task) and am trying to figure out how to teach him to do it on purpose. To pick up a fidget on the way to do a task with the intent to use it rather than play with it.

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