Category: sensory (page 1 of 4)

NOT Your Usual Sensory Shop.

A while ago I was contacted by Bri from Way of The Cactus, asking me if I would be willing to trial and review some of the awesome, eco-inspired sensory products her company stocks. As it happens, I’d actually seen the products before in my online travels and was already interested in them – so of course I snapped her up on the offer. Anyone who knows me well will know that I really can’t stand mass-produced short-lived plastic junk and try to avoid buying it where possible (with Lego and Magnatiles being the exceptions). I’m way more of a fan of quality versus quantity, and I have to say that Way of The Cactus completely tick all the boxes here.

*I will say that the review below is my opinion only and even though the products were supplied to me – my review is honest and completely my own.*

So, anyway.

Way of The Cactus is a business run by two families in Brisbane, comprising of an Occupational Therapist, artist, social worker and academic. They are also all autistic and between the founders Leif, Leia, Julies and Bri – a wide range of neurodivergence is encountered including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety and depression. This really appealed to me because I believe that the people who know the most about autism and sensory needs are in fact the autistic members of the community.

The company was started because the founders were spending a lot of their time searching for sensory products that not only looked beautiful and were effective, but were ethically and sustainably made. And so when Way of The Cactus found their beautiful items, they wanted to share it with others with similar values.I can really relate to this because being a mother of autistic children who have a wide range of sensory needs – I kinda get sick of chucking out plastic crap that only serves their purpose for a little while before it breaks. I hated that I was adding to landfill after each and every time something was broken. And despite not being autistic myself I can really appreciate how much nicer handcrafted items feel compared to their cheaper, tackier counterparts. Honestly, there was no comparison.

I was sent four items; and they didn’t disappoint.

First up, the Rubble Lariat is a gorgeous, unique item of jewellery that feels good and looks good on.  I love that it can be altered in the way it looks depending on how it is tied or arranged. I’m actually eyeing off a pair of the earrings from the producer of them now, too. Beautiful, beautiful jewellery.

 

Sno absolutely adores the Comfort Egg and pilfered it right out of my hands when the package arrived, claiming it has her own. It fits comfortably inside the palm of her hand and she finds it really relaxing to turn it over in her hand, and also loves to rub the soft wood against her skin. She says it smells good, too. It now lives inside her handbag along with her noise-cancelling headphones, phone and essential oil – this is what a sensory kit looks like for my 10.5 year old. She loves that it is small and unassuming.

 

Papagirltribe was sent an Organic Crew tee. He’s worn it at least three times a week since it arrived, so safe to say he approves. It is soft, non-clingy and he says he likes the unusual design on the tee. I have to say I think it looks funky!

Wilding pilfered the Gum Nut Spinning Top and although it’s hard to get an action shot of it, I can say that once she started spinning it she didn’t stop for a while! Watching it spin was clearly soothing and relaxing, and it is hardy – I know it isn’t going to smash within a short space of use.

Now, onto the good news for you – my readers. Way of The Cactus has kindly offered GirlTribe readers a 15% off discount code through the month of August and September. Simply enter in the code “GirlTribe15” in the discount section of your cart at checkout to redeem it. They ship worldwide and offer free post on orders over $99.00. Please get behind this awesome company and give them your support if you are after beautiful, sustainable sensory items that will last a long time.

Happy shopping!

“Help! It’s cold and my kid won’t wear clothes!”

I’ve noticed the above phrase is something that keeps popping up across various groups and communities online, so I thought I would write a blog about my take on this topic.

So okay, I get it. It’s like 9 degrees outside and your child is refusing to put on pants or wear socks or a jumper. They point blank just won’t, and you’re worried about their health.

The thing is..

Firstly; it is a well known fact that autistic individuals have unique sensory systems of their own which mean they experience different types of input in their own unique way. Some don’t feel pain, others feel pain acutely, some have issues with clothing, others don’t, some love to jump, others don’t.. it goes on and on. Wearing clothes is more often than not due to the child’s very own sensory preferences. Maybe they just actually don’t feel the cold. Like, seriously. Fancy that! So they see no need to wear layers as the cool weather doesn’t personally affect them. Or maybe they don’t like the way the warmer clothes feel on their skin, even though these clothes may feel fine to you. Wool can be itchy, loose clothing or those with tassels can be annoying and tickle, fleece can make them sweat, perhaps they feel restricted and maybe wearing certain clothes actually hurts them. It isn’t your body, you aren’t feeling it yourself so you don’t get to force the point.

I get that you’re concerned, because their reaction to the cooler weather isn’t the same as yours. But that’s where this next point comes in..

Secondly; there is the important issue of consent. This is to say, that every child is in control of their own bodies and their own choices regarding their body. This is something that I often see discounted when it comes to autistic kids, and something I find very alarming. I have read of other parents forcing their children to wear warmer clothes, physically holding them down and forcing these warmer clothes onto their children. This is not okay. Every child has the right to feel safe and respected in their body and have their body and personal space respected by others. Forcing clothing that others deem acceptable, simply due to different neurology – is unacceptable. You might not understand it necessarily and you may not feel the same but autism means individuals think, feel, see and process things differently. Consent still applies here.

So what can you do? Well, here are a few approaches that may help:

  1. Educate your child about the weather. Create a visual weather chart with pictures and removable indicators: cold, rainy, hot, windy. Provide examples of suitable clothing choices for each type of weather. Play games about the weather, read books about the weather and pay attention together about what clothing options might be better suited for the variety of seasons.
  2. Encourage tactile exploration and play in a no-pressure, fun environment. By this I mean, offer opportunities for your child to get messy with their hands and body. A lot of the time clothing refusal is due to tactile hypersensitivity – so the things that touch our skin have a greater effect. By playing with a variety of sensory experiences, it can gently acclimatise and build tolerance for the body. I’m talking slime, sand, rice trays, play doh, finger painting, cooking, gardening, ooblek.. you get the gist. This book is a fantastic resource for ideas. Make it fun!
  3. Give the child some control. You can do this by taking them with you shopping, encouraging them to touch different clothes and exposing them to a variety of textiles. Find out what they like, find out what they don’t – and go from there.

And really, try and relax. Because at the end of the day it isn’t actually possible to catch a cold from the cold. Just make sure your child is getting a daily dose of vitamin D on their skin!

Have you seen my series of posts which explore the sensory system? Check out part 1 here.

 

Sensory Tool Box.

I was going through Sno’s room yesterday, helping her sort out all the junk she has hoarded over the last few months and we came across a pretty wide selection of sensory tools, so I thought  (with her permission) I’d share them with you. Sno is happy to share this stuff and hopes that in sharing what works for her, she can help other kids on the spectrum, too.

A little bit of background first. Sno is almost 10 years old, and she received her ASD diagnosis almost 4 years ago. Over that period of time we have found what really works for her to self-calm when she’s having a meltdown, and we also know what aggravates her sensory system. We follow the Zones of Regulation program at home (and at school) and after a bit of trial and error, her tool-kit is pretty perfect now.

Sno loves:
Tactile toys.
Deep pressure.
Nice smelling things (particularly citrus and mint).

Sno doesn’t like:
Noise.
Excessive visual stimulation.

Sno’s box of tools resides on her beside table, with her chart of Zones and ideas for each section right beside her bed.

Her box contains:
A stretchy caterpillar toy.
Scented gel pens & colouring book.
A strip of soft purple minkee fabric.
Her iPod and noise-cancelling headphones.
A few stretchy animals.
A homemade visual sensory bottle.
A spiky foot massager.
Her Tangle.
A little pouch containing some Arnica healing balm for bumps & bruises, some cuticle cream for “flicky nail skin”, some homemade essential oil roll-ons (lemon myrtle & peppermint scents) and some pawpaw lip balm.
Soft eye-mask to shut out bright lights.
A few hair coils which Sno uses as fidgets for when at school.

What she uses depends very much on that moment, but all these tools get used regularly. On long outings or car-rides or school excursions a few will get chosen and packed into her small backpack, along with a water bottle, book and a snack. That way she’s always prepared and can self-regulate independently. Being prepared like this results in much fewer meltdowns, too, due to much less masking being necessary.

The Bucket Analogy.

All peeps have a bucket, right. Peeps who are neurotypical (non autistic) have an automatic variety, that empties of its own accord whenever needed.  Autistic peeps though, theirs aren’t of the automatic variety. So this means they need to take breaks throughout the day, and make conscious, intentional efforts as their day progresses to empty it themselves.  If autistic peeps aren’t given opportunities throughout the day to empty their buckets, or if they forget to – it overflows.

And when their bucket overflows: this is called a meltdown.

 

So what sort of things can add to an autistic person’s bucket? Well, it totally depends on the person!

It could be things like:

Itchy clothing.
Plans that change.
Meeting new people.
Music that is too loud.
Really hot days.
Really cold days.
New foods.
The smell of other people’s food.
Social exhaustion.
Hot dishwater.
Hot showers.
Strong perfume.
Being at work all day.
Being at school all day.
Being at kindergarten all day.
Going for long drives.
Going to new places.
Having to make a decision quickly.
Grumpy people.
Loud people.
Other people eating food.
Having a problem but not knowing how to talk about it or not being able to.
Confrontation.
Being pushed to a deadline.
Being given too much information at the one time.
Having to sit still and quiet all day.
Background noise.
Light touching.

.. and the list goes on. All this stuff adds up. If we can consider that our autistic child, for example, has been at school all day, has had to be around new people with a change in routine and has had to travel home in a noisy car – it’s any wonder their buckets are overflowing by the time they get through the door – if they even make it to then!

This is why I will emphasise the importance of preventative breaks.

What I mean by this is regular opportunities for our autistic peeps to chill out, recharge and recalibrate.

This can be done through a multitude of methods, all of which will depend on the individual’s sensory profile and preferences.

Maybe it’s lunch alone.
Maybe it’s colouring in.
Maybe it’s time on the iPad.
Maybe it’s using noise-cancelling headphones.
Maybe it’s chilling out in a cubby alone, reading.
Maybe it’s not talking to someone as soon as they get in the door.
Maybe it’s not asking questions as soon as they get in the car.
Maybe it’s a crunchy snack, and a sticker book.
Maybe it’s a prior agreed-upon talk-time limit, and then it’s quiet time.
Maybe it’s playing computer games.

It really doesn’t matter what method it is, at the end of the day. But it’s about being compassionate and understanding.

Let’s be aware of each others needs. It really isn’t about whether you’re autistic or not, it’s about taking everything into account and being mindful and supportive of each other. Life is hard enough, consider the bucket analogy and help others. It isn’t rocket science.

 

A Letter To Peers & Their Parents – From, Me.

A thing I do every time my girls get a new teacher (or begin kindergarten) is write a letter, and explain autism and what it means and looks like for our family. I do this for a few reasons:

So I don’t have to repeat myself constantly, and to open up the dialogue about autism.

So others that have involvement in our girls lives have understanding, education surrounding autism and compassion.

So that my girls don’t have to constantly justify themselves.

I place a photocopied letter in each of the kids pockets of the class, with a photo of my girl (s). I thought I’d share Wilding’s letter below. Now please bear in mind this is her letter with her individual sensory and learning accommodations listed. Every person on the spectrum is unique and has their own individual preferences.

 


Hello!

I am Wilding. I’m five years old, and I am autistic. This can sometimes also be called ASD.
It doesn’t change who I am, it just means that I see the world a little differently to most kids my age and feel things differently, too.

Autism is a neurological disability which affects the way I process the world around me. There are some things that really overwhelm and overload me, and other things that calm me. There are things that I can do better than my peers and things that my peers can do that I struggle with and need support with.

Loud noises bother me. And so does unexpected events. When I know what is happening it makes me feel better. That’s why I have a visual schedule.
Sometimes I will go into my little green tent in the classroom for some downtime. Even though I love being around people, I still find socialising tiring and a bit of quiet time helps me recentre – so when I am in my tent, please don’t bother me or talk to me. Then when I’m done and come out, we can play!

I’m really visually sensitive. So this means if I don’t like the way something looks (for example: food) then I might not want to look at it, or watch others eat. Sometimes this may mean I want to eat away from others because the smell or the look of their food bothers me. I’m pretty literal and I say things how I see them; I’m not trying to be rude. It also means that visual things can help me calm down. You might have seen me watching the iPad or going on the computer in the morning for short bursts – this is why. The iPad is a great tool and helps me keep calm during transitions which is something I sometimes struggle with. Seeing photos of new people or new activities also really help me.

Chewing is something I love too. You may have seen my chewy necklace I wear? Mum and my Occupational Therapist got me it and when I chew that it makes me feel less anxious. It means I don’t chew my hands or my shirt or bag, cool huh? If you see me chewing it means I am anxious and so I chew to self-calm.

I love to move! Moving helps me concentrate and stay on task.  So I use a Hoki wobble stool when I’m sitting at the table  so I can keep fidgeting and I have a cute little weighted penguin that sits in my lap and keeps me grounded with deep pressure when I’m sitting on the carpet.

I am a really bright little sprite and I love to do puzzles and I’m learning how to write and read. I know all the letters of the alphabet already and can spell out short words on my own. I also love making new friends. Sometimes I struggle a little bit with personal-space so I may need to be reminded gently about this, but I’m really caring and loving. Cuddles are the best!

I am the third sister in a family of four daughters, and two of my other sisters are also autistic and so is my Daddy!

I’m really looking forward to being part of school and learning and making new friends.

Thanks for letting me tell you a bit about me. See you soon!

From Wilding. (and Jessica & Cj)

 


 

Please feel free to adopt and adjust this idea to use for your child. I find that it really helps with getting the most of out of a learning environment. I usually include a photo of the child the letter is about, too.

GirlTribe top app recommendations for iDevices

 

Wilding enjoys iPad time during her down time.. with the cat and crunchy snack,  of course

I’ve been asked by a few readers to do a blog post about some apps my girls like to use on our iDevices during their screen time. So here’s a list, in no particular order. This post is my opinion only and is absolutely not sponsored in any way.

  1. Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings.
  2. Toca Kitchen
  3. Toca Kitchen 2
  4. Toca Hair Salon
  5. Toca Tea Party
  6. Toca Birth Party
  7. Toca Nature
  8. Endless Alphabet
  9. Endless Reader 
  10. Endless Numbers
  11. Lego Duplo Train
  12. Lego Duplo Food
  13. ABC Kids iView
  14. Playschool PlayTime
  15. Tozzle
  16. Bugs and Bubbles
  17. Bugs and Buttons
  18. Bug Mazing
  19. Bug Art
  20. Little Things
  21. DooDooLite
  22. Color Mandala 
  23. Mathletics
  24. Targeting Maths

I think that’s  about it! Most of these can be used without an active internet connection once downloaded so come in handy on car trips and places where the iPad is used to aide in calming down.

If you have any apps you love that you would like added to this list please comment below.

I’m Totally Not a Pinterest Mum.. except, sometimes.. I am.

You know those parents who do craft recreated from ideas they found on pinterest? They’re super annoying and perky, yeah.. and I’m totally one of them during school holidays. Except I am totally not perky.

I find school holidays hard. Super hard. Maybe it’s the fact that I have four kids at home at the one time, for six weeks. Maybe it’s the autism factor. Maybe it’s the fact my girls all have strong, individual personalities. Living in a tiny house doesn’t help. It’s probably all that. Juggling everyone’s needs (including my own and my husband’s!) is just full on.

We tend to rotate and jump from the following things: craft & art/park visits/beach visits/library visits with the odd playdate thrown in.

I don’t really enjoy playing with my kids. I’m not the type of parent who engages in elaborate pretend play with them or plays lengthy games with them. I don’t enjoy it. But one thing I do love is doing art with them. I loved art as a kid, I painted as a teenager and one day I’ll get back into it more regularly as an adult (or so I’ve been saying for years…). I find doing art with my girls to be really cathartic, healing and it really nourishes my inner-child. I love seeing what the girls all come up with and their end results after getting involved. So during holidays I pick out a few ideas and we work on them together.

I pick projects that are suitable for all the ages – so from 2 to 29 (me!). Today I went out and got supplies (only some of them are pictured, heh) to last us 6 weeks.

Here are some of the things we’ll be working on over these holidays.

  1. Chalk flowers.
  2. Paper twirlers.
  3. Ping-pong painting.
  4. Bubble painting.
  5. Cardboard circle weaving.
  6. Candy cane sensory play.
  7. Magic milk science experiment.

They look great, don’t they? I try and aim for ideas that use inexpensive equipment and things we have laying around at home, but I did splurge a little with new pastels today. The Crayola washable paint in particular is fantastic, it comes clean off and my girls get a big sensory kick out of it.

More ideas are pinned over on my boards at Pinterest, come and follow me! And if you don’t have an account, I encourage you to create one. There’s a whole world out there and once you fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole it’s not easy to get out heh heh heh.
What ideas will you try?

Surrounded by Colour

I had a super long pregnancy with Beans. Like.. a 44 week long one, in fact. She was born beautifully at home in the end and I have no doubt that “dragging the chain” and pushing time limits to their absolute extreme will be a common theme over her life as she grows up.

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When I was 43 weeks pregnant with her, I bought this incredible hand woven Chindi rug from a store nearby. It’s often featured in photos of our family over on our instagram feed, because our house is pretty tiny and it’s beautiful and colourful.

 

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I love to be surrounded by colour, I’m not into matching and this rug compliments so much of the mishmash of stuff that we own. It’s stood up beautifully to over 2.5 years of constant treading by happy little feet, too.

I often get asked where we bought it from, you can find it here. The company also sell beautiful mats useable for outdoors and picnics, made from recycled plastic. I love that they’re made ethically and sustainably, sourcing the creative expertise of local Australian and New Zealand artists. The mats are unique, soft and wonderfully made. I think it’s awesome how the patterns honour different cultures, too.

 

Go check them out!

*This is a sponsored post. The opinions, photos an views however are entirely my own.*

Fun Tactile Play for Easing Tension

You know the days where your children are either constantly at each other or they’re whining at  you? Makes you feel like ripping your ears off huh. I felt like that today. Wilding and Nieo were arguing, fighting, squabbling.. it wasn’t going well. So I decided to whip up a quick sensory table for them and in minutes they were happily playing side by side tipping, pouring and getting along for quite a while afterwards.

 

Tactile play has that effect: it can be incredibly calming and soothing for all different types of people – adults included!

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We use a Step2 water table as our sensory table, it’s big enough for two and can be sat at or stood at. It’s stored undercover out of the weather.

Today I decided to use a mixture of dry basmati and aborio rice because that is what we had at home and I wasn’t in the mood for another car trip. I scoured the house for some implements for the girls to use and settled on some spoons, a funnel, a pastry brush, some bowls and a few scoops. We added some Schleich animals, later.

Some other fun things we have added in the past are: sequins, little shiny stones, shells, seed pods and polished stones.

We have made sensory trays using shallow containers, trays and lids of containers in the past.

They’ve been made with dry beans, sunflower seeds, dry lentils, kinetic sand, waterbeads and even dry oats. Cooked spaghetti was a messier type we made which was a pretty big hit with our tactile-seeker.

Cheap shops are great places to buy implements, if you check out the party aisle you can find great (lolly) scoops and containers and other little do-dads. Otherwise most things can be borrowed from around the house.

Sno has a mini-tactile play box at school she uses from time to time as well.

They’re great fun, and if they’re kept outside and the boundaries are laid down then the mess is fairly easily contained. Give them a go!

 

 

Does Your Child Hate Clothes? Read On..

A few years ago Wilding really struggled with clothes.
They were tickly, scratching, annoying. They kept her awake at night if they were too warm or too cool. She’d refuse to wear certain types of clothing, get stuck on the same few pieces and then she would roll up her leggings or shirts because she hated the way the fabric felt on her skin if it was too loose, and she loved the added pressure from rolling. Socks were a nightmare, too. She would fall apart if a drop of water got onto her clothes and she’d strip off naked, no matter where we were. Clothes were really distressing for her.

Who knew that clothing could cause so many issues huh? Well, they did.

Wilding exhibited what is known as tactile defensiveness. This means she was hypersensitive to things touching her skin, they caused her a lot of discomfort. She copes a lot better these days, and it’s largely due to an incredible Occupational Therapist who worked with Wilding and helped her with desensitisation therapy.

 

By exposing her body to more external stimulus, it was able to “get used to” the way different things feel in a safe and fun environment. We would let her be the one to control how much or how little she would touch, and how she would play with it.

Ideas for tactile desensitisation play included:

Body painting.
Drawing on the body with washable pens.
Playdoh.
Kinetic sand.
Therapy swing.
Jettproof compression clothing.
Food painting (with yogurt, cream cheese, dips).
Dry body brushing.
Making mud pies.
Beach play starting with dry sand moving to wet sand eventually.
Homemade “goo” or slime.
Making biscuits and shaping with hands.
Gardening and planting seedlings.
Finger painting.
Water beads.
Playing with sensory trays filled with cooked pasta, dry rice, dry beans, lentils.
Shaving foam art.
Clay play.

The more exposure she got to these different activities the better she learned to cope and the less her clothing seemed to bother her. Her skin became less sensitive to fabric against it and she slept better, too. These days clothing isn’t really an issue at all anymore, but she does still like to have a wet wash doth nearby for really messy play – and thats’t totally fine by me.

 

 

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