Friday, March 2, 2012

Sensory Processing

Years ago my mom told me about something called Sensory Processing.  I was so intrigued.  The thought of kids needing bear hugs to calm down sounded soothing to me.  I knew they had special clothes without tags, and vests that were heavy - like the apron the dentist gives to to protect you from the x-rays.  I never knew it would consume me to this point.  

Fast forward to 2007.  Our beautiful baby girl was very vocal about being over stimulated.  I thought I was just a better mom.  I'd been though this before.  I knew more about parenting.  I'd read all the books, and put them into practice with the older daughter.  Ava needed to be put down fairly often.  She was happy to lay in bed awake, then fall asleep.  When she was two, she'd put herself down for a nap.  When she was three, we knew something was off.  It just wasn't typical.  When she turned four, we finally got in to get help.

We don't have all the answers for her yet - there's still more to learn.  But so far, we do know without a doubt, she has Sensory Processing Disorder.  Online I see it called SPD.  I haven't gotten comfortable enough to call it that yet.  You see, I'm still explaining it to those friends & family around us who don't know what it is.  Think of it like the "Princess & the Pea."  The tiniest grain of sand in her shoe feels like a boulder.  That little brush against her skin is a major scratch.  That itty-bitty bump, it was a hit.  It goes the opposite way too ~ she can hit you, and barely notice she's touched you.

Along this voyage of the past year, I'm also more confidant that Sensory Processing is part of my being as well.  You'll never catch me without sunglasses ~ and if you do, we either turn around to go back & get them, I buy new ones, or I'll whine until you give me yours.  I spent 3 extra minutes this morning getting some odd seed out of my sock.  I could feel it...but I never did see it fall away.  As a child, I remember spending hours swinging in circles.  Or tipping my whole body so that my head was upside down as I swung.

Which leads us to our newest house project.  An indoor therapy swing.  During our intake meeting with the occupational therapists, Ava was introduced to a swing that had a platform, but could go round and round like a tire swing.  She swung in a circle for almost 45-minutes, with just a 15 minute break somewhere in the middle.  I knew we needed one for the house.  And secretly, I've always wanted a swing in my house.

Ava at therapy.  Now that I have the hardware, I may need a swing like this one too!  Its just a piece of double knit fabric.

 We ordered a tire swing kit from Ace Hardware for the parts.  It can support 350 lbs of weight.  I found some great fabric on sale - nice & sturdy, upholstery stuff to hold up to kids.  I also bought 2 large pieces of batting for the cushion.  The seat is 36 x 36 square plywood with rounded corners - just for a bit of safety.  I stapled the batting on to the board, one piece at a time.  And then finished with the upholstery fabric.

We know this will crash into the walls and the sisters! It will hold all three girls at once.  Or just one.  They can swing round in circles, go back & forth, or swing side to side.  If you sit on it, it sways just a bit and is very soothing.  I'm still learning all the fancy words and what play works with what sensory system.  But its my understanding that this is hitting both the proprioceptive and vestibular systems.  The board bounces just a bit, and of course - it swings!  This will help to organize thoughts, calm & soothe the rider.

I have just a bit more work to finish this completely.  You can see a small bit of fabric that wasn't stapled in properly.  But for now, its good enough.  And we have four very happy girls at our house...even if one of them is 36 yrs old!


  1. Thank you for posting this. As a mama to 3 wonderful kids, 2 typical and 1 awesomely autistic (plus a few extra fun things), this is a great "recipe" for a homemade bit of excellence !
    Have fun on the swing - even mommies need to spin sometimes <3

  2. Thanks Jessica! I'm just so proud of it ~ from the idea that we'd put a swing indoors, to the fact we didn't pay $3,000 for the one I saw on line, to the fact that it was finished in less than a month! (Record time around here!)

  3. Melissa, this is a wonderful idea! I hope it continues to work - for all of you!