Sensory-Friendly Gift Ideas

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and includes affiliate links.

When my boys were first diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder I spent hours searching for the best items that would help them regulate their little bodies. Now years later, we’ve tried a number of things- some we’ve loved and some they didn’t really use. Today I’m sharing my favorite sensory gifts for sensory seekers.

ZURU’s Tangle

The ZURU Tangle is a fidget toy that provides sensory and motor stimulation that has been found to help stimulate and maintain attention. It’s also a great tool as a means to relieve stress and anxiety. The shape, color, texture and visual impact of Tangle stimulates the brain and makes Tangle a fun and functional toy for children and adults alike. Tangle come in a variety of colors including Classic, Crazy, Metallic, and Sparkle. You can get multiple Tangles and connect them to create longer and more colorful Tangles! For under $5, it’s an affordable and collectable toy for everyone. ZURU’s Tangle is available at Walmart and Toys “R” Us.

Doorway Gym

In our old home we had a doorway “gym” hanging in the doorway of the boy’s room. The most used piece was a hammock but our set also had a swing, rings, pull up bar and rope to climb. The set was perfect for days we were stuck inside and the hammock swing was good for restoring balance to the vestibular system and providing deep pressure (both of which help kids on the spectrum feel more in balance). I can’t recall the name of the set we had but it was similar to the one linked below on Amazon. Whichever set you choose I recommend finding one that doesn’t need to be screwed in and has multiple ways it can be used.

Lycra Tunnel

If you are looking for a sensory toy that doesn’t take up much space you’ll want to consider a lycra tunnel. These soft, resistant fabric tunnels encourages heavy work and is the perfect activity for coordination, gross motor skill development, low tone and sensory-seeking.

Mini Trampoline

If you have a child who constantly has to be moving you will want a trampoline to let them burn off energy- especially during the colder months. We had a small square one with a handle that my sister-in-law had bought but I really like this one because it’s enclosed.

Theraputty

Theraputty is great for strengthening hand muscles and improving fine motor skills. It is sold in a set of various colors, each one having a different firmness. Children can start with the softest one and switch to different colors as their hand muscles strengthen and they find the putty easier to manipulate.

HOOT for Kids Subscription Box

Children on the spectrum can have a limited range of interests and play materials, which can make it difficult to engage in purposeful play. HOOT for Kids encourages the use of sensory materials that can help children reach developmental milestones in a unique way by tailoring each toy and activity to their specific needs. HOOT for Kids’ Treasure Boxes are tailored for your child by the in-house Pediatric Occupational Therapist. Starting at just $34.99, each Treasure Box includes a personalized activity card with suggested tips for play, including instructional tips for parents on how to play with their kids utilizing each of the hand-selected toys. This subscription box is well thought out and I love that it comes with the activity card to help parents navigate playtime with their child.

Weighted Blanket or Lap Pad

Weighted products, including lap pads, have proven useful as a calming tool for individuals with sensory issues, ADD, ADHD, autism and hyperactivity. I’m linking to one that has good reviews and is affordable but you’ll want to ask your child’s therapist what weight they’d recommend since each child’s needs will vary. You can also look online for tutorials to make your own weighted blanket or lap pad.

Playfoam

We didn’t have playfoam when the boys were younger however we just recently got some of this last weekend at the Chicago Toy & Game fair and it’s great for creative tactile play! Kids can squish, squash, roll, and sculpt while molding the muscles they need to write, draw, and manipulate objects with their little hands. Best of all, playfoam has a great no-stick formula and never dries out.

What would you add to this sensory-friendly gift list?

You might also like the following posts:

 Tips for navigating the holidays with a child who has special needs

15 Christmas Themed Sensory Activities

Tips For Parenting A Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

Today’s guest post is from Celina Miller, a fellow special needs parent who is a passionate advocate for children affected with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

How much sensory can my kid with Sensory Processing Disorder {SPD} take?

This is a question I’m faced with daily. My 12 year old has Asperger’s and with that comes the complex and confusing world of Sensory Processing Disorder. I never know what’s too much, or what’s not enough, sensory input for him. The other day, I’d finally convinced my son to help me clean up our playroom. As he put away toys and straightened up, I started the vacuum. Immediately, he put his hands over his ears and stood completely frozen. He was so overwhelmed he couldn’t even ask me to turn it off, nor could he leave the room. I was taken aback – this wasn’t like my high-functioning sixth grader who plays basketball and loves to dance. I knew the vacuum would bother him, but I thought he would get through it and we would move on.

So why was it that this time the vacuum completely shut him down – whereas before it didn’t? Or why is it that sometimes on the basketball court he covers his ears after the crowd roars and sometimes he’s completely unfazed? I never know how much sensory exposure he can take and so I never know how much I can expose him to – which often leaves me feeling just as uncomfortable as he is.

I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to my son’s sensory issues. How can I know what he’ll react to, and when? The answer is I will never know, and the truth is he often doesn’t know as he’s still learning what works…or how he can make it work for him. If you’re a mom with a child on the spectrum or who has sensory integration dysfunction, you totally understand how I feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath me, which is probably how my son feels when he’s overstimulated.

Here are five thoughts that help me, and may help you, get through a day in the life of the maze that is sensory integration disorder.

1. What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. A phrase I live by personally, but I have found it translates in the sensory world as well. I don’t avoid stimulating things. Exposing my son to different types of sensory stimuli helps him learn to cope with it and to be prepared the next time he comes across it. And while he may be bothered, it really won’t kill him. He will get over it. I never want to hinder him by what I think he may or may not be able to handle. In this world, I have to take his lead, give up control, and let him learn what works for him and what doesn’t.

2. Every day is a new day, and every day is different. I have learned that each sensory experience is interpreted differently every day. And depending on what else is going on during that experience, my son’s reaction may or may not be different. I’ve come to know that even a slight change in body temperature will make his sensory dysfunction… more dysfunctional. Just like he wakes up every day prepared for the unknown, so am I.

3. Talk about it. When I’m able to talk to my son about his sensory experience, we both understand it better. When I ask him to verbalize what he saw, heard, smelled or felt, he is able to learn from his experience and perhaps handle it differently next time. This conversation also helps me to better understand what’s going on in his world.

4. Don’t sympathize, empathize. I will never feel sorry for my son, I think he’s an amazing person with amazing gifts. He also has challenges to overcome and I do have empathy for that. I hurt when he hurts, and I smile when he smiles. When he’s left overwhelmed, in a different way, I am too. It is in this way that I can empathize with him.

5. Be an advocate. This will help you both. When I’m able to go before my son and tell people he has asperger’s – like at school, church or in sports – I’ve removed the elephant from the room. Is my son amazing and remarkable? yes. Is he also quirky and unbelievably inquisitive? yes. And when others have the opportunity to prepare themselves for the possibility that he may become overstimulated on the basketball court or during a burst of applause in the middle of the school play, everyone has the benefit of more understanding. And this understanding gives them the ability to see my son not for a quirky kid, but for that amazing boy who is gifted and overcoming challenges most of us couldn’t imagine. It gives people an opportunity to admire him – just as I do.

Celina Miller’s Bio

Celina Miller is the mother of Jim, who was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome when he was in the 2nd grade in 2009. Celina has worked tirelessly to gain the education support for her son’s civil right according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Celina has worked with the Oasis Center for Women and Children and has spoken on the importance of supporting children with mental disorders and their families. She has also been active in fundraising and reviewing grants with Autism Speaks in the Birmingham, AL area

(All thoughts above are those of the guest post Author.)

 

Why I Was Happy To Have A Diagnosis

Ever have a conversation with someone and spend most of the time thinking that they look different?  “Hmmm, she looks different today. I wonder if she got her haircut? Or maybe she got it colored? Something is definitely different today.” So at the first chance you have you ask, “did you do something different with your hair today?” and your friend says, “my hair? no. I got new glasses though.” and suddenly it all makes sense. Yes, those are new glasses. The rest of the conversation flows easily and you no longer have a nagging feeling that something is “different” but you just can’t put your finger on it.

That was me. Only it wasn’t my friend… it was my son. And it wasn’t just a nagging suspicion during a conversation… it was an overwhelming fear in most of my daily interactions with him. I began to notice something was “different” when at two and a half Jacob still didn’t have age appropriate play skills, got overly excited when around other children, had a hard time with other children’s personal space, still mouthed many things, spun in circles, walked on his tippy toes, never seemed to pause for very long, chewed on his clothes and had a variety of other “odd” behavior. The big red flag came when he started getting excluded by his peers. When older toddlers and preschoolers were noticing that he didn’t interact the same way other children their age did and didn’t want him playing with them or sitting next to them. That hurt. I didn’t want him to go through life being awkward in social situations.

So I called Early Intervention. When it came time for the initial consult the woman from EI mentioned that maybe Jacob had Sensory Processing Disorder. I had heard of that but from what I knew about SPD it was people that didn’t like loud noises, strong smells, and things like that. People that avoided sensory experiences. That was NOT my son.

He was evaluated by therapists and we were told that was, in fact, what he had. Then I learned about the other end of Sensory Processing Disorder- the sensory seeker. It all made sense. THAT WAS MY SON. Suddenly his crashing, and chewing on things, and throwing toys, and all the other things that he did that just made him look like a BAD kid and made me look like a BAD mom…. now I knew there was an underlying reason for that behavior.

I was happy for a diagnosis because now I know what is “different” with him. Now I can get him the help he needs. Now I can adjust how I parent. Now we can move forward.

Things I Love Thursday: Our New Trampoline

My boys were recently diagnosed with  Sensory Processing Disorder and I was told they would need Occupational Therapy (among other services). When I was told that OT would be hard to find I took matters into my own hands and researched what items were recommended for sensory seekers. I made a list and shared it with my family and was excited when I got a package in the mail about a week later. My sister-in-law, Jennifer, had bought the boys a trampoline (this one). I was so happy because this would give them an appropriate way to get the movement  they crave.

Thanks so much, Auntie Jennifer! :)

Do you have a child with SPD? What “tools” have you bought or made to help your child? Though every child is different, I’d love to hear what works for your family!

This post is being linked up to The Diaper Diaries: Things I Love Thursday.

(Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. This trampoline was purchased, not given to us by the company.)