We stood barefoot on damp earth in drizzling rain, watched and listened as cars zipped by. We climbed trees and stomped in puddles. Waded into murky lake water, our bare feet slurping the gooey clay. We immersed fingers in tubs of balls and poms, plates of jelly, baskets of squeezable things. Listened to birds, wiggled toes in wet grass. Enjoyed bubbles, beans, colored rice, shaving cream, play-doh, water balloons, beads, bells, dirt, mud, bowls of wet stuff. We added scent, varied sound and color, incorporated light and motion, modified textures.
Why? Exposure to lead in the early years alters the function of a child’s developing brain. Social and educational deprivation, limited life experience and nutritional deficiencies inhibit her mental and physical maturity and influences his future performance in school.
And sometimes? All of this together? Impairs an individual’s ability to process sensory input.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a brain condition that affects the brain’s ability to perceive and respond to sensory information causing…(hypersensitivity) to surrounding environments.
There are 8 sensory systems that may be affected when the brain and body misconnect:
- Visual (sight)
- Auditory (hearing)
- Tactile (touch)
- Olfactory (smell)
- Gustatory (taste)
- Vestibular (part of the vestibulum in the inner ear, involves the ability to coordinate movement with balance)
- Proprioception (ability to track the body’s position in space; recognize stimuli and respond by appropriately contracting muscles and joints)
- Interoception (ability to sense hunger, thirst, heartbeat, need to eliminate, etc.)
The causes of SPD are not yet fully understood, although some form of the disorder usually exists where there is autism or learning differences like ADD/ADHD. Sensory deprivation, especially when it occurs in the early years, may be another factor.
When Wonder Boy and Amaze Girl came to live with Super Daddy, both had sensitivities to light, sound and texture. They were fearful, clumsy, could not catch a ball, ride a bike, stand on one foot, productively hold a pencil or utensil. Wonder Boy refused to eat anything but frozen pepperoni pizza. At 5 years old, he was not potty trained or sleeping through the night. Both had an overwhelming need to be touched, held, squeezed, hugged.
Increasing the children’s tolerance to a variety of foods, along with gaining cooperation when it came to toileting would take another year of focused, regularly occurring effort. Meanwhile, our attempts to waken under-stimulated senses eased transitions, calmed, soothed and brightened little bodies and minds.
After sensory play, the children were more open to learning.
We filled small pools with blue sand. Tiny toes touched the cool, azure grains. Soon, fingers, hands, arms, whole bodies were involved. The children poured sand down shirts, trickled it into plastic containers. They smelled, touched, saw, listened as the textured grains complained.
Later, there would be every day reading, writing, a trampoline, bicycles, swim, baseball, gymnastics. Doctors, school, music, speech and occupational therapy; diagnoses. There would be activity, growth, progress.
But first? Twice a month? There was Sensory Saturday.