Saturday, November 12, 2011

On Tents and Deep Breaths

We've made it through the first portion of Daniel's intensive OT with Lisa! This is the end of our first week of a three week break from OT (to allow Daniel's brain to assimilate all he has learned there). We took our break a bit earlier in the schedule than originally planned, but we'll start back up with OT four times per week during the last week of November.

So far, it's been a pretty difficult week as far as how Daniel is doing with regulation. However, we got back Thursday night from taking a little overnight vacation to the Oregon coast to distract us all from how hard it's been lately, and that helped (at least me) immensely. I'm trying to keep in mind all the things that have already changed since we began OT (even if not for the better). I've learned that any change is a sign that his brain is adapting to new things, and I try to remind myself of that often.

Most of what we've been working on in OT is learning new strategies to help Daniel regulate his nervous system, which helps him sleep better and prevents digestive difficulties and meltdowns. Part of his "sensory diet" is doing heavy work, which involves playing with heavy objects like weighted stuffed animals, small medicine balls, and bean bags. He also spends a fair amount of time climbing up and down the stairs (and other such full-body physical activities), which fulfill some of this "heavy" purpose as well.

In addition, we've been working a lot on calming activities which we do with Daniel before and after any highly stimulating activities, like going to the grocery store, talking on the phone, or going to a playgroup, for example. We've made a cave-like tent in his bedroom which serves as a kind of sensory deprivation area: it's dark, small, and quiet, and he loves to lie in there and chill out.

We play Gregorian chant throughout the downstairs of our home (where Daniel and I hang out) during the day, which seems to really mellow him out a lot. He also needs to chew on things a lot to help him calm down (which provides a lot of proprioceptive input through the jaw) and as such, we're expanding our collection of teething/chewy toys for him. This is another reason why Daniel (still) uses a pacifier: sucking is very calming and regulating for him, so we're keeping it around for a while longer.

Another thing we've incorporated into calming time is a weighted blanket. We use it during time in the tent as well as in bed to help him fall asleep for naps and nighttime. The weighted blanket works so well that I've made Daniel one of his own, and I'm going to begin providing them for sale locally to other families with sensory kids.

Daniel is signing more often (and more variety!) since he started OT. He's added "food," "please," and the (universally recognized "correct" ASL) sign for "more." He's also started (appropriately) nodding his head for "yes" and shaking it for "no," which helps us a lot when Jaymz and I can't figure out what the heck he wants.

Another thing he's started doing since this round of intensive OT is that he takes deep breaths. He started doing it early on in our sessions, and he's continued to do it when he begins to get overwhelmed or overstimulated. Of course, we're encouraging it a lot because deep breathing is such an incredibly effective technique for relaxation and coping with stress (no matter how old you are!). I'm impressed that he discovered deep breathing intuitively, and he uses it to calm and regulate himself.

Whenever Daniel takes a deep breath, I find myself taking one with him, both to encourage the practice and to use it to regulate my own body and emotions. I'm very grateful that this particular tool is part of our new routine. There's nothing like taking a moment to participate in some focused breathing together.

Now, here's hoping that next week is just a little bit easier!


  1. It sounds like you and he are very intune with his needs. I would imagine it has been frightening and overwhelming at times to figure out what is needed. I'm so glad to see you have some tools that are helping and that he is responding with the love and patience he has so obviously been raised in.

    I'm also glad you took some time away to recharge yourself <3

  2. I admire your dedication, Amy. You are really rockin' this whole thing.


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