Special Services at Home (SSAH) has temporarily expanded their list of eligible expenses for families while community-based activities and settings are closed. This includes sensory items that can assist with anxiety, stress and can support any clinical or behavioural plans.
With this information, families are wondering what to purchase, what can be most helpful to their child(ren) during this time, as well as where to purchase these items. Grandview Kids Occupational Therapists Pamela Lam and Samantha Milligan have compiled a list of common sensory items and a brief explanation. This blog post is by no means a recommendations list, but it may give you an idea about what’s out there!
For larger pieces of equipment (e.g. swings, weighted equipment), we highly recommend you consult with an OT or medical professional to determine if this equipment would benefit your child, and they can also provide guidance on safe usage.
Trampolines – Whether it’s an indoor trampoline (for children over the age of 4) or outdoor trampoline (for children over the age of 6), trampolines are great for providing vestibular and proprioceptive input. Bounce on your feet, your bottom, bounce together while holding your child’s hands to work on language (more! again!). Endless hours of fun!
Scooter boards – These are great fun for children working on core strength and also provides proprioceptive input. Propel in a prone position (child lies on tummy to propel with hands/feet), or pull the child with a rope. Take turns pulling and being pulled! Scooter board races are also a hit with siblings!
Alternative seating for older kids – Alternative seating provides movement, whether it’s rocking or bouncing. These can be especially helpful for older kids who have difficulty sitting still and focusing for long periods of time. Use during “home school” time! Examples: classroom rocker chair such as Zuma or Explorer rocking chairs, ball chairs, wedge wiggle seat, wiggle disc (great for younger kids!).
Swings – First, ensure you have enough space and clearance in a room before installing a swing, and that the ceiling/beams can support the weight! Some families may opt to hire a contractor for safe installation. Mats or pillows underneath the swing are also a great idea for safety reasons. Does your child like to rock and swing back and forth to calm? Does he/she like to spin in circles or go upside down? This will affect parents’ decisions in which type of swing they purchase. Some swings only allow for linear movement, while other types of swings allow for some rotary input. Swings also come in different fabrics (e.g. cotton, lycra), which may be something to think about if a child is tactile sensitive. Always supervise the child in the swing, as he/she can easily become overstimulated!
These items provide deep pressure input to calm a child or to help him/her focus for short periods of time. Remember weighted vests should not weigh more than 5% of a child’s body weight, and weighted blankets should not weigh more than 10% of a child’s body weight. Always use with supervision and for no longer than 30 minutes at a time (30 mins on, 60 mins off). It should be noted that the research on the benefits of weighted items is not conclusive and there are safety risks associated with use of weighted items (e.g., overheating, muscle fatigue).
Weighted vests – Weights are typically at the shoulders in weighted vests, and sometimes at the bottom of the vest. Removable weights are usually a safer option since children can’t try it on or trial it before buying during these times and that way parents can gradually increase the weight as their child becomes accustomed, up to 5% of the child’s body weight.
Compression vests – These are typically a neoprene material with Velcro closures on both sides. They provide deep pressure (a “hugging” feeling) in the torso and abdominal areas when the Velcro is fastened tightly. The amount of compression can be adjusted to suit the individual child’s needs.
Weighted blankets – These can be used during “sensory breaks”, quiet time, or when reading a book. If a child is tactile sensitive, blankets are offered in a variety of fabrics. Remember never to cover a child’s face with the blanket and ensure it is not wrapped around the child! It is not recommended that children sleep or be unsupervised with weighted blankets for safety reasons.
Weighted lap pads or animals – During seated activities, these can be placed on a child’s lap or shoulders to help them focus. They come in a variety of animals and colours so kids can pick their favourite!
Beanbag chairs – Beanbag chairs can provide a cozy space for children to take a break, relax, read a book, or calm down.
Noise cancelling/reduction – Children who are sensitive to loud noises, are easily distracted and/or can’t seem to filter out environmental noises when they are doing homework typically benefit from noise cancelling headphones. There are larger noise cancelling headphones for younger kids – these can be purchased from a specialty store or even from a hardware store! Older kids who do not like the look of large headphones may respond better to regular earplugs or the Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs.
Sound/white noise machines – These can help children sleep at night by reducing his/her sensitivity to other sounds in the home environment. A white noise/sound machine may also be helpful for children who are often distracted while in a busy environment.
When thinking about creating a quiet corner for a child, a tent can be a great way to provide a calming and private space! Parents may want to put their child’s favourite calming activities inside the tent – such as books, colouring pages, puzzles, blankets, etc.
For more information on sensory processing and regulation, please feel free to register for our upcoming webinar on Wednesday, April 29th at 2PM. https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJErc-6prz0pEtenc6FZrczXyN9rLmj_4AVJ
Can’t make it? No worries! The recording will be posted on the Grandview website https://grandviewkids.ca/programs-services/services/parent-caregiver-education/
Where Can You Buy Sensory Equipment?
School Specialty www.schoolspecialty.com
Special Needs Toys www.specialneedstoys.com
Scholar’s Choice www.scholarschoice.ca
Toys, Tools and Treasures www.toystoolsandtreasures.com
Weighted For You www.weightedforyou.com
Canadian Tire www.canadiantire.ca