Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Get Rid of Excessive energy, Increase the Focus

Today we have Sarah Smith, an Occupational Therapist, visiting on our blog. She wants to share some techniques she uses to increase the focus of students, but she first wants to explain why it works. 

Here's Sarah:

The sensory system consists of sensory receptors, neural pathways, and parts of the brain involved in sensory perception. Each child has a unique set of emotions, abilities and behaviors, and these are regulated by our unique nervous system which reflects a child's personal development. Sensory information constantly enters into our bodies through our five senses, as well as internally, through our muscles, joints and movement receptors (in the inner ear). In the field of sensory integration, the sensory system is broken up into three main areas: tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive.
The last system deals with body position, and Occupational therapists are especially interested in determining a child's strengths and needs in the area of sensory processing. A lot of excessive energy can be controlled with proprioceptive input. Proprioceptive input is a big word that means we are able to process information about body position received through our muscles, ligaments and joints. Proprioceptive processing refers to the functioning of receptors that we have in our muscles and joints and are stimulated when we engage in active movement. Another description provided by a scholar by the name of Fisher (1999) stated, “Proprioception gives us information about spatial orientation of our body, the rate and timing of our movements, the amount of muscle force being exerted, and how fast and how much a muscle is being stretched”.

10 ideas that provide proprioceptive input to increase attention and decrease excessive energy:

1.)   Sometimes, something as simple as having gum to chew on will increase attention slightyl during tasks.
2.)   Have child sit in a textured cushion (disco sit cushions), or a exercise ball.
3.)   Try Fidgits: toys that provide some resistence when squeezed. For example: fill a balloon with birdseed and secure the end in a knot, use stress balls, use hackey sacks, etc.
4.)   Place a weighted cushion, beanbag, snake, or other item on your child’s lap. Sometimes this will provide enough proprioceptive input to increase their focus.
5.)   Have your child do 10 chair pushups (while seated put hands on the chairs seat and raise the whole body off the chair). This provides proprioceptive input to the upper extremities.
6.)   Have your child do 10 jumping jacks or jump up in down in place. This provides deep proprioceptive input throughout the lower extremities and will calm your child and channel that excessive energy.
7.)   Proprioceptive input can be provided to both upper and lower extremities with pushups, bear crawling, frog jumping, crab walking, etc.
8.)   Have a quiet corner with heavy pillows, blankets, bean bag chairs that a child can place on top of self .
9.)   I had a teacher at a school once who was at her wits end, and I recommended having her put the child’s backpack on the child and fill it with a few books to provide slight pressure on her shoulders. This calmed her down and allowed her to focus on her tasks.
10.)         Carrying weighted items: carrying a book across the room or pails filled with bean bags. After 10 minutes of “heavy work”, have the child sit and focus on a math lesson or other cognitive task.

BONUS: Some other basic ideas would be to alternate between physical and mental activities/tasks. This will allow the child to get rid of their excessive energy and then transition into an activity where they have to sit and use their little brains.
Here’s a great website where one can purchase sensory aids at a relatively inexpensive cost; however, all of the items listed above can be homemade. http://www.therapyshoppe.com/therapy/index.php

I read a great quote once that stated, “The sensory systems serves as the foundation for all self-awareness, motor skill, relational abilities, communication and learning - one's human occupation throughout the lifespan”. Every child is different so you will need to try several of these ideas to see which one works best for your child.

1 comment:

  1. I can tell you all from experience that these techniques work! Thanks for sharing them with us, Sarah!