Sunday, February 2, 2014

More! I Want More! Building Vestibular Opps into the School Day

Well, lots of the students we know in schools wouldn't tolerate this position, on purpose, EVER.

One of my teachers for high school students with autism told me that it was a little tricky to convince one of her students to bend over, like the quirky detective on Law and Order, to retrieve his snack and lunch from cabinets placed low to the floor.  The mean OT had asked the teacher to find "naturally-occurring" opps for the students to change head positions throughout the day and the teacher figured that food was a natural motivator.  She told me that about mid-year the student became more comfortable leaning over long enough to open his locker and pick out what he wanted to eat.  However, he had been very reluctant at first.

When we do groups with students who appear timid about active movement or challenges to their balance, we incorporate multiple opportunities for them to turn around to a table behind the work area to select materials for the activity, look up at the adult then down to their work, draw high and low on a huge sheet of paper taped to the wall and pick up dropped items from the floor.  Most of the students I see in middle and high schools sit at their desks a good amount of the day, although they do have active times when walking in the halls, during PE and vocational tasks in the school.  At home they primarily lounge and watch TV or play video games.

Sometimes these students are very timid about losing their balance and remain immobile unless encouraged by an adult to perform a dynamic activity.  Building in vestibular activities, cloaked as classroom responsibilities, or via adjusting the classroom environment (personal lockers close to the floor), can gently nudge them into more head and body movement into unaccustomed planes.

And, what about this great little guy in the photo?  Well, he's a wonderful, "typical" kid.  Look at him for a minute--what does your therapist eye tell you about his comfort level in this position?

I hope you see his sheer delight in being in that bucket swing, despite the ground being parallel with his cute, little face.  He's looking at the photographer, so easily rotating his head to do so.  One hand is flexed and holding his partially-munched cracker; his thumb is visible and not tightly drawn into his palm.  His left hand is open and mostly relaxed.  And that smile; you know he's loving it.  More!  I want more, Mom!

We might not get our students to the same level of comfort with the unpredictable world all around them, but we can make life better for them.  Especially when we work with teachers to build just-right challenges into the school day.

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