by Kate Drummond, OTR/L
In my time of practice with children, I have developed a growing interest, in addition to the traditional Ayers Sensory Integration (ASI) therapy that I provide (click here for an detailed explanation), to help teach children tools that they can use to help themselves feel good. Developing this is a big part of self-regulation. Emotional self-regulation, as described in an article by Steven Stosney in Psychology Today is "the ability to calm yourself down when you're upset, and the ability to cheer yourself up when you're down".
How exactly do tools help? Although they may not be the total solution for a child, and are not always just a "quick fix", it is important to introduce and regularly practice using tools as a family. Why is this important? This repetition creates neural pathways that, with more use, get stronger. So, in effect, the more a child uses a tool, the more of a habit it can become.
In my group work with children, and also when I visit classrooms, using the terms "physical" and "invisible" really helps children to be able to distinguish the tools, and when it may be best to use each type.
Physical Tools: These are tools that we can hold. Here are some that children enjoy. They can be highly personal, so I would advise trying first before buying, whenever possible:
- Chewy tools (necklaces, pencil toppers)
- Stretch Loops
- Noise Blocking Ear Muffs
- Aromatherapy Diffusers
- Zen Sand Tray
- Shine A Light Dry erase board
- Gel boards
- Water bottles
- Wild Ride to the Heart board game
- Coloring, Doodling, Drawing
- Ergo Ergo Seats
- Kore Wobble Seats
- Howda Hug chairs
Invisible Tools: These are tools that we can use anywhere. They can be easily taught, and should be used frequently to build habit.
- Deep Breathing
Reset Button (click here for YouTube video link)
- Acupressure Points (click here for YouTube video link)
- Movement Breaks
- Heavy Work (animal walking, jumping, pushing, pulling, carrying)
- Minute Meditations
The more often these tools are used, the more likely the child will grow and remember using the tools, and healthy coping habits will be more firmly in place. Children may begin to help friends, and even parents or caregivers to remember to use tools when they are stressed or struggling. For this reason, tools can be such an invaluable resource for any family to have in place.