Bedtime is always difficult for most children, and it is very challenge for children whose nervous system is unable to process and integrate information from their environment. When I knew that my son was experiencing sensory processing difficulties for getting to sleep, I began understanding why he could not calm down to fall asleep by himself, or why every night in his bed, he was so restless, flipping and flopping his head in one way and then the other.
Even though I was familiar with the issue of sensory process, I realized that I needed help and more information. I noticed that my son had several signals of sensory processing disorder. For example, he overreacts to nail cutting, hair washing, bathing, tooth brushing and I was wondering how I needed to help him. He also covered his ears and screamed with loud sound and white noise irritated him. He was constantly moving his body, eating a few bites because of his acid reflux, taking his clothes off and resisting being dressed. At home we played different physical game activities to lower his high level of energy; but he seemed to be overstimulated. I started looking for an experienced and skilled Occupational Therapist (OT) to diagnose my child. I wanted to know what appropriate activities are for him. How often do we do these activities?
When I met her, she said that we needed to plan a “Balanced Sensory Diet” which is like a fitness plan. We scheduled a combination of organizing alerting and calming activities to meet the needs of my child’s nervous system. The sensory diet solution has multi sensory activities. I will mention some of these that helped my son to sleep. I practiced calming activities to decrease my child’s sensory stimulation. During our sessions, I observed my son’s facial expressions, watched and listened for nonverbal signals. I needed to figure out if the strategies were working and how his body responded to the activities.
First we eat dinner and brush his teeth two hours before bedtime. Then we played for 45 minutes. He jumped on a mini-trampoline, bounced on a therapy ball, crawled on his hands and knees and had fun finding little toy animals hiding in box of dried beans. After that we were swinging in a blanket, rocking on his wooden horse or in a rocking chair. We played these activities for 20 minutes in his bedroom with dim lights and very quiet. I also gently squeeze his feet, legs, hands, and arms to help him to be soothing at bedtime. At the end of the session, I honestly did not mind lying down next to my son. It was a good quiet time for both of us.
In my next posting, I will mention the different types of Sensory Processing Disorder and how these impacted my son’s sleeping sensory diet.