Thursday, July 2, 2009

Under Pressure

Pressure, I have said, is your friend. Not pressure put on you by teachers or stress from everyday living, but deep pressure for your sensory-sensitive child.

As each day progresses, your SPD child's status will vary: over-stimulated or under-stimulated. Maybe both? Tell tale signs are a vacant stare, outbursts, being clumsy, suddenly falling asleep, violence, stemming, and tantrums. If that is the case (and in my sons' case it is a daily occurance) the child is unable to get back into balance by himself. He must have help. Self soothing is not in the SPD child's arsenal, and the situation will get worse if nothing is done to help him.

The reason deep pressure works best is the fact that pressure on a childs vestibular system assists the child to become more comfortable in his or her own skin. Understimulated children become focused. Overstimulated children calm. It is like magic. No, really.

Here is a great plan of action. You can try this when you child is calm, or when he needs to calm. Anytime of day or night is right for deep pressure.

1. Have your child lay on his tummy on a couch. Pile loads of pillows on top of his legs and torso. Be sensitive to your child's personal dislikes...i.e. keep his arms free, make sure he can breathe, etc. Tell him you are going to make a sandwich and he is the meat. put a pillow on and push it down. Describe it as the lettuce. Then make a pushing all over the pillow..spreading the mustard. Keep going until there are many heavy pillows on top of him. Push down each time. By the time you get to the top of the sandwich, he will be calm and very very happy.

2. Weighted blankets. You can order them from sensory processing websites. They vary in weight. You can see which your child likes, light or heavy. The blankets normally have weights that can be adjusted. Again, each child is you can experiment.

3. Weighted animals. Again, from sensory websites. They wrap around the neck and push down. Great for younger kids. Not too much weight but enough for concentration purposes.

4. Weighted vests and belts. Order again. The vests and belts have removable weights in them, so adjust as needed.

5. Put a back pack on him with books in it and have him carry it through the store, properly supported...not hanging on the lower back!

6. Pushing is deep pressure. Fill the wheelbarrow and let her help you in the garden. Push the grocery basket when it is full. Load up the wagon with her little sister and have her pull it. All deep pressure activities.

7. In a pinch, have her do 'chair push ups' by pressing down with her hands and arms on the chair, lifting her seat up.

8. Tight hugs also do the trick!

9. Use the pillow idea but lay across the pillows (carefully). Your weight will be distributed across the pillows.

10. Joint compressions are deep pressure. Joint compressions and brushing go together. The brushing and joint compressions take some time to explain, so we will be exploring that in a later blog.

11. Baths. Swimming pools. Water is a great source of deep pressure.

12. Spinning in tire swings, spinning in general causes the g force to press the body down.

13. Pulling a sibling across the floor on a blanket.

Get creative. Lots of opportunities for deep pressure if you look around.

Don't withhold the pressure! It isn't a time out, it isn't a reward, it isn't a punishment. It is what he is not getting from his everyday experiences. The more he gets the better he feels. The better he feels the easier things are for him, and for you, the parent. That is our goal!


  1. Reading this post, I had a light bulb go off in my head... I find myself squeezing or hugging Shane when he crashes in his sister or the furniture-- only to stop the his movement-- I didn't realize that I was giving sensory input...duh... :)
    How so you introduce a weighted item..blanket or vest to a very smart opinionated 6 year old...

  2. Start with the stuff that is fun. Put the pillows on him and do the sandwich trick first. Then try the other things. make a game of it. Tell him you have learned a very fun new game and its called "construction" (he is the road and must be front loaded and mushed down, etc) Vests work great if you are sitting a while, like church, recitals etc. You can add appliques, etc to make it more exciting. sports guy? put a baseball on it and call it a baseball sitting blanket. Trucks? same may have to get creative. My child would never wear the vest (frustrating...we paid for it!) but would wear the animal. All of the activities are user friendly for a 6 year old. If nothing else, give him the backpack (filled) and let him go.

  3. Thanks....I like the construction idea... that will help make it fun and not a "have too"...
    You Rock! (plus I like to sew and create!)


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