Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Strategies for Calming, Waking Up, and Focusing

As a Neuropsychologist in a medical center and a mother of a child with sensory processing challenges, I have learned about proprioceptive input.  What a big word for input into the joints and muscles.  This means the sensation your body processes when you pull something, push something, or carry something heavy.  

Proprioceptive input helps bring us to "the center."  If someone is high strung, anxious, or hyperactive, this type of sensory input helps calm them.  If someone is sleepy, distracted, or can't focus, this type of input helps waken them, alert them and help them to focus on what is important.  So either way, too sleepy or too jazzed, joint input helps center us. 

How can we use this to help our daily lives?  If you are a parent with a child who has alerting and focusing as they are getting to school in the morning, perhaps some heavy work first thing would help.  Or perhaps you have a child who is too hyper to settle down for bed.  Maybe you yourself would like something to feel more centered.  

Try these ideas to increase some joint input:
 1. Pull something heavy

2. Push against something with resistance
3. Carry something weighted
4. Chew something that will provide work input into the jaw like something crunchy or chewy.  Chewing gum actually helps with concentration. 

5.  Try a stretching routine, yoga, push ups, or pull ups. 

So next time your child has a hard to alerting or calming, instead of a time out, try teaching them a new way of self-regulation.  Thoughts and ideas (e.g., motivations, decisions) are often less successful for this type of change than using a more intrinsic sensory approach to help our bodies center and regulate.