When you find that you have a child with sensory processing disorder, your entire life changes. Some of it is wonderful, like knowing that you are not just a bad parent, there’s something else going on. Some of it is overwhelming, like when they say “life-long”. Some of it is frustrating, like when you find out that your school/state/dr/family/whatever don’t “believe in SPD”. And all of it is exhausting, like when you find out that you have to spend 30 minutes before a stressful activity throwing your near 40 pound preschooler into the couch to give him the sensory input he craves. Along the way, we find tips and tricks to make things a little bit more manageable. We can’t carry around noise canceling headphones and weighted balls everywhere that we go, but we also need realistic ways to help our children cope with the world around them. Our solution? Poker Chips. Yep. Seriously that simple.
Poker Chips Help with Sensory Processing Disorder
Okay, so here’s my disclaimer that this helps my son with sensory processing disorder. I know that every child is completely different, and this may not be the type of activity that your SPD kiddo is interested in. Feel free to take this worth a grain of salt!
So, obviously you need poker chips. You can get fancy and cover them in scrapbook paper or paint them bright colors or whatever you would like. I’m not a crafty person, so mine are just red, blue, and black. I do recommend that you get them in at least two colors. For my kiddo, they need to be very different colors, and all of one color need to be the same. If we gave him 5 shades of pink he would not be able to handle it! Then you also need a container with a slot big enough to fit one poker chip into. You can DIY this if you’d like. We have a “coin jar” that’s really an oxiclean container with a slit cut in the top. Or you can find a cute container that already has a slit in it. Ours is shaped like a crayola crayon, and I think we found it in Old Navy.
What You Do
This is the simplest part of the entire process. You put the poker chips in the container. Once they’re all in there, you dump them out. That’s basically it. Seriously. You can add fun sound effects, and you need to be excited about it or your kid might think you’re crazy. But really you just put them in and take them out. Now, it’s always important to follow your child’s lead. If they decide that they want to try and spin the poker chips [or, like A-Man they want to watch you spin the poker chips] so be it. This is meant to be a calming activity, so you do not need to freak out and raise the tension in the house because they’re not playing with the poker chips the “right way”.
Why It Helps
A-Man likes structure. He likes to know what is going to happen and do the same thing over, and over, and over again. He gets really excited with the noise when the poker chips hit the bottom of the container. Shaking the container while they’re in there makes a different noise, and feels different than just putting the poker chips in. It’s also really easy to change the rules which is huge for kids with sensory processing disorder. Understanding that the chicken mom cooks for dinner is different than the chicken nuggets that they’re used to, and that’s okay, is a difficult concept to grasp. It takes babysteps. Babysteps like understanding that sometimes we go red-black-red-black, or sometimes we do all the reds then all the blacks, and it’s okay. Or that sometimes we stack them, or count them, or play with them differently, and it’s all still okay.
Change the Rules
Use the same rules two or three times before changing them up. If you do them too long, it’ll be harder for your child to process the change. Some ideas for changing the rules are
- change up the order that you put the poker chips in
- change up what you say when you put the poker chips in
- try stacking the poker chips instead
- for a challenge, stack them on the container and work on learning “on”
- stack them in varying ways. [three stacks of one color each, two stacks of alternating colors, one stack of all the colors etc]
- spin the poker chips and watch where they go
If your child has an issue with eye contact or language, this can be an excellent way to work on that! With A-Man we are really pushing for eye contact. When we dump out the chips, I gather them all in my hands, and he has to look me in the eye to get each poker chip. If he says “please” that’s a bonus, but he has to make eye contact. You can use that for whatever you’re working on. Maybe your child needs to say “chip please” in order to get one, or maybe they need to sign please. Whatever skill you are working on, throw it in there! Working with your child at home will make therapy sessions go so much smoother and help your child make progress even faster!
I really hope that this helps you! I know that it has been such a blessing here. This activity can calm him down and give him some productive play time. Usually he plays with Chris after dinner before bed time. Do you have a go-to activity for your child with sensory processing disorder?