When I tell people that I homeschool my children, the responses can be fairly entertaining. Many of our friends and family have been concerned with several homeschooling stereotypes. “Won’t they be weirdos?” “They’ll never get friends” and “You will let them play baseball, right?”
Then when we found out about A-Man’s special needs, there were only more questions. How can you combine homeschooling and special needs, and why in the world would you? A-Man’s most prevalent need currently is his sensory processing disorder, or SPD. He has a lot of needs centered around sensory input, and he goes back and forth between sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behavior.
Luckily, because we homeschool, we can adjust our day to work with his needs. It definitely takes work, but he is learning so much more than he would be in a traditional school where he wouldn’t even qualify for an IEP. We’ve chosen to weave several of this SPD therapy activities into our homeschool day, and it has made the day more peaceful for everyone!
Using SPD Therapy in Our Homeschool
Thank goodness that someone came up with sensory bins! These things seriously save our lives on those days where everything causes a melt down and we are at our wits end. On days we remember to use it early, our sensory bins save us from that happening! A-Man is obsessed with sensory bins, whether they’re filled with sand, rice, cloud dough, or really anything. He got the one pictured for Christmas this year, and it has rice, measuring cups
(these aren’t the ones in ours, but they’re cheap !), some dollar store slinkies, and some dollar store Christmas erasers. That kid goes to town on it!
Weighted Balls/Heavy Work
I can’t believe that before starting occupational therapy, we didn’t know about heavy work. Understanding the way that this helps A-Man has completely transformed our home. our therapist has a set of weighted balls like these that A-Man fell in love with the very first session. But those balls are a bit pricey for a homeschooling family on one income! So before we could get any, we would take some cans out of our cupboard and have A-Man put them in a box, then take them out of the box. Over. And over. And over. It gives him the sensory input for heavy work, but without spending an arm and a leg. For Christmas, my best friend got A-Man a weighted ball, so he has been in Heaven playing with that. He really loves to drop it on the ground because it makes a loud noise on our hardwood floors.
This is really what it all boils down to. We take regular sensory breaks throughout our day. We are slowly teaching A-Man the need for breaks throughout the day. When we see that he is beginning to get overwhelmed, I ask if he needs a break, and when he comes over we will either hold his hands or hug him very tightly to get him centered. If he is getting frustrated with crayons, we switch to markers. If he is starting to get tired, we can have him lay down with a blanket doubled up [for weight] and watch some Veggie Tales Jonah. If he’s getting overly whiney, typically it means he needs a snack. crunchy or chewy foods work best because they give his jaw some heavy work.
Basically, it’s all about watching for his signs that he has some sort of sensory need, and meeting that need before there’s a meltdown. We weave his SPD therapy activities throughout our day of singing and coloring and playing together. A-Man is only three, so our homeschooling is extremely relaxed. A lot of these activities count as school for him because they help his brain to make connections. Plus, they help to keep the peace in the home while we’re doing more intense school with Mr. C.
Do you have an SPD kiddo? What kind of therapy activities do you do at home with them throughout the week? Any tips to share?