James still routinely likes to walk on his tiptoes and he likes to flap. A high number of children on the spectrum will flap and toe walk. These kinds of behaviours are referred to as ‘stimming’ – they are a child’s way of stimulating or calming their nervous system. James flaps by ruffling the back of his hair with both hands. I absolutely love this little mannerism of his. There’s such unbridled joy in it! He also likes to spin … a lot … and he never gets dizzy! Jumping on the trampoline is also a big hit with him! James has a hypo vestibular system. The vestibular system refers to the structures within the inner ear that detect movement and changes in the position of the head (balance etc). James is always seeking intense sensory experiences to stimulate his vestibular system. He likes to jump, spin and swing – activities that give lots of vestibular feedback. He has a piece of therapy equipment called a Whizzy Dizzy. It’s like a large lazy susan with steering wheel. He sits on it and spins himself around and around at his chosen speed. He can do this for minutes at a time and he will still get off and walk in a straight line. This is how under stimulated his vestibular system is.
At school James needs a ‘sensory diet’ to help him remain calm throughout the day. This ‘sensory diet’ differs from child to child depending on their sensory needs. I need to pack lots of crunchy foods for James. He has a small snack (like a couple of pretzels) at the start of a session, and this helps him organise his nervous system. He finds it calming and organising to sip water through a straw throughout the day also, so this is part of his sensory diet. There is a Whizzy Dizzy (therapy device for spinning) and a mini-tramp in the classroom. The teacher and he negotiate when he needs to use these. There is a tent in the room where he is able to retreat to when he requires some sensory shut down time. He often listens to music in the tent, to calm him. After lunch when he’s pretty tired and overstimulated, he has been known to participate in the class from the tent, even raising his hand and responding from there! What a treasure his teacher is to accommodate him in this way! Chewing gum is also useful, so his teacher always has a ready supply of gum in case it’s needed. James is getting better at regulating his own emotions and feelings, but his teacher and his teacher aide give him lots of support. We are so fortunate that he is in an environment where his condition is understood and where they are prepared to support his needs to the best of their ability. We are so appreciative of everything the school have done and continue to do for him. As wonderful as they are though – there are many days when I desperately wish there was something else for these kids education wise. Something smaller, something more specialised! If only I could win the lotto … then I’d open a school of my own!!!!!!!!!!!