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Get on the right path, the sensory path

Get on the right path, the sensory path

This week Effortless Art has been focusing on sensory activities in our social media content, so our blog from guest blogger, Occupational Therapist Deirdre Andrews, is a perfect fit.  In fact, we tried out one of Deidre's ideas for making a gross motor activity outside from her Facebook page, My Motor Mats.  Check out our post HERE. Video and caption below. 

"Mymotormats posted such a cute #funfriday gross motor activity today that we just HAD to try it! We didn’t have hula hoops so we used chalk instead. Lil guy had a blast and was even making up his own games after a while! We did a fun one together with passing it back and forth across the circles and side stepping down. So much fun!"

Deirdre is back with another awesome way for you to create your own sensory path for your children and help them to get movement and sensory integration into their day.  When we are all stuck at home right now, finding creative ways to help our children keep moving is on the top of my list!   Enjoy our guest blog from Deirdre Andrews from My Motor Mats. 

WHAT IS A SENSORY PATH?

Does your child or student need more movement in their day? Maybe they seem disorganized and are unable to engage in a specific task? Creating a sensory path is just the hop, skip, and a jump your child needs. A sensory path is simply a path or route that is made of up different kinds of movements. The movements are generally geared towards organizing, alerting, and/or calming children as they transition from activity to activity and/or location to location. The movements are a sequenced mixture of gross motor (jumping, hopping, etc.), sensory motor (spinning, balance, etc.), and visual motor tasks.

WHY A SENSORY PATH?

As occupational therapists we are often asked to help students remain regulated (and/or get regulated) so they can participate to the best of their ability. Sensory paths can be uniquely designed to incorporate just the right amount of movement at just the right time. Movement can be used to help children calm down or become more alert. Specific types of movement can also be used to help children become more organized or regulated.

Remember the feeling of sitting in a rocking chair on a nice sunny day and rocking yourself into a lull? How about going to a birthday party with a bouncy house and watching (and listening) to the excitement coming out of that bouncy house? Linear movement like the rocking chair or swinging on a swing can be very calming. Jumping or bumping (proprioceptive) kinds of play can increase your arousal level and wake up your nervous system. Movement or play that includes spinning (vestibular) can be very organizing given the right amount and context. As an occupational therapist I am always looking for ways to utilize movement and incorporate movement into a child's day in order to evoke appropriate responses to everyday demands. Movement is a vital part of a child's gross and fine motor development.

HOW TO CREATE A SENSORY PATH!

Sensory paths can be a great indoor or outdoor activity. Start simple by picking a sequence that includes three motor movements. Pair each movement with a different visual cue. The child will initially need to be taught the sequence so that they will be able to match the visuals you have used with the movement that goes with it. For example:

  • Find a place either inside the house or outside that are free to move about safely.
  • Look for spaces that provide a linear path where you are able to move in a forward fashion.
  • If you are doing this outside you can use chalk to draw shapes on your driveway in a linear path.
  • Sequence 1 - Use the following movements of jumping, crab walking, and  spinning. Your visuals could include cutting out three circles (you could even write the word jump on it) and tape them (or secure them down so they will not move or slide when stepped or jumped on). Make arrows out of paper for crab walking. Three circles with spirals on them can represent spinning in place (3 rotations in either direction is plenty) on that spot.
  • Sequence 2 – Use the following movements of hopping, balancing, and frog jumps. Your visuals could include bunny feet, a straight line (like a balance beam), and green lily pad shapes.

Once the child understands the sequence and can demonstrate it, try utilizing this path before a request or specific instructions. Maybe the path will become part of your daily morning routine before eating breakfast or getting dressed to better help them listen and follow directions. Maybe the path could be used as a transition during your daily routine from an inside activity to an outside activity or event. Depending on the kinds of movement used it could become part of the night time routine before bed. You will begin to notice what types of movement works best for your child and you can easily make adjustments to the path as needed. Remember, keep it simple to start, be as creative as you would like, and most of all have fun!

Here is another example of a homemade chalk sensory path

Want to stay up to date on Deirdre and My Motor Mats?  Follow her on social media at My Motor Mats on Facebook and Instagram. 

Deirdre is a school based occupational therapist who lives in Massachusetts on Cape Cod with her husband Paul.  She has been practicing in the field of occupational therapy for over 20 years.  Deirdre first started out as a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) working in both pediatrics and adult physical disabilities settings.  In 2010 she graduated with a Masters in Occupational Therapy from Salem State College.  Deirdre is also the founder of My Motor Mats an innovative company, creating movement opportunities for children.  Deirdre is also a certified Pilates instructor. 

 

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