Whether you are trying to improve your own SPD, or that of a loved one, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the different sensory tools available.
Why are there so many? Which ones help which sensory system? Why does squeezing a Koosh or puffer ball help? Why does my child like this action or that sensation?”
As someone with SPD, I can give you the inside view into why these tools help and hopefully eliminate some of this confusion.
It’s true I have written a blog about Sensory Tools before, but in this series, I’m doing something different. I’m dividing the sensory tools into categories, instead of a list of specific tools, and I’ll explain how and why these tools help our SPD.
Category 1: Fidget (tactile or touch) Sensory Tools.
The truth is we all like to fidget a little with our hands- people doodle on paper, fiddle with a paperclip, rub their hair between their fingers, etc- but they don’t NEED to fidget. For those with SPD, we need to fidget to function properly.
Fidgeting centers our brain, because it gives us the tactile (touch) stimulation our brain needs to focus and it grounds us.
- Grounding explained
Hang on a minute! What’s do you mean by “it grounds us?”
People with well functioning sensory systems don’t even realize that their senses help steady their mind and body in space. Without the sense of touch, taste, sight, etc the world would be unreal to us. As if we were in a dream world, about to drift off into space any second.
When those with SPD say, “I need to be grounded” it means that our senses are not functioning well enough to make us feel real. Reality becomes like a dream world. We start feeling like we’re about to float away (like a balloon floating just above the ground). We get dizzy and light headed, and our limbs feel disconnected like a robotic entity (and honestly it’s as freaky to feel as it is to read)
But, through using sensory tools we can ease our brain and senses back down to earth. Sort of letting the air out of our sensory balloon and connecting us to the world around us.
So, when I squeeze my Koosh ball tightly or gently rock it in my hands, that sensation tells my brain, “yes, you’re alive and this is real.”
- Sensory boredom explained
Another not-so-fun part of SPD is Sensory Boredom. When my senses are bored, they start focusing on little things: Like the clock ticking in the corner or my own breathing. Normally these things are fine, but if my SPD’s not getting enough sensory stimulation, it can start reacting to these little things just because they’re there and it’s is on high alert.
Sensory Boredom can create a spiral of anxiety, hyperventilation, and nervousness if it’s not treated with sensory tools… and fidget tools are the best for this job!
(Sensory Boredom can also create a lack of concentration, which is why SPD peeps and kiddos need to have sensory tools handy to focus on schoolwork and other tasks)
- Common Fidget Tools: Koosh Balls, Puffer Balls, Sand or Grain Activities Bins, CoreDisks, Smooth Stones, Soft Fur or Fabric, Tangle Toys, Rubber/stretchy Animals, etc.
Honestly, as a twenty-something, it’s embarrassing that I sometimes need to fidget to function properly (and I get some pretty strange looks), but what people need to realize is that my fidget tools are there to help me!
Excepting and encouraging the usage of sensory fidgets shows me you care.
So, fellow SPD peeps, know this: you’re not alone in your desire to fidget and it’s ok.
Don’t be afraid to give your body what it needs, because using sensory tools may be just what you need to expand your world!