My kids were so excited to start kindergarten this year. The first few weeks were a decided success. They would bound out of the double doors each day with smiles on their faces and compete on the car ride home with over-lapping stories about games played in PE, songs sung in music, computers they were “allowed to touch” at library time, recess shenanigans and plenty of kindergarten cafeteria humor.
Initially, my only concern was how wiped out they were by the end of the day. Especially my son, who even started passing on his after school snack in favor of heading up to his room for a rest. My daughter also began reporting that her brother was throwing away his lunch without eating it and spending some serious time on the “naughty bench.” The calls and notes from his concerned teacher were soon to follow.
When prodded, he tearfully admitted that the cafeteria was “too loud for eating”, he didn’t “know how to play” with the other kids at recess, his eyes were hurting, his head ached, and he just couldn’t sit in his seat. He broke my heart one afternoon when he said, “Mommy, I’m just a big jerk. I can’t learn nothing.”
Months later, after a full occupational therapy (OT) evaluation, we were surprised to learn that he has Sensory Processing Disorder (also known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction). In general, his brain is processing sensory messages ineffectively and his senses are not integrated with one another. In particular, the parts of his brain that process hearing and vision are not working together, making it difficult for him to both interpret and process the sensory information coming in.
The result? Growing anxiety and frustration over every transition (what’s going to happen next?) throughout the day, fear of loud noises and confusion from multiple sound sources (the cafeteria, gym, recess), and exhaustion from a pair of eyes working non-stop to focus, but unsuccessfully to process the visual stimulation that makes kindergarten so much fun (for most kids).
Though I am just at the start of my research into Sensory Processing Disorders. I am particularly interested in learning more about my son’s Vision Processing Disorder and how it will affect the way he learns. But, in the meantime, he has started occupational and vision therapy, and I have started to work on providing both of my kids with a more well-balanced “sensory diet” — safe activities, toys and equipment to feed their tactile (info received through the skin/touch), vestibular (info from inner ear that helps with balance and movement) and proprioceptive senses (info from muscles and joints).
I plan to integrate these sensory rich activities into my “Math Mom STEM Lab” column, because whether your child has sensory issues or not, all kids (and future engineers and scientists) can benefit from moving through, touching and observing the world around them.
BUBBLE WRAP TAP DANCING
This Activity Can Help to Enhance:
– Counting Skills
– Spacial Reasoning
– Hand-eye Coordination
– Sensory Input to Auditory System
– Improved Balance and Motor Planning
– Negligible – none
– Bubble Wrap (bigger bubbles best)
– Magic Markers (permanent to keep from running)
– Six-Sided Die
– Colored Objects or Paper Slips (matching color of markers used)
– Duct Tape
1. Use duct tape to attach multiple sheets of bubble wrap together, to create large play mat.
2. Provide markers for kids to color the underside of individual bubbles of the bubble wrap.
3. Have kids each roll the die. The higher number goes first. Use math vocabulary words (more, less, higher, lower). Younger kids may need to use fingers to count the dots after each roll.
4. Ask first player to both roll the die and choose/pull a color out of hat/bag/bucket. If they roll a “5” and choose “orange”, they get to pop five orange bubbles.
5. Next player is up and so on, until they are all hopped and popped out.
– Up the sensory input by having kids jump barefoot.
– Practice “left” and “right” with a game of Bubble Wrap Twister
– Try wiping out the remaining un-popped bubbles by attaching sheet with duct tape to small exercise trampoline.