For those of you pursuing Occupational Therapy, I can say that I know the struggle. It can take a long time and a lot of money before you get there and get some help and advice. I wanted to share one tool today that was a life-saver for our family! We use this several times per week and if you’re an SPD parent or you think you may be…this is magic! It quiets a meltdown very, very quickly, if your child is experiencing over-stimulation or for that matter…overload in general. Too many noises, too much tv, too much i-pad/computer, too much activity or excitement etc. This is for Sensory-Seekers as well as Sensory-Avoiders, so it’s just a great option to have in your Sensory Diet. I like to think of this as another tool for Mom’s Sensory Tool-kit.
It’s called the Burrito Wrap.
The best way that I can explain it is like this. Your child’s body is literally feeling out of control. They cannot stop. Their nerve-endings are “widging-out” and it feels terrible. It doesn’t feel safe. As soon as your child’s brain interprets this info, they’re getting mixed signals all over the place, but one thing is certain: fight, flight, freeze. It’s threatening and it’s survival. This response is results in meltdown.
When you notice that your child is losing control: ramping – up behavior (almost ADD in nature), loss of control of their body – getting into others space or avoiding others, whining, behavioral outbursts, inappropriate behavior etc., time for a break.
We take a break in a quiet room with no interruptions and no stimulation. Hopefully, by now, their own room is a safe and quiet place to go and rest. You can offer to wrap your child up tight in their blanket – have him lay on his bed comfortably. The idea here is to give security, very much like you did when they were a newborn. Flailing newborns often soothe with a firmly-wrapped blanket snuggly holding limbs and head, sleep sacks did the same when they were babies. This is exactly the same…just for a bigger child or adult.
Wrap the blanket firmly around head, shoulders, back and especially wrap tight the legs and feet. A couple wraps around and tuck in tight under their own body weight. If they soothe slightly, great. Give it a minute or two to see if your child is calming. If they’re still in the midst of real panic, try using your own body weight to lay across & over their torso to cover your child with your additional body weight, even for just a couple of breaths and then off. Repeat in a minute if they’re still upset.
This may sound wrong, but in actual fact, this is a technique used by OT’s to help families regain control of a huge meltdown from over-stimulating situations in SPD kids. Remember, we’re not hurting our children – they soothe from this. You will know very shortly if it’s working.
I remember the first time I did the Burrito Wrap for my sweet girl. We were in the midst of chaos and a total loss of control. I called our OT out of desperation, begged her to help us. So I had the phone in one hand, while wrapping my girl up tight with the other and laying across her, while still thinking…”this is all wrong, this is not what I’m supposed to be doing, this can’t be right…”
I’m with you if you’re feeling nervous to give this a try, but please trust me, this is exactly the input that your child is lacking. They are lacking input from their bodies and with more given, it gives them the security and assurance and finally…the calming sensation that she needs. The best part is…hours-long meltdowns can be reduced to about 10-15 minutes!
Alternately, if you have a wiggly-worm that just can’t sit still for all this, try giving “Squeezy” Hugs. Kinda like a quick bear hug. They are fast and quick, giving your child quick extra input to help their bodies cope, especially during heightened periods of excitement or stimulation. If your little man is like my sensational-miss, they might not squish you back. Encourage your child not to “hang on” you, but to really use their muscles and do “Squish Mom practice”!!!