You're listening to Voices of Your Village. This is episode 263. Y 'all know I love hanging out with an OT, an Occupational Therapist, and today I got to hang out with OT Julia Ieslin to talk about high energy kiddos. We are diving into what it looks like to support those sensory seekers who have a lot of energy, and trying to meet those needs-- and what does that look like? How do we do that as an adult? How do we do that in families of multiples or in a classroom setting when you can't give one-to-one attention? It can be exhausting. I loved getting to team up with Julia for this episode and I'm so jazzed to get to bring it to you. I don't think this is a conversation that is happening and I think it's one that needs to be more prevalent. So, without further ado, let's dive in.
Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a master's degree in early childhood education and co -creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing Method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together.
Hello everyone, and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today, I get to hang out with Julia Ieslin. She's a pediatric OT. Y 'all know how I feel about OTs, could hang forever. She specializes in early intervention, that birth to three range, and children with complex medical needs. She's a mom of three very energetic little boys, age five and under. It is the owner of Play, Move, Explore Pediatric Therapy, where her focus has turned to supporting families of neurodivergent children using both her OT lens and personal experience as a mom of neurodivergent kids. Julia, thanks for coming to hang out with me today. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here. I'm jazzed to have you. As you heard in the intro there, I love OTs and I feel like I truly, we can't do our work in emotional intelligence without your work. They go hand in hand. I'm so jazzed to get to chat sensory systems.
Me too. Let's do it.
You mentioned in your bio here, very energetic little boys. We talk about high energy kids in your work. What does that look like? What does a high energy kid look like?
Some people describe high energy kids as kids that just seem to be the energizer batteries that just seem to go and go and go. Using my OT lens, I see it a little bit deeper than that, but as the parent, I totally still feel the never-ending movement, never-ending talking, never-ending energy. So those kids that are just in constant movement, talking, touching, spinning. And one thing I think people forget is that you can be a sensory seeker in any of the senses, not just the typical always moving or spinning. You might have kids that are touching things all the time or like to touch their hair or other people's hair, or like to hold toys close to their ears because they like the sound, or they like repetitive sound. So they're, you know, tapping their fingers or clicking their pens, that kind of a thing. So it's just, they need a lot of sensory input to fill their buckets.
I like that you noted that for the seekers that, you know, let's revisit for folks who might be new to us. And if you are new and you want to dive deep into the eight sensory systems, head on over to Episode 4 with OT Lori Goodrich. We do a deep dive there if you want to just learn more in depth about the sensory systems. but let's just touch base real quick on the eight sensory systems. And you mentioned the spinning and the moving all the time, and we can do a quick overview for folks who this might be new to.
Sure, so the ones that most people are familiar with are vision, smell or olfactory, taste, touch and sound. Those are the ones that most people are familiar with. People can be sensitive or seeking to any of those senses. So for example, if you want to talk about the tactile, the touch, someone who may not want to touch their food when they're eating or doesn't like their feet in the sand, that would be a sensory sensitive child. What I tend to focus on is the opposite. Kids that don't want their shoes on because they want to feel the sand and the grass between their toes, or their parents report things like they're constantly petting me, they're touching their skin to the point of it being raw. So their body really enjoys that tactile sense. So those are the five main ones. Then there's the ones that we don't normally talk about as much. So proprioception, that's your body's sense of itself in space. Proprioceptors are located in your joints. So kids that are proprioceptive seekers are often our jumpers, our crashers, our kids that are rolling all over the place. You can get proprioception from your jaw, so kids that are chewing all the time. That's one of the most common questions I get is like, my kid always has their toys, fingers, whatever, straws are chewed to nothing. What they're getting is that proprioceptive input by doing that, and their body needs it. They seek it, they want it, they crave it. And then vestibular, that's the other really important one that we see with our seekers. That's the sense of movement. So that would be kids that are swinging on everything, spinning in circles, upside down. One of my sons seeks inversion like crazy, like nine times out of 10, if he's on the couch, he's watching TV upside down. He goes down slides upside down. He will just have a conversation with you like on his head upside down, just because he really likes the feeling, that vestibular input. He wants it all the time.
Yes. Thank you so much for bringing those down for people. And we'll often talk about that, the eighth of the interception and we can kind of go quickly over because it's not usually something we're seeking.
But you can be sensitive. Do you want to break it down real quick? What interception is?
Yeah, that's the sensory system that you can sense internally what your body needs or feels. So maybe like recognizing that your heart is racing or that you're hungry or thirsty. That isn't typically a sense, like you said, that people seek, but it is one that people can be sensitive to.
Yeah, thank you so much for that. I have a tiny human who has a sensitive interceptive system and like if he's a little hungry, he's a lot hungry. If he's a little tired, he's a lot tired. But he also was able to tell us, like, I have to pee or I have to poop really young before he had a whole bunch of language. He was aware of those things. And then for us, it's been helpful on the emotional regulation side, knowing he has a heightened interceptive system and has a sensitive system. We focused on like, how does your heart feel? Is it beating fast? How do we slow it down? Knowing like that's something he's pretty aware of generally and if we can help him tune into those internal cues, we can work on tools for regulation in the way that makes sense for his body. Um, just want to toss that one in there.
Yes. That's also a strategy we use for seekers. Um, they just usually need a lot of prompting. I'll use that with my son. Sometimes put your hand on your chest. Do you feel that? Oh my gosh, your heart is going pound, pound, pound on your hand. And then he'll, he'll pick up on it. And I'm like, that means our body was moving really fast. So yeah, we use it as a form of regulation.
Yeah, I love it.
I love it. You know, you chat in your work about a sensory lifestyle and this just speaks to me. Let's break this down. I want to dive into what is a sensory lifestyle?
So a sensory diet is what has been commonly used by therapists as almost like a prescription program to give to parents to help their kids get sensory activities and input throughout the day that their body needs. And I definitely was giving parents sensory diet before I had my own children, and there's nothing wrong with them. But what I realized once I was a parent myself of kids that had sensory challenges was I don't feel like I have time to do one other thing, to go back to that piece of paper one more time to figure out what I need to do. So I found that using, kind of following a sensory lifestyle, that no matter what, every single day from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, we are just providing sensory opportunities that they need. That's an important part of it is that it needs to be specific to what the child is needing and wanting and craving all day long. And it almost just, it becomes your lifestyle. It becomes second nature and then I don't feel like it's another thing I have to do.
Yeah, I love this and it speaks so much to my heart because I think when we treat it as a diet, not only does it become something that we like have to do that's an additional thing to keep track of, but it also I think can feel like, like maybe they'll grow out of this or maybe this will change. And I think when we switch it to like a lifestyle, we can dive into the conversation about how does this child's nervous system work? And I think it helps us as adults reflect on like, I'm sound sensitive. That's not something that I'm going to grow out of. When I walk into a room and there's a lot of background noise happening and it's loud and feels chaotic for me and I don't feel in control of the sound in the environment, it's dysregulating. And I've had to build awareness of that to then build tools for regulation and supporting myself. It's not something I'm going to grow out of. And the like idea of a diet for me feels temporary. Whereas a lifestyle is like, let's get to know their nervous system and figure out how can we help them thrive? What can we do to help them build awareness of how their systems work and what they're sensitive to, what they're seeking and how to like move forward in each age and stage with that information. What does this look like when we're at home? What does it look like when we're on the go or at birthday parties or whatever? Or what does it look like when we're at school? And I think when you bring it in as a lifestyle, then it's really about like that individual human and it's not that there's something wrong with them. It's not that there's something that's gonna change at some point that you're trying to change. It's an awareness component and acceptance, I think.
Absolutely, I love the way you said that. All of us, our sensory needs change day to day. Our line of acceptance, auditory, sometimes I can deal with you being really loud and some days like I need --
I just can't
-I just can't I need a moment and that's us and we understand we have a developed frontal lobe and we understand our sensory systems little ones don't.
Well, we try.
We're building more awareness. Well it's something I wish honestly, like when I look back in my childhood or even like college years and whatever, gosh I wish someone taught me this. Like I wish I had learned like oh yeah here's how your body works. And here's some things that like seem harder for your body. And they can drain, we think of it as a battery and then we're either draining or we're recharging. So here's some things that drain your battery. Here's some things that recharge it. Like what a gift that would have been for me to take with me through life. And real bummer that I was like building these tools in my late twenties, early thirties. I'm like now in my mid thirties, I'm like, okay I feel like I've got a handle, kind of, but yeah it would have been real, real nice to have in the beginning. And I think it's so cool to give this to kids. So when we're starting to develop this like awareness of like, okay, what are they sensitive to? What are they seeking? What are some tools that we can use to support kids at home? And then I'd love to chat too about the classroom, when we approach it as a lifestyle and not like, all right, carve out time for this thing now. What does this look like? Can we look at it at home and then in the classroom?
Yeah, so one of the most important things is, if you're a parent, my biggest suggestion in the very beginning is to take a step back and just observe. If you need to, write it down. Sometimes parents will write down behaviors that they're seeing throughout the day, and they won't realize how often or frequent or how long their child is doing something. So just observe. What do they seem to gravitate towards? What kind play do they seem to enjoy? When do they seem to get dysregulated? When do they seem to be really content and regulated? We'll take my kids for example. If you just step back and watch them for 10 minutes, you'll notice they're probably never sitting down. They're moving, they're rocking on their feet. If they are sitting down, it's on their feet, standing up, rocking back and forth, getting back on the couch, turning upside down. It's just a constant movement. If we go back the sensory systems, that would be they're seeking proprioception and vestibular input. If you see a child that's constantly watching repetitive things like bubbles, kaleidoscopes, or water running, that would be visual. So, you kind of want to narrow down what sense your child seems to really be wanting. So, that's really the first step.
Yeah, I love that. And for folks, if you are feeling like this feels overwhelming and I don't know what I'm doing, we worked with an OT to create a sensory profile quiz that's just like a jumping off point to give you a little more information. You can take it as many times as you want for many kids as you have. It's just seedquiz.com and it'll help you and it'll give you more information about these different sensory systems and what you might notice. Some activities you might notice them gravitate toward and then things that you could do to support them or provide opportunities here. So just as a side note if you feel overwhelmed by any of that.
And that is the most overwhelming part for parents because as an OT or somebody in the field, if I see a child doing XYZ, I can pretty quickly say, oh, they're seeking this or they're avoiding this. But for a parent, that is the harder part.
Yeah, parents aren’t trained in it.
So I love that you have that quiz.
Exactly. It was like the thing that I was like, gosh, what do I want every parent-- Honestly, Julia, I wish that there were pediatric OTs, integrative OTs specifically, who understand how this comes into the lifestyle component in every pediatric office. And until we have that, we have to have some tools for parents as a jumping off point.
All right, sorry to interrupt you.
No, that's okay. So a huge component of the sensory lifestyle is once you've determined what is my child seeking, then you want to put activities that allow them to get that input. So that sounds counterproductive to parents. What do you mean they're seeking proprioception, so I need to give them more proprioception and then they'll be calm? I'm like, it sounds backwards, but that is, we need to help them. We can help guide them towards activities that give them what they need, because if If we don't show them safe ways to do it, they're going to find unsafe ways to do it. That's what we see.
Sure, it's like attention or connection, right?
They're gonna go hit a sibling. They're gonna dump some stuff on the floor. They're gonna do something that's really annoying.
Not on purpose, not to be annoying, but because they need attention and connection and don't know how to say, hey, I need your attention.
Absolutely. The whole idea is you're front-loading. And what that means is you're prepping their body. You don't want to put out the fire once there's already a fire. An analogy that I like that parents seem to understand is when you have an injury or if you have a surgery, you don't wait until you're already in pain to take your medication. That's why the doctor says every six hours take XYZ because you don't want it to get to the point where you're in pain and then you find the thing that gives you relief. You want to front-load that. You want to prepare your sensory system for that. So, what we're going to do with the sensory lifestyle is we're going to provide activities that give them the sensory input that their body needs the entire day with the hopes that that kind of fills their bucket, little by little, and we never get to the point where our bucket is spilling over or empty, let's say.
Sure. Yeah. So, let's break this down. A couple of things came up for me. One is like, I just hear this part of me that's like, cool, that sounds great, but like sometimes we got to get in the car seat and we're going to drive someplace. Sometimes we're going to go to this birthday party or to this restaurant or to this thing. What does that look like? The bandwidth part of what if I can't have it available all the time came up on one side for me. I think the part of me that is the loudest often is the, Alyssa, you're not doing enough. So that part surfaces of like, you're not going to be doing enough if you're not providing it all the time. And then I want to talk about the like task demands. If we kind of figuring out like, what would our kids be sensitive to? And if we start to notice some of these things, how to balance like access to regulating activities, what they're seeking with like higher task demands of things they're sensitive to. Let's chat here about like, what if their life happens and it's not always going to be available. What does that look like?
Right. So I like to call it my sensory toolbox and each parent will have a sensory toolbox that they can pull from. And it is so important, like you said, to have things that are available in any environment. You're taking a road trip, you're on an airplane, you're in a restaurant, like you can't say you're seeking proprioception, go jump on the trampoline. To me, that's the reason that sensory diets don't work is they can be beautiful but they're just too specific. When you have a toolbox that's filled with understanding your child's needs and activities that meet those needs, then you just pull what's appropriate. Example, heavy work. Heavy work is regulating for almost all sensory areas, for pretty much everyone.
What is heavy work? Break that down for folks.
Yeah, so it's a high proprioceptive activity that usually involves pushing, pulling, isometrics, lifting, and it's grounding to the body. So you can get heavy work in ways that don't involve big movements. So for the restaurant, you can bring some bubbles. You're getting deep breathing. You're getting jaw excursions. You can bring gum if your child's old enough to be safe with gum. Your jaw is getting that deep, heavy work, deep proprioceptive input, you can bring high resistance putty. You don't have to be in big moving activities. There are things you can do that are more sedentary and just knowing those and having them in your toolbox, you pull what you need and it's there. And I think -
I love that.
I think it's so helpful to think about and to really take in that the proprioceptive isn't just big jumps, right? Because I think for folks that are like, yeah, I don't have a trampoline at the restaurant, right? Like what does that look like? For Sage, my little guy's two, one of the things that we found really helpful, we bring a little backpack with us when we go to a restaurant or go to something and he picks out some toys that go in it and we throw some things in there too. And it's his job and it's been his job since he was like 18 months. It was huge on him at 18 months, but to carry it in. And so now he wears it like a backpack and it clips, but that is like one small way that on our way in, he's getting a little bit of input. And then we've been intentional about like Squigz. For a while at restaurants, we would put them down and he would pull them off the table. And so really thinking about, as the adults, like what are some toys? What are some things that we can utilize that you might have at home that you can bring along for the ride? Or, you know, you're cooking, you're whatever, and maybe you don't have a trampoline at your house. Maybe there isn't a safe space for your kid to jump and play when you're in the kitchen and need to see them or whatever, I think looking at what are some other ways we can bring this in that isn't always big body input and big body play, I guess, is really helpful to think about.
What about vestibular seekers? Do you have any thoughts on like out in the public, one of the tools at home for us that's so helpful is a sit and spin, because he can just go and do it on his own. And unlike our swing that hangs in the doorway that he whacks his head on the doorframe if one of us isn't there to push him, like the sit and spin is something for us he can do on his own.
Yeah, so seated in a restaurant, this might be hard, but what we do is we utilize that 10 minutes till you're seated wait time. So vestibular can be inversion, upside down. So is it appropriate to really be doing somersaults in the front of the restaurant? No, but you can bend down and touch your toes and then come back up. You can be back-to-back and tell each other a secret. So we're back-to-back and I'm like, hey, I can tell you something, turning to the right. And then he comes to the left and we go back and forth, tell each other a secret. So he's getting that side-to-side vestibular input.
Oh, what a fun game.
Yeah, if you're outside, you can do bouncing. If you have a tiny, you know, a younger one, you can do horsey rides where they're sitting on your lap and you're kind of bouncing your legs, give them a little bit of that vestibular input.
I love that.
Those are, vestibular is probably the hardest to like, keep under wraps, if you will, because that is what it is. It's the sense of movement. So you do have to move, whereas like, you know, proprioceptive, tactile, auditory, those you can kind of conceal more because you can be sedentary. Vestibular is one of the more challenging ones, but there are a few ways to get that movement input in more subtle ways.
Sure. It's been one of those things that I've learned for myself as a parent is really helpful for me to try to get in before we leave the house. Like, if I can prioritize it before we leave the house, it usually makes the getting out of the house easier. And then the being out of the house easier. If we can do an activity like if I pop him on the swing for five minutes, and I'm like pushing him slash packing a bag to leave or whatever, like, that is super helpful. Or if we set up a fun game where he loves to like crawl around, and then he rolls, just being different animals. And like those those are ways that I've found like pouring into it before we even leave the house has been helpful. I love the vestibular input.
Right. So you're basically already living a sensory lifestyle because you're front-loading. You did exactly what I was explaining is you're front-loading that input. You're giving him the input that he needs before he becomes dysregulated and his bucket's empty.
Yeah. It's my goal always because it makes my life easier, right?
It started for me as a teacher of like, how do I make my life easier? I think it can sound like, wow, way to go, Alyssa, but truthfully, for me, it really comes back to a real selfish motive of if I'm out and about and he's dysregulated, it's harder for me. And so for me, so much of my mental energy goes into that proactive front-loading of how do we support, how do we make it so his battery isn't empty? How do I recharge before we're getting to like a flashing blinking red 10 % battery life. And yeah, that just it makes sense in my brain makes my life easier.
When we are looking at the classroom, for our teachers who are tuning in. And I know we have a bunch of folks who tune in with multiple kids, and you know as a mom of three for yourself too, like have different systems at play different needs like the kid who is loud and then the kid who's sound sensitive and looking at like, how do we juggle this? What are some ways that we can build tools into our everyday practice? So it's not like, okay, you get one minute on the sit and spin and then like you're done, but how do we build it in to our everyday practice?
Yeah, so for a larger group, such as a classroom, like I said, heavy work is kind of universal. So everyone's gonna benefit from that. So if you can build that into your day, um, several times a day where, and same with movement, movement is important for everybody. It's not just going to be our seekers or someone with a diagnosis. Movement's important for everybody. Heavy work is beneficial to everyone. So if you could find little parts of your day where you can add movement, where you didn't normally have movement for kids that really seem to like need more than other kids, I love to give them jobs. Can you be the one that passes out the book to the class? Can you be the door holder? Can you help miss so-and-so take this to the office? Oh, my bag is so heavy. Can you help me carry my bag? Those kinds of things. So for the proprioceptive seekers, the kids that are just like off the wall, those kids you give a little bit extra, but for the most part, every kid's gonna benefit from moving more in the classroom.
Love this. There's so much time in the classroom that can be restrictive movement, right? Like sitting in circle, sitting to eat, sitting, sitting, sitting, sitting, sitting. And I think it would be so rad to challenge those systems to say like, do any of our chairs rock? Can any of them be chairs that spin? Do they have to sit to eat? Can they move? You know, like what does it look like? I know in our house, like at my house here, we have a learning tower, like a kitchen tower and Sage has breakfast there every morning. I was like, we're all, it's not a meal that we generally sit down all together for, and he'll like be hanging off the side of it, swinging his legs, moving around again. It makes my morning easier if he can eat breakfast there doing that. And then I look at like school and like, yeah, he doesn't want to sit in a chair and eat like, does he have to? Right?
And so like, but just looking at that across the board, like, can we challenge those systems for us? And I love the idea of jobs and you don't have to like, think up new things. Like you can truly just build them into the classroom community. Like there are so many jobs that we as teachers or that we as parents do all day long that we don't think about. For us, I've started saying like, when I bring the laundry up from the basement, I usually bring it up to the basement from the basement and fold it in the living room. So it comes to the top of the basement stairs and I ask Sage, can you just push the basket into the living room for me? That's super helpful. And it's also for me a part of like him being in our family community. Here are ways that you participate in helping around the house. We're doing little things. He puts away the cutting boards when we are emptying the dishwasher, those sorts of things. So like, we don't have to go out of our way to be like, what is a job I can do? You pause and think about what are the 7,000 jobs I'm gonna do in the next five minutes?
What can I offload?
Right, absolutely. Same thing if you have to take your child grocery shopping, let them push the heavy cart. That's heavy work. When you get home, let them unload those bags. Your job is to put all the cans away. Sure, we don't want them to put the spaghetti jar away that's breakable, but if you just have in your little toolbox, little jobs that are always theirs, then you know that pretty much all day you give them their little jobs where they're getting the input that they need.
Yeah, and it's like I said, that win-win. Also, I think it can often breed connection. They feel like they're a part of the community, whether it's in your school community or at home, and they feel connected. I feel like it hits a bunch of different buckets there. I love using this in playful transitions. Wanna dive into that real quick here of like, what does it look like? I think so often we are like, we just gotta get through this. We gotta get our shoes on and get out the door. We gotta get up to tubby. We gotta move from the bathroom to bedtime. And we're just trying to get through the 7,000 transitions that happen in a day. And it's been really helpful for me personally and professionally to utilize playful transitions to make them A: fun and things that also are regulating. Can we dive into some examples of what this might look like?
Yeah, I love that. One of our favorites in my household are animal walks. What animal do you wanna be to get from the playroom to the tub? Do you wanna be a frog or a bear? They're getting heavy work right then. Let's see if you can walk from the kitchen to the bathroom backwards, or I wonder how many steps it'll take you to get from point A to point B. Let's try to do the fewest amount of steps, meaning they're taking these big large jumps, which is proprioception. I love that kind of stuff. We will even do what we call the inchworm. So they'll put either a little cardboard box or something underneath their knees and scoot themselves. So they're using their whole body to get... we have tile floors, but to get from point A to point B. And they have no clue that they're putting in, quote unquote, the work, that they're doing sensory. For all they know, mommy just made a really fun way to get to the tub. I also recommend, I mean, you can't be crawling on the floor at school, but transitions are a really good way at school to get in.
Why can't they crawl on the floor at school?
I'm cool with it--
I say do it.
Yeah. In the classroom, yeah. I don't know how teachers would feel. Like, get to the lunchroom. On your tummy.
But yeah, no.
A lot of our kids are early childhood, so they don't necessarily have a lunchroom or whatever.
So they're in the classroom.
Oh, in the classroom, absolutely. Yeah, crawling. Be quiet. You know, there's a bear in the cave, and you have to be really quiet while you're doing a bear walk. Like they have no clue that they're getting sensory there, but we do. We know that hopefully by the time they get to the lunch table or wherever they were heading, they got that jolt of sensory input that is regulating.
Yeah, I love that. It's so helpful. I also find it personally helpful as a parent when I'm like leaving childcare to get in the car or whatever, we'll do one of these because I know he's going to sit in the car and he's usually coming from childcare, um, a little dysregulated. He-- introvert or like sound sensitive, um, visually sensitive. And there's a lot of that at school or other kids. There's all this. And so he's coming to us usually needing some input and sitting is then hard. I'm like, yeah, now we're going to go sit in the car and he's tactically sensitive. And so the buckle's always too tight and it's, you know, all the things. Um, but so doing these like playful transitions from pickup to the car has been so helpful for us. Uh, I, I love those examples and you know, we can link in the blog post too. We have a post on playful transitions that has, has just some ideas of games that you might play and ways to incorporate this. The floor is lava. Now you're jumping from one thing to the other to try and get to where you're going.
Oh, that's a favorite over here.
Yeah. right? And or we'll just like we'll get really quiet and we're gonna sneak around. Sagey loves to be sneaky.
So we'll sneak around and he'll like get up on his toes or he might crawl over slither like a snake and just like different ways of moving and two birds one stone it's a connection thing too and so now they feel connected and we filled their sensory bucket--it's your classic win-win.
Oh, I love this.
The other important thing with using transitions or the parent coming, or the teacher coming up with movement activities or any type of structured activity is that a true sensory seeker, if you give them movement opportunity and it's unstructured, a true seeker is going to become even more dysregulated. So transitions are -
Can you give an example of what that might look like here?
So, if you have a child with sensory processing disorder, specifically as a sensory seeker, they're jumping around the house and, you know, they've got all this energy and the parent says, go outside and play, go get your energy out. In theory, well, there's no problem with that, first of all. Kids need unstructured play, absolutely. But for a true sensory seeker, they go outside, they're climbing the tree and jumping out, they're escalating, they're moving. Theoretically, you would think that they would get tired, they would get their wiggles out. No, a sensory seeker is going to escalate. They're going to push the limits. They start to do things that are unsafe as ways to get the input that they need. They become even more dysregulated. So then they come inside, it's dinner time, let's say, and the parent's like, what happened? You were outside for an hour. Why aren't your wiggles out? And that was because the unstructured play has sent them even further into dysregulation. And my suggestion usually for home and the classroom is end that playtime with something structured. Whether it be the transition in or you set up a quick little obstacle course, you go from point A to point B or it has an end goal, that makes it structured. You can use a timer, even that is structured. Two minutes, let's see how many jumps you can do. They need that structure to bring their bring themselves down.
That makes sense to me. I mean, when we think of like unstructured, like you said, like some unstructured play is really beneficial, huge for creativity. And when we think about structure, what it provides is predictability. It's like routine for us does that same thing. And I like, I think about like, when I go into like mealtime, and I'm like, I have to make something for my family and I had no plan in place, my brain can feel frazzled. Like it is, I'm not one of those humans that opens up the fridge and like, Oh, here's these ingredients. Here's what I can throw together with these things. Like, no, I need a plan. And when I don't have one, it's dysregulating for me. Same with like packing. If we go to pack and I don't have like a list to pull from, it feels really dysregulating. I need that structure and it helps me thrive. It helps me feel in control, it helps me regulate, and it helps me succeed at the task. And so that makes sense to me that like, you would want to end unstructured play with something structured to get back into the feeling of like control in your body and knowing what's coming next and having a plan, which is often a regulating thing for our nervous system. That makes sense. That's a helpful tip.
And using the transitions, like you said, is like, especially at school, I'm just picturing they have maybe playground time. That's unless the teacher or whoever is out there really like telling each child what to do and making it a game, it's unstructured time. So our really high energy seekers are gonna come off a playground time and they're gonna be the kids that are even louder than when they left the classroom. They're gonna be the ones that are moving in their seats even more. So using the transition from the playground back to the classroom, that helps bring them down so that they are ready to get back to learning or doing whatever activity you were doing in the classroom.
I actually, as a teacher, found that this is where jobs became really helpful for me. Like, I just had one kid pop into my head who when we had five minutes left, we would announce it, but I would go up to him and say, OK, now I need your help. And his last five minutes were very structured. It was him helping me go to each space and making sure people knew where their toys went or where things went. Bikes go back in the thing or whatever, like helmets have to come off, and make sure our blocks are put away. He would help gather the backpack and he helped organize things with me. And then he was my line leader and we would walk inside together. And that helped him feel in control there. The jobs part really helped us come in from the playground, I feel like.
I love that. Being the person to erase the chalkboard at the end of the day, or if you're the one, if you have to put the chairs to the side so that they can vacuum the floor. Can you be my furniture mover? You know, anything's exciting to them. And of course they feel so proud when they have a job. One of my favorite ones, which is funny now, because anytime I show a young child, like, you know, the old fashioned pencil sharpeners, like it was screwed to the wall and you had to crank it. Think of what great heavy work that is, so good. You can get up and stand. It gave students a chance who needed to get wiggles out. it gave them like a real reason to get out of their chair and they wouldn't get in trouble. But I always suggest to teachers just install an old -fashioned pencil sharpener in your room and make that a job. I need five pencils sharpened and they're getting a quick dose of heavy work.
Sure. Yeah, love that. Awesome. Julia, I feel like we could just go into this forever with you. I want to touch on one more thing before we wrap up. How can we support sensitive siblings or friends when the energy or the volume gets really big, like asking for a friend. I have a sound sensitive human. The other day we're at a friend's house and our friend's two year old is they're like three weeks apart and they've totally different nervous systems and desires and needs and cravings and they seek very different and they show up differently. Like she has a really small bubble. She loves to touch. She wants to like be in your face. She's pretty loud and like has a strong presence in the room and Sage is like, this is my nightmare. And he's like constantly like running away. Like at one point just went upstairs in their house. He grabbed his bag and was like, go home. We, and so looking at like, how do we support this dynamic when it's siblings, when you can't leave that space when they're going to be in the same space. What does that look like?
Yeah, well, it looks not pretty. It's hard. There's really no perfect answer. I also struggle with this. Happened at the dinner table last night. I have one child that is very loud. Sitting right next to him is my other child covering his ears saying, too loud, too loud. So, I get it, totally. And it is hard. There are times where you can provide safe spaces for both parties. Just as much as the one needs to have a more quiet, mellow area, the one that needs to be loud also has that... It's a real need for them to be this loud and to get that energy and that talking out... Not out of their system, but that's a need for them, right? So they need to be able to know that there's a safe space for them to do that too. When you're in a small area and there's really not a place where both people can go and get what they need, I think it's really important to start young and talk about, you know, our brains are different and we all process things differently. And right now, so-and-so needs, his brain really doesn't like, that's too much for him. But I know your brain loves the sound. Getting them to understand that like not everybody's brain is the same and not everyone has the same needs. That goes a long way. And then having safe spaces and kind of respecting that, like if my one son says it's too loud, we just take a little break. We'll go take a walk outside. But when it's siblings, like you said, it's hard. And I haven't found a perfect answer for that, to be totally honest. You know, it's just trying to balance.
Sure. Yeah. Letting each person be their authentic self without stifling them. For me, what comes up here is the like task demands part of like, for instance, with Sagey, if we know we're going to a loud space or when we're going to this friend's house and we know that it can be a depleting thing for him, it can be a draining thing for him. I look at like, how do I front load maybe even extra, more than I normally would, when I know that the task demand will be high for him. Task demand being like, oh, this is going to be a hard activity. It's going to pull from the nervous system. It's not going to recharge him. How do I make sure I pour in extra for him? Right. So I think of it as like, if I was going to run a race, I'm not a runner. So this analogy might not shake out, but if I run a race and I was like, all right, what is my body need ahead of time? Because I'm not going to have access to snacks. I'm not going to be able to just whatever - What does my body need ahead of time. How do I support it? How do I like warming up? What types of food am I consuming to fuel it so that I can really recharge? I wouldn't have like a burger and a milkshake and then go run a marathon because it wouldn't help my body succeed in that space. I wouldn't like wake up without stretching or moving and just be like, and go and start running. And so I look at it like that. I'm like, how do I help him ahead of time? And we at our house call it setting you up for success. So like, how do I set myself up for success? How do I set Sage up for success? How does my husband set himself up for success? Going into different things. And Sagey's-- learning his sensitivities was really helpful because then I know like these are certain times or situations where we're going to be pulling from his battery. We're going to be draining his battery. How do I recharge it extra before I go into this? What do I make sure? Yeah, maybe instead of five minutes on the swing before we leave, he's going to have 15 or 20 minutes in that window before we go. How do we make sure that he, one of the things with sound being a challenge for him that like, then on the drive there, if he's, and this I've found too, as a sound sensitive human, if I'm in control of the sound, it doesn't drain me. So like, if I'm like, oh, I want to listen to music or I want to listen to a podcast, it's not pulling from my nervous system. It's when I'm not in control of the sound that it's draining. And so for him, we'll do the same thing. Like, hey buddy, would you like to listen to something on the way over? It gives him that opportunity, if you have multiple kids in the car, if they're like headphones, they can pop on, not just noise canceling headphones. A lot of our, you have a child like mine who is tactilely sensitive, like the pressure of the headphones, he doesn't love. And so it doesn't end up being a helpful tool for us a lot of the time. But having something where he can put headphones on or listen and it has like a story he loves or he loves, he'll ask for Raffi a lot right now. And so a song that he can listen to then is like supporting him before we go drain that battery. I think of that with task demands. Getting dressed is another one. We try to pour into him before we know like the tactile experience of getting dressed is hard.
Right. Absolutely. Makes total sense. We do that as adults, right? Just like with your running example.
Correct. How do we set ourselves up for success? And that I think is like, for me, the like tagline when it comes to our nervous system, when it comes to our sensory systems, it's like, how are we setting ourselves up for success? And that's what the sensory lifestyle for me comes back to is that if it's not something that's available and that we're incorporating into how we move through the day, we don't end up setting ourselves up for success. We end up in that reactive state where it's like, big meltdown, react to it, try to come back from it. Big meltdown, react to it, try to come back from it. And it's exhausting to get stuck in that cycle.
Absolutely, and like you mentioned earlier, I think it's really cool now that parents are understanding sensory a little more and are wanting to do things like creating a sensory lifestyle because like you said, they're going to continue. These sensory sensitivities and/or what they're seeking doesn't go away. You just really grow around it. Or as they say, grow into it. You start to understand what works for you and what doesn't work for you. But it's really cool that now kids are given the opportunity to participate in that from a young age to understand either the battery analogy or the bucket analogy, you know? I don't know. I never had that as a kid. And I think most people in my generation didn't, and I think it's really cool that our kids now are getting that opportunity to learn about their bodies and learn about their needs from a young age. And that goes right into the sensory lifestyle is once they start to understand their needs and, you know, mom gave me this activity because I really like spinning or jumping, or she knows I really don't like this sound, so she packed this. They see that, and they learn it, and they're making their own toolbox for when they're older and taking care of themselves.
Totally, because the goal isn't that they're always in a space that's a regulating space. Like, we are going to go to people's houses that have loud humans. He's going to go to conferences someday. He's going to be in a classroom with loud kids. And it's not my job to put him in a little bubble, it's my job to equip him with the tools to thrive. And helping build that awareness of like, what drains you and what recharges you? For me, it's like, this is the key to him being able to navigate the world, is understanding how his body functions.
Yeah, and think of how much stress you're taking off of him as a teenager and a young adult. To like not have to be figuring that out while you're going through puberty and going into your first relationship and job, like you've kind of like got that.
Feeling annoyed, feeling dysregulated, moving through the world dysregulated because you don't know how your body works. It's like, it doesn't have to be that way and what a cool gift we get to give kids now as we're building these tools for ourselves and building this awareness. Julia, thank you so stinking much for the work that you do. It is truly, truly, it's like I said, this is the stuff that I think changes lives. I think it's what can impact our day-to-day most significantly, and I'm really grateful for you. Where can folks find you, connect with you, learn more about you?
Yeah, I'm mainly over on Instagram on @otmamaoftwins. You'll see a lot of my high-energy boys and activities that we've got going on and strategies that we use. That's mainly where I am. And also playmoveexplore.com, starting to put some activities up there and offering some consults. So check me out there too.
Thanks so much, Julia.
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