My nine-year-old son has sensory issues, hypotonia, handwriting difficulties and is not as coordinated as other kids so he does not want to try to learn to skate or ride a bike or anything requiring coordination. He doesn't have the endurance that other kids have. When I put him in a homeschool PE class, he ends up sitting on the bench. He still can't swim because when he takes lessons, the water is too cold or he can't stand the water being splashed in his face. He seems to be overly sensitive in every way a person can be sensitive. He is also highly gifted so he doesn't fit in with kids mentally either.
What can I do to help him? A friend of mine recommended "listening therapy" and I would like to know how this works. Does it really help with hypotonia and coordination problems?
Because of the diagnosis of hypotonia, you have a special set of circumstances to work with. Not knowing the cause of his hypotonia or the severity, we can at least help you with ideas for recommended therapy.
Your child may be in Speech, for language and/or feeding/swallowing concerns, related to hypotonia. He may be in Physical Therapy to work on core strength, coordination and low muscle tone. And he may be in OT working from a sensory integrative frame of reference. Core strength is going to be real important to this nine year old, as the building blocks for improvements in coordination, timing and sequencing. This will help his endurance.
I understand this may not be easy for him, and he probably tires very quickly, so work with him in short sessions, but more frequently. Daily, if possible, in several short sessions. When you see signs of increased strength, it could be a good time to introduce a couple programs to refine his abilities. Yes, Listening Therapy may be very good for him to address some of the processing deficits you are likely seeing in your son, and vestibular and visual/spatial improvements may help with balance, but I believe it may have a minimal impact on other areas of need. You can read more in depth information in two articles I wrote: Therapeutic Listening
and Therapeutic Listening Guidelines
What is wonderful about many of these programs, is that we may see issues addressed that we didn't expect, in a good way! And each program may help another piece of the puzzle that eventually helps the whole.
Another program you might want to consider and ask your therapist about is Interactive Metronome. (www.interactivemetronome.com
) This is a fantastic program to
address coordination, timing, and sequencing. If he is able, endurance-wise, you may see wonderful progress with life skills for a child, such as bike riding, skating, shoe tying and other activities that require good motor coordination and balance.
One more program that may help a lot is the Astronaut Training: A Sound Activated Vestibular-Visual Protocol (Handbook & Companion CD, $39). This price for the program does not include the Astronaut Training Board that must be constructed, (like a board on a lazy susan) or purchased separately. This can be administered at home, at your own expense, or through an OT clinic who provides this program as part of therapy.
From your letter I can see he is still quite tactile defensive. This can be drastically reduced by following an intensive brushing protocol (Wilbarger) or massage and brushing (Burpee). You would need to be shown how to do this correctly by an OT trained in either of these methods. If it is not possible for your son to go to regular therapy with a trained OT, you can help at home by doing frequent massages, and all over skin input (skip the abdomen if there is any history of seizures) with scrubbies in the bath and brisk towel drying. I would suggest adding tactile games and play materials to his everyday sensory diet.
Handwriting is a common issue with our SPD kids, and may also be a weakness associated with his hypotonia, depending on the severity. Check his pencil grasp, and help strengthen muscles if needed, by exercising fingers with squeeze balls, and having him use a very small piece of chalk to strengthen thumb flexion and finger grip, if needed. Might I suggest the Handwriting without Tears
program? This is a favorite of the Hosts of SPD Parent SHARE, and I have used it with my own son. Simple, no frills printing and cursive, just made for these kids. Also, he may need to do specific exercises for possible low muscle tone in that right shoulder and arm, if he is right handed. Check with your therapist if you have one, and have her/him examine that.
You are doing great and you are on the right path, asking questions and seeking solutions! He will continue to improve with your support and help. I am not surprised in the least, that this child is gifted! Celebrate the gifts, as you have a wonderful opportunity to allow him to excel in his gifted areas, since you homeschool, and continue to work on the challenges.
For additional information about The Astronaut Training AND Listening Therapy go to: www.VitalSounds.com