Sensory brushing & joint compressions for autism are one way you can uses to reset a child’s sensory system. The goal is to help their overloaded sensory system stop and reboot. It sort of turns off or lessens some of the stimuli going on in his nervous system. This helps him to focus better. Think of it as a way to hit pause on an overactive system. The Wilbarger Brushing Protocol is the standard used for most occupational therapist.
One of the things that our wonderful occupational therapist, Amy, did was to brush Logan. Using a Wilbarger Therapy Brush, she brushes him on the arms, legs and feet. The key is to never break contact with him while brushing. My hand is to never leave his body. You brush kinda hard too. She was so sweet to show me how to do it properly. You want to have the brush available anytime he needs that sort of pressure. For that reason, we have one in the glove box, one in my purse, one in the Disney bag, you get the idea. Like his Epi- Pen, we don’t leave home without it.
Joint compressions can follow the brushing. The purpose of the joint compressions is to press on the each joint 3xs in a row. So to do the elbow, you grab the shoulder and the elbow and press together. Same for all the other joints (ie hips, knees, etc.) For best results, joint compressions ALWAYS follow brushing. The goal is to get his body into sync BEFORE we ask anything of him. If all you can do is brushing then something is better than nothing. Ideally though you want to do both if at all possible. You can have them do jumping jacks or sit ups if you are unable to do the compressions. This enables them to get the input of the compressions without necessarily doing them.
Like me, you are probably saying “yeah right. whatever”. This is a bunch of hogwash. Trust me, it really makes a difference. Nothing short of incredible for Logan. After this, he will write sentences , do puzzles, work on the floor scooter (to build up trunk strength because you can’t write effectively if you have no trunk strength). He is focused and relaxed. He can focus on higher level math like Algebra.Who knew that such a little thing would make such a big difference?
This can be used as part of your at home occupational therapy program. I will do it before we start school. I will do it before we go to an event or to church. Pretty much anytime he needs to keep himself together. If we are not in a position to do it , I let him wear his weighted vest or do some other heavy load work to get that proprioceptive input. We can also achieve this by letting him wear the snack backpack while at WDW . It’s the same input he craves when he uses his electric toothbrush as opposed to a non electric one. For us, it is an integral part of his sensory diet.
More occupational ideas for home use can be found on my Autism – Occupational Therapy Pinterest board.
For more ideas on Affording Autism, check out the rest of the series here: