Sensory Brushing & Joint Compressions For Autism

Sensory brushing & joint compressions for autism are a way to reset your child’s sensory system.  The goal is to help their overloaded sensory system stop, relax, then reboot. It sort of turns off or lessens some of the stimuli going on in his nervous system.  This is a great way to help 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 therapists. 

One of the things that our wonderful occupational therapist, Amy, did was to brush Logan. Using a Wilbarger Therapy Brush, she brushed 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. 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 generally follow the brushing. The purpose of a joint compression is to press on 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.  In a perfect world, you want to do both if at all possible. Another idea is to have them do jumping jacks or sit ups if you are unable to do the  compressions. This enables them to get the necessary 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. 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 do it at the beginning of the day before we begin making requests of him.  I do it before we go to a social outing, such as an event or  church.  Pretty much anytime his sensory system is going to be taxed. If we are not in a position to do either , 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 which is crucial to his daily success.