Monday, March 31, 2008

Home Education Week-Sensory Integration

Because of an early diagnosis of Sensory Integration Disorder and excellent training from our occupational therapist, our homeschool has looked different from most, and began early.  When Sensory Integration was first explained to me, the OT said that the way our brains (and nervous system and bodies) develop is like a pyramid. 

At the base of the pyramid are three parts:  proprioceptive (messages from joints during movement), kinesthetic/ vestibular (knowing your body's position in space while moving) and tactile (feeling things).  Each of these areas target a specific skill.  So in the past, therapists have honed in on therapies in one area, such as our OT had been doing for my son.  But because we were not making any success, we had been sent to a large hospital for medical testing which proved he was perfectly healthy! That's when the hospital's OT came to me with this news.  He said they were not having success in their own OT clinic, working with SI clients targeting one area.  So they decided to try the entire program, working on all three areas, and found success!  I called our OT back home and she was ecstatic to hear this news.  She revamped her entire OT program for all of her SI children and immersed all of us in the entirety of SI.  She gave me lots of literature to read and I asked lots of questions. 

When my 9 month old son presented a need for help, we were referred to her.  The OT knew immediately my dd also required SI and encouraged us to do all the therapies as a family.  That way we wouldn't label or make the weaker vessel feel awkward. This would build team spirit.  Besides, it's all fun and good for anyone to do. 

Anyway, back to the chart, and how it fits in to our homeschool.  Most babies normally progress with the propioceptive, vestibular, and tactile senses well, developing at a normal rate.  As they reach toddler hood, they move on to developing auditory and visual skills, the next level on the pyramid.  As they continue to develop, they reach the next level, audio visual perception, usually honed in preschool and kindergarten programs.  After that is developed, the child is ready to learn to read, write and do math, the next level of the pyramid.  By teenage years, they enter the highest point of the pyramid, abstract thinking skills.

Here is a copy that I had drawn up at the hospital.

When children have a glitch in one of these areas developmentally, the top can not be easily reached unless intervention is done. 

Here is our photo show of school over the years...  

Physical therapy for dd, while I was pregnant with ds.  This was before we ever heard of SI, yet here she is doing some SI!

This is at PT.  I found a bunch of these balls for a few bucks at a yard sale, bought them and used them at home.

This begins our OT days at the base hospital.  We were done with PT and speech therapy off base at this point.  Here is Luke, the beloved therapy dog.

We had learned that we were already doing lots of SI things.  But we learned more new things to do.  After awhile, I noticed that doing the same SI activity got old after awhile. My dc always benefitted from new input!  Here is dh pulling them around the house on a beach towel.

One of the best SI activities involve playgrounds.  But when the weather is bad, what to do?  Gather all the soft items, pile them up unevenly, and have them walk, tumble and crawl over the uneven surfaces, working on balance.

Another great indoor activity, get a huge container full of beans. They'd sit inside, fill and empty containers, learn about volume, sound, weight, etc.  This activity always had a calming effect. But supervise.  My son stuck a bean up his nose.  That ended up in a field trip to the emergency room.  The doc got some pretty residents to observe how to dig these things out, and ds flirted with them.  To the doc's dismay, there was nothing up the nose anymore!  He was looking forward to the extraction process!  We found the bean in the backseat of the car!

  At OT doing something I could not do at home.  This was one of the best activities for them to do.  Dd was usually scared of everything, but these activities tending to help her organize her world to accept input. DS on the other hand ran and climbed and kept me busy.  He rarely sat.  These activities helped him to organize his nervous system to calm down and relax!

Our OT tried to find grant money for me to buy this wonderful apparatus for our home.  You interchange different types of swings. There will be more photos of different seats throughout.  My children never wanted to stay on these for long.

Our OT called the base horse and saddle club to see if they'd like to volunteer their services to allow her SI clients to ride horses for SI therapy for free!  Here's dd and I.

Here is dh and ds.

Back at OT taking Luke for a walk, a highly proprioceptive activity.  I have other photos of ds pushing Luke from behind-I guess he liked adding texture to his activity!

Afterwards Luke got a treat.  A texture activity for sure...wet tongue!

 Here we are at South Padre Island, TX.  This is the best sand box in the world!  We'd take morning walks along the beach then get back to the hotel (with a window view of the beach) for lunch and naps.  The dc were usually difficult to put down for naps, but here they were so worn out they slept.  Then after naps we played on the beach for a few hours, then found a restaurant for dinner. 

Other trips would be to the woods.  This is Lost Maples, TX in the autumn, a day trip.

Back at OT.  She had a great activity.  Finger painting in chocolate pudding.  DS had trouble gaining weight, he just never wanted to eat.  But he did enjoy licking his fingers.  I missed a photo moment though of Luke longingly wanting to lick Chocolate Boy's face!

After that, the OT thought the children should dress up Luke!  He's such a good and patient therapy dog!

After that the good and patient Luke got his hair brushed.

At base housing, dh built an SI playground delight on our budget.  In the blue box underneath I had various SI activities for outdoors.  I had one of those green turtles for a sand box.  And there is a ball pit under the walkway on the ground.

We'd make ice cream the old fashioned way...good SI!

 According to SI philosophy, these activities helped prepare my dc for school.  As we continued SI, we began kindergarten with dd.

We took our field trips (we've never co-oped).  We just found this available in October during Fire Prevention Week on base.

Amazingly, dd got on the fire truck and pulled the horn, while ds stayed in my arms. Today that would be reversed!

Making one's birthday cake is good SI!

Opening presents from Grandma is also good SI.  No one ties packages as tightly as she does!

Here's one of the other OT swings, my dc's least favorite.

Getting into seatwork!  The OT was really impressed with how dd did with kindergarten! Being an OT, she also gave me lots of OT and SI tips for teaching handwriting!

Helping me husk corn...great SI!  Maybe it will motivate him to eat some of it too!

    Making patterns...3yods had to do everything 6yod did!

  Playing baseball (very SI) with Missy, who likes to steal the ball!

We went to a museum (gasp) to see the Columbus Ships at Corpus Christi, TX.  And the dc had good SI experiences...climbing into the crow's nest...


and r-o-w-i-n-g...

SI art...paper mache and paint the world...

Our beach unit study presentation with poetry on the walls, a map of South Padre on the floor, the paper mache world in the corner, and a diagram of what's under the ocean on the wall...

Getting SI while washing the car while Dad washes his...

 Homeschooling looks very different now than it did from when we first started. We went from struggling at the base of the developmental pyramid to being successful at the abstract thinking skills at the top!  It took a few years of head banging on my part and lots of tears, again on my part.  I was on my knees in prayer.  We were struggling with the boxed curriculum.  Merely SI activities was no longer cutting it.  But I have found that a blend of SI, understanding how the brain develops and classical education has been a great fit for us.  We started this new adventure a couple of years ago and it's been an answer to prayer!  Does that mean that school is now super easy?  No. We still have our struggles.  The children still have SI issues in their own areas of learning how to cope, learn, manage their time, etc.  But we are learning and moving forward and having a little bit of fun! ;) 


  1. So glad you found a military OT who thought bigger than tendinitis. Your early and current homeschool look great ~

  2. What a great entry. Having two children myself with severe SI this was a great entry for me. It took us a long time to find a good OT and now that we found Tomatis. WOW!!! What a change. Both BOys are brand new and we don't even have to do the sensory diet like 40 times a day. Now the youngest wheres his pressure vest 3 times a day and Tomatis for 8 days every other month and he is thriving.



  3. As you can guess I read this with interest! Tink went through all those therapies too. This brought back a lot of memories for me. Our days are definitely better than they were just tow years ago but we have a long way to go down this sensory road!

    Mrs darling

  4. Wow - what a jam-packed full of great stuff post! I was here earlier and couldn't comment because of...4 children needing to eat. But anyway, thanks for visiting me, and I'll have to spend some time over here - you've done a really nice job of journaling some important milestones in your homeschool and parenting journey.

  5. That is some very interesting information. I knew my older son was kinesthetic and tactile, though I wasn't quite sure the difference until reading your post. I like the museums that have hands-on activities for the kids. It makes the museum experience much more enjoyable for everyone.

  6. A very interesting post. It sounds like you were able to get a lot of help for your children. That dog Luke is great. He has a special job.

  7. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

  8. What an informative post. I love the way you journaled your journey; this will be very helpful to a lot of people!


  9. Homeschooling is tough work even in the best of circumstances. My admiration goes out to all of you moms who do it with all those extra "challenges". You will definitely receive great rewards for your courage.

    Thanks for your comments on my blog.

  10. Wow...looks like you've come a long way. I enjoyed scrolling through all of your pics.

  11. What a fantastic post Laurie! Isn't it soooo wonderful how God works behind the scenes preparing us/helping us to do things even before we know our dc will "need" them? I loved seeing all the pics of what school looked like "way back when" for you. Just great! You are an awesome mom and teacher!