Sunday, March 1, 2009

Behavior Modifications and Sensory Diets

I'm intending for this post to be "educational" and hope to give you a good laugh at my expense.

Last week I reclaimed our school room. I scored some desks off of Freecycle, we had cleaned and decluttered and I was motivated to make our school room a fun, inviting place that the kids would WANT to be in. Bonus for me: all the desks match. Yay!

I've also been reading a lot lately on Autism and three things stood out to me. Behavior modification, sensory satisfaction and structure. So, armed with this grand new information and my imagination, I sat down to several projects last week. I'm passing them on for any of you to use if you think it might be helpful.

First up was our Behavior Modification. Who doesn't like a reward for good behavior or a job well done? I started a token economy. I used some pennies, an envelope decorated in stickers and a spinner. This is how we set ours up.

10 pennies for each kid
1 8 space spinner (you could make one out of cardstock and a brad, or I bought a pack of them for a dollar at Walmart)

The rules were that they had to earn 5 pennies for a break and 10 pennies for a big reward.

1 penny = assignment completed.
2 penny = if the assignment was completed inependently
5 penny = 10 minute break. Use the spinner.
7 penny = small treat (like M&M or animal crackers)
10 penny = 30 minutes computer time, outside play, art project (like painting, playdough)

For the spinner at the 5 penny mark (if needed, you can revert to the spinner if you need chores done, or more school work, or a big, unusual job).
1. 15 minutes educational game on computer
2. Sensory box (tell you about that in a minute)
3. Listen to MP3 player
4. Play a board or card game (Memory, Clotheline, Go Fish)
5. Coloring book
6. Free Play
7. Snack
8. Play outside or free play if inclimate weather

Tokens were paid for 5 and 10 penny activities. 1 token was also paid for crying, physical contact, and frustration violence (hitting table, tearing up paper, kicking furniture).

Now, for the Sensory Diet. Ugh. Ok, maybe this would have worked with some better quality balloons and may I suggest you allow this activity only with supervision like a hawk.

First, I made a sensory box. This is kind of like the I Spy bottles and pillows you see, only they get to use their hands to rake through the contents. I used a medium size plastic drawer, so when we were done, it goes up and away and the little kids actually do not know where I've hid it.

1 bag uncooked rice
1 bag uncooked each red beans, black beans and split peas
Small, blunt objects laying around the house. I used a marble, flat ended screw, coins, bottle nipple, erasers, paper clips, baby spoon, colored popscicle sticks, dice, small car. Anything you can think of to put in there and can be buried by the rice and beans.

I let them comb through it with their hands. I had to watchful of the 4 years and under set because they had a tendency to throw it up in the air and fill their pockets and try to bury their arms in the box.

Next on the list for the Sensory Diet were stress balls. I read this idea and thought WOW! What a great idea. Ok, not so much anymore. I know the purpose these should be for, but like I said, I think I needed better quality ballons.

Quality balloons (probably not something you would get from a Dollar Store)
Corn Syrup
Empty, dry soda bottle
A partner

1. Using your funnel, fill up your soda bottle with about a cup and a half of your desired ingredient.
2. Blow up your balloon. Have your partner pinch the base of the balloon to keep air in while you stretch the opening over the soda bottle's spout.
3. Pour the ingredients into the balloon. Some, like the corn syrup, will flow automatically, but you will have to tilt the bottle so you get some air flow/resistance that allows the ingredient to transfer to the balloon.
4. Remove the balloon carefully from the bottle.
5. Allow the air to slowly leave the balloon and tie it off.

Lessons learned:
First, do not think that funnel will somehow be a good idea using it just with the balloon. Things did not enter a deflated balloon easily, so when I thought I would blow it up and stick the funnel full of cornstarch into the balloon, I didn't account for air leaving the balloon and blowing corn starch all over my kitchen. Or the rice having to be prodded and pulled into the balloon 3 bits at a time. Or the corn syrup oozing out over the balloon because my funnel was cracked and the balloon didn't stretch out (did that 2 times before learning my lesson). Or that sugar is slightly heavier than the funnel it was in and made a huge mess when I fumbled the balloon and funnel together when my fingers and wrists cramped up and dumped sugar all over myself and the floor. Or that once I figured out the best way to get the stuff into the balloon was with the soda bottle and a partner, not to let the air out of the balloon too quickly, or once again, flour was blown all over the kitchen. Also, water and corn syrup do not mix. They separated in the balloon. I found this out after I thought that if I added water to the balloon, like you would if you were filling a water balloon, the cold water separated the syrup and it was heavy on the bottom and squishy on the top.

Lessons learned after the kids got a hold of the stress balls.
Do not let the kid that LOVES the bumpy texture of the rice ball sleep with it. He woke up in a pile of rice.
Do not let them leave the house with the corn syrup filled stress ball because one they throw it at someone or something, it will probably pop and make a huge, sticky mess.
Do not let them take their rice filled stress ball into the tub with them.
Do not let husbands play with the flour filled balloons because the balloons are too delicate for the kind of strength that a husband would use to release their stress with. Be prepared for flour to explode all over your dark green couch.
Teach your children what the balloons are for: they are NOT for target practice, dodge ball, catch, chewing on, or poking with pencils, scissors, nail clippers or toothpicks.

So, there you go. A fun filled day of stress balls, boxes filled with a potential recipe for disaster, and spinners to reward good behavior. Two of the things are working for us anyway, but I think I'm staying far away from the stress balls for now.

1 comment:

Alysia and Michael and fam said...

This is so funny, thanks for sharing! I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time but it is amazing how putting things on paper (or the internet) can help bring perspective. It sounds like Mom needed a stress ball for herself after such an adventure! Kudos to you for experimenting!