I ran across this wonderful article by Brian R. King about rolling pins and five other simple sensory solutions for children on the autism spectrum. We tried this last night and it was an instant success with 11-year-old Corban. I share the article in its entirety here.
By Brian R. King, 2/15/11
After a very exhausting day yesterday, my dear wife tried rubbing my shoulders to give my nervous system the deep pressure that always makes me feel better. Unfortunately, her hands were sore and she just couldn’t muster the strength.
Being the gifted outside-the-box thinker she is, she said, “Wait right here.” A few moments later I felt a rolling pin going up and down my back. She was using it as she would to roll out dough, and I have to tell you the feeling was heavenly. It was like she was rolling the tension out of my muscles, and I almost fell asleep sitting there, it was so calming.
Since that was a success she moved to my calf muscles. It was so calming, so fast that I could hardly speak. I hope she didn’t realize she’d accidentally discovered a way to shut me up.
We tried it on our sons (at their request) and they loved it. This was too good to keep to myself, so I shared it with my friends on Facebook, and they loved it. Some reported trying it with their own children who experienced similar results. Others jumped into the discussion and offered additional at-home sensory solutions that are simple, practical and worth adding to your collection of solutions.
1) Rolling Pin
For all of the glorious reasons I mentioned above.
2) Hanging Bar
If you’re not set up for this in your home, you can find one at any local park (monkey bar) or at the gym. I have found that hanging from a bar is a way to quickly organize my nervous system. It stretches my upper body muscles in a uniform way and opens up my vertebrae with a calming stretch that relaxes my whole body and helps me feel focused in only a few seconds.
3) Indoor Trampoline
Usually about 3 feet in diameter, they are small, portable and easy to store. They are highly effective at helping a child who has been held up in school all day to get fast, intense proprioceptive input to blow off a lot of steam, anxiety and feel calmer and focused.
4) Bean Bag Chair
For a spectrumite with poor upper body tone (including me), holding their body up in a standing or sitting position can be exhausting. The student who keeps lying on their desk in class for example. A bean bag chair is a simple way for someone to sit in a relaxed position and still remain alert. I have a similar foam chair I used to use for long periods of writing. What the heck am I thinking, I need to start using that again.
5) Backpack with Handheld Weights
This is an inconspicuous way for a spectrumite to get deep pressure on their shoulder muscles to achieve the calm they need. They can take charge of this themselves and vary the amount of weight in the backpack to accommodate their needs at the time. Far more versatile than a weighted vest.
6) The Wall
It’s more than a Pink Floyd song. It’s also a sturdy, flat surface you can lean against and push with your hands, or lean against it with your back and push with your legs. The intense muscle contraction you use to push can create a good amount of proprioceptive input than can decompress anxiety and be very calming.