Monday, October 29, 2007

Sensory Integration and our October Field Trip

Hay was the big hit of the day yesterday at the Outback Lodge (see October 28, 2007 post for more information). Sure, the kids had fun riding in the horse-drawn wagon, hunting for leaves, painting gourds, and decorating grapevine leaves with pinecones and scarecrows. But it was the hay they really loved—and it wasn’t just the ones on the spectrum. All the kids had a great time climbing up the bales of hay, jumping off the stacks, and burying themselves in the hay. Needless to say, a lot of jackets needed to be washed afterward.

Behavior-wise all went as well as can be expected. My son had one incident when we went in for dinner. He kicked a wall because he wanted to stay outside. A stern lecture and a deep-pressure massage (called the Me Protocol) helped to limit the kick to just one. The other five children on the spectrum (all with Asperger’s Syndrome) did pretty well—with a few missed social cues here and there and a few complaints about being too hot in the fire-place lit dining room. Most of us, however, were glad to warm up after being out in the fall chill for two or three hours.

For the most part, the warmth of the dining room seemed to be the biggest sensory problem of a day filled with plusses in terms of sensory needs for our kids on the spectrum. Playing in the hay, running in a “horse” relay race (with kids wearing loose harnesses), lassoing a post (which one boy fixated on), painting, and walking and/or running around the great outdoors provided great opportunities for sensory integration. Those opportunities, along with the opportunity to socialize, made the four hours of our field trip go by fast. I believe that everyone involved in the field trip went home tired, but happy.

One of the biggest challenges of planning fieldtrips for children on the spectrum is considering sensory issues. Having sensory issues addressed can make a big difference in the behavior of a child with ASD. Children on the spectrum tend to misbehave when over or under stimulated by environmental factors. I’d highly recommend planning field trips outdoors (when it’s not too hot or cold, of course.) The great outdoors allows a lot of space for physical activity and other opportunities to meet sensory needs (hay, for example). For basic knowledge of sensory integration, please see Eric Digests.

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