Zeke's Favorites - Our Tool Kit for Sensory Processing and Anxiety

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Hi there! In case you’re new to our blog, let me introduce myself! I’m Laurie Geary, owner and director of Yellow Wood Tutoring. I have three amazing kiddos, ages 5, 3, and 1! My oldest, Zeke, has some unique challenges that go along with a diagnosis of Cerebellar Ataxia. In case you don’t know what that is, in a nutshell he has damage to his cerebellum, which can impact balance, coordination, vision, and speech. This is his overarching diagnosis, but he also struggles with severe expressive speech delay, sensory processing disorder, and anxiety.

As Zeke has grown and matured, he has made lots of strides in his physical skills - gross motor, fine motor, etc. However, his sensory processing difficulties and anxiety have become a larger hindrance to learning and interacting. He struggles with large crowds, but our day to day transitioning is hardest. Transitioning into his classroom at school, into his therapy appointments, or just transitioning to a new place are tricky and anxiety inducing!

Recently we created a “tool kit” for Zeke that we take with us, everywhere (or at least as often as we can remember!). We’ve seen some big improvements thanks to his tool kit, and I’m excited to share with you what has worked for us! This is definitely a work in progress, so we’d love to hear from YOU if you have any ideas to add!

  1. chews and fidgets

Zeke is not a huge “chewer”, but he does need something to chew on if he is in full meltdown mode. We chose this chewy necklace because it has double use - a chewy and a fidget. he loves playing with this necklace, and he doesn’t feel weird about it because its not “just” a chewy. This necklace is a great preventative tool when we go somewhere new or when he’s nervous.


2. Weighted Toys

Zeke does really well with deep compression and weight. It helps calm him almost immediately. Weighted stuffed animals have been a big hit with him. Two we keep with us are his Snap-able Star Fish (the two star fish snap together), and his sequin hedgehog. Both double as a fidget (the snaps and sequins) as well as providing the weighted deep pressure. Win win!

3. Noise Reducing Headphones

Like many kids with sensory issues, Zeke hates loud noises. Fireworks? Traumatizing. Big, noisy, echoing crowds? Awful. So, we’ve learned to prepare him for the noise by telling him it may be loud and offering noise reducing headphones. Sometimes he declines the offer, but usually once we are in the loud area, he will ask for them. The trick is letting him know that they are available if he needs them! These headphones were a lifesaver for us at Disney World last year.

4. Magnet Blocks (or other “Took Kit Only” toys)

We also keep a couple toys that are only “tool kit toys” - meaning, he cannot play with these toys except when he needs a minute to calm down, or is waiting in a waiting room. Magnet blocks are my go to, but we’ve also done something as simple as matchbox cars.

We have some other odds and ends in our tool kit, but keeping it simple and predictable has been very helpful for Zeke! He knows what is in the bag, and knows that I switch out the toys, so he likes that small element of surprise.

What works for you? What do you take with you to help keep meltdowns at bay?