While not everyone was thrilled about the fidget spinner explosion of 2017, one thing it did bring is more awareness about tactile aides for kids with ADHD, autism and other disorders, or those who may simply be feeling overstimulated and anxious. There are all kinds of items that occupational therapists keep in their tool bags to help children calm down and stay focused.
Here are five products that parents say have made a big difference in their kids’ lives.
Weighted blankets, which have been touted as life-changing for sleepers with nighttime anxiety, offer “deep pressure stimulation” for kids who seek sensory input to calm down. According to Brenda Richards, an occupational therapist in Solon, Ohio, the child covered in it “has the sensation of a firm hug while also being warmed,” which sends a message to their brain to release mood-improving neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. They become less anxious and more grounded. The Magic Blanket company has some guidelines on choosing the right blanket weight for your child.
A weighted lap pad is another tool that can help kids calm down and focus while sitting in class, or relax on car and plane rides.
Photo: Sensory Solutions
Wiggle seats let hyperactive children wiggle a bit in their seats, which is important because research has shown that movement can help kids with ADHD to focus. Teachers use these cushions in the classroom, while parents like to have them around for dinner and homework time.
For kids who always need to be doing something with their hands, this twistable toy is fun to manipulate and easy to tote around anywhere.
Photo: Fun and Function
When kids are feeling agitated, they can crawl into this snug sack, a place where they can tune out the world and calm down. Parents of children with autism or sensory processing disorder highly recommend it. (Editor’s note: We couldn’t find this one on the Australian Amazon store, but eBay has a version of it.)
Another fidget-spinner alternative, therapy putty not only relieves anxiety but also helps strengthen little fingers and build fine motor skills.