I spoke a little about low muscle tone earlier this week. Today, I want to share some of the strategies that we were given to us to support Liam’s floppy-ness.
First, occupational therapy. I wasn’t always able to see what was going on in there, but his therapist definitely worked on his core and to strengthen his ability to sit up for longer amounts of time. I would highly recommend karate, too. Karate was so amazing for Liam that I will have to include it in a separate post. In both, he also learned coordination, which was much needed.
Second, we offered Liam movement breaks when he needed them. Sitting in one place for any length of time, as we all know, is not good for anyone. The longer he sat, the more likely it was that he would start to lie down. At the same time, for Liam, sitting on an exercise ball was not a good idea. He was not coordinated enough. Some kids I’ve worked with have liked “cushioned bumpy” seats, not balls. Preference will depend on the kid. The same is true for weighted lap pads or vests. It will go back to what the child likes and doesn’t like based on his/her sensory profile.
Third, we started to use “expected” and “unexpected” to describe Liam’s behaviors. “Liam, it is unexpected that you lie on the floor during circle time.” Or. “Liam, it was expected that you sit up to listen for directions – thank you.” This replaced our natural tendency to say, how he acted was odd or weird (unfortunately the latter came from peers quite a bit). Expected and Unexpected were helpful for Liam to understand how the world was interpreting his actions and behaviors, without also offering him the world’s judgment or condemnation.
Lastly, we started to use the directive: “make your body match.” For instance, Liam would lie down on the pew in church. I would say, “Liam, can you ‘think with your eyes’ (look around to take in information for processing), and ‘make your body match?'” This would help him “see” what others looked like, how he was “out of sync” with the expectation for his actions for this location/situation, and know what was expected of him.
Now, this doesn’t mean that he didn’t have to do a lot of leaning against me or his dad during a long church service (we still have to talk about leaning to this day, because it is even more unexpected for an almost 14 year old). At least he wasn’t lying down. And, he was getting great information about the world, to act upon.
Some of these ideas come from Michelle Garcia Winner’s “Social Thinking” curriculum. His itinerant autistic support teacher made use of this curriculum. I’m thrilled to say that we have incorporated it into our current district, although Liam doesn’t use it anymore.
Every once in a while, I will use one of these terms with him, to help him calibrate on our/the situation’s expectations – he knows exactly what we mean and what do to, as a result.