QUESTION: Sensory Diet to Address Spinning?

QUESTION:

I am working with a 20 month old who scored on the Sensory Profile with low registration. He also loves to spin things and is starting to spin himself. According to your strategies, he would an UNDER-responder? What suggestions would you have for the spinning? Should we encourage and if so, how much?

 GWEN’S ANSWER:

It does sound like he is definitely under-responsive to vestibular input. Here are my suggestions:

1. If you’re using BrainWorks, he needs lots of the green arrow (alerting) sensory diet activities. Under-responders have a very high threshold for sensory registration. The green arrow activities will help him reach that threshold with the end goal being that once the sensory input is registered, he will be able to focus on something else for awhile.
2. Focus on a variety of green arrow (alerting) sensory diet activities, not just ones that involve spinning. He needs to get in touch with his body and where he is in space so activities that involve heavy work input will also be useful (prone over a ball while “catching” himself on his hands, etc.).
3. I would allow spinning as one of his sensory diet activities, but I would discourage the constant spinning. So you may want to make a picture card for the Sit ’n Spin or a swing that spins and use that on his sensory diet tool. After an appropriate amount of time has passed (5–10 minutes depending on intensity), say “All done spinning!” and put the card out of site. If he starts to spin himself or something else, say “It’s not spinning time.”
4. The primary reason we want to discourage too much spinning is that he’s missing out on learning appropriate play. We want him to learn to use imagination to interact with objects (use floor time methods for this), and he won’t have that opportunity if he spins everything. So if he is spinning a toy car, the mom could sit on the floor with him and say, “Watch my car. My car drives this way.” She would demonstrate and then encourage him to imitate that with his car. If he spins it instead, say “No, cars don’t spin. Cars drive like this.”
5. Having said that, it would be appropriate for him to occasionally have access to toys that are designed to spin (like tops). These could even be used as a method of positive reinforcement.
6. One final caution about spinning: It can be a trigger for seizures. Make sure there are no signs/symptoms of a seizure disorder.

Hope this helps! Keep me posted!

Best Wishes,
Gwen