|Water gels to help children feel calm.|
When children or adults have problems processing visual, auditory, tactile, olfactive, gustatory, vestibular, and proprioceptive information from the environment around them, they may have a sensory processing disorder. This is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with taking in, processing, and responding to sensory information. Many of the people that I work with, have some difficulty with processing sensory information. At some time most of us have experienced sensory overload; perhaps while shopping in malls, driving in traffic or attending a concert.
Sensory over responsively can cause a person to go into a fight or flight reaction. Certain sounds (a school bell, someone yelling), scents (perfume, hair shampoo), or sights (flashing lights, fluorescent lights), and or feels (tags on clothing, chalk) may cause a child to run away or scream in fright. One client I work with spends to first 5 minutes checking out everything in the art rooms to make sure that he knows what is new, what others are doing and make sure that he is not missing anything. I always play the same soothing music, burn lavender oil and talk and walk slowly when he is here to help calm down his autonomic nervous system and help regulate his sensory input to a more manageable level. After about 5 minutes, he can settle into a focused and productive session.
|Blue lights for calming.|
Sensory seeking means that people in this range seek intense and extreme sensory input. They may not feel pain and they may make sounds with their mouths as a way to stimulate their auditory systems. They often play rough and have poor impulse control. I have a client who would throw and spatter paint for half an hour onto a 2 metre long sheet of paper hanging on the wall before he could settle into his body and relax. Now he happily plays in the sand trays as we process his experiences.
The sensory work that I do in my therapy room is geared to help normalize the senses. Children with dyspraxia have a low awareness of their body in space and lack an ability to feel or sense where their body begins and ends. I use many different body awareness techniques to help children relocate themselves in their body. Poor muscle control, poor balance are often also experienced by children and adults who have sensory issues.
So, how can art therapy help? First, by creating an atmosphere that is sensory friendly. I have low lights, coloured lights, soft music, aromatherapy, calm wall spaces and a slowed down environment that has limited stimulation so children and adults have less sensory input to deal with when they enter the therapy space. I use biofeedback, EMDR, breathing exercises, a children’s meditation program and other processes that help children and adults tolerate being in their body at a slowed down speed. I have water gels to help calm the senses. Sand tray work is wonderful for helping children learn to tolerate and enjoy different textures and feels. Playing in sand is one way children can practice sensory integration. Sensory integration is the neurological process that helps us interact with our environment through using our senses. The brain needs to be able to process multiple sensory inputs. Sensory integration is necessary for almost every activity that we perform because the combination of multiple sensory inputs is essential for us to comprehend our surroundings.