Monday, December 17, 2012

Art Therapy and Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD

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 under responsivity means that a person lacks awareness of sensory stimuli. These people may not be able to detect changes in their environment like the weather getting colder, a burner heating up, or a bright light. One client I work with who is tends to be rather sedentary enjoys bowling with me in the studio area as I create voices for all the stuffed creatures around us cheering us on and commenting on the game. I use sensory stimuli to help wake up his senses

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.
Sand tray

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. 

Water gels.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Guardian Angels

Denise Litchfield is the author of the extraordinary blog, Grrl And dog. She creates wonderful guardian angels. I recently ordered one for my granddaughter Aurora to live alongside her in her bedroom. Who doesn’t need a guardian angel?

In traditional belief, guardian angels were thought to be assigned to protect and guide a particular person, or group of people. Belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity. I think we all can say that at one time or another we have felt the presence of a guardian angel in our lives. In a complex chaotic world, it is a comforting thought that someone in the spirit realm is watching over us. This dear little one that Denise designed and sewed has that job in Aurora’s room. Because she is soft and cuddly, this little angel is meant to be chewed on, but I don’t think that will reduce her guardian powers. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Art Therapy and God's Eyes

God’s Eyes come from the Huichol people of western Mexico. It is a spiritual object that brings protection to babies. The yarn weaving starts with the central eye woven by the father and then one eye is added for every year of the child’s life until the child reaches five. The four points represent the elemental processes of earth, fire, air and water.

In my Art therapy studio we made a similar weaving, but we embed the weaving with a different meaning. The children wove the central eye in a colour to represent themselves. Then they picked two or three other colours to represent people in their lives that protect and love them.
They enjoyed doing this activity and most of the children said that they wanted to hang them over their beds.


Related Posts with Thumbnails