My eight-year-old son, Luke, has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) in addition to ADHD. Kids with SPD are either sensory avoiders or sensory seekers. Luke is most definitely a sensory seeker. He has bounced through life like Tigger since the age of three.
I am beginning to realize that sensory seeking behaviors — like jumping, fidgeting, chewing — can also be a symptom of ADHD though. ADHD, in simplest terms, is a deficit of sensory stimulation in the brain, the stimulation that keeps the brain focused. When Luke needs to remain focused and still, his bodily movements are ramped up and exaggerated, often inappropriate for the situation.
For instance, Luke has the assignment of reading two books and completing corresponding projects over the summer for school. In order to be sure he’s reading, he has been reading aloud to me. In order to be sure the books get finished in time, we are reading together at least three afternoons a week. Right away I noticed that Luke was wiggling and fidgeting like crazy the minute he began to read. It was so astonishing to me how much he had to move to read that I picked up my Blackberry and started filming it the second or third day. It isn’t a full representation because I didn’t want him to realize I was recording him, but you’ll see several movements for stimulation in this short video (I’ll warn you, this is not a quality video, again, I didn’t want him to know I was recording him).
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In the video you’ll notice he is kicking his foot, picking his fingers, changing his position, pulling his legs in tight, rocking, fidgeting with another book, and more. I couldn’t figure out how he was following what he was reading (and he did loose his place quite often).When I noticed that this was going to occur every time he’s asked to sit and read, I thought about what I could do to give him sensory stimulation while reading so he didn’t have to fidget so much. First I tried the weighted neck roll his therapist made for him. He just fidgeted with it. I tried giving him deep pressure input through touch but he couldn’t be still enough for me to even try that. Chewing gum did not alleviate the situation either.This situation says two things to me: (1) no wonder he struggles so much in the classroom; and (2) his medication is not effective — the point of a stimulant is to provide this stimulation so he doesn’t have to wiggle and fidget so much.There is a large list of things you can do to help a sensory seeker, here’s one of my favorite versions for download from Asheville City Schools OT Department. Next I am going to try background music and maybe exercising a bit before sitting down to read.How do you help your fidgety child get the sensory stimulation they need to be attentive, especially during sit-down tasks like school work?
Here are several products that help sensory seekers: