Theme parks, soft play and sensory integration

I saw a post during the week about a family in America being praised by OT for their child’s sensory progress after visits to Disneyland. Their child was sensory defensive and the visits helped with his sensory integration.

Dinky is a sensory seeker when it comes to vestibular (all kinds of movement and balance) Dinky likes nothing more than to be thrown round at high speeds. She is actually quite annoyed by some of the rides for her age as she wants more. She hates being told she is not big enough for the big rides, not just because she hates being small, but also that she wants to experience the ride. She is generally much calmer after rides. 

We went to a small fair a few weeks back and Dinky was just big enough to go on some of the faster spinning rides. The look on her face as she was flung round was just something else! 

Unfortunately Dinky doesn’t seem to be having the same success with her sensory defensiveness. Sound and bright lights tend to be an issue, and only makes the calm last for a small amount of time after rides. 

We tried ear defenders- but they ‘make ears hot’ and the OT thought they probably too constrictive on her head. 

So yesterday we went to chessington, and I gave dinky some sunglasses and had brought her an iPod shuffle. 

We went to guest services and explained that we tried ear defenders but she didn’t like them, a quick call to the ride manager and as long as the wire wasn’t obstructing any safety restraints and I took full responsibility for damage to the iPod and headphones, we were ok for her to wear them on the rides. 

We also have several pairs of sunglasses. (Thanks to our local toy shop selling funky kids sunglasses 2 for £5) So when we lose a pair, we have lots more! 

Yesterday was a lovely day, after chessington we went to our local soft play centre who had their monthly special needs evening. This is a little more difficult for Dinky. Chessington requires very little social interaction with other kids and adults. She speaks if and when she wants to, usually to the staff, oversharing information, especially telling them about her love for Jurassic World. Soft play is a bit different, I don’t get to see many other parents from our local area very often, and these evenings I tend to have a few people join us for a chat. Yesterday there was a mum I’ve spoken to at some parents events and over Facebook, she sat at our table. Now as anyone knows, children with ASD are not generally happy with new faces. This was no exception, and Dinky ended up eating her dinner under the table with her plate on the chair. I tried to explain that this mum was not a stranger but someone I know. Another family we know sat with us and I explained that we know that family, but they were strangers too once. She wasn’t having any of it. 

She also can’t have her iPod in the play frame as it is more likely to get broken. So after a while it is easy to see she is struggling a little, and her kiara teddy is dragged round. Sensory overload also drives up her anxiety, add that to the new faces and the forced socialisation when children want to play and dinky is left trying to control the situation in order to reduce her own anxiety. Unfortunately this tends to be at the detriment to other kids. Not by being mean or controlling of them, especially not at the SEN nights at soft play, as she tends to play with other kids who also either have a diagnosis or are suspected of having PDA. So she turns into the rule police. Which is great except Dinky is unable to apply those rules to herself and quite rightly comes across as a hypocrite as she is telling the adults about the rules their kids have broken, which doesn’t help her relationship with these kids. Thankfully at least the parents understand! 

We had a very avoidant bed time routine last night, which also lead to a very late night as she refused to take her melatonin. 

Today Dinky is with her special needs group for a few hours, giving me a much needed rest after the non-stop action of yesterday. 

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