Sensory Integration Hearts

I had a wonderful wonderful reader leave a wonderful wonderful comment the other day.  This was in response to my post about Mayah’s sensory issues.

A few things we have integrated over the last month:

We noticed when Mayah is zoning out more than normal her behavior goes right down the tube.  Quickly.  Overall, Mayah is very well behaved…so when she acts up she’s over stimulated and needs to be taken into her room where I put my rocking chair and I give her a pacifier.  Yes, I know-she’s 7 (almost 8) and she’s just now getting a paci.  So what.  She never had one.  She also has no idea how to suck.  When given anything, sucking is not an option.  She bites off no matter how hot/cold/big/small.  Even while holding her I have to remind her to suck. 

It’s soothing to her.

Oh yes, seeing our extremely tall 7 year old daughter with a paci is odd to say the least.  And in the beginning it was also uncomfortable for us to look at.  But really?  Look at?  We wouldn’t dare put our daughter’s basic needs which were never met aside because it’s not “normal.” 

Truthfully it has taken me the better part of a month to get used to seeing.  We do have boundaries:  she must be either in bed or cuddling with Mommy or Daddy.  No walking around with it.  No talking with it in her mouth.  We aren’t looking to create a habit we have to break-when she’s ready we will take away the paci and continue the cuddles.  We have already tried to take it away and it’s simply not the time.  God will show us when. 

So..onto the SI cards:  I made 4 cards I cut into hearts this morning from Styrofoam plates.  I grabbed 4 pieces of different colored construction paper and stapled them to the hearts.  I punched holes in each of the hearts and tied yarn around each one to hang on the wall.  (sounds crafty right?)  I’m so impressed with myself!  ha-ha  I wrote the associated feelings on the back of the plates to help Dan or anyone else understand which colors match  what Mayah is feeling.  To integrate them into our lives, I plan on showing them to Mayah when I *think she is feeling a particular way.  After 8 months (home 8 months today!!) I am actually quite good at knowing how my girl is feeling. 

mayahs hearts

Blue:  sleepy.  I will show her the blue heart when she gets up in the morning (she’s always groggy) and then take her back to her room and give her a sippy cup with “rise and shine tea” from the Bulk Herb Store.  (  We both enjoy starting our day with some snuggles and rocks before she comes out to the rest of the world.  Also, at night before story time I will show her the card again.  Hopefully by using those two times she will begin to understand when she is to show me that card. 

Red:  Hyper, no attention span, etc.  NOT ready to learn I will show her this card when I have to work very hard with her to make eye contact with me when I’m trying to talk to her.

Orange:  Will likely be used at least once per day.  Even Dan is starting to realize when our girl needs the orange heart.  The back of the orange card says, take me to my room and rock with me.”  This is her alone time-when I take her for about 5 minutes and snuggle, sing to, rock with her.  I give her the paci at these times and she snuggles in.  Generally in about 4-5 minutes she is getting up and her attitude has changed.  We love this time of day.

*yesterday I was making dinner and she looked extremely zoned and sad.  She snuggled with Dan on the couch.  Dan finished dinner and I took her to her room to retreat.  I asked her if she was sad.  At first she said no, so I asked again.  Yes.  When I asked her why she said “because eat”  and she signs, “EAT”.  Food and dinner preparation our one of her biggest upsets for our girl.  She is always staring at the person making dinner, runs to the table to be first to sit down and is always the first one done and always asks for more.  She is limited to 2 helpings.  We have learned she will never stop eating so she is not always hungry when asking for more.  We generally say, “Mayah I love you very much.  Soon we will all be eating.”

Green:  Ready to learn.  Nice.  Calm.  Good attention span.  Well…that one speaks for itself.

I will keep you updated on how this new system works out.  I believe it is going to work out just fine and Mayah will eventually become more aware of how she is feeling.

I will post the entire comment here:


Hi Tammy, I do not have any experience with SI issues (we are still in the adoption process), but I read a book “Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child” by Patty Cogen. After reading the book, I created a summary of the information provided in the book. I reviewed my summary, and found the following information relating to SI. I am not sure if will be applicable to Mayah or not, but here it is:

Teaching Your Child to Self-Soothe and Self-Calm
Children from orphanages expect neglect.
Checking in with a parent is a family skill: a child needs to receive soothing and comfort.
When a child expects neglect, he finds ways to manage feelings of anxiety, fatigue, fear, or loneliness.
Sucking is a common and easily recognizable self-soothing behavior.
Odd Soothing Behaviors: Repetitive hair twisting Pulling hair out strand by strand Nail biting
Compulsive nose picking
Head banging Repeated twisting or tensing of muscles Grimacing
Tics or tic-like behavior
A Child’s Stress Response is Modified by the following Braking System: Accelerator Foot Brake Emergency Brake
Some orphanage children will be missing a Foot Brake. They go from Accelerator directly to Emergency Brake as well as Emergency Brake to Accelerator
Parenting Strategies to Activate the Foot Brake and Build Soothing & Calming 1.) Limiting Stimulation: (few toys, calm days, relaxing time, be simple) 2.) Sucking and Breathing Routines: (hold her or keep her on your left side, let her drink from a sippy cup, juice box, or sucking water bottle, talk to her, and make eye contact)
3.) Listening to Music: (sing to her, play classical cd, let her quietly play while listening, no lyrics on cd) 4.) Singing: (choose very simple repetitive songs, repeat songs or a series of songs)
5.) Movement and Music: (rock back & forth while singing row, row, row your boat, play ring around the rosy, use a song and dance at the end of a daily routine)
Time-Ins for Relaxations Tell her “Your behavior is telling me that you need a special quite time with Mom/Dad”.
Do not worry about educating her immediately about good behavior. She will listen better when she is calmer. Some children need a spatial change (moving to a different room), some need oral stimulation (sucking), and some prefer movement or singing. You must actively guide her toward the self-calming activities that work best for her.
Remember: Telling her story from her point of view in itself is a soothing and calming technique.
Sensory-Motor Integration & Stimulation Management
Children feel soothed by broad deep pressure on their bodies. Two ways to do this are “beanbag baths” & massages.
Beanbag baths: laying large (7 inch sq.) beanbags on your body and your child’s body
Massages: start with the feet (you can play the “this little piggy game” too)
2 Types of SI Dysfunctions Discrimination Dysfunction: such as reaching into a pocket and not being able to tell the difference between a toothpick and a tissue. Defensiveness Dysfunction: such as not being able to bear touching one or more items in your pocket.
Some kids are so hypersensitive that they avoid certain sounds, textures or odors
A child with SI Dysfunction is a child with a disorganized brain.
5 SI Areas for Parents to Address:
1.) Sensory Modulation: the capacity to turn the intensity of feeling sensations either higher or lower. Acknowledge his issues are real and difficult for both of you. Tell him you have a way to help both of you with the problem Best method for both hypersensitive and hyposensitive children: Using a soft brush to brush his back, arms and legs on a regular basis throughout the day.
2.) Working with Gravity: a child’s vestibular system constantly measures and adjusts the body’s movements in relation to gravity. An adopted child has often missed stimulation of the vestibular system. Activities to Increase Vestibular Skills: Carry him Crawl with him
Rock with him Swing with him
3.) Regulate Activity Level: With Heavy Work. Have a bin full of heavy beanbags for him to load and unload. Show him how to make a trail with the beanbags. Have him empty out a toy bin and then put the toys back in. 4.) Building Self-Awareness of Activity Level: If your child has SI issues, he must be taught to be aware of his own behavior and to determine when that behavior needs moderation.
Simple System to Teach Self-Awareness: Activity Level Plate: Cut a paper plate in half and then cut one-half in quarters. Color each of the 4 quarters in the following colors and introduce them to your child: Purple: hiding inside your self (Piglet) Blue: feeling tired or sleepy like when you first wake up (Eeyore) Green: alert and ready to learn something new (Pooh) Red: moving a lot or are very busy (Tigger)
The activity level plate should be used to talk to him about his different behaviors and help him identify his level of behavior. It should not be used to show whether an activity is good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate. 5.) A Sensory Diet. Everyone has their own set of sensory supports that keep them alert or help them to manage excess energy. Such as drinking a cold drink or jingling coins in a pocket. Your child will benefit from having a sensory diet (support) to help her manage her tendency either to rev up or to shut down. Be aware of what causes her to rev up. Incorporate calming activities regularly during the day and especially before anything stressful is to occur. If she has excess energy, direct her to her “heavy work” — the beanbags or even a pail of rocks in the yard that she can load and unload. Be aware of what causes her to shut down. Prepare her ahead of time for these situations. Limit the situations that cause her to shut down as much as possible.
If her SI issues interfere with your relationship with her or with her ability to play and progress developmentally, seek assessment soon. Otherwise, give her 4 to 6 months to settle down before deciding to seek help. Meanwhile, use these strategies to help her.

Hi again – I forgot to mention that I found a store online that sells beanbags and other sensory type items:

Sorry this is so long – i didn’t want to miss anything that may be of use for you.


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