The Value of a Crumpled Receipt Inexpensive, readily available objects can turn treatment into a flood of sensory experiences for the youngest of clients. Make It Work
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Make It Work  |   January 01, 2017
The Value of a Crumpled Receipt
Author Notes
  • Andrea Boerigter, MA, CCC-SLP, specializes in early intervention feeding, speech and language development, and literacy development at Theratime, Inc., in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She teaches parent training classes in feeding and language enrichment, and she blogs at www.thespeechmom.blogspot.com. andrea@theratime.com
    Andrea Boerigter, MA, CCC-SLP, specializes in early intervention feeding, speech and language development, and literacy development at Theratime, Inc., in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She teaches parent training classes in feeding and language enrichment, and she blogs at www.thespeechmom.blogspot.com. andrea@theratime.com×
Article Information
Development / Swallowing, Dysphagia & Feeding Disorders / Professional Issues & Training / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Make It Work
Make It Work   |   January 01, 2017
The Value of a Crumpled Receipt
The ASHA Leader, January 2017, Vol. 22, 36-37. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.22012017.36
The ASHA Leader, January 2017, Vol. 22, 36-37. doi:10.1044/leader.MIW.22012017.36
As a young professional working with the birth-to-3 population, I often recommended to parents that they meet their kiddos’ sensory-seeking needs by incorporating rice trays, sand boxes and play dough into at-home activities. As a mom and more seasoned professional, I recognize this idea is insane. Children younger than 3 put everything in their mouths. Sand, play dough and rice are no exceptions.
So we have to reach beyond the rice table. And then we have to incorporate expressive and receptive language into these activities … because we aren’t just speech-language pathologists. We are superstars.
Why are sensory activities so important? Kids who are sensory-seeking may have difficulty focusing on a learning task because they are so overwhelmed with their sensory needs. Meeting those sensory needs may help them focus—and learn.
Same goals, new methods
I find it easiest to start with what I know: language. After I look at the goals I am already working on, I decide how I can incorporate sensory activities into treatment. Working on object permanence? Hide toys in a basket of different types and textures of fabric scraps. Working on vocabulary? Place pictures and objects in bags of feathers or leaves. Hunting them down is both motivating and sensory-integrating.
Adding sensory components into treatment sessions should cost you next to nothing (if anything at all). There is no need to purchase expensive water tables or sand boxes. Look around! Sensory treasures are everywhere! Artificial flowers in a vase on the mantle, grass in the yard, loofah in the shower, leaves on the sidewalk. Buy a dishwashing bin or a storage container to fill with those treasures and the possibilities are endless.

Adding sensory components into treatment sessions should cost you next to nothing. There is no need to purchase expensive water tables or sand boxes. Look around! Sensory treasures are everywhere!

Involving parents
Training parents is almost as easy—teach them how different items around their house and yard can easily provide sensory input for their child. I love starting in the kitchen. Just taking a peek through a family’s pantry provides an array of sensory activities. With simple, on-hand foods—think flour, cereal, applesauce—kids can drive race cars, walk farm or zoo animals, or create works of art.
Parents like specific examples, so instead of just saying, “You could cook up some pasta and let him play with it,” tell them exactly how to use the sensory object and incorporate language: “Give your little man a tiny dollop of whipped cream on a plate, and show him how to use his fingers to paint with it. Model the sign/word ‘more’ and then give him more. Repeat.”
Ask parents about other places their little ones are showing sensory-seeking behaviors. Are the parents scared to death to take their child to the grocery store, or have they stayed away from family functions for months for fear of meltdowns? If a child’s meltdowns are due to lack of sensory input, it’s simple to help parents change this pattern by guiding them on how to remove sensory-seeking stress.
Talk through different scenarios with the parents. Where are these meltdowns occurring? What is triggering them? Provide a few easy ideas for parents to give simple sensory input, such as squeezing a stress ball or crumpling paper. I always encourage parents to keep a few “sensory tools” in their diaper bags, purses and car consoles—nothing huge, just a toy car, a textured ball and a fake flower.
Show parents how to pair these sensory activities with language. Driving that car up and down a child’s arm while repeating “up, up, up” and “down, down, down” provides the sensory input while introducing language. Imagine, Mom goes from never leaving the house with her child to providing sensory input and language all while cruising the aisles of Target. Life just got so much better.

Teach parents how different items around their house and yard can easily provide sensory input for their child.

Creative—but realistic
It is important to be creative when working on providing sensory input so you can keep costs low and children interested. But even more important, you have to be realistic: Maybe the contents of the family’s pantry, refrigerator and toy box are sparse. If that’s the case, encourage the family to use a bathtub of water to stimulate the child’s senses or to play outside with tree bark and leaves.
Or maybe the mom—like me, for example—regularly forgets to bring the diaper bag along. Show parents that sensory stimulation can be provided just about anywhere, even through crumpled receipts and globs of lip gloss. Because really, sensory input is everywhere!
1 Comment
January 4, 2017
Caroline Bowen
Link correction for the speechmom blog
https://thespeechmom.com/
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January 2017
Volume 22, Issue 1