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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Sensory Stimulation and Building Hand Skills Using Buckles

I love to fill bags with sand and then stuff them into socks. If I want larger bags, I use sleeves from old sweaters and fleece works the best since it feels so great. The fastest way to do this is to cut the end of the sleeve and make a few knots. The bags shown in these photos have large buckles attached to the ends. You can attach the buckles by cutting into the sleeve and pushing part of the fabric through the buckle . Or you can cut a strip of fabric to push through the buckle and then tie onto the end of the sleeve. I put some pretty duct tape around the buckles to make them easier to grasp and see how to connect them.     This activity provides wonderful heavy pressure sensory stimulation while at the same time developing the functional fine-motor skill of opening and/or closing buckles.
These "buckle bags" can be used in many different ways with people with  different abilities and challenges:
1) Place the bags on a client's lap. She will enjoy the weight and be able to easily pick them up to place into a container positioned on the table or floor. 
2)   Make numerous sets of matching colors. In the photo you see that I used the sleeves from an old blue sweatshirt . Use sleeves or socks to make pairs to match. I  have placed one half of the sets along the walls so that my clients need to pick each one up to bring to a table to find its match and then buckle. My clients with autism and a lot of energy benefit from all the sensory input of moving heavy objects high and low and across the room. This can also be done in school or program hallways using a cart or backpack.
3)Some clients are only able to buckle the bags together. Buckling seems to be easier than unbuckling.

4) The man in the photo above  is easily agitated, so he is performing this task while rocking in his favorite chair in a quiet area of the room. He is staying in one spot, as he opens the buckles and then pushes them into the bucket opening. Pushing these in takes quite a bit of force. You can grade the amount of force required by making the opening smaller or larger .

5) Some individuals may want to carry these around, drape them around their shoulders or arms or just put them in containers without using the buckles, at all. As you can see these materials are very versatile!

The following video demonstrates an individual who is able to open the buckles. He is blind and enjoys the feeling of the weight on his body and using force to insert the bags.

I collected the buckles from old bags or clothing and also purchased a large quantity on amazon.

If your clients have difficulty positioning the buckles correctly, try adding nail polish so that they can see where to squeeze and match up the buckles before pushing them together.

Check out my book From Flapping to Function: A Parent's Guide to Autism and Hand Skills for many other strategies that help children and adults with autism to engage in functional activities that meet their sensory needs.


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