Tuesday 22 August 2017

What's in the bag?

Whenever we head off to school, outside school hours care, a park, basically anywhere with the little superheroes, we always look like we are going on an extended stay!

There are the two school bags, an extra snack bag, because, well neither O or L will rarely eat anything that is offered to them for morning, lunch or afternoon tea unless it is from our fridge or pantry, and then there is the Spider-man bag.

L's Spider-man bag is essentially an over sized sensory kit.

The Spider-man bag contains most of the sensory tools that L needs to make it through a day without ending up in meltdown mode. We don't take the bag because we want to be laden down with belongings, we take it out of necessity.

Now keep in mind that a bag that contains almost all of his sensory tools, well, it needs to be large.

We tried a calico bag. The first bag didn't last long as the contents were too heavy and the bottom fell out of the bag. The second calico bag, the handles broke away.

After the second bag bit the dust L decided that he needed a Spider-man bag and Mummy just had to make it! Seeing as though the bag was going to be taken everywhere, L chose the fabric and it just had to be Spider-man!

Now L doesn't necessarily need to use all of the contents that are in the bag every day but I can guarantee that if we didn't take it, that would be the day that he needs it.

Most people just give us an odd side way glance when they see us coming, some stare and point and most children just come right out and ask "what's in the bag?"

Children are naturally curious and want to know why L takes the bag everywhere.

I take the question as an opportunity to spread a little more Autism awareness and acceptance!

So what is in the Spider-Man bag that goes everywhere?

The bulkiest item in the bag is L's weighted blanket. If there is one sensory item that you want to buy for your little superhero, buy a weighted blanket. They come in all sizes, full size bed blankets or lap size. L's is a lap sized blanket.

As I have mentioned in a previous post about making a weighted blanket - it essentially provides L with both deep tissue pressure and sensory input when he is in sensory overload but also when he requires some sensory input. For L, the weighted blanket has a calming and soothing effect. We will often find L curled up underneath the blanket at home, just chilling out.

Another of L's most used items is his Sensory Body Sock. Again this is another item that I made for L. Weighted blankets and Sensory Body Socks can be quite expensive - add the word "disability" to anything and the price magically increases ten-fold.

The Body sock is another item that provides sensory input for L when he needs to have a sensory break or needs to calm down.

When L gets inside the body sock he disappears and can escape from the happenings around him. He can push and stretch the fabric to his content and he calms immediately.

Block out Ear Protectors - a staple of any ASD household around the world. These are a must and if we are not able to take the entire contents of L's sensory bag with us, the ear protectors go instead, as do O's.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with L's hearing at all - he can hear a pin drop in the next room. The downside to L's hearing is that noise can become incredibly painful, very very quickly. Imagine if you could hear every sound around you simultaneously, imagine how distracting that would be. For L, and O, this means that paying attention to the task at hand becomes almost impossible.

The idea behind the block ear protectors is that they block out the background noise so that L or O can concentrate on the task at hand. The great thing about the block out ear protectors, when they are being used correctly, is that L can carry on a conversation with others around him without being bothered by the background noise.

The block out ear protectors have saved many an outing from ending in a meltdown. And the great thing about the ear protectors that L and O use, is that they cost less than $10 from our local hardware store. Bargain!!

There is also a sensory chair band which is placed around the front two legs of L's school chair. The idea is that instead of moving around and fidgeting on his chair, L can put his feet and legs on the band and stretch the band to his hearts content. Again by stretching the band, L can feel the resistance and receive much needed sensory input, without actually leaving the chair. That's the theory anyway, L just loves to stretch the band and wrap himself up in it! 

O also uses a sensory chair band in class, correctly I might add, and it has assisted in increasing her attention span dramatically.

There is a marble maze - as the name suggests, it is a maze with a marble in it. The maze is sewn onto a fabric bag and a marble is sewn into the bag. This is designed to be used during mat sessions or other times when L should be concentrating on what his teachers are saying. The idea is that if L's hands can be kept busy manipulating the marble through the maze, he can concentrate on his teacher. This is another item that is in O's mini sensory kit that she keeps with her in class.

In both sensory kits there are a variety of other fidget tools - fidget cubes, squishy spiky plastic balls, fidget rings and so on. All of these items are small inconspicuous items that can be held in one hand. O and L can squash, squeeze or manipulate these items to distract them from any anxiety that may be building inside them, to gain sensory input or to assist them to focus on anything other than the sensory overload that may be pulsing through their little bodies.

One of the daily tasks that L really struggles with during the summer months is putting sunscreen on. He has always struggled with the idea of putting sunscreen on for as long as I remember. At times as I am putting sunscreen on L, he resembles an octopus trying to escape from a small space - he's a slippery little sucker and he always manages to escape now matter how tight a grip I THINK I have on him!

It wasn't that he just didn't want sunscreen on, it was the texture of the sunscreen that he detested. For a child with sensory processing difficulties, sunscreen really is a nightmare.

One of the very first visuals that L's key therapist made for L was the steps involved in putting sunscreen on and a sunscreen social story. L loves following rules - the visuals are his rules for sunscreen, the why and the how of sunscreen.

Now all we have to do is show L the sunscreen visuals and he will either sit patiently while we put the sunscreen on, or he will attempt to apply it himself. Rules are rules after all!

There is also a "what I need in the afternoon before I go home" visual. L was constantly leaving his belongings at school which would result in an almighty meltdown when we arrived home. The "what I need" visual is fantastic as it shows L exactly what he needs to collect from around his classroom before he leaves.

Have I told you that we love visuals??? Well, we do.

The final object in his sensory bag is a tiny blue vinyl case that contains 3 little vials of essential oils. These are a life saver and they smell divine. These are our Jeddy's Blend Oils. These are the last line of defence for L if all of his other sensory options are not working. Depending on what mood he is in, depends on which vial is used. And when the oil is rolled onto his neck, he immediately calms and is able to focus on the task at hand.

We have another bulky sensory box that sits in our living room, but that is another post!

I would honestly recommend that all families who are on an autism journey put together a sensory kit for their child.

The kit doesn't need to be as large as what we have for L or contain all the tools that we use. The tools in both O and L's sensory kits are simply what we have found to work for them. There are too many sensory tools to be mentioned, it is simply a case of working out what works best for your child.

And then you too can be asked the question "what's in the bag?"


  1. I loved the way you have explained about sensory difficulties and tips here. thanks for sharing . Loved the pictures.

  2. My child doesn't have autism and we carry a purse full of little figures everywhere!

  3. I am definitely sharing this with friends and family who have children with autism.
    There is so much to learn in your post.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. A sensory kit would have helped with my first daughter. She had high acids in her blood, and never entered rem sleep causing her sensory overload as a baby/toddler.

    1. They are definitely very useful. I also have a sensory kit at work for my charges there.

  5. My son is not autistic, but I've seem him enjoy all kinds of sensory exploratory play. I'm a great fan of DIY's and definitely see myself using this.

  6. OK, yeah, so I can get how lugging all that stuff can be a pain in the tushie - BUT - it sounds pretty similar to the (large) bag of toys I used to bring into church with my firstborn, so we could make it through a service! (Then I switched to a church with child care :) .) My kids aren't on the spectrum, and Kimmie has been tested for a ton of stuff w/o diagnoses like ADD/ADHD/ASD coming up, but she definitely is a "fidgeter" - while we were going over her 3rd grade planner rules/expectations tonight, what should have taken 15 min took an hour and the whole time she was fidgeting with/all but destroying the planner by unconsciously ripping the pages out of the spiral-bound book. So I am VERY grateful to have some of these ideas - she has a fidget cube and I've been thinking of putting it in her homework box, and I LOVE the idea of putting bands around the bottom of her homework chair so she can stretch them to keep that part of herself busy, so the rest of her can focus! *Thank you!*

    1. I think most kids are fidgeters at some point. The chair band is made such a huge difference to O. I hope that your daughter finds it useful too.


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