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Occupational Therapy at Home: Simple Exercises for Sensory Issues

Updated: Jun 23

Sensory issues can present a significant challenge for individuals, impacting their daily activities and overall well-being. Occupational therapy (OT) offers practical solutions to help manage these issues, often involving simple exercises that can be done at home. Here’s a guide to understanding sensory issues and some easy OT exercises to try at home.


Understanding Sensory Issues


What are Sensory Issues?

Sensory issues occur when the brain has difficulty processing and responding to information received from the senses. This can lead to hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness) or hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness) to sensory stimuli, affecting touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell.


Common Signs of Sensory Issues

  • Overreaction to loud noises or bright lights

  • Avoidance of certain textures or types of clothing

  • Difficulty with balance and coordination

  • Unusual seeking of sensory input, like spinning or banging objects

  • Challenges with fine motor skills, such as writing or using utensils


Simple Occupational Therapy Exercises for Sensory Issues


1. Deep Pressure Activities


Deep pressure can have a calming effect on the nervous system. Try these activities to provide soothing sensory input:

  • Bear Hugs: Give tight, firm hugs or use a weighted blanket for a similar effect.

  • Squeezing a Stress Ball: Encourage squeezing a stress ball or fidget toy to help regulate sensory input.

  • Rolling with a Therapy Ball: Have the individual lie on their stomach while you gently roll a therapy ball over their back.


2. Proprioceptive Activities


Proprioceptive activities help improve body awareness and coordination. These activities involve pushing, pulling, and lifting:

  • Wall Push-Ups: Stand facing a wall and perform push-ups against it to engage muscles and provide sensory feedback.

  • Animal Walks: Encourage movements like crab walks, bear crawls, or frog jumps to strengthen muscles and improve coordination.

  • Carrying Heavy Objects: Let the individual carry groceries or a backpack with some weight to engage their muscles and provide deep pressure.


3. Vestibular Activities


Vestibular activities stimulate the inner ear and help with balance and spatial orientation:

  • Swinging: Use a swing or hammock to provide gentle, rhythmic movement. Ensure the movement is slow and controlled.

  • Rocking: A rocking chair or simply rocking back and forth can provide calming vestibular input.

  • Balance Exercises: Use a balance board or practice standing on one leg to improve balance and coordination.


4. Tactile Activities


Tactile activities involve touch and can help desensitize or provide needed sensory input:

  • Sensory Bins: Create bins filled with rice, beans, or sand for the individual to explore with their hands. Hide small objects for them to find.

  • Play-Doh or Clay: Manipulating Play-Doh or clay can help improve fine motor skills and provide sensory feedback.

  • Brushing Technique: Using a sensory brush, gently brush the skin following an OT’s guidance to provide calming tactile input.


5. Visual and Auditory Activities


Visual and auditory activities can help regulate sensory processing related to sight and sound:

  • Visual Schedules: Use visual schedules or picture cards to help with transitions and routines, reducing anxiety and sensory overload.

  • Calming Music: Play calming music or white noise to create a soothing auditory environment.

  • Dim Lighting: Use dim lighting or avoid harsh fluorescent lights to reduce visual overstimulation.


Tips for Implementing OT Exercises at Home


1. Create a Sensory-Friendly Environment

Adjust the home environment to reduce sensory triggers. This can include using noise-canceling headphones, blackout curtains, or creating a quiet space for relaxation.


2. Establish a Routine

Consistent routines can help individuals with sensory issues feel more secure and reduce anxiety. Incorporate sensory activities into the daily schedule.


3. Monitor Responses

Pay attention to how the individual responds to different activities. If an activity seems to increase anxiety or discomfort, adjust or discontinue it.


4. Consult with an OT

While these exercises can be beneficial, it’s important to consult with a licensed occupational therapist for personalized guidance and to ensure exercises are appropriate for the individual’s needs.


Conclusion


Occupational therapy exercises can significantly improve sensory processing and overall quality of life for individuals with sensory issues. By incorporating simple activities at home, you can provide valuable sensory input that helps manage sensitivities and enhances daily functioning.


If you or a loved one is struggling with sensory issues and needs professional support, contact Achieve Psychology at 614-470-4466 (voice or text) or visit www.achievepsychology.org. Our experienced therapists can provide personalized strategies and support for managing sensory challenges.




A mother hugging her young daughter

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