As previously discussed for children, there are many strategies you can use to help teens with sensory processing differences. And again, for both children and teens, when in doubt use deep pressure and heavy muscle work.
Why? (If you haven’t read the previous post, I’ll quickly recap.) Deep pressure to our joints and heavy muscle work stimulates the proprioceptive system (which is a big word for our body awareness sense). The proprioceptive system takes information from our muscles and joints and tells us things like the position of our arm without having to look at it or how much pressure we need to apply to a pencil to write with it without breaking the lead.
When our muscles and joints are stimulated this generates calming messages to the brain. As such, deep pressure and heavy muscle work tends to lower our arousal state when we are heightened and helps to reduce sensory overload. Because this system sends calming messages to our nervous system, activities that provide deep pressure or heavy muscle work do not result in becoming over-stimulated.
Alternatively, deep pressure and heavy muscle work activities can also work to kick us into gear when we are feeling low energy.
And this is why when in doubt … use deep pressure and heavy muscle work!
The following is a list of activities that teens can do to get deep pressure and heavy muscle work:
- Running, biking, hiking (hills and bumpy terrains are more work)
- Yoga / Pilates
- Swimming, gymnastics, dance, martial arts, team sports
- Working out at a gym with weights, push ups
- Punching bag
- “Brain Gym” activities
- Cooking (activities that require lots of chopping, kneading are great)
- Vacuuming and mopping
- Carrying groceries
- Empty garbage cans / take out trash and recycling bins
- Carrying laundry
- Outdoor chores (gardening, mowing the lawn, stacking wood, raking)
- Washing the car
- Sitting on a therapy ball, t-stool, stretchy band around chair legs to bounce on
- Chewy or crunchy foods
- Drink from a water bottle that requires lots of suction
- Drink milkshakes or smoothies through a straw (thinner straws provide more work)
- Musical instruments (drums, wind instruments)
- Working with animals (horse stable, farm)
- Arts and crafts, scrapbooking, sewing, wood-working (great for tactile input and a sense of mastery/accomplishment)
Try this out for yourself! Pick 3 activities with your teen and try doing one when you or your teen is feeling over-stimulated or feeling low energy. See if it brings you and/or your teen into that just right state!
Good luck! And as always, be the hero you are meant to be!
Courtesy Photo by Davidd