Tons Of Tools To Help Me Be Me!
Updated: Nov 8, 2022
When I was a little girl I struggled with separation anxiety, and being extremely shy around anyone who was not my immediate family. Often I would cry because I had the fear of being lost, and never to be found. I don’t know why I had that feeling because I never really experience being lost, but it was a true fear of mine. With this feeling came a great deal of anxiety. Crying was the only way I knew how to deal with my feelings. Unfortunately, being shy around people made it difficult for me to communicate how I was feeling. Therefore, it made it extremely hard for people to help me calm down. Adults would get frustrated with me because they could not figure out how to help me.
Thinking about how nervous I would get as a child made me think of all the students I work with, and the different behaviors they exhibit. Sympathizing with the students who have a difficult time communicating how they are feeling made me start thinking of how best to help these children. A few years ago I developed a sensory toolbox for each of the classrooms that I provide therapy in to display. Every week I teach a new sensory tool to the students, and then the teacher carry's out the tool throughout the week. This gives the students multiple opportunities to practice the different tools.
The important factor is having the students practice the tools when they are feeling calm. Feeling calm when learning new tools allows students to gain confidence of using the tool. Students will be able to evaluate how the tool makes them feel. Does it help them feel calm? Does it make their body feel fast? Sensory tools may impact an individual differently, therefore I encourage students to have their own individualize list of tools that specifically helps them feel better. This is the hardest step in the whole process when it comes to our nonverbal students. As a therapist, educator, or parent you must put on your detective hat, and use trial and error to observe what is effective tools for that student.
Once the list of sensory tools are established then it is necessary to continue to practice how to appropriately use the tools. I continue to expose the students to new sensory tools, for we need to mix things up so the tools do not get stale. Having a menu of sensory tools makes it much easier to generalize the tools into more environments. Seeing this process be effective with our students made me think it would be a great topic to share through a children’s book. I wanted to develop a book that would be simplistic enough for a young child to understand, however the tools were practical enough for anyone to use.
I think back to when I was little girl and think of how valuable calming tools would have been to help me cope with my anxiety. This is what inspired me to write my children's book 'Tons Of Tools To Help Me Be Me!' My book is built around three animal friends: Ollie the owl, Nervous Nelly the ostrich, and Seymour the snail. Nervous Nelly can be found hiding her head in the ground because she is always so anxious. Seymour has a terrible time staying awake as his body is always running slow. Both friends miss out on playing with their friend Ollie the owl, and he suggest that his two friends seek out help in learning some tools to help them feel better. That's when the two friends set out to meet Tyson the turtle and Robo rabbit.
Tyson turtle can usually be found relaxing in the pond as he is a pretty mellow guy. Tyson teaches Nervous Nelly five calming tools that may help her to calm down when she begins to feel anxious. The five tools included:
Practice yoga poses
Listen to music that makes you feel calm
Have someone roll a exercise ball up and down your back
Count slowly from 1 to 10
Practice deep breathing exercises such as pinwheel or feather breathing
Robo the rabbit is full of energy and can be found hopping all over the place. Robo teaches Seymour the snail five alerting tools to help wake up his mind and body. The five tools included:
Bouncing on a exercise ball
Eating crunchy snacks like carrots or celery sticks
Hop like a rabbit or jump on a trampoline
Go outside and move your body.
Turn on music and have a dance party
Once the animals had the tools they gathered their toolboxes, and went to share what they had learned with Ollie the owl. Instead of playing the three friends decided to spend time with each other practicing the calming and alerting tools. Ollie the owl knew it was important for his friends to practice the tools, so he was excited to be a part of the practice session.
Get creative and expand on these tools by exploring more calming or alerting strategies, for everyone is affected differently by sensory input. What may work for one person may not work for another. Don't give up in fact this is where you pull out the detective hat and start trying new strategies. Have fun with the process making new activities exciting to discover for you and your little one. Once you have some tools in your toolboxes then it is time to build practice sessions into your day. Is their a difficult time of day for your little one? Maybe bed time is a challenge because they are moving to fast. This would be a perfect opportunity to practice the calming tools for 10-20 minutes. If your child has a tough time waking up in the morning then fuel their engine by practicing the alerting tools.
Making a portable toolbox may be helpful in other environments such as car rides, babysitters, or going to dr. appointments. Once the child is familiar with the tools then start generalizing the tools being used in other settings. If your child has anxiety about transitioning to a new environment then it may help them to use some of their calming tools to help ease into the change. A sensory toolbox can be anything that holds materials such as a backpack, plastic tub, or a basket. Again, let the child personalize their toolbox and keep it simple so it is easily accessible at anytime. A copy of my book can make a nice addition to your childs toolbox as a visual reminder of the tools.
Pick up a copy of my book here:https://www.amazon.com/Tons-Tools-Help-Me-Be/dp/B08HV8HTQP/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1FMDOJ62L6YYS&keywords=tons+of+tools+to+help+me+be+me&qid=1601514086&sprefix=tons+of+tools%2Caps%2C323&sr=8-1
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