There are few things in this world that make my sweet boy more happy than an apple. A bright, crisp apple. It’s one of the few words that Nate will spontaneously say (it comes out as “app-ah?”) and, if the apple basket is left too close to the edge of the counter, Nate uses his newfound height to taste test each and every one to see which apple is truly the best. (The last time I foolishly left the fruit basket within Nate’s reach, it took seven tries to find *the* perfect apple.)
Eating foods that are crunchy or soft are part of Nate’s “sensory diet,” which his school-based occupational therapist established a few months ago. We have seven sensory systems in our body: visual, auditory, smell, taste, touch, vestibular, and proprioceptive. (There’s a really great article about it here.) Your vestibular system is in your inner ear and regulates your body’s movement. Your proprioceptive system is in your muscles and joints and regulates body awareness and balance. In order to regulate his body and his behavior, Nate needs “input” throughout the day. Without it, he becomes unfocused and hyper. He will jump over and over from high heights onto hard surfaces, spin in circles endlessly (he enjoys the dizzy feeling), and his ability to be productive is severely decreased. In addition to potty training every half-hour, Nate’s teachers (who do God’s work) also provide Nate with input every half-hour and follow the menu of options that Ms. Jen laid out.
He’s got three menus: Proprioceptive input, applied hourly, which includes skin brushing every two hours (his skin is brushed with a soft surgical brush) plus activities like rolling a weighted ball, wearing a pressure vest, or sitting in a vibrating beanbag chair; Vestibular input, applied every two hours, which includes jumping on a trampoline, rocking in a rocking chair, or spinning on the Sit & Spin; and Oral input, also every two hours (and conveniently scheduled at snack & lunch times), when Nate eats soft or crunchy foods and drinks through a straw. I deliberately pack super crunchy and super soft foods in Nate’s lunchbox and, to work on making choices, Nate gets three snack selections each day. (Almost always one comes home, unless Nate was super hungry that day!)
By following this menu, Nate’s teachers have seen a huge improvement in his focus in the classroom. And, somehow, in between the potty training and the sensory menu, they’ve managed to teach Nate some pretty awesome stuff, too. He’s working on spelling his name and, this week, he identified his name in writing when finding his seat at circle time — with no prompting!!! (My boy can read! Yale! We’re coming for ya!) And he’s blazing through his individual programs at school, too.
So, as I said, when Nate’s eating an apple — part of a healthy and oral sensory diet, he’s the happiest kid I know. He calms right down, he savors every bite, and he just enjoys life. I caught this video of him yesterday enjoying his treat. When I posted it on my Facebook page, Nate’s four-year-old gal pal, Hannah (in Pennsylvania), watched the film with her mom. She noted that Nate needed to pet Baby Ralph (Nate’s stuffed pup) with his toe because “his hands are full of apple.” Then she sighed and said, “I think Nater is my bestest friend….” Right back atcha, Hannah. I think Nate’s pretty dreamy when he’s eating an apple, too.